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Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
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Release Date: May 30th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1963

The Courtship of Eddie's Father - Warner Archive Collection

Overview -

We all remember the TV series, but it can't hold a candle to the original film version of The Courtship of Eddie's Father. Director Vincente Minnelli's touching and charming comedy-drama about a widowed dad (Glenn Ford) forging a close relationship with his young son (Ronny Howard) after his wife's death strikes all the right notes and looks terrific on Blu-ray, thanks to a new 4K scan of the original camera negative. Excellent audio and a great commentary featuring Shirley Jones, Stella Stevens, and Dina Merrill enhance this stellar presentation of a wonderful family film. Highly Recommended.

Who will be the next Mrs. Corbett? Will it be the chic designer? The Miss Montana Pageant hopeful? The headstrong lady across the hall? It's a big decision for any boy to make for his recently divorced Dad. Like father, like son. You'll like 'em both when renowned child actor Ronny Howard portrays Eddie, and Glenn Ford is his Dad. Vincente Minnelli (Father of the Bride, Gigi) directs, using his flair for vivid colors and balancing the film's humor with the real sense of loss a family feels over a loved one's passing. Shirley Jones, Dina Merrill, and Stella Stevens portray the prospects under Eddie's self-appointed scrutiny. The amiable Courtship continued years later with a same-titled TV series starring Bill Bixby.

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
NEW 2023 1080p HD Master from 4K Scan of original camera negative
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Length:
118
Aspect Ratio(s):
2.35:1
Audio Formats:
DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 - English
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Special Features:
Original Theatrical Trailer
Release Date:
May 30th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Long before Kramer vs. Kramer tugged the heartstrings of film audiences, The Courtship of Eddie's Father tenderly examined the relationship between a newly single father and his very young son. Though most of us of a certain age may better remember the Bill Bixby-Brandon Cruz TV sitcom the movie spawned (its recognizable theme song that begins "People let me tell you 'bout my best friend" still pops into my head), the big-screen original stands on its own as a textbook comedy-drama that's directed with warmth, style, and grace by Vincente Minnelli. It's hardly groundbreaking cinema, but deftly balances humor and pathos, boasts equal parts sugar and spice, and features an array of winning performances. In many ways, it's the perfect family film.

It's also a perfect showcase for a gifted eight-year-old child actor named Ronny Howard, who would of course grow up to be an esteemed Academy Award-winning director (after shortening his first name to the more manly Ron). Though The Courtship of Eddie's Father was just his fourth feature film, Howard was already a star, charming small-screen audiences week after week as adorable Opie on The Andy Griffith Show. He's equally adorable here, but unlike the bulk of child stars who coast on their charm, incessantly mug for the camera, and project a thinly veiled brattiness, Howard can act. The pint-sized redhead has enviable range, always seems genuine, and gives his far more mature and experienced co-stars (Glenn Ford, Shirley Jones, Stella Stevens, and Dina Merrill) a run for their money. There's a reason the movie is called The Courtship of Eddie's Father and not The Courtship of Tom Corbett; Eddie is the central figure and Minnelli's film would be far less memorable without Howard.

The story begins shortly after the death of Eddie's mother, as Eddie goes back to school and Tom (Ford) returns to his job as a New York City radio executive. Both struggle to deal with the loss and Tom hires the lively, no-nonsense Mrs. Livingston (Roberta Sherwood) to help care for them. (Fans of the TV show will be surprised to see that Mrs. Livingston is not Asian here. Oscar-winning actress Miyoshi Umeki played the part on the sitcom.)  Elizabeth Marten (Jones), the warm-hearted, pretty blonde neighbor across the hall who also just happens to be a recent divorcée, bakes fudge for Eddie and helps comfort him in times of need, but she and Tom often vociferously clash on the best way to relate to him.

Eddie obviously adores Elizabeth and as time passes and he begins campaigning for a stepmother, she leads the very short list. He also likes the curvaceous, carefree, doe-eyed Dollye Daly (Stevens), a red-headed country girl trying to adjust to the big city, who he and Tom meet by chance in a Broadway arcade. Though sexy and full of fun, Dollye isn't exactly Tom's type. He prefers Rita Behrens (Merrill), an elegant, educated Park Avenue socialite and career woman who values her independence and lofty lifestyle. Eddie doesn't care for Rita at all because she has "skinny eyes," a trait that labels her a villain...at least according to one of his comic books. As Tom grows closer to Rita, she drives a wedge between father and son that leads to a crisis.

Though slightly reminiscent of The Parent Trap, which preceded it by a couple of years, The Courtship of Eddie's Father adds enough drama to the mix to set it apart from other kids-playing-matchmaker films. A harrowing scene that deals with the death of one of Eddie's pet goldfish comes out of nowhere and the parents-worst-nightmare climax, though somewhat implausible, nevertheless churns the gut. The script by John Gay, who adapted Mark Toby's semi-autobiographical novel and previously earned an Oscar nod for his adaptation of Separate Tables, deals as effectively and tenderly with grief as possible during an era when "feelings" weren't so openly expressed.

Opulence defines many Minnelli films, but not The Courtship of Eddie's Father. Sadly, a cut-rate budget kept the production studio-bound (the arcade where Tom and Eddie meet Dollye looks eerily similar to the one where Fred Astaire performed "Shine on My Shoes" in Minnelli's The Band Wagon a decade before), but Minnelli's eye for detail in sets, costumes, and color adds touches of elegance to the rather straightforward presentation.

Ford is affable as always, but also shows some real sensitivity during his scenes with Howard. Their chemistry rivals that of Dustin Hoffman and Justin Henry in Kramer vs. Kramer and never feels manufactured or forced. Ford's low-key style keeps him under the radar in discussions of fine actors of the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, but he deserves more credit than he gets. Tom Corbett is a fairly bland role, but Ford invisibly enlivens it.

