by Thom Ernst Thursday November 1, 2007

I’ve never been comfortable with the word ‘nuptials’.

Each episode of Saturday Night at the Movies: The Interviews, begins with a working title long before a more appropriate handle comes along. The working title for this week’s theme, HOLLYWOOD WEDDINGS was, at one time, NUPTIALS.

It needed replacing.

In a rare evening of Saturday Night at the Movies: The Interviews, three films are showcased: FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950) with Spencer Tracy harrumphing about as the harassed father of a young bride (Elizabeth Taylor who in real life was embarking on the first of her eight marriages);

Father Of The Bride 1_1
Elizabeth Taylor and Spencer Tracy in FATHER of the BRIDE

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, a comedy about second marriages with press, ex-husbands and intendeds all present;


And A WEDDING, director Robert Altman’s trademark jab at yet another social convention.

A Wedding
Dezi Arnez Jr. and Amy Striker in Altman's A WEDDING

All three films are wedding comedies with nary a ‘nuptial’ among them.

It’s the phonetics of the word that has me baffled. On the one hand it sounds like a setting of tiny pastries one might serve with tea, and yet it can carry with it, if you are of a certain frame of mind, the sound of restrained titillation.

I think it’s the ‘nup’ part of the word that throws me off. It has a delicate ring of something wispily naughty.

But I’m speaking from a deep-rooted suspicion that nuptials are a genteel recognition that since the inevitable is bound to happen (nothing can keep this couple apart) why not just substantiates it with a proper ceremony? It’s a combination of grace and tradition coupled with the unspoken understanding that when the final vow is uttered and the last toast is raised the couple will traipse off to some ordained hanky-panky. And since couples have been traipsing off for years without much of any need for ceremony, it just makes the whole idea of ‘nuptials’ seem archaic.

That said, I must confess that when it came time for my wife (then girlfriend) to redefine our relationship I immediately went all Rhoda Morgenstern on her. It was me who wanted the ceremony, the dinner, the party and to see her walk down the aisle in a flowing white gown. She’d have been happy to elope or remain as we were, merrily shacked up in our one bedroom condo with no one pressuring us to change. But what I wanted was a wedding, not nuptials.

Weddings are different. Here’s why; the impetus of a wedding is not to imply a need of the group to sanction the coupling, but of the couple to allow the group to celebrate their marriage. So while ‘nuptials’ may have taken a down slide, the wedding is in full swing.

Weddingbells Editor, Alison McGill

In the Interviews segment, Alison McGill editor of Weddingbells Magazine says,"People are still living together but I think that they’re going that extra step and making it official. And really a wedding is a kind of door to the rest of your lives together. So you’re living together, you already have this life established but some people want the party, they want the hoopla, they want they want to make it official, they want to say we’re together in this, we’re moving forward and this is going to be for the rest of our lives.”

Patricia Resnick
A WEDDING screenwriter Patricia Resnick

Along with McGill, are A WEDDING screenwriter Patricia Resnick,actors Paul Dooley and Dennis Christopher, from the archives, screenwriter Joseph Mankiewicz and Globe columnist Johanna Schneller to discuss the films and how they reflect a current trend in the marriage tradition.

Paul Dooley
Actor Paul Dooley, Father of the Bride in Altman's sardonic A WEDDING


Dennis Christoper1
Actor Dennis Christopher, Brother to the Bride in Altman's A WEDDING



Originally HOLLYWOOD WEDDINGS was intended to air in May. It’s the right time to show movies of this nature when everyone has weddings on their mind. None the least is which our long-time irreplaceable SNAM member who is getting hitched that same month. And though it is a bit early, (she told me herself that the reality of her upcoming wedding has still not set in) this Blog (and episode of Saturday Night at the Movies) is dedicated to Shereen and Phil.

Now, if anyone is wracking their brains for the next hot Hollywood romantic comedy allow me to suggest the story of Shereen and Phil.

P&S @ wedding
Shereen and Phil could be the subject of the next great romantic comedy. (You wouldn't even have to recast)

Here’s the outline:

1/ A young attractive couple meet at work and for the first few days ignore the hell out of each other.

2/ In spite of themselves, they begin what they think is a clandestine romance a la Hepburn and Tracy without the bickering – a la Day and Hudson with a lot more edge.

3/ Office workers begin to pick up on the subtle signs: casual eye contact when passing each other in the hall, a slight leap in their step when chancing upon each other unexpectedly, an audible crack in their voice when greeting each other in the morning.

4/ Shenanigans ensue as their budding romance begins bursting through the confinements of office politics.

5/ And of course Hollywood would have to play on their minor cultural differences. I.e.: He makes killer Bourbon Dogs! She doesn’t eat pork!

6/ And, in an optimum moment of hilarity, Shereen and Phil wear funny furry things on their heads.

philbetter Shereen Hat

But most important, it ends in a wedding which means, of course, Happily Ever After.