Happy Father’s Day: A Celebration of Classic Movie Father’s


A Celebration of Classic Movie Fathers

In terms of days dedicated to parents, Father’s Day is the one that pretty much gets the shaft. With Mother’s Day we are consistently inundated with content on our TVs, laptops, tablets, smart phones and every other omnipresent screen available reminding us that the day dedicated to our moms is coming. Of course this is usually followed by some kitschy advertisement selling flowers, cards, household appliances, or even groupon offers for a spa getaway. Sure, Father’s Day gets some attention, like a watch advertisement here and there, but for the most part it simply just doesn’t get the same lovin’ that Mother’s Day does. Well, we here at CMH are feeling a little rebellious today and want to change that. So, to celebrate the Day of the Dad,  here is a mixed bag of some of the more interesting Fathers that classic Hollywood has to offer.

Spencer Tracy as Stanley Banks in for Father of the Bride

Spencer Tracy in Father of the Bride

Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor in Father of the Bride (1950, Vincente Minnelli director)

One of the hardest things a person can do is be a parent. Well, if Father of the Bride taught me one thing it’s that yes, raising a child is hard but letting go of your child is even harder. In the film, Spencer Tracy plays the cool, calm, and usually collected Stanley Banks, who is caught off guard when his only daughter Kay (Elizabeth Taylor) announces that she is going to get married. The rest of the film follows Banks as he traverses the challenges of wedding planning with all the kookiness and compromise that comes with such affairs. And by the end of the film, Banks does what every good father must do: Watch his child grow and blossom into adulthood with the knowledge that he has been there for his child every step of they way.


Charles Coburn as Colonel Harrington in The Lady Eve

The Lady Eve (1941)

Charles Coburn and Barbara Stanwyck conning their mark, Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve (1941, Preston Sturges director)

To say all dads are perfect is a lie. Heck, to say that any dad is perfect is also a lie. Dads are simply humans and humans have flaws. In The Lady Eve, Charles Coburn’s Colonel Harrington has deeply involved his daughter (Barbara Stanwyck) in his con-artistry. A flaw, maybe, but at least the two completely understand what they are doing and simply enjoy doing so. And, indeed, they are a great father/daughter team. And part of that is what I find so good about Harrington. Not once does he ever try to hide or even try to change his true nature from his daughter. However, when the time comes, Harrington is able to separate his love for his daughter from the vices that bring him his daily bread. So, even if he is flawed, it is his hard truths and well-intentioned priorities that make Harrington a good dad.


James Stewart as George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life

Sunday, December 19 (8-11 p.m. ETJames Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life

James Stewart with his wife, Donna Reed, and kids in It’s a Wonderful Life (1947, Frank Capra director)

Jimmy Stewart’s portrayal of George Bailey is one of the most iconic film roles in all of film history – and with good reason. Throughout his life, Bailey has been a man of grand dreams and grander ambitions. However, each and every time he is on the verge of realizing them, he sacrifices his own well-being and immediate personal happiness for the sake of his friends, family and community. In fact, it is this willingness to create community stability and the trust he has in his own family that almost causes his personal ruin. His reason for possibly ending it all is even noble: he realizes that he is, money-wise, worth more to his kids dead than alive. But, as we all know, by the end of the film all is well and the community that George spent his life building comes together to help the man that dedicated his life to helping them.


Fredric March as Al Stephenson in The Best Years of Our Lives

Fredric March The Best Years of Our LivesFredric March with his family, Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, and Michael Hall in The Best Years of Our Lives. (1946, William Wyler director)

Al Stephenson (Fredric March) is man who is a bit out of touch with his children. Absent through much of their adolescent years due to his time spent at war, he doesn’t really understand them. And as a man of war, he has seen things and done things that his children probably can’t even imagine.  This, however, doesn’t stop him from loving them or having their best interests in mind. Despite the hardships he faced defending his country, he still thinks of his children first. This is clearly evident when Stephenson tells his fellow war veteran and comrade-in-arms, played by Dana Andrews, to break up with is daughter because Andrews is married to another woman. Although he is well aware the two clearly have feelings for one another, Stephenson refuses to allow his daughter to be caught in the scandal of becoming the “other woman.” While the conversation isn’t an easy one and he knows his daughter will be furious with him, he is willing to make the hard decisions to ensure the well-being of the child he loves.


Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird

Gregory Peck To Kill a Mockingbird

Gregory Peck in the role he was born to play, Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962, Robert Mulligan director)

Let’s be honest here, who else in classic film history could possibly top Gregory Peck’s pitch-perfect portrayal of Atticus Finch? As a pillar of moral integrity, fighter of racial injustice, and genuine voice of the mistreated/oppressed, there is no other father quite as great as Atticus. He is an incredibly devoted father, as passionate about his children as he is about social justice. Both kind and understanding while also being productive and patient, Atticus does the most important thing a parent can do: teach by example. He taught his children the meaning of courage, equality, empathy, and honor while bestowing on them the freedom of individual growth. Atticus Finch: ultimate role-model, ultimate advocate and ultimate Dad.

Some ‘Honorable Mentions’ also go to:

Gregory Peck as Penny Baxter in The Yearling

Gregory Peck and The YearlingGregory Peck, Jane Wyman, and Claude Jarman JR. in The Yearling (1946, Clarence Brown director)


Lionel Barrymore as Grandpa Vanderhof in You Can’t Take it with You

lionel barrymore you can't take it with youLionel Barrymore with Jean Arthur in You Can’t Take it With You (1938, Frank Capra director)


Leon Ames as Alonza Smith in Meet Me in St. Louis

Alonzo Smith meet-me-in-st-louisLeon Ames and Mary Astor in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944, Vincente Minnelli director)


Lamberto Maggiorani as Antonio Ricci in The Bicycle Thief 

Lamberto Maggiorani bicycle thiefLamberto Maggiorani and Enzo Staiola in The Bicycle Thieves (1948, Vittorio De Sica director)


Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

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2 Responses to Happy Father’s Day: A Celebration of Classic Movie Father’s

  1. Wonderful list of lovely performances.

    I’d like to put in a word for Arthur Winslow (Sir Cedric Hardwicke, The Winslow Boy). Here is a father whose action speak louder than words. He believes his son has been unfairly and unjustly expelled from school and takes that belief all the way to suing the “King”, despite the emotional and financial toll on the family and himself.

    • Annmarie Gatti says:

      You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that film! But, that said, I will make it my business to find it. Thanks for info.

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