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Blu-Ray : Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: August 29th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1951

Father's Little Dividend - Warner Archive Collection

Overview -

The often-forgotten sequel to Father of the Bride finally gets a proper home video release and Warner Archive ensures it's a bona fide bundle of joy. Father's Little Dividend lampoons grandparenthood with almost as much wit and wisdom as its wedding-centric predecessor, thanks to a sparkling script, assured direction by Vincente Minnelli, and the talents of Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor, and Joan Bennett. A terrific transfer struck from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, solid audio, and a few vintage extras make this disc a great addition to your Blu-ray family. Recommended.

Academy Award winners Elizabeth Taylor and Spencer Tracy return in their starring roles from "Father of the Bride" in this delightful comedy of battling in-laws--Father's Little Dividend. Stanley and Ellie Banks (Tracy and Joan Bennett) have barely had time to recover from their daughter's (Taylor) wedding when they learn they are to be grandparents. Their dreams of peace and quiet are soon shattered by baby wails and dirty diapers!

OVERALL:
Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
New 1080p HD master from 4K scan of Original Camera Negative
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Length:
82
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.37:1
Audio Formats:
English DTS HD-MA 2.0 Mono
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Special Features:
Original Theatrical Trailer
Release Date:
August 29th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

These days, it seems like every successful movie spawns a sequel (or several), but back in Hollywood's Golden Age sequels were a rarity. While continuing series featuring such popular characters as Nick and Nora Charles, Dr. Kildare, Andy Hardy, Sherlock Holmes, Blondie, and Charlie Chan were commonplace, the stories in which they appeared were individual, self-contained entities. Producing a picture that picked up right where a previous film's narrative left off was still a rather novel idea in 1950, but after the charming and hilarious Father of the Bride made a bundle at the box office, MGM rushed stars Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett, and Elizabeth Taylor into a follow-up movie chronicling the comic hubbub that occurs before and after the arrival of the newlywed couple's bundle of joy.

Thanks to the studio system's iron grip on its talent, both in front of and behind the camera, Father's Little Dividend came together lickety-split, premiering a mere 11 months after Father of the Bride. MGM producer Pandro S. Berman assigned the same director (Vincente Minnelli), same principal cast, same writers (Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett), same cinematographer (John Alton), same art directors (Cedric Gibbons and Leonid Vasian), and same costume designer (Helen Rose) to work on the project. It didn't matter that Minnelli was in the midst of making An American in Paris (which would ultimately win the Best Picture Oscar that year); after doing some double duty, he postponed shooting that film's climactic ballet in order to squeeze in Father's Little Dividend, which he completed in just 23 days. As a result of the compressed schedule, Father's Little Dividend lacks some of the polish that distinguishes Father of the Bride, but the endearing characters, relatable situations, and amusing script smooth over any rough edges.

When Kay Dunston (Elizabeth Taylor) and her husband Buckley (Don Taylor) proudly announce they are going to have a baby, three of the four grandparents-to-be can barely contain their excitement. Kay's father, Stanley Banks (Tracy), is the one who's lukewarm - okay, downright sour - about the impending infant. Not yet ready to be called grandpa, Stanley struggles to muster a fraction of the enthusiasm that consumes his wife Ellie (Bennett), whose obsession with Kay's baby rivals her obsession with Kay's wedding in Father of the Bride, and Buckley's parents, Doris (Billie Burke) and Herbert (Moroni Olsen).

As Kay's pregnancy progresses, parental interference rears its ugly head. Ellie vies with Doris and Herbert for a position of prominence in the baby's life and everyone offers unwanted advice and suggestions. Tensions mount and the strain takes a toll on Kay and Buckley's marriage. Stanley tries to keep the peace (and keep control of his checkbook), but with emotions and hormones running high, he has his work cut out for him.

Though it doesn't deliver the same amount of laughs per capita as its predecessor, Father's Little Dividend is still great fun. Goodrich and Hackett, just as they did in Father of the Bride, zero in on all the classic foibles of pregnancy and babyhood and lace their zippy script with plenty of cogent wit. The situations may be stereotypical, but in this case that's what makes them so funny. Though Father's Little Dividend is 72 years old, it's a sure bet the parents and grandparents of today are grappling with at least a couple of the same issues as the characters in the film.

Tracy anchors the movie and most of its humor emanates from his pitch-perfect portrayal. Some actors phone it in when doing a sequel, but not Tracy. Stanley Banks suits the actor like a comfy old sweater and his portrayal here is every inch as droll, warm, and deliciously arch as it is in Father of the Bride. Priceless reaction shots abound. As I wrote in my review of The Old Man and the Sea"Tracy gets more mileage out of a raised eyebrow, offhand glance, smirk, grimace, or glint in his eye than perhaps any other actor" and that goes double in Father's Little Dividend. Even in an innocuous comedy, Tracy brings his A-game and monopolizes attention in every scene.

