Classic Film Guide

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:

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

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