My favorite Liz Taylor movie is “Father of the Bride” because I lived through it.
When my sister, Eileen, became engaged, my mother decided to host the wedding at our home. She used the wedding as an excuse to completely renovate the house, employing her many indentured servants to do the work.
Eileen was 18, just a year older than Liz was when she starred in the movie. Taylor was a glamorous brunette, while Eileen remains a stunning blonde. Appearances aside, they were both capable of Oscar-worthy dramatics.
Spencer Tracy played Liz’s father, but it might just as well have been my dad on the screen. He and Tracy were both short, stocky Irish men. They had the same temperament and facial expressions, including identical looks of exasperation.
This look was found often on my dad’s face during the yearlong project. Like Tracy, he swallowed his discontent, quietly forking over endless amounts of money.
As months passed, the galley slaves labored below deck, sanding knotty pine walls, in which we had carved names and phone numbers. We had to reverse years of house destruction and neglect to reach my mom’s standards.
Eileen, meanwhile, was having Elizabeth-Taylor mood-swings, questioning if she should take the impending step across the marital threshold.
Her fiancée breezed over one day in his convertible. We hoped he’d grab a sander but he was clearly saving his strength for the golf course.
The wedding rehearsal in the movie is total chaos. The minister fails to show up and a bridesmaid can’t stop sneezing. Tracy tries to untangle traffic in the aisle but nobody listens to him. My old man would have done the same thing. He was forever hopping out of the car to direct traffic.
Finally, the big day came, and we moved the ground floor furniture to the garage. My grandparents arrived. It was their one and only visit to our house. I can still see them: a lace-curtain-Irish couple perched primly on folding chairs.
Then my shanty Irish relatives showed up. Many of them were already plastered. One of my aunts staggered in and had to be immediately put to bed.
For bartenders, my parents unwisely chose my brother and I, both being underage. About an hour into the reception, he succumbed to the champagne. I saw him being carried upstairs, a guest at each limb. His final words were, “Don’t make me set up any more chairs.”
I lasted a bit longer, before the bubbly got to me. My slurred farewell address to the assembled was: “Don’t make me do any more work.”
The movie has a simple message: Never host a wedding reception at your house. But, if you had a luminous daughter like Liz, or Eileen and plenty of free labor, you might try it.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.