ITOL’S Cinematic Dads: Life With Father

For Father’s Day we asked some of our ITOL team to write about their favourite cinematic Dads. Here’s Joan Amenn’s piece on William Powell in the 1947 film “Life With Father” and how Powell was ahead of his time in allowing his leading ladies to have a chance to shine.

William Powell is a stockbroker who thinks he runs his house like a well-oiled machine. Irene Dunne is his wife who outmaneuvers him on finances, family relations and pretty much everything else. Together they are raising four boys in 19th Century Manhattan. Powell is too much an old pro of comedic timing to let his portrayal stray into an annoying curmudgeon.

He is genuinely touching when he realizes his oldest has become attracted to a visiting friend of the family. Since this is none other than a glowing young Elizabeth Taylor, it’s no surprise the guy is totally smitten. Clarence (Powell) also enthusiastically encourages his younger son to pitch his first baseball game. But the real heart of the family is Clarence’s wife, Vinnie (Dunne).

“Life With Father” W. Powell, Z. Pitts, E. Taylor 1947 Warner Bros. MPTV

“Powell is too much an old pro of comedic timing to let his portrayal stray into an annoying curmudgeon.

Clarence and Vinnie have a somewhat Victorian relationship but they both adore one another.  When Clarence and Vinnie softly sing to each other while cuddling on a sofa the audience can’t help but be charmed by their tenderness. Powell was ahead of his time in the way he let his leading ladies shine in a scene and Dunne was more than able to keep up with him.

Together they are warm and loving parents even as they engage in little power struggles. “Life with Father” (1947) may be dated but it’s still a fun period comedy worth seeing for two acting pros giving great performances.

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