A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Majolica in the Movies: A Catered Affair

Last week I was flipping through channels on my TV and came upon an old movie from the 1950's, "A Catered Affair." I was familiar with the movie, which starred Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine, but had never actually seen it. The prospect of watching Bette and Ernie in a love scene didn't particularly interest me, but I knew it had been recently turned into a Broadway musical with Harvey Fierstein which I found a little odd. The credits said that the screenplay was written by Paddy Chayefsky and Gore Vidal, a strange combination if there ever was one, so my curiosity was piqued.

The movie is about the turmoil brought to a lower middle class family by Bette's desire to throw a big, fancy wedding for daughter Debbie Reynolds. The main subplot of the movie involves classic character actor Barry Fitzgerald who plays Bette's live-in uncle, deciding to marry an elderly widow, Mrs. Rafferty, basically to get out of Bette's house where he no longer feels welcome. Mrs. Rafferty's home is one of those peculiar Hollywood set concoctions, part Victorian home, part Miss Haversham. In the big scene where Barry Fitzgerald first hints to the widow that he may be open to a marriage proposal, Barry is sitting in the widow's home at the dining table. Clear as a bell right behind his head is a large Forester majolica cheese dome!

Dorothy Stickney and Barry Fitzgerald in A Catered Affair

Barry Fitzgerald in A Catered Affair.

It was such a pleasant surprise to see such a familiar piece in such an old movie.

Then I started to wonder whatever happened to it. In an odd coincidence one that looked exactly like it surfaced on Ebay this past week from a dealer in California who claimed it came from an old California estate. Could this be the same cheese dome that was in the movie? It might be a stretch to even consider