Jones and Howard played brother and sister in The Music Man the previous year, but seem more comfortable as surrogate mother and son here. Jones effortlessly mixes warmth with spunk, while Merrill projects just the right amount of icy reserve and patrician arrogance to merit Eddie's disdain. With her brassy red hair, slinky wardrobe, and ditzy demeanor, Stevens is often the spitting image of Shirley MacLaine in Minnelli's own Some Came Running (made four years before), but she breaks the mold with a captivating performance. The subplot involving her romance with Tom's radio station colleague (Jerry Van Dyke) drags on too long and is really superfluous, but the two make a wacky, free-wheeling pair who provide a nice contrast to Tom's stiffer, more traditional relationships with Elizabeth and Rita.

It's easy to see why The Courtship of Eddie's Father became a TV sitcom. It's got all the built-in elements for an open-ended story arc that could span multiple seasons, as well as a cozy domestic setting and plenty of opportunities for father-son conflicts and bonding, but under Minnelli's expert guidance the narrative works quite well as a self-contained feature film, too. It's light, funny, occasionally tear-jerking, and filled with relatable family situations. Like many of Minnelli's other comedies - The Long, Long TrailerDesigning WomanThe Reluctant Debutante The Courtship of Eddie's Father is innocuous, breezy fun that doesn't get bogged down with prickly messages. It won't change the world, but it's a nice way to pass a couple of hours.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Courtship of Eddie's Father arrives on Blu-ray packaged in a standard case. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono. Once the disc is inserted into the player, the static menu without music immediately pops up; no previews or promos precede it.

Video Review

Ranking:

A brand new 4K scan of the original camera negative yields a glossy 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer that faithfully honors the crisp cinematography of Oscar-winner Milton Krasner and makes this 60-year-old movie look like it was made yesterday. Excellent clarity and contrast distinguish the image, but it's the color that really grabs the eye. Van Dyke's red vest, Stevens' brassy red hair, the bright orange decor of the bowling alley, and Merrill's pale blue gown all look gloriously lush and nicely complement the rich blacks and bright whites that also punctuate the frame. The picture is packed with fine detail, flesh tones appear natural and remain stable throughout, costume and upholstery patterns are vivid and rock solid, and sharp close-ups showcase Ford's rugged face and the peaches-and-cream complexions of Jones, Stevens, and Merrill. Faint grain preserves the feel of film, crush is absent, and nary a speck of dirt or errant scratch dot the antiseptically clean source. If you're a fan of this tender comedy-drama, you'll definitely want to toss out your old DVD and upgrade to this home-run Blu-ray.

Audio Review

Ranking:

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track supplies clear, well-modulated sound. The most impressive sonic sequence is Stevens' drum solo, which bursts forth with enhanced fidelity and a marvelous bass presence. A wide dynamic scale gives the lyrical music score by Oscar-winner and nine-time-nominee George Stoll plenty of room to breathe and all the dialogue is easy to comprehend. Sonic accents like the crash of pins in the bowling alley, a facial slap, and slamming doors are distinct and no age-related hiss, pops, or crackle mar the mix. The Courtship of Eddie's Father is a dialogue-driven movie, but there's a lot more aural action than one might think and this track handles all of it with aplomb.

Special Features

Ranking:

Warner Archive recycles the audio commentary from the 2004 DVD and adds a Tom & Jerry cartoon in HD.

  • Audio Commentary - This delightful commentary, which was recorded for the movie's DVD release in 2004, reunites Jones, Stevens, and Merrill...sort of. Stevens and Merrill, both of whom have sadly left us, sat down together for their remarks, while Jones taped her comments separately. It's rare to corral three co-stars for what was then a 40-year-old movie, so it's a bona fide treat to hear what these legendary ladies have to say about The Courtship of Eddie's Father, a film all three revere. Each actress recalls how she got her respective part and the decision to have Stevens and Merrill, both blondes, wear wigs so each woman would have a different hair color. (Merrill amusingly quips that she got a hand-me-down wig from Elizabeth Taylor.) They all praise both Ford and Howard, discuss working with Minnelli (noting his odd idiosyncrasies and lamenting he wasn't really an actor's director), and often opine that they just don't make movies like this anymore. Jones cites the differences between Ford's on-screen demeanor and off-screen personality, bemoans the limited scope of her role, and confesses she really wanted to play Stevens' part, while Stevens wistfully regrets how her career took a "sexy" turn when all she wanted was to be a serious actress. In addition, they all gush over the movie's beautiful clothes and hats ad nauseum, point out a young Lee Meriwether in a bit part, and identify both Howard's younger brother Clint, who is little more than a toddler, and his father Rance, who has a cameo as a camp counselor. Though not particularly deep or analytical, this breezy commentary is a fun listen and fans of the film will deeply appreciate it.

  • Vintage Cartoon: Pent-house Mouse (HD, 7 minutes) - This Chuck Jones-directed Tom and Jerry cartoon takes the duo to the big city, where Jerry tangles with Tom in a swanky, high-rise apartment.

  • Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3 minutes) - The film's original preview identifies its leading ladies by their physical measurements, which probably wouldn't go over well today!

Final Thoughts

The Courtship of Eddie's Father remains a delightful family film 60 years after its premiere and Warner Archive honors its anniversary with a slick Blu-ray presentation. A terrific transfer struck from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative, top-notch audio, and a lively commentary featuring Shirley Jones, Stella Stevens, and Dina Merrill distinguish this wonderful disc that fans of Glenn Ford, Ron Howard, the three leading ladies, and director Vincente Minnelli will certainly want to snatch up. Highly Recommended.

Order your copy of The Courtship of Eddie's Father on Blu-ray