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Member of the Wedding [VHS]

4.4 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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(Jun 25, 1996)
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Product Details

  • Actors: Ethel Waters, Julie Harris, Brandon De Wilde, Arthur Franz, Nancy Gates
  • Directors: Fred Zinnemann
  • Format: Black & White, NTSC
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Sony Pictures
  • VHS Release Date: June 25, 1996
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6302874912
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,598 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews


The Member of the Wedding (1952) boasts hefty credentials--direction by Fred Zinnemann (the same year he did High Noon for producer Stanley Kramer), a Carson McCullers novel and play as source material, the original Broadway cast re-creating their roles--but it's mostly an endurance test. Julie Harris had triumphed on stage as Frankie, the nervy, garrulous 12-year-old whose world in the Deep South of the 1940s has pretty much shrunk to her family's kitchen and the companionship of wise and patient mammy Bernice (Ethel Waters) and next-door kid John Henry (Brandon de Wilde in his first film role). On screen, Harris's real age (26) is distractingly apparent, and her voice, like Frankie's aggressive neediness, can be like fingernails on the blackboard. Although token efforts were made to "open up" the play for cinema, the film's setting and movement remain constrictive. --Richard T. Jameson

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
I don't even know where to begin - this film is just plain brilliant in so many ways...
1) The story: Remember when you were a child, you were caught in that awkward stage where you are too old to be a child, and too young to be an adult. You want desperately to fit in, but you don't. That is the focal point of the story, and it is told honestly and sadly thru the eyes of Frankie. That is the plight of Frankie Adams, played brilliantly by Julie Harris - one of the truly great performances I've seen.
2) The cast: Julie Harris I mentioned, and Ethel Waters as Bernice. I start to call her the maid, but that would be a huge dis-service. This is the first movie to portray a black character as more than just a maid in the background with one or 2 lines. She is a lead character in every sense, and her performance is perfect.
3) The direction: Most all the action takes place in one room, yet the closeups at just the right moment, and the magnificent music score add so many textures, it is a clinic on how to direct and film in Black and white.
4) The south: If you ever wanted to visit a small Georgia town in the 50's to see what it was like - this movie will take you there. The race relations of the time, the awful sticky heat, the small town attitudes, all are captured here with honesty and subtlety just below the surface of the main story.
Rarely have I ever seen such an honest film, this is especially remarkable given when it was made and the subject matter it tackled.
Some people think it is a sad movie, and perhaps it is in ways, but it is dealing with the rite of passage that all of us must make, and very few of us make it easily.
Best of all, it leaves you with a feeling of sadness and joy at the same time - the final scene sees the various characters take the paths which they must take - And they can be sad or happy depending on how the character chooses to live their role in life !
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Format: VHS Tape
Member of the Wedding was another deeply moving and beautifully written classic by the underappreciated Carson McCullers. She got dream casting in Ethel Waters, Julie Harris and Brandon de Wilde, on stage and in the film. Waters and Harris, two of the four or five greatest actresses ever to grace a Broadway stage, give timeless performances as Berenice Sadie Brown and Frankie Addams. Waters' performance was a breakthrough in black movie history. Although she played the maid in the house, she was every bit as much an individual as the white characters, with her character just as carefully delineated and portrayed. She fought to avoid the stereotypes, and she fought successfully. Her singing "His Eye is on the Sparrow" is one of those great movie moments you can never forget. The psychological insights into adolescence, race relations, the feeling of being lost or left behind, the idea of inclusion and exclusion in certain groups, are all brilliantly and movingly explored. It's not an action movie, but it's a gem of dialogue, acting and "loveliness and feelings" as Waters put it. Because of technicalities (no one could decide if Waters, whose name was above the title, should be nominated as Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress), Waters missed her chance for a second Oscar nomination. Had she been nominated, she might well have won the Oscar. It's a shame that once again the powers that be passed on the chance of honoring one of our greatest actresses. Julie Harris was nominated for her intense and pitch-perfect performance as Frankie. The Broadway run of this play was legendary,and we can only be grateful that these great performances were captured for all time on film.
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Format: DVD
Perhaps Julie Harris was a bit old to play this role, but she has definitely channeled her remarkable resources to create one of the finest interpretations ever immortalized on film. An established stage personality, Julie re-created her Broadway role (as did Brandon de Wilde & Ethel Waters), and the ensemble re-creation is mystifying and powerful.Fred Zinnemann's direction kept pace, genuine care and generous close-ups of the constant intimacy of the bittersweet procedings. Ms. Harris received an Oscar nomination for this, her first film. The next year she made "I Am a Camera" (the basis for "Cabaret") where she played Sally Bowles with vigor and aplomb. Wow! In '55 she played Abra in Elia Kazan's "East of Eden", which was James Dean's film debut. Everyone said she was too old to play that role. Julie plays well in black & white, transcending any semblence of age. "Eden" was in color, and it just wasn't the same. This was also Brandon de Wilde's film debut, and the following year he received a nomination for "Shane". Those were the only nominations Julie & Brandon ever received. No question they were great performers. Mr. de Wilde couldn't seem to go on to adult roles, and the result was unfortunate. Knowing all this, and watching "The Member of the Wedding" tonite on TCM, I'm craving a DVD of this wonderful, heart-felt film. It was remade in 1997 with the wonderful Jena Malone, but the gut-reaction simply wasn't the same. There's so much garbage on DVD, I wish someone would realize that there's a serious waiting public craving quality. Anyone else agree?
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Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
This updated review is to say THANKS to Sony for releasing this wonderful film on DVD. It's boxed with four other Kramer films, in which I have little interest, but Hey! at least it's on DVD!

This film adaptation of Carson McCullers' coming of age story features wonderful performances by Ethel Waters - a luminous screen presence - and a young Julie Harris as tomboy Frankie, along with an excellent supporting cast. This is a poignant and excellent film that depicts a portion of everyone's life that we need not to forget, if not for ourselves, for those in the throes of it, now and to come. And if you like the film, read the novel, too. McCullers was a fine, fine writer.
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