Skip to main content

Film Friday: "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" (1963)

Since this week's "Film Friday" coincides with Glenn Ford's 99th birthday, I thought I'd tell you about one of my favorites of his films. I think this was also the first Glenn Ford film I ever saw.

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Vincente Minnelli, The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963) follows Eddie Corbett (Ronny Howard), a six-and-a-half-year-old boy who is determined to find a new wife for his recently widowed father, Tom (Glenn Ford). Eddie wants his father to date their attractive next-door neighbor Elizabeth Marten (Shirley Jones), but he fails to interest Tom in a relationship with her.

One day, Eddie meets sweet beauty pageant contestant Dollye Daly (Stella Stevens) and strikes up a friendship with her. At first, she seems promising, but she ends up falling in love with Norman Jones (Jerry Van Dyke), a disk-jockey who works with Tom at the radio station.

Tom then become attracted to a sophisticated fashion consultant named Rita Behrens (Dina Merrill). Eddie takes an instant dislike to her, as she doesn't seem to know how to deal with a boy his age. When his father announces that he plans to marry Rita, Eddie runs away from summer camp and takes refuge in Elizabeth's apartment. In the end, Tom breaks off his engagement with Rita and Eddie is finally able to make his father undertstand that Elizabeth is the best possible choice for a wife.
Eddie Corbett: Skinny eyes and big busts is how you tell a bad lady from a good one.

By the early 1960s, Hollywood was in a state of great turmoil. Television had managed to break the film industry's hegemony in entertainment and studios now aimed to create the kind of productions that could not be offered by the small screen: spectacular, larger-than-life epics. After the great financial and critical success of its Technicolor historical drama Ben-Hur (1959), MGM fell into a habit of producing one big-budget epic each year. After Cimarron (1960), King of Kings (1961), The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) failed to achieve to same kind of success as William Wyler's epic, MGM experienced several internal changes, which seemed to temporarily revive the studio. One of those changes had to do with the kind of contract offered to their players, old and new. 

In 1962, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had very few artists on long-term contracts and even longtime employees like director Vincente Minnelli found themselves being offered multipicture deals instead of new contracts when their old ones expired. Under a new exclusive contract, Minnelli was to head his own production company, Venice Productions, and make six pictures over the next four years. The Courtship of Eddie's Father was Minnelli's first film on his new deal with the studio.

Glenn Ford also had a multipicture deal with MGM and was chosen to play the role of widower Tom Corbett. He had appeared in Minnelli's previous film, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962), which was an outstanding disaster both financially and critically, partly due to Ford's miscasting as an Argentine playboy. Tom Corbett seemed to be a much more suitable role for him and he received good reviews for his efforts, including from Minnelli, who called his performance true and touching.

Co-star Shirley Jones, who had been his fan for years and considered him to be one of the greatest actors of his generation, was thrilled to be working with Ford.

He had a quality on film, a naturalness, that was remarkable, and it made working with him a pleasure. Much like Jimmy Stewart, he brought his own nuances to a character. Whatever he said sounded as if he had just thought of it, as if he had never looked at a script. That is a marvelous quality to have.
(Shirley Jones)

Howard and Ford between takes
For the role of the precocious Eddie, Minnelli cast 8-year-old Ronny Howard, who had come to prominence playing Opie Taylor in the successful CBS sitcom The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968) and had just appeared in the Best Picture-nominated film The Music Man (1962). 

Everyone working on the film was fascinated by little Ronny and had nothing but praise to say about him. Shirley Jones, who had previously played his older sister in The Music Man, was impressed by how accomplished and professional the young actor was.

He was probably the most perfect child actor I think I've ever worked with, and I've worked with a lot of them. Because he was really a little adult, and not yet the kind we call little brats: he wasn't that at all. He was really a marvelous kid, very bright, very funny.
(Shirley Jones)

The little boy-wonder, of course, grew up to be the amazing Ron Howard, star of the influential coming-of-age film American Graffiti (1973) and of another hugely successful television series, Happy Days (1974-1984), which is one of my favorite shows of all time, as well as director of several cinematic masterpieces, such as Apollo 13 (1995), A Beautiful Mind (2001) and Rush (2013). In case you haven't noticed, I'm a fan.

Released in March 1963, The Courtship of Eddie's Father garnered generally favorable reviews, but failed to make a profit. It did, however, inspire a television sitcom of the same name, which ran on ABC from 1969 until 1972 and starred Bill Bixby as Tom Corbett and Brandon Cruz as his son Eddie.

