Movie Mirrors Index

The Catered Affair

(1956 b 92')

En: 6 Ed: 7

Gore Vidal adapted Paddy Chayevsky’s play about a family planning a wedding that the mother of the bride wants, but which they cannot afford.

         Tom Hurley (Ernest Borgnine) drives a taxi at night and gets off in the morning. Sam Leiter (Jay Adler) shows Tom the cab they can buy for $8,000. Tom sits down and says they have been saving for twelve years. Sam says he will be over on Sunday, and they need to pay $500 each. Tom says okay, and they shake hands.

         Tom comes home to his upstairs apartment. His wife Agnes Hurley (Bette Davis) says he could wear a mask to sleep during the daylight. Their daughter Jane Hurley (Debbie Reynolds) comes in the kitchen and asks who is in the bathroom. Agnes says it is her Uncle Jack. Jane says that she and Ralph are getting married. She says Ralph has three weeks between school terms. Agnes asks if they can have him over for dinner tonight, and they consent. Agnes says she wants a simple wedding without a reception so that they can leave right after for California. She says they want to get married next Tuesday. Agnes says they will give them a check for $500, but Tom complains about that. Agnes says they will only ask the immediate family, but Jane says she should ask Uncle Jack. Tom goes to bed. Agnes tells Jane that getting married is a big thing. Agnes says it will become the same thing day after day. Agnes advises her to mind her temper. Jane asks what you do when you get married. She asks about loving. Agnes says of course, but it is no bed or roses. Jane says she and Ralph are not going to have any trouble. Eddie Hurley (Ray Stricklyn) puts on his coat, and Agnes tells him that Jane is marrying Ralph. Jane asks her ma to talk to Uncle Jack, and Agnes says she will. Jane leaves.

         In the bedroom Agnes tells Tom that Jane is the first one to get married. She wishes they could give her a real wedding. Agnes says she talked to her, and she sees that Tom is asleep already. She tells Jack Conlon (Barry Fitzgerald) that Jane is getting married. He says that is great. He suggests they rent a hall, but Agnes says she wants a small wedding. She says they will be driving to California. She explains that if they invite him, they would have to invite others. Jack is not happy he is not being invited, and he says he is going to see the doctor. He goes out, and a neighbor comes in returning some eggs. She drinks coffee, and they chat as Agnes sets up her ironing board.

         In the market the neighbor whispers to Mrs. Casey (Carol Veazie), and she learns of the wedding. Agnes says Jane does not want a fancy wedding. Mrs. Casey asks if there is a rush if she is in trouble. Agnes says they could afford a big wedding, but they are borrowing a car from a friend whose wife is pregnant.

         Jane in a phone booth calls Ralph Halloran (Rod Taylor) and asks if her parents can come for dinner. He says he will bring them about seven.

         Ralph calls on his parents (Robert Simon and Madge Kennedy). They offer to help with the party, and Ralph says they want to have a quiet wedding.

         The two families sit around before dinner, and Mr. Halloran tells a story about their honeymoon. Agnes offers him another drink. Mr. Halloran says yes, but his wife declines. Mr. Halloran asks Tom about the taxi business. Jane wonders if Jack is coming home. Tom explains you need a medallion, which is a city license which now costs about $8,000. In the kitchen Agnes serves the food and sends Jane in with a tray. At the table the Hallorans say they enjoyed the dinner. Mr. Halloran offers them a nice apartment for $81 a month, and his wedding present will be the first year’s rent. Ralph tries to say no, but his father keeps talking. Agnes says they will give them a check for $1,000, and Tom coughs. Jack comes in tipsy, and Agnes says dinner is over. Jack says only immediate family will be welcome at the wedding. He says he won’t be attending. He says he has lived in that room for twelve years. Mrs. Halloran says they have to go, and they get up. Jack says he is moving out tomorrow, and he lays down. The Hallorans leave.

