The Courtship of Eddies Father
Glenn Ford, Ron Howard, Shirley Jones, Connie Stevens, Jerry Van Dyke
The Courtship of Eddies Father was one of those films I had heard a lot about, but had never really gotten all the way through. Sacrilege, I know but I must admit the glamour of the 30’s and 40’s tend to be more my style so delving into the 60’s without Doris Day was a leap of faith.
The storyline is also a little more socially dramatic than my normal cup of tea, but on a rainy Sunday afternoon I’ll make the exception.
Glenn Ford plays Tom, freshly widowed, handsome, and while not necessarily looking for a shotgun replacement wife, is attracting them like flies. Ron Howard plays Eddie, his curious and too smart for his own good son. This death of his mother leaves a hole in their lives just big enough to fill with some father-son bonding. I’d bet this closeness, transparency, and honesty would not have happened between them if the mother/wife was still around. What this closeness leads to is both good and bad. Good in the sense that Eddie feels comfortable enough to tell his father everything. Bad in the sense that with this freedom comes lots of opinions about who his father should and shouldn’t date. According to little Eddie, bad women usually have thin eyes and big busts. It’s only the good women who have round eyes and medium busts who are safe to date. While Eddie does get his opinions about women from comic books, there is one round eyes girl across the hall who would be perfect for his father, Elizabeth. Shirley Jones plays Elizabeth, a divorcee of only a year, and previous best friend to Tom’s late wife. Therein lies the problem.
The 60’s found this issue around every corner, so as a social testament to the times this film does its job. It highlights the struggles of being a single father and parent. It shows the assumptions and judgments made about a woman divorced.
Elizabeth is a nurse and has taken a years post so that she could presumably stay close to Tom and Eddie, and while this is true I think it’s logical to assume that she is also in the situation because it’s difficult to make a bigger change, like moving and job hunting, so soon after a divorce. But her need for stability can be quickly taken as interest, and Tom does everything he can to keep her away.
He does love her, this is clear to see. And as Glenn Ford plays it, it’s as if he’s punishing himself by not letting himself have her. With her he’d get too close. Eddie would get too close. So he chooses another woman entirely, with thin eyes and Eddie rebels running to Elizabeth.
There are so many layers to this story. What started as a film that I just stumbled upon has now turned into something I think I could watch multiple times just because the characters are so complex. It’s as if I’d never understand them completely. Luckily 6 years after a lackluster debut at the theaters this story hit the small screen for 3 seasons.
Other notables about this film is the lovely fun subplot between Connie Stevens and Jerry Van Dyke who try to figure each other in the background, and the maid whose learning Spanish to prepare to her daughter and new Spanish son in law, only to find out they live in Brazil and will be speaking Portuguese instead.
Highly recommended if you haven’t seen it, I look forward to hunting down the t.v. version.