Though The Courtship of Eddie's Father is a little dated in its attitudes toward women, it is a thoroughly enjoyable film. Glenn Ford is wonderful as Tom Corbett and his leading ladies are all stunning, but to me the sole star of the film is little Ronny Howard. At just 8 years old, he was already an amazing actor and handled his role beautifully, showing both great comedic sense and genuine heartfelt emotion. I also love the fact that there seems to be a true father-son relationship between Ford and Ronny, which in the end turned the film into a really tender and poignant story.

A Hundred or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli by Mark Griffin (2010) | Ron Howard: From Mayberry to the Moon... and Beyond by Beverly Gray (2003) | Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer by Emanuel Levy (2009) | TCMDb (Articles)


Popular posts from this blog

Golden Couples: Gary Cooper & Patricia Neal

It was April 1948 when director King Vidor spotted 22-year-old Patricia Neal on the Warner Bros. studio lot. A drama graduate from Northwestern University, she had just arrived in Hollywood following a Tony Award-winning performance in Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest . Impressed by Patricia's looks, Vidor approached the young actress and asked if she would be interested in doing a screen test for the female lead in his newest film, The Fountainhead (1949). Gary Cooper had already signed as the male protagonist, and the studio was then considering Lauren Bacall and Barbara Stanwyck to play his love interest.          Neal liked the script and about two months later, she met with the director for sound and photographic tests. Vidor was enthusiastic about Patricia, but her first audition was a complete disaster. Cooper was apparently watching her from off the set and he was so unimpressed by her performance that he commented, « What's that!? » He tried to con

Golden Couples: Henry Fonda & Barbara Stanwyck

In the mid- and late 1930s, screwball comedy was in vogue and practically every actress in Hollywood tried her hand at it. Barbara Stanwyck never considered herself a naturally funny person or a comedienne per se , but after delivering a heart-wrenching performance in King Vidor's Stella Dallas (1937), she decided she needed a « vacation » from emotional dramas. In her search for a role, she stumbled upon a « champagne comedy » called The Mad Miss Manton (1938), originally intended as a Katharine Hepburn vehicle. Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda as Melsa and Peter in The Mad Miss Manton .   Directed by Leigh Jason from a script by Philip G. Epstein, The Mad Miss Manton begins when vivacious Park Avenue socialite Melsa Manton finds a corpse while walking her dogs in the early hours of the morning. She calls the police, but they dismiss the incident — not only because Melsa is a notorious prankster, but also because the body disappears in the meantime. Sarcastic newspaper editor

Films I Saw in 2020

For the past four years, I have shared with you a list of all the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 and 2019 , so I thought I would continue the «tradition» and do it again in 2020. This list includes both classic and «modern» films, which make up a total of 161 titles. About three or four of these were re-watches, but I decided to include them anyway. Let me know how many from these you have seen. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favorites. Sherlock Jr. (1924) | Starring Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire and Joe Keaton The Crowd (1928) | Starring James Murray, Eleanor Boardman and Bert Roach Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) | Starring Henry Fonda, Alice Brady and Marjorie Weaver Brief Encounter (1945) | Starring Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard and Stanley Holloway The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) | Starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman The Girl He Left Behind (1956) | Starring Tab Hunter and Natalie Wood Gidget (1959) | Starring Sandra Dee, Cliff Robertson an

Wings of Change: The Story of the First Ever Best Picture Winner

Wings was the first ever film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Since then, it has become one of the most influential war dramas, noted for its technical realism and spectacular air-combat sequences. This is the story of how it came to be made.   A man and his story The concept for Wings originated from a writer trying to sell one of his stories. In September 1924, Byron Morgan approached Jesse L. Lasky, vice-president of Famous Players-Lasky, a component of Paramount Pictures, proposing that the studio do an aviation film. Morgan suggested an «incident and plot» focused on the failure of the American aerial effort in World War I and the effect that the country's «aviation unpreparedness» would have in upcoming conflicts. Lasky liked the idea, and approved the project under the working title «The Menace.»   LEFT: Byron Morgan (1889-1963). RIGHT: Jesse L. Lasky (1880-1958).   During his development of the scenario with William Shepherd, a former war correspondent, Morga

80 Reasons Why I Love Classic Films (Part II)

I started this blog six years ago as a way to share my passion for classic films and Old Hollywood. I used to watch dozens of classic films every month, and every time I discovered a new star I liked I would go and watch their entire filmography. But somewhere along the way, that passion dimmed down. For instance, I watched 73 classic films in 2016, and only 10 in 2020. The other day, I found this film with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. that I had never heard of — the film is Mimi (1935), by the way — and for some reason it made me really excited about Old Hollywood again. It made me really miss the magic of that era and all the wonderful actors and actresses. And it also made me think of all the reasons why I fell in love with classic films in the first place. I came with 80 reasons, which I thought would be fun to share with you. Most of them are just random little scenes or quirky little quotes, but put them together and they spell Old Hollywood to me. Yesterday I posted part one ; here i

