Short Ends and Leader

Fanfare for the Common Man: 'The Catered Affair'

The Golden Age of Television delivers yet another well meaning melodrama.


The Catered Affair

Director: Richard Brooks
Cast: Bette Davis, Ernest Borgnine, Debbie Reynolds
Distributor: Warner Archives
Rated: Not rated
Year: 1956
USDVD release date: 2011-8-2

Hollywood had two reactions to the growing threat of television in the 1950s. The negative reaction was to emphasize stuff you couldn't see at home, including color, widescreen, and 3-D--all of which made movies look more like movies. The positive reaction was to co-opt the actors, writers and directors of TV, thus making movies look more and more like TV. (The final stage of this process was for the studios to start producing TV themselves and shift the center of production from New York to Hollywood, as they'd done with radio a generation earlier.)

The Catered Affair is an example of the positive reaction. The trailer even emphasizes the fact that Oscar-winning Ernest Borgnine had just become a star in Marty, adapted from a TV play. Borgnine proudly informs us that this new project is written by the same guy. That's Paddy Chayefsky, who first wrote this play for a 1955 broadcast on Philco Television Playhouse. Gore Vidal, another TV scribe making the jump, adapted it for the big screen. (In 2007, it was turned into a Broadway musical.)

This is a small-scale, dressed-down, New York comedy-drama about a tempest in a tenement teapot: mom Bette Davis wants to throw an expensive wedding party for daughter Debbie Reynolds (about to marry teacher Rod Taylor), but cabbie Borgnine can't afford it. Barry Fitzgerald is around as the blarney-spouting Irish uncle. It's an observational story in well-chiseled little black and white scenes. Glimpses of the abyss are smoothed over by a story arc of acceptance and reconciliation. There's a lot of star power applied to this low-wattage project. John Alton's sharp-eyed, gliding camerawork and Richard Brooks' direction in cramped quarters is very well done.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image