         Later Agnes tells Jane they have to have a real wedding with Alice as matron of honor. Agnes tells Tom they must have a real wedding. She says people will think they are on relief. Eddie comes in, and Jane tells about a fight that occurred over a dress for the matron of honor. Agnes says her brother Jack was deeply offended. Jane says it is her wedding, and she wants it her own way. Agnes asks Tom what they have given Jane even if it costs $2,000. Jane says they have to take advantage of the car. Jack comes in and tells Jane not to talk to him. Agnes says Jack is moving out because he was hurt. Agnes tells Jane she must have a big wedding whether she likes it or not. Jane goes out, and Tom says that $2,000 is half of what he has saved. Agnes pleads. Agnes goes into Jane’s room and says they never did anything for her. She says she wants the wedding very much because she never had a proper wedding. She said she didn’t mind, but she did and still does. She wants her to have something to remember when she is growing old like her. Jane says all right, and she will tell Ralph, though he won’t like it. Jane says they won’t be able to have the trip. They say goodnight, and Jane calls Ralph. He gets out of bed and answers the phone. She apologizes for waking him up. Jane says she wants to tell him something, and she will see him tomorrow.

         The next day Jane meets Ralph, and they buy coffee. She says he has a mood. They sit down, and she asks him if he loves her. He says no; he is marrying her because he doesn’t. She says her mom wants her to have a wedding party. Jane says if he doesn’t want it, they don’t have to have it. She says she would ask him. He says she is telling him. She asks if he is mad, and he says the whole Irish Bronx wants a catered affair. He says if she wants a big affair, then they will have one. She says he is understanding. He says he does not understand, kisses her, and leaves.

         Jack asks Tom if he would give him a ride, and they go out together. In the cab Jack says he will contribute to the wedding. Tom says no; it is Agnes’ party. Tom noticed that Jack is not married, and he says he saves his company for the world. They agree to meet at five o’clock.

         Jack calls on Mrs. Rafferty (Dorothy Stickney) and says they are both going to the wedding. She says she does not know them. He says she will get to know them. He says he threatened to move out, and they changed. She says she has been a widow for a long time. Jack says he has bachelor uncles and brothers. He suggests they have a game, and she gets the cards.

         Jane tries on a wedding dress as Agnes looks on. Agnes asks where Alice is. Alice Scanlon (Joan Camden) comes in and tells Jane it is beautiful. Jane says Alice is going to be matron of honor. Agnes tells Jane she is happy they are shopping together. She says they never did before. Agnes says she got married because her father offered Tom $300 to marry her. Jane says she never heard that story. Agnes says they have never been close. Agnes makes the deposit, and Jane leaves with Alice. They sit down for coffee, and Jane says she does not care what her father will say. Alice says she does not want to be her matron of honor. Alice is ashamed, but they don’t have the money for the clothes because her husband Bill is out of work. She says it would cost them $100, and they can’t afford that. Jane says she feels terrible and offers to loan her the money for the dress. Alice cries and leaves.

         Tom drives his cab and meets Jack and Agnes at the hall. Agnes says they picked out a wedding dress. They meet with the hotel caterer (Dan Tobin). Agnes says they will be having two hundred people, and Tom objects. She takes him out of the room and tells him all the people they must invite. They go back in and ask how much the breakfast costs. The caterer says the breakfast is $5 per person. He shows them the flower arrangements. They may have liquor and other things, and they discuss whether to have limousine service. Tom objects and says he will not pay $4,400 for one meal. Agnes says her daughter is going to have something she can remember. They go back in, and Agnes says they have decided. She asks for ten limousines. He says how much the champagne costs, and Tom walks out.

         Jane and Ralph are drying dishes, and she tells him what happened with Alice. Ralph says how many relations and friends they have, and Jane says that is 150 already. Ralph asks if they could just leave, but Jane says she wants to do it for her mother. Jane says her ma and pa never said they loved each other. Ralph says it is not something you say but something you do, the way you live. She says she does not know. He kisses her and says they have to be leaving for the movies. He kisses her again, and she says they had better go to the movies.

