The Catered Affair (1956)
Rod Taylor plays Ralph Halloran -- a sensible, bespectacled schoolteacher
-- in Gore Vidal's big-screen adaptation of a Paddy Chayefsky TV drama.
Taylor earned this role on the strength of a screen test for the Rocky
Graziano story, "Somebody Up There Likes Me." Although Paul Newman
got that part, Taylor landed a contract with MGM, and the accent he put
on for the screen test earned him the role as a boy from the Bronx in "The
Taylor has said that MGM chief Dore Schary "didn't know I was just
18 months out of Australia until the movie was half finished."
As the film opens, Jane Hurley (Debbie Reynolds) announces at breakfast
that, after three years of courtship, she and Ralph are getting married
in a week. All they want is a small wedding with the immediate family and
no reception. Jane's parents react matter-of-factly and everyone seems to
be in agreement about the practicality of the arrangement.
But when the future in-laws gather for dinner that evening, all Ralph's
parents talk about are the big weddings they gave their daughters. All of
a sudden, Jane's mother (Bette Davis) is planning a big wedding breakfast
with hundreds of guests.
As the cost of the catered affair begins to exceed the family's savings,
Mrs. Hurley rails at Mr. Hurley (Ernest Borgnine) for failing to be a good
provider. But Mr. Hurley has been saving money to buy his own taxicab, and
on the verge of realizing that dream, he sees all his money going toward
a wedding neither he nor Jane nor Ralph really want.
The wedding is clearly compensation for Mrs. Hurley's own hurried, unromantic
nuptials as well as her general emotional disregard for her daughter as
she grew up. It's her chance to give her daughter something to think of
"when the bad years come."
As a counterpoint to the indifference and awkwardness in the Hurley household,
it's clear that Jane and Ralph won't have any bad years. In one scene together,
Taylor and Reynolds show us a couple comfortable with only each other for
company and with a sweet passion that's sure to endure.
The film was directed by Richard Brooks, who had this to say about young
He acts the way he is. His principal asset, as an actor
and a person, is the fact that he listens well to a director and other
players. His actions are all normal to the scene and honest, particularly
in a role which will permit him to exploit his own personality. I predict
that Rod Taylor will go straight to the top.