Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"The Catered Affair" with Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine (1956)

How could I not review this film after Saturday's post? The two films are among the best of Bette Davis’ long and storied career; both being outside of her usual comfort zone. There is more of the stage in these two films than there is of Hollywood.

In this wonderful film adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky teleplay, Gore Vidal has created a concise version of a common problem; where do we fit in as individuals when compared to the happiness of those around us? Director Richard Brooks did a superb job with this movie; but then again, look at the talent he had to work with!

Bette Davis plays Agnes Hurley; a woman who is a romantic at heart yet faced with the reality of her life married to Tom Hurley; played by Ernest Borgnine; fresh from his Academy Award winning performance as “Marty” in the film of the same name; which was also written by Paddy Chayefsky. Tom drives a taxi cab, and with a little bit of luck; and some time; he hopes to own his own taxi someday soon.

But fate has a way of working its own way with things and accordingly, Agnes and Tom’s daughter Jane; played by Debbie Reynolds in her screen debut; has planned to be married to her boyfriend Ralph; played by Rod Taylor. When she tells her parents of her plans at breakfast a chain of events ensues which expose not only the shortcomings felt by Agnes in her own life; but the desperation Tom feels when he thinks that his dream of owning his own cab may be threatened by the expense of a lavish wedding for his daughter.

On the one hand Agnes feels cheated at never having had a real wedding of her own; while Tom feels trapped by an expectation that will derail his dreams; as well as making him aware of just how unhappy his wife may be over events of the past. Complicating matters is the presence of Uncle Jack Conlon; played with the usual brilliance of Barry Fitzgerald.

This film is one of those gems that seem to get lost in the greater array of older “classical” films. It’s more cerebral than the usual fare offered up by the gangster films of the 1930’s; or the romances and war films of the 1940’s and 1950’s. This type of film is timeless in its subject matter. People dealing with their own emotions, while trying to understand the emotional needs of those around them, is a subject which will never grow old. This is an excellent film.

Here's one of my trophies - it hangs on the wall of my TV room. He read the draft off a review I did of his book and actually sent this back to me! It is one of my treasured possessions

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