The Member of the Wedding


Action / Drama / Family

Plot summary

Uploaded by: FREEMAN

Top cast

Nancy Gates Photo
Nancy Gates as Janice
Brandon De Wilde Photo
Brandon De Wilde as John Henry
Dickie Moore Photo
Dickie Moore as Soldier
Julie Harris Photo
Julie Harris as Frankie Addams
821.61 MB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 29 min
P/S 0 / 4

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by nycritic8 / 10

Little Girl With Dreams, Abandoned

A slice of Americana, a mood piece, a coming-of-age story about a little girl who wants things out of life, and one of the most emotional performances I've seen on screen that didn't require over-acting or scene-stealing by Ethel Waters. MEMBER OF THE WEDDING concerns one little twelve year old girl, Frankie Addams, who feels abandoned when her older brother gets married and decides to carry on with his life without her. She pours her heart out to the household maid Bernice who has a few stories of her own to tell.

For most of the story's length, MEMBER OF THE WEDDING is a two-character piece focusing on Frankie and Bernice. Frankie can't understand why the girls reject her as a member of their club and all but foams at the mouth. This and her brother's impending wedding rattles her: she also longs to get married and wonders when that day will arrive and goes on and on about the dress, how she'd look, how it would all happen.

All this time, Bernice serves as a buffer for Frankie's overblown emotions and takes on her precocious gravitas into her beautiful character like a sponge. Wise, all-knowing, the emblem of an Earth-mother, she has the experience to disclose to Frankie that her time, too, will come. Seeing Ethel Waters so alive, so tender, so humanely strong is a thing of immense beauty. It's one of those rare performances actors give -- it's as if she'd found a role that suited her bruised life and she embraced it the same way she lovingly embraces Julie Harris in one affecting sequence of this filmed play.

But she goes one step further, more than likely not aware of it. (I doubt Carson McCullers had this kind of reading of his lines in mind, but I'm sure he was overwhelmed.) Trying to bring some meaning into Frankie's anguish, Bernice recounts a moment in life when she was completely in love with a man named Luddie. They married, but he died young. The camera never once moves away from her face, looking into her own flashback in a complete, rapturous trance. As her face fills the screen and she continues telling her tale of how she looked for pieces of Luddie in other men -- "but they were the wrong pieces" --, tears stream down her face in a constant, liquid flow. All I needed to know about this woman is right there, in those five minutes as she opens up like a rose and blooms. At that moment, she is the movie in its entirety and I found myself weeping with her. I would have liked to have known Ethel Waters, and I wonder why she was overlooked by the Academy... but as usual, it's a mystery.

The same can't be said about Julie Harris. This is the third movie I've seen with her, and again she brings this abrasive overacting into her role. I know most critics love her rendition of Frankie Addams, but I felt she was literally shrieking her lines from the moment she came on screen to when she gives way to Waters and allows Waters her chance at the spotlight. While I don't deny she's had her career and is a great stage and film actress, she says nothing to me. She was nearly thirty when she made her debut on-screen and I couldn't believe for a moment she was a 12 year old girl. Even more, no 12 year-old talks in such heavy-handed tones. It's even more problematic when she punctuates her lines with triple exclamation points -- she actually makes Bette Davis at her most over-the-top seem like a zombie sleepwalking through her scenes. It probably worked well on-stage; on film it almost ruins it.

MEMBER OF THE WEDDING is one of the few movies that took on the place of minors against the world. Frankie, when she leaves home, finds herself thrown into a very adult world -- one that she couldn't possibly understand. Seeing that she encounters an American soldier who behaves quite badly with her is an issue Hollywood took a gamble on -- even today, underage kids being sexually solicited is a testy matter. It makes it understandable to have an adult actress play Frankie -- until LOLITA and TAXI DRIVER happened, that is. MEMBER OF THE WEDDING also gave black actors a chance to be anything other than the peripheral black character and have a storyline, even if tragic, but one that made them people instead of ornaments. Ethel Waters is needless to say brilliant, a larger and earlier version of Alfre Woodard, and the sole reason to watch this small but poignant movie.

Reviewed by SnoopyStyle7 / 10

12 Going on 26

In the deep south, Frankie Addams (Julie Harris) is a 12 year old tomboy who has no friends and is abnormally tall. She feels abandoned by her older brother who is getting married. She is desperate to leave her small town and travel the world. She spends her day in the kitchen talking to their cook Berenice Sadie Brown (Ethel Waters) and her little cousin John Henry.

The biggest issue with this movie is Julie Harris as 26 playing 12. She's acting the hell out of it and it works to some degree in the kitchen. As a sweaty three hander, there are some great interactions and her age does not interfere too much. It's harder to hide her age when Frankie runs away into town. Some of that section would be horrifying if an actual 12 year old played the role. She just looks like a young lady in her twenties when the men are being pigs. She does get an Oscar nomination for her troubles. Also, the movie should end when she returns home. That's the natural ending. Apparently, this is a novel and then a play and even a TV movie after this came out. Adapting into a ninety minutes movie often means cutting a lot of the fat. In this case, it may be worthwhile to cut off a limb. The part in the kitchen is well worth it and I wonder if a remake with a real 12 year old would be possible.

Reviewed by MartinHafer3 / 10

Times must have changed...

It's rare when I am THIS out of sync with a film. "Member of the Wedding" has a very respectable overall score of 7.7 and the acting of Julie Harris was nominated for an Oscar. However, I really, really disliked the film and think a lot of the reason is that this style of acting and writing just seem very old fashioned and very inappropriate today.

The film is mostly a one-lady show where Julie Harris plays a 12 year-old even though she was in her mid-late 20s when she did this. Additionally, the 12 year-old in question seems NOTHING like a a child from this planet! Harris is very, very, very petulant, irrational and whiny--like she is having the world's longest temper tantrum. In a 3 year-old this might be believable, but in a supposed 12 year-old it's not. It's really a lot like a very, very young child who insists on walking into a room full of adults to perform--and it gets tiresome very, very quickly. It's supposed to be a coming of age tale but instead comes off as very fake.

As for the rest of the staff, Brandon De Wilde does very well for a young --mostly because he really is a young boy. And the film does manage to get a few points because Ethel Waters is, not surprisingly, wonderful. But they just aren't enough to save the film from the over-the-top and incredibly dated central character. Folks, this is pretty tough going--I really wanted to like this film but couldn't.

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