Though Tracy's chemistry with Katharine Hepburn can't be beat, his rapport with Bennett comes close to matching it. The two make a very believable couple and Bennett never skips a beat in their scenes together. Neither does Elizabeth Taylor, who was just 19 at the time, but already blossoming into a fine actress. Filming Father's Little Dividend, though, wasn't as happy an experience for her as Father of the Bride, which coincided with her highly publicized romance with and marriage to Nicky Hilton. By the time Taylor began work on Father's Little Dividend a few months later, she struggled to portray a happy wife on screen, because she was a miserable wife in real life. (Hilton reportedly physically and emotionally abused her, even while on their honeymoon.) Taylor hides her personal troubles well and files a good performance, but if you look closely, you can feel the strain she was under. Ironically, the release of Father's Little Dividend coincided with her divorce.

As sequels go, Father's Little Dividend is better than most. It gives us characters and actors we love in a breezy and amusing story that explores universal themes with acuity and warmth. Yes, it's a bit trite and very predictable, but Minnelli's deft direction and the cast's engaging performances make it a pleasant diversion and required viewing for every parent- and grandparent-to-be.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Father's Little Dividend 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:

Stuck in public domain hell since 1979, Father's Little Dividend has bounced around the home video market in various formats and various states of disrepair for decades. Despite its acclaimed director, cast of big-name stars, and stellar reputation, the film never got an official DVD release, so the announcement from Warner Archive heralding its Blu-ray debut was welcome news indeed. Better still, hearing the transfer would be struck from a 4K scan of the original camera negative was music to every classic lover's ears. The highly impressive 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 rendering at last brings Father's Little Dividend out of the shadow of Father of the Bride and allows us to fully appreciate this underrated sequel.

The spotless source print is a revelation and the film-like presentation that preserves the natural grain structure faithfully honors the always striking cinematography of John Alton, who also shot Father of the Bride and would win an Oscar the very same year for An American in Paris. Rich blacks, bright, stable whites, and beautifully varied grays produce a vibrant picture that brims with excellent clarity and contrast. Superior shadow delineation heightens the impact of nocturnal scenes while keeping crush at bay and sharp close-ups showcase fine facial features and the unspoiled loveliness of 19-year-old Elizabeth Taylor. If you own any of those no-name home video releases from years gone by, it's time to toss them in the trash and marvel at this official and officially breathtaking Blu-ray edition.

Audio Review

Ranking:

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track supplies clear, well-modulated sound. A wide dynamic scale gives the music score ample room to breathe, sonic accents like the shrieks and whines of babies are appropriately grating, and subtleties like chirping birds nicely shade a couple of scenes. The most effective audio sequence features some very loud classical music coming from a record player that forces the actors to shout to be heard above it, which contributes to the scene's heightened nervous tension. When Tracy finally shuts off the turntable, the resulting clean silence strikingly contrasts with the prior cacophony.

Some of the dialogue is a tad muffled, but on the whole it's easy to comprehend, and no age-related hiss, pops, or crackle intrude. Father's Little Dividend has definitely never looked better and it's a sure bet it's never sounded better, too.

Special Features

Ranking:

Warner Archive adds a few amusing vintage supplements to complement the film, including two Tom & Jerry cartoons.

  • Vintage Cartoon: Just Ducky (HD, 7 minutes) - When a duck hatchling gets separated from his flock, Jerry comes to the rescue and tries to teach it how to swim. All goes swimmingly until a hungry Tom decides the duckling might make a good meal. Typical mayhem ensues.

  • Vintage Cartoon: Jerry and the Goldfish (HD, 7 minutes) - In this animated short, Tom sets his sights on a goldfish and it's up to Jerry to thwart his nefarious efforts...and save himself in the process.

  • Vintage Short: Bargain Madness (SD, 9 minutes) - This over-the-top 1951 short, part of the popular Pete Smith Specialty series, paints a brutal portrait of bargain hunters as it depicts the outrageous lengths they'll go to in order to grab merchandise on sale.

  • Theatrical Trailer (SD, 4 minutes) - The film's lengthy original trailer practically gives away the whole movie.

Final Thoughts

Father's Little Dividend will never eclipse its predecessor, but it stands on its own as a delightful comedy that derives its humor from eminently relatable situations. Minnelli and his cast pick up right where they left off in Father of the Bride and deliver another dose of breezy entertainment. Warner Archive at last gives this underrated sequel the home video release it has always deserved, thanks to a spiffy 4K scan of the original camera negative, remastered audio, and a few vintage supplements. Recommended.