Alan Alda‘s Betsy’s Wedding (below). Matthew Broderick in The Freshman and the Filmhouse‘s ’asolini season previewed.


Father of the bride

Urbane, mid-Western wisecracker Alan Alda is not so different from his M*A *S*H alter-ego Hawkeye, as Nicola McAllister discovers when she asks him about his new film Betsy ’3 Wedding.

‘The only other time I‘ve seen such a good opportunity to explore people‘s characters was during the Korean war and that was tough enough.‘ Few people would liken a wedding to warfare. but Alan Alda insists it is a justifiable comparison. ‘It was only when my daughter got married that I realised it was tough stuff. Until then I never knew quite how much families were at each other‘s throats during the preparations.‘

What was originally called Four Daughters (‘but then I decided I’d had enough and threw two daughters away‘). has since been completed as Betsy '3' Wedding a comedy that Alda wrote . directed and in which he also appears.

‘Although. I think I write far better for others than for myself.‘ he says. ‘I think I had a much more interesting part to play in (‘rimes and Misdemeanours because it came as a surprise. It‘s much harder to surprise youself. My wife says that I write all these interesting parts for other actors so what I ought to do is write these roles and then play them myself!‘

Alda is a rare item; a funnyman who is taken seriously. While actors such as Robin Williams and Steve Martin are expected to wisecrack but little else. more is expected of Alda. Since he first came to public attention through the role of Hawkeye Pierce - a character much the same as his own he has made a subtle transition. From the kind-hearted Liberal smart-ass. he has evolved into a Grand Old Man ofcinema: so much so that he has even been described as ‘middle America‘s answer to Woody Allen.‘ A champion of the Women's Movement. when he recently appeared on Wogan the largely female audience could barely contain their shrieks: even Sue Lawley twittered girlishly. Alda remains unfazed. He is as natural before a crowd of-100 as he is facing a dozen journalists. Similarly. as with his M‘A ‘S‘H persona. the part of Eddie Hopper. whom he plays in Betsy's Wedding. is largely that of himself.

As father to Betsy (Molly Ringwald) and Connie (Ally Sheedy). he avoids the cloying sweetness synonymous with the American

family. while succeeding in portraying a loving father. "l‘hat‘s good.‘ he nods. ‘I dislike sentimentality. I prefer tougher stuff.‘

Eddie Hopper is both mortified and delighted to hearofhis daughter's impending wedding. Despite the fact that he can ill afford a large ceremony and Betsy doesn‘t want one. he is determined not to let the bridgegroom's wealthy family take control. (‘onsequently he arranges a business deal with his amoral brother-in—law and finds himselfinvolved with a different kind of Family.

With a cast that includes Madeleine Kahn. Burt Young and Sheedy at her best. the characters rather than the plot hold Betsy's Wedding together. The idea ofcreating a film around the events ofa wedding isn‘t wholly original. but the skill of the cast and Alda‘s talent for sharp one-liners create an urbane and sophisticated comedy.

In recent years the American comedy has relied

heavily upon crudely overblown parodies for its laughs. Alda is one ofthc few filmmakers to have recognised this and turned to the rare use of intelligence and the art of recognition to achieve the same result. ‘I just take it for granted that most of the so-callcd comedies that I see

that we all see ~ have actors acting/iime for us.

but in a very unrealistic way. l don't call these

films comedies. I think they are burlesques or

even farces. In traditional farce. in theatre. a

good player has to be very realistic. so you can believe the nonsensical plot-turns that they have

to accommodate. Nowadays. most of the movies that are supposed to make you laugh don‘t

contain any true sort ofbehaviour. ‘I don't think I‘m discovering the light bulb by saying that: l thought it was obvious. Would you disagree'." Betsy's Wedding will/w showing/mm l’ri 26 ()i‘! in Glasgow: ('unnon. The Forge. ()di'un. j (irmvcnur. [it/III/Hll'g’llf ()(lt'UH. l '( ~I. .S'Irui/n‘lyde: (t ‘I ( 'ly debunk. ( '( ‘l 15ml [xi/bride“!

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