Member of the Wedding The (1952)
This unusual coming of age drama features the screen debuts of Julie Harris in the title role and Brandon De Wilde. Playing 12 year old Frankie Addams the 27 year old Harris received a Best Actress Oscar nomination (her only recognition from the Academy to date). It was produced by Stanley Kramer and directed by Fred Zinnemann their third and last collaboration following The Men (1950) – Marlon Brando’s screen debut – and the essential Western High Noon (1952) earlier that same year. This one was based on the Carson McCullers play and features a screenplay by Edna & Edward Anhalt (Panic in the Streets (1950)).
It’s a story about a high strung young girl who’s struggling to fit in and/or learn her place in the world. She believes her older brother’s upcoming wedding might just be where she belongs with the bride and groom about whom she says “they provide the we of me”. Top billed Ethel Waters plays Bernice Sadie Brown the motherless Addams family’s cook. De Wilde plays Frankie’s younger next door neighbor (and cousin?) John Henry the lonely (outspoken and angry young) girl’s only friend. Waters Harris and De Wilde had played these same roles previously on Broadway. Arthur Franz and Nancy Gates play the betrothed (soldier) Jarvis and Janice of Windy Hill. William Hansen plays the widower Mr. Addams a workaholic jeweler who doesn’t understand (nor seem to find time for) his peculiar daughter; hence Bernice has become Frankie’s (and John Henry’s) surrogate mother. She regales the two youngsters with stories about her first (and only beloved) of four husbands Lutie and attempts to curb the roughest edges of Frankie’s behavior (though she couldn’t prevent the girl from cutting her hair boyishly short). James Edwards plays Bernice’s troubled trumpet playing foster brother Honey; Harry Bolden plays her preacher friend T.T. Williams. Dickie Moore plays a soldier Frankie meets after the wedding that was presided over by Hugh Beaumont’s character.
*** SPOILERS ***
The titled event is a disaster for Frankie who literally has to be pulled from the newlyweds’ automobile by her father. She runs away (on her way to Savannah GA) and encounters Moore’s character a drunken soldier who tries to kiss her (and more?) against her will. She returns home to find that John Henry is on his deathbed with some (unspecified) illness that Bernice had ignored while dealing with Honey’s latest crime. These occurrences along with Frankie making a friend (unseen but spoken about named Helen) and joining the Girl Scouts (she’s wearing the uniform at film’s end) contribute to Frankie’s maturation.