Top 10 Favourite Christmas Films

Christmas has always been a source of inspiration to many artists and writers. Over the years, filmmakers have adapted various Christmas stories into both movies and TV specials, which have become staples during the holiday season all around the world. Even though Christmas is my favourite holiday, I haven't watched a lot of Christmas films. Still, I thought it would be fun to rank my top 10 favourites, based on the ones that I have indeed seen. Here they are.  10. Holiday Affair (1949) Directed by Don Hartman, Holiday Affair tells the story of a young widow (Janet Leigh) torn between a boring attorney (Wendell Corey) and a romantic drifter (Robert Mitchum). She's engaged to marry the boring attorney, but her son (Gordon Gebert) likes the romantic drifter better. Who will she choose? Well, we all know who she will choose.   Holiday Affair is not by any means the greatest Christmas film of all time, but it's still a very enjoyable Yule-tide comedy to watch over the holi

The Gotta Dance! Blogathon: Gene Kelly & Judy Garland

In 1940, up-and-coming Broadway star Gene Kelly was offered the lead role in Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's new musical Pal Joey , based on the eponymous novel by John O'Hara about an ambitious and manipulative small-time nightclub performer. Opening at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Christmas Day of that year, the show brought Gene his best reviews up to that date. For instance, John Martin of The New York Times wrote of him: «A tap-dancer who can characterize his routines and turn them into an integral element of an imaginative theatrical whole would seem to be pretty close, indeed, to unique .»   One of Gene's performances in Pal Joey was attended by established Hollywood star Judy Garland , who requested to meet him after the show. Gene agreed and then accompanied Judy and her entourage, which included her mother Ethel and several press agents, to dinner at the newly-opened Copacabana nightclub, at 10 East 60th Street. They sang and danced until 3 a.m., after whi

Films I Saw in July & August

In the past five years, I shared a year-end list of the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 , 2019 and 2020 . For 2021, I decided to do this monthly and share a list of the films I saw during each month of the year. These are the films I saw in July and August, which make up a total of 18 titles. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favourites.   Resistance (2011) | Starring Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wlaschiha and Michael Sheen Siberian Education [Educazione siberiana] (2013) | Starring Arnas Fedaravi čius The Last of Robin Hood (2013) | Starring Kevin Kline and Dakota Fanning The Water Diviner (2014) | Starring Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko and Yılmaz Erdoğan Holding the Man (2015) | Starring Ryan Corr, Craig Stott and Anthony LaPaglia The Last King [Birkebeinerne] (2016) | Starring Jakob Oftebro and Kristofer Hivju The Pass (2016) | Starring Russell Tovey and Arinzé Kene Access All Areas (2017) | Starring Ella Purnell, Edward Bluemel and Georgie Henle

The Sinatra Centennial Blogathon: Frank Sinatra & Gene Kelly

  In January 1944, MGM chief Louis B. Mayer happened to see a young crooner by the name of Frank Sinatra perform at a benefit concert for The Jewish Home for the Aged in Los Angeles. According to Nancy Sinatra, Frank's eldest daughter, Mayer was so moved by her father's soulful rendition of « Ol' Man River » that he made the decision right then and there to sign Frank to his studio. Sinatra had been on the MGM payroll once before, singing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in the Eleanor Powell vehicle Ship Ahoy (1942), although it is very likely that Mayer never bothered to see that film. Now that Frank was «hot,» however, Metro made arrangements to buy half of his contract from RKO, with the final deal being signed in February of that year. Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in  Anchors Aweigh Being a contract player at the studio that boasted «more stars than there are in the heavens» gave Frank a sudden perspective regarding his own talents as a film performer. The «g

Films I Saw in May & June

In the past five years, I shared a year-end list of the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 , 2019 and 2020 . For 2021, I decided to do this monthly and share a list of the films I saw during each month of the year. These are the films I saw in May and June, which make up a total of 16 titles. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favourites.   Pelle the Conqueror [Pelle Erobreren] (1987) | Starring Pelle Hvenegaard The Elementary School [ Obecná škola] (1991) | Starring Václav Jakoubek Female Agents [Les Femmes de l'ombre] (2008) | Starring Sophie Marceau Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe [Vor der Morgenröte] (2016) | Starring Josef Hader ❤ Cold War [Zimna wojna] (2018) | Starring Tomasz Kot, Joanna Kulig and Borys Szyc Dreamland (2019) | Starring Finn Cole, Margot Robbie, Travis Fimmel and Garrett Hedlund Mr Jones (2019) | Starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby and Peter Sarsgaard Official Secrets (2019) | Starring Keira Knightley, Matt Smith an