'Father's Little Dividend' in Classic Cool Context

This Saturday at 9 p.m., KCET brings you the1951 comedy "Father's Little Dividend," directed by Vincente Minnelli. This sequel to "Father of the Bride" follows Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Bennett as they prepare for the arrival of a new addition to the Banks family. This is the latest entry in KCET's "Classic Cool Theater" series, which aims to give you not only a great film but also a vintage cartoon, two newsreels and an of-the-era musical number. All those extras add up to what makes "Classic Cool Theater" so special: context. In the spirit of this unique package, we're offering you a peek at the America -- and the Los Angeles -- that received "Father's Little Dividend" on April 27, 1951.

Audiences in 1951 flocked to theaters to once again watch Spencer Tracy play lovable family man "Stanley Banks" in "Father's Little Dividend." But his off-screen life was not nearly as idyllic or funny as it was in the movies.

After first starring as Banks in 1950's "Father of the Bride," Tracy was already a Hollywood legend. With two Academy Awards for Best Actor under his belt, there were few actors that could rival his fame and career. But as it often does, success did not breed marital bliss for Tracy and his wife, Louise Treadwell. Married since 1923, Tracy and Treadwell met while they were both actors in the Leonard West Players in White Plains, New York.

A prolific philanthropist throughout their marriage, Mrs. Tracy started, with the financial backing of her husband, the John Tracy Clinic in 1943. Still in existence to this day, its purpose is help deaf children such as her son John, for whom the charity was named.

Here's a video produced by the clinic documenting its early days:

Almost immediately after their son's diagnosis, the relationship between Tracy and Treadwell got rocky. Treadwell focused all her attention on helping baby John, while Tracy's wandering eye led to numerous affairs with co-stars such as Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford, and most famously, Katherine Hepburn, whom he met on the set of "Woman of the Year" in 1941. Their relationship spanned 26 years until Tracy's death in 1967. The not-so-secret couple made a total of nine films together.

It was Tracy's devotion to his son and daughter, along with his strong Catholic faith, that reportedly kept him from seeking a divorce.

Tracy's religious upbringing crossed over into his film career in 1938 when he portrayed a Catholic priest named "Father Flanagan" in "Boys Town." Tracy won his second-straight Best Actor Oscar for the performance:

Tracy's guilt over his infidelity, coupled with alcoholism and insomnia, caused him much pain and suffering throughout his life. In her 1992 autobiography, Hepburn wrote that Tracy was "never at peace," and "tortured by some sort of guilt. Some terrible misery."

Take a Closer Look Back

"Father's Little Dividend" follows the trials and tribulations of the Banks family before and after their daughter gives birth to a baby boy.

As this video from the 1950s shows, inventors of the era had some off-the-wall ideas about the future of child care.

For some reason, this robotic nursery system didn't quite catch on:

"Father's Little Dividend" was partially remade in 1995 with "Father of the Bride, Part II," though that film incorporated new plot elements. Steve Martin played the Spencer Tracy role, as he had in the 1991 "Father of the Bride," which adhered more closely to the original.


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