While Vincente Minnelli is best known for the musicals he helmed (many of which are still the most beloved films of the genre), he directed films across a variety of genres. Aside from musicals, he made a number of acclaimed melodramas and comedies, such as The Bad and the Beautiful and Father of the Bride, respectively. Instead of highlighting one of his many great films for The Vincente Minnelli Blogathon, I thought I’d look at one of his most underappreciated films, the 1963 family comedy-drama The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.
Eddie Corbett (Ron Howard), a precocious child, decides it’s time for his widowed father Tom (Glenn Ford) to remarry. However, when Tom begins seeing uptight aristocrat Rita Behrens (Dina Merrill), Eddie expresses his displeasure with his potential future stepmom and tries to play matchmaker, pushing his dad towards their caring neighbor, Elizabeth Marten (Shirley Jones).
The Courtship of Eddie’s Father was a reunion of sorts for a few of the talent involved. Glenn Ford teamed up with Vincente Minnelli again following their disastrous effort the previous year in the drama The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Meanwhile, Shirley Jones and Ron Howard (then billed as Ronny Howard) reunited as potential stepmom and stepson following the success of The Music Man the previous year, where they played sister and brother.
Little Ronny Howard was already beloved by television audiences as Opie Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show, which he had been on for three years by the time The Courtship of Eddie’s Father was released. But aside from Howard’s involvement, the film had strong links to television, which was on the rise by the time Minnelli made the film. MGM had hoped to grab TV audiences with this family-friendly film about a widower and his son. The Courtship of Eddie’s Father ended up being mildly received by both critics and audiences. While it wasn’t a huge success like some of Minnelli’s earlier movies, the movie did eventually circle back to its competition and became a television sitcom six years later, staying on the air for more than two years.
The film itself doesn’t feature Minnelli’s usual stylish flair (which was most evidently displayed in his musicals), but it still shares similar themes found in his other work. Many of Minnelli’s comedies were light-hearted while having serious undertones, and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father was no different. The movie begins just days after Eddie’s mother passes away and follows the gradual adjustment of the father and son. And while it’s primarily a comedy, the film doesn’t shy away from the grief the two characters experience. There’s one particularly raw scene where Eddie has his first true encounter with death, where he finds one of his goldfish dead. Combined with the overall grief he had already been feeling, it becomes too much for Eddie and he breaks down in tears, marking the first time he’s cried since his mother died.
What really makes the film special (and one not to be overlooked among Vincente Minnelli’s vast filmography), is the relationship between Eddie and his father Tom. Glenn Ford and Ron Howard have such great chemistry as father and son, making the characters feel much more authentic. And Shirley Jones is as charming as ever as the recent divorcée across the hall. Having worked with Howard previously, she also has a great rapport with the young actor. Jones also works well opposite Ford, as the characters prove to be a better match for each other than it initially seems. The cast as a whole is a lot of fun too, with Stella Stevens and Jerry Van Dyke bringing some humorous moments to the film, respectively playing Dollye Daly, a potential match for Tom, and Jerry Van Dyke as Norman Jones, Tom’s co-worker who ends up wooing Dollye for himself.
Minnelli’s career may have been on the decline by the time he made this film, with his greatest and most beloved movies behind him, but he still continued to put out quality work. Even though The Courtship of Eddie’s Father is considered as one of the director’s lesser films, it’s still one well worth checking out.
I wrote this entry as a part of The Vincente Minnelli Blogathon, where bloggers are writing about movies directed by the versatile director. Click the banner below to read more wonderful posts!