Runaway Brides and Other Interrupted Weddings
The musical comedy Cover Girl (1944) features Rita Hayworth in two different roles as singer-dancer Rusty Parker in the film’s present day and as her grandmother Maribelle Hicks in flashback sequences. Within both storylines her character becomes engaged to a wealthy man she doesn’t love and as a bride each leaves her groom at the altar for the poorer man she does. Watching this movie reminded me of other cinematic runaway brides like Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night (1934) Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story (1940) and Katharine Ross in The Graduate (1967); each of these actress’s performances were nominated for an Academy Award (Ross’s in the Supporting category) and Colbert won the Best Actress Oscar.
Of course technically Hepburn’s Tracy Lord was not a runaway bride. In fact she and Grace Kelly (who played the character in the musical remake High Society (1956)) were left at the altar by their respective grooms after their indiscretions with another man following their rehearsal dinners though each was “rescued” at the last minute by a willing ex-husband so that the wedding could proceed. Bing Crosby who played Kelly’s ex-husband in the remake played a similar wedding day savior five years earlier in Frank Capra’s Here Comes the Groom (1951) for Jane Wyman’s character. However the situation in this musical (late screwball) comedy which features the Oscar winning song “In the Cool Cool Cool of the Evening” was entirely manipulated by Crosby’s character and therefore also doesn’t qualify as a runaway bride film.
In nearly every one of the movies mentioned so far the bride spurns a wealthier beau for another man she loves “proving” that “love conquers all” (a popular theme among screenwriters). The debutante that Joan Bennett plays in the early Technicolor musical Vogues of 1938 (1937) jilts her rich bore of a groom (Alan Mowbray!) without another lover in the wings but she does end up marrying Warner Baxter’s character in the end. There have been other interrupted wedding plots as well:
- Fathers who don’t want their sons or daughters to marry an inappropriate partner (e.g. one with a past or without money) and therefore take steps to prevent the wedding is a popular story featured in Five Star Final (1931) and its remake Two Against the World (1936) aka One Fatal Hour (1936) B movies like The Footloose Heiress (1937) and Tarnished Angel (1938) or the second (and last) pairing of James Cagney and Bette Davis in The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941)
- Fred Astaire’s would-be father-in-law in Swing Time (1936) decides to raise the bar of qualifications when his daughter’s fiancé fails to arrive on time to their wedding ceremony
- A bride that’s about to be wed against her will and has to be rescued – like Sigrid Gurie’s Chinese princess did (by Gary Cooper) in The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938) or Joan Bennett (who rescues herself) in The Son of Monte Cristo (1940) whereas
- The Middle East princess in Dream Wife (1953) played by Betta St. John decided not to marry for another reason – she realized that Cary Grant should be with Deborah Kerr instead
- War was a factor in the runaway bride in We Dive at Dawn (1943)
- Sometimes the bride (or groom) is killed just before or during the ceremony like in Lorna Doone (1922) and any of the three versions of Smilin’ Through (or The Age of Consent (1932)) or she could be kidnapped like the one in The Girl Said No (1930)
- It’s even possible that someone might “speak now” instead of “forever holding their peace” like at the beginning of the Colbert-Robert Ryan drama The Secret Fury (1950)
- And there are countless (e.g.) romantic comedies in which an engaged woman is swept off her feet before the wedding ceremony by another man that wins her over just in time like in Vagabond Lady (1935) Beg Borrow or Steal (1937) June Bride (1948) etc.
Lastly I want to mention a truly unique (and largely forgettable) B movie titled Public Wedding (1937) with Jane Wyman because it introduced me to the titled concept: during the Depression a couple could open their ceremony to paying guests especially if (like in this film) they offered an additional sideshow attraction (they take their vows in the mouth of a whale!).
© 2007 Turner Classic Movies – this article originally appeared on TCM’s official blog