Friday, July 2, 2010

Life with Father (1947)

Egaaaad!! I think I have a favorite new film in the comedy genre! I saw Life with Father recently and totally fell in love with it in a I’m-not-gonna-burn-this-on-a-DVD-but-actually-buy-it-kind-of-way.

After running successfully on Broadway for over seven years, Warner Brothers won the bid to make the film of Life with Father. The play was so successful that Mary Pickford who had been retired for thirteen years tested several times for the part of Mrs. Day and Bette Davis threw her hat in the ring as well but Irene Dunne (who actually didn't really want the part) won out and she’s absolutely marvey!
Life with Father is based on Clarence Day’s humorous writings about his own father. It takes the viewer into the home of an upper middle class family living in the 1890’s, Clarence Day Sr. (William Powell) is a successful stockbroker who demands things be just a certain way…his way. Despite how much he rails against his own family and staff, he remains affectionate and lovable in their eyes, the staff that sticks around, that is. Not just any actor could have pulled this off. Powell, in my opinion, was perfect. He’s rude but not crass, a penny pincher but not miserly, bossy but not domineering- much as he’d like to think, and extremely opinionated but easily swayed by his love for his wife and family.

Mrs. Day in return is a perfect match. A mother who cares deeply for her brood and tasks herself daily with making their lives as easy as possible but usually ends up making things a bit more difficult. She likes to spend money and often plays hostess to her family members when they visit town. Things that set Mr. Day off on a tangent only to have him give in and in some cases give out, money. Mrs. Day’s nonsensical logic on how money is spent and her “struggles” to save money leave Mr. Day more confused than when he started out trying to figure what’s been spent.
The crux of the film comes about when Mrs. Day’s cousin Cora (ZaSu Pitts) and a young family friend, Mary Skinner (Elizabeth Taylor) come for a visit, Mary, upon learning that Clarence Day, Jr. is soon to be a Harvard man, becomes instantly smitten. It’s revealed that his family is strongly Episcopalian while Mary admits she’s just a Methodist (her mother’s fault). When Mary brings the subject up at dinner, Mr. Day admits he isn’t really concerned with religion and he himself isn’t even baptized much to Mrs. Day’s horror.
With young love and its complications brought on by the need of a better suit, illness possibly due to bad medicine, and the constant machinations of Mrs. Day to get her husband baptized, Life with Father is extremely entertaining. So much so, I wished it would go on and on. I was actually disappointed when the film ended as well as disappointed that it did not end as comically as it could have. Robert Osborne explained the last line that should have been delivered by Mr. Day after he was asked by a passerby in the street where he was off to should have been, “I’m going to get baptized, damn it!” Warner Brothers fought and bribed and begged to have the words “damn it” added citing that Gone with the Wind allowed Rhett Butler to say “damn”. But the censors were adamant- Gone with the Wind was an adult film whereas Life with Father was considered a family movie.
I highly recommend watching this film. It really is one of Powell and Dunne’s best films.

Go here for some Life with Father trivia.

Tonight on TCM!
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: 50 Years of Magic (1990) The story of how MGM created one of the most beloved family films of all time. Cast: Angela Lansbury, John Lahr, Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft Dir: Jack Haley Jr.
The Wizard Of Oz (1939) A Kansas farm girl dreams herself into a magical land where she must fight a wicked witch to escape. Cast: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr Dir: Victor Fleming


  1. Gee! I just love Mrs Days' applied logic of financial things! :")

  2. Hi there Sarah, I’m celebrating my post #100 and I’m going to upload a special-classic-actor-related-thing if someone answers correctly the question I posted. Wanna participate?
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  3. An american actor, William Powell is paired in many films with Myrna Loy.