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A Touching Tribute to Fatherhood

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Rarely do we acknowledge loving, caring male parents, and sometimes we even take fathers for granted. The official holiday that is meant to compensate for this oversight is Father’s Day, one Sunday in June dedicated to appreciating dads.

A father figure can fill the void as a loving mentor, whether he’s a stepfather, another relative, a teacher, or a friend. Stepparents have a bad reputation, but they can be wonderful influences on their stepchildren’s lives.

Modern entertainment and media tend to depict fathers and other male figures of authority as bumbling, clueless goofballs instead of dignified, intelligent role models. To find respectful, inspiring father figures in films and television shows, you often must look to movies made decades ago.

While there are countless old movies that would be appropriate for Father’s Day, I want to highlight 1949’s “Family Honeymoon.” Here, the head of the family becomes a stepfather by marrying a widow with three children.

Widow Katie Armstrong (Claudette Colbert) is joyfully planning her marriage to Grant Jordan (Fred MacMurray), a botany professor at the local university. Grant is nervous about becoming a husband and a father all at once, and he hasn’t spent much time with his fiancée’s three young children, Charlie (Jimmy Hunt), Abner (Peter Miles), and Zoe (Gigi Perreau).

He is determined to win them over, though, despite their formality with him. Preparations for the nuptials go smoothly until Katie’s sister (Lillian Bronson) falls down the stairs right before the ceremony and breaks her leg.

Since she was going to care for the children, the newlyweds can either cancel their plans or take the children with them on their honeymoon. They decide on the latter.

Epoch Times Photo
Irving Bacon (L), Fred MacMurray, and Claudette Colbert in “Family Honeymoon.” (Universal Pictures)

During their trip to the Grand Canyon, they face a series of adventures and misadventures, including losing the boys at a train stop, spending the night with a farmer who skins skunks, sleeping on a daycoach, and almost losing the daughter’s beloved stuffed toy off a ledge. Can the new marriage survive all these trials?

This movie’s main comedic premise is described by its title. Katie and Grant agree that a family honeymoon is better than no honeymoon at all, but the trip quickly turns into a family vacation. Grant decides to use the impromptu family trip as an opportunity to bond with his new sons and daughter, even though that wasn’t their original plan for the trip.

Before Grant and Katie get married, he expresses concern that he doesn’t really know her children. When he comes over to the Armstrong house one evening after a date with Katie, the three children sneak out of bed to say hello.

He tries to win them over by describing the things they’ll do together once he lives with them, but he can’t measure up to their late father’s skills. He even struggles to keep the boys’ names straight, and the three youngsters still call him Mr. Jordan!

During the titular family honeymoon, Grant quickly proves that he will be a loving, doting father figure. He caters to the youngsters’ whims, buying them anything they want and prioritizing their feelings, no matter how silly. He even risks his own life to rescue Zoe’s beloved but troublesome stuffed panda bear from the edge of the canyon. Yet instead of being grateful, the children often respond with criticism and continued formality. Through it all, Grant remains patient and loving.

On their first day at the Grand Canyon, Katie is doubtful when Grant volunteers to stay with the children while she goes to the beauty parlor. However, he insists that he can look after them by himself. The little boys think they can get away with murder because their mother isn’t present, but they’re wrong. Rather than being swayed by their crying and protests, Grant stands his ground, since he knows that a good father doesn’t spoil his children.

This lighthearted movie integrates serious, touching themes into an entertaining storyline. This is truly a family film with playful moments that children will enjoy, as well as mature struggles that parents will appreciate.

In addition, the cinematography of the beautiful Grand Canyon in the 1940s will entice you to pack your bags and head for Arizona’s most famous landmark. Unusual for this era, scenes for “Family Honeymoon” were actually filmed on location at Grand Canyon National Park.

Whether you want to celebrate biological fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, uncles, or other father figures, “Family Honeymoon” is a delightful tribute to the men who shape our lives.

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