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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Life With Father (1947)

In New York City of the the 1890s, a stockbroker (William Powell) rules (or tries) his household with an iron fist. His wife (Irene Dunne) adores him but her inability to manage the household accounts irritates her husband. But when she finds out he has never been baptized, it becomes her mission to do so if it's the very last thing she'll do. Based on the play (by way of the autobiography of Clarence Day Jr.) by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, the book was turned into a hit Broadway play that ran for 3,234 performances making it the longest running (non-musical) Broadway play in history. As directed by Michael Curtiz, the film version is decent enough with a quaint sort of charm to it. But the sexist and patriarchal attitudes displayed in the film, while no doubt culturally accurate for its time, makes the film a bit irritating to watch at times. In the 40s, lines like "women can't think" might have seemed cute but today, one just groans. Powell is normally an actor of great subtlety but he plays to the rafters here while Dunne, normally an actress who exudes intelligence, has to play the ditzy wife. Also in the cast: Elizabeth Taylor (whose beauty is sabotaged by her ugly costumes), Edmund Gwenn, Martin Milner and Jimmy Lydon.

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