         In the morning Agnes tells Jane she got their list down to 94. Jane tells her parents that Ralph is going to invite 160 people. Tom calls it a criminal breakfast for strangers. Agnes calls Mrs. Halloran and asks her about her list. She hears 186 and says she thought they agreed on one hundred each. Agnes tells Jane to fix her breakfast. Sam comes in and tells Tom it is Sunday. He came for the down payment, but Tom says he can’t do it now. Tom says they waited too long; maybe the time is past. He says they will be working twice as hard. Sam says he will leave, and Tom tells him to find someone else. Jack says he mailed some of the invitations. Agnes objects to Jack inviting Mrs. Rafferty. Tom says she will not come nor Mrs. Casey either. Jack goes out and slams the door. Tom complains to Agnes and says nothing is good enough for her. Jane says Ralph is upset too, and she says they will call it all off. They will just lose the deposits. Jane tells Agnes she understands she wanted a big wedding. Agnes says she will call the Hallorans; but Tom says it is his place to do that, and he goes out. Agnes tells Jane to get dressed for mass.

         Jack meets Mrs. Rafferty and tells her what he has been through has aged him a hundred years. He says he is leaving that house. She says it was because of inviting her, and she appreciates it. He asks where he could go, and she says she knows of an apartment that is big enough for two. He asks if she is willing to leave his married daughter’s house. They decide to play cards to celebrate.

         Jane and Ralph meet Alice and Bill in a restaurant. Alice says Bill got a job, and she can get the dress. Jane says there is not going to be a big wedding. She says they are getting married tomorrow, and she does not need to dress up. Alice asks if it is okay with her mother, and Jane says it was her idea to call it off. Alice and Bill leave. Jane says Bill does not have a job, and they probably borrowed the money. Ralph tells her it will be all right. Jane says she has been thinking about her parents living in that house alone the rest of their lives.

         Jack is packing, and Tom asks if he is moving out. Jack says it would be too crowded with Mrs. Conlon. He is marrying Mrs. Rafferty. Tom tells Agnes. Jack says they are moving into a new apartment. Jack asks what he is after 61 years. He says if it weren’t for the break-up, he would have gone on the same. He says the world is divided up into pairs, and Agnes and Tom have each other too. Agnes says that is fine and goes into her room and cries. Jack hears her crying, and Tom says he will talk to her. Jack leaves, and they will meet at the church. Tom goes in, and Agnes says it was a dumb thing to do. He asks if she is all right, and she says sure. She tells him to turn around, and she changes her dress. She says he does not care his daughter is getting married. Tom says it is always his fault, and he says she is no bargain. She says he got his $300 worth. He tells her never to mention that again. He says he nearly left many times. He is sad he could not pay for his daughter to go to college. Jane comes in and says she heard them. Tom tells her to go out, and she does. Tom says he wants something to make him happy. He tells Agnes she has to worry about him. He says he can’t afford a big wedding, and he asks her to sympathize with that. He goes in the kitchen and opens a beer. Jane goes in and tells her ma she is sorry. Agnes asks about her pa, and she says he is drinking beer with a mean expression on his face. Agnes says tomorrow is the biggest day in her whole life.

         The next day Jane tells Agnes she is packed. Agnes says her pa drank up all the beer. Jane asks Eddie if he is ready. Agnes says Jane will be housekeeping herself soon. Jane says she is jumpy, and Agnes says she should be on her wedding day. Agnes says she and Tom were never alone together. She says no one is moving in again, and it will be something new for them to be alone together. Jane asks if she is mad, and Agnes says it has been her whole life. Eddie says it will be quiet around there. He says next month he is going to Fort Dix. Jane says they cannot keep Father Murphy waiting, and she leaves with Eddie. Agnes goes into the bedroom where Tom is sleeping, and she sits down.

         At the church Ralph wonders what happened to Agnes. Jane asks Jack, who introduces Mrs. Rafferty to Jane and Ralph. Jack says they are getting married next month in a simple ceremony with only the immediate family.

         Tom wakes up and asks where Jane is. He says Agnes was right about having a big affair, but she says she was wrong. She says Jane is getting married they way she wants to, and that is what matters. Tom says they have been married a long time. She asks if it has been too long, and he says it has been like a day. She tells him to wash his face. They are dressed, and she calls Sam about the taxi.

         Outside Sam picks them up in his new cab, and Tom shakes his hand. Agnes laughs, and they get in. Tom smiles and puts his arm around her.

         This realistic drama shows the practical concerns of a poor family that is struggling and cannot afford the extravagance of a fancy wedding. The mother’s attempt to compensate for what she felt she lacked puts them through the strain of trying to do that; but finally the daughter wisely realizes that it would be a big mistake.

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

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