The Catered Affair

The Catered Affair (1956), also known as Wedding Party, is a family drama film made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was directed by Richard Brooks and produced by Sam Zimbalist from a screenplay by Gore Vidal, based on a television play by Paddy Chayefsky. The film score was by André Previn and the cinematography by John Alton.

The Catered Affair
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Brooks
Produced bySam Zimbalist
Written byGore Vidal
Based onTV play by Paddy Chayefsky
StarringBette Davis
Ernest Borgnine
Debbie Reynolds
Barry Fitzgerald
Rod Taylor
Music byAndré Previn
CinematographyJohn Alton
Edited byGene Ruggiero
Frank Santillo
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • June 14, 1956 (1956-06-14)
Running time
92 min.
CountryUnited States
Budget$1 million[1]
Box office$1.5 million[1]

The film stars Bette Davis, Ernest Borgnine, Debbie Reynolds, Barry Fitzgerald and Rod Taylor. It was Taylor's first film for MGM after having been signed by the studio to a long-term contract.[2]


Agnes Hurley (Davis) is a disillusioned housewife, married to Bronx cabdriver Tom Hurley (Borgnine). She wants something better for her daughter, Jane (Reynolds). When Jane announces her engagement to Ralph Halloran (Taylor), Aggie sees this as an opportunity to have a romantic elaborate wedding, with caterers and all the trimmings, like she never had because they could never afford it. However, the daughter does not want it because it is causing awkward conflicts with her family and friends, and her father has been saving that money for many years to purchase a taxi medallion and become self-employed. The film deals with the ensuing money troubles and conflicts within the family, which also involve Uncle Jack Conlon (Fitzgerald) and most of the neighborhood. It is not until the end of the film that the mother realizes that it is the happiness of her family, rather than the expensive ceremony, that is most important, as they go off to watch their daughter get married at their church in the new taxi.


Television play

"The Catered Affair"
'Goodyear Television Playhouse' episode
Episode no.Season 4
Episode 17
Directed byRobert Mulligan
Written byPaddy Chayefsky
Production codeShowcase Productions
Original air date22 May 1955
Guest appearance(s)

The television play A Catered Affair, written by Paddy Chayefsky, was first shown on television as part of the Goodyear Television Playhouse. It was broadcast on May 22, 1955. The cast included Pat Henning, Thelma Ritter, and J. Pat O'Malley.[3]

It was the last original TV play Chayefsky wrote.[4] A subsequent TV play, The Great American Hoax, was based on an early Chayefsky story.


Chayefsky later called the play "an unfocused piece, in which the first act was farce, and the second was comedy-drama and the third was abruptly drama. There aren't a dozen actresses who could make one piece out of all that; Miss Ritter, of course, did."[5]

The New York Times TV critic later wrote that "the playwright abandoned the stark simplicity that has become his trademark and tried to tell a family story from too many points of view. Parts of his play were rewarding but the whole was disappointing."[6]

Paddy Chayefsky and Thelma Ritter both received Emmy nominations for their work. Pat Henning won an Emmy for his performance.[7]


MGM bought the screen rights in 1955. Ann Blyth was originally announced for the female lead.[8]

Debbie Reynolds later said she "hated making" the film "for personal reasons. I like the result and he directed me well but the director made it difficult for me and gave me a hard time."[9]

"He called me ‘Little Miss Hollywood’ and made no attempt to hide his disdain for me. Every day he was rude, and once he slapped me across the face in front of everyone. I don’t know what I’d done to anger him that time. I was always professional."


According to MGM records the film earned $947,000 in the US and Canada and $520,000 in other countries, resulting in a loss of $106,000.[1] Critics' reviews were also unfavorable, with the film currently holding a 17% on Rotten Tomatoes.[10]

Stage musical

A musical adaptation also called A Catered Affair, with book by Harvey Fierstein and lyrics and music by John Bucchino, premiered at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre in 2007 and the following year played on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre. The cast included Faith Prince, Tom Wopat, Leslie Kritzer and Fierstein.

See also


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood, Bear Manor Media, 2010 p 53
  3. Internet Movie database
  4. THE TV SCENE--: Television's Old Grads Hit Top Smith, Cecil. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 28 Feb 1958: A8.
  5. Thelma Ritter 1905-1969 By PADDY CHAYEFSKY. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 16 Feb 1969: D13.
  6. TV: 'Catered Affair': Chayefsky's Story of Family Life Offered By JACK GOULD. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 23 May 1955: 47.
  7. Pat Henning, Comedian, Dead, Won Emmy for 'Catered Affair: Born Into Circus Family New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 30 Apr 1973: 34.
  8. Ann Blyth Will Star in Remake From TV Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 14 June 1955: 16.
  9. THE 'UNSINKABLE' DEBBIE REYNOLDS RIDES THE CREST By HOWARD THOMPSON. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 09 Aug 1964: X7.
  10. "The Catered Affair (1956)". Retrieved February 4, 2017.
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