Oct. 25, 2009

The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963)
Grade: 53/100

Director: Vincente Minnelli
Stars: Glenn Ford, Ronny Howard, Shirley Jones

What it's about. Newly widowered Glenn Ford has an only son, perky pre-teenager Ronny Howard. Howard is anxious to have a stepmother (probably a reflection upon Ford's cooking). The obvious candidate is the nurse next store, lovely Shirley Jones, but since Ford and Jones argue readily, he instead dates socialite Dina Merrill. Wacky hottie Stella Stevens also tries to attach herself to deep-voiced Ford. Most bachelors in such a situation would take advantage of it, but because it is a movie, Ford introduces Stevens to skirt-chasing disk jockey Jerry Van Dyke, which is akin to throwing a steak at a German shepherd. Again, because it is a movie, everything works out swell.

How others will see it. Naturally, classic movie adherents will enjoy the cast, stocked as it is with familiar faces from its 1963 era. Younger audiences will roll their eyes at the pre-feminist conceptions about the role of women in relationships. The movie is in color, which makes it more watchable for many than the alternative.

How I felt about it. For me, the most curious aspect about The Courtship of Eddie's Father is where Ford ranks among eligible bachelors. True, it appears he has a fine income, and a precocious son to defrost any caring woman's heart. But he's clearly middle-aged, is moody, and has a tendency to hit the bottle. In short, women seem hardly likely to throw themselves at him.

And when they do, especially if they look like Stella Stevens, it doesn't seem likely that Ford wouldn't take advantage of them, particularly with his young son cheering him on. Instead, he turns Stevens over to a notorious wolf, Van Dyke. If the naive would-be Miss Montana and irrepressible Lothario Van Dyke are a match made in heaven, it must only be because she has never listened to his radio show, and is unaware that a dozen dolls attend his broadcast, presumably hoping to seduce him.

And why would Ford continue to antagonize gorgeous Shirley Jones, and instead date the older, more distant, and less attractive Dina Merrill? Particularly when her yap-yap doggie growls at him, while his own son dislikes her? Merrill's sole advantage is that she appears to be wealthy, but this is presumably of no interest to Ford.

On the other hand, every conversation between Ford and Jones seems to end up with Ford yelling and/or Jones crying. No wonder why he is more comfortable with Merrill; even when he breaks up with her, she barely bats an eye.

So, what we have here is a set of characters who appear incompatible, yet are presented as if they match perfectly. Worldly Van Dyke apparently ditches his studio dames and drops his Barry White-style radio seduction, to possess "adorably" eccentric Stella Stevens and her (temporarily) perfect 10 flesh. While she gives up any aspirations of being Miss Montana to presumably scrub the kitchen floor and practice the joy of cooking.

Meanwhile, Ronny Howard will have to deal with his schoolboy crush on Shirley Jones, and once he passes through puberty in a couple of years, she will have little to look forward to aside from intemperate arguments with boozing husband Ford.

But perhaps my take on the prefabricated happy ending is much too grim. Everybody gets what they want, even Merrill's feisty pooch. True, Merrill doesn't get Ford, but she can afford to shop for a man toy that comes without a sulking child accessory.