When Jane tells her parents that she is getting married to Ralph Halloran, her mother Agnes starts planning an elaborate wedding, even though Jane does not wish it.When Jane tells her parents that she is getting married to Ralph Halloran, her mother Agnes starts planning an elaborate wedding, even though Jane does not wish it.When Jane tells her parents that she is getting married to Ralph Halloran, her mother Agnes starts planning an elaborate wedding, even though Jane does not wish it.
The Jewish Chayefsky certainly was a good observer of the other cultures where he grew up. Marty was about an Italian butcher who starts to find romance late in his life. The Catered Affair is about a young Irish couple getting married and the effect a big wedding is having on the family finances and structure.
Ernest Borgnine switches quite easily from working class Bronx Italian to working class Bronx Irish. He barely makes enough to support a wife, two surviving children and a brother-in-law, Barry Fitzgerald who lives with them. One son was killed during World War II.
Bette Davis was at her most drab on the screen, but that's not to say she was not great. Richard Brooks put a tight rein on all her Betteisms and got a fabulous performance out of her as the Bronx housewife who wants to live vicariously through a big wedding for daughter Debbie Reynolds. It's been a hard life for her and the family and she wants a little glamor in it.
Rod Taylor and Debbie Reynolds are an appealing young couple and Robert F. Simon and Madge Kennedy do fine as Taylor's parents. The best part of A Catered Affair is Barry Fitzgerald and Dorothy Stickney as the woman who woos him away from free loading on his sister. Davis and Borgnine certainly had a challenge just to keep the whole picture from being stolen by Barry Fitzgerald in what was really his last great part.
A few people have compared The Catered Affair with Father of the Bride and the problems that upper middle class lawyer Spencer Tracy faces as compared to lower middle class cab driver Ernest Borgnine faces in giving their daughters an expensive wedding. It's that other Bronx family of the same era, the fabulous and illegally rich Corleones that beggars comparison. I look at that wedding scene that from The Godfather and the lavishness that was bestowed on Talia Shire's wedding and who wouldn't want a wedding like that. But I have a feeling that Reynolds and Taylor will make it last, a lot more than the much married Connie Corleone did.
I did so like looking at the Bronx in the Fifties where at least some establishing shots were done. The first time I was in the Bronx was for my first Yankee game. It's changed a lot now, but a place like Morris Park for the Italians and Woodlawn for the Irish still has the flavor of the areas where the Hurleys and Hallorans of The Catered Affair and the Pilettis from Marty lived and worked.
And if you like seeing the New York of your childhood, The Catered Affair is a film to enjoy.
- Apr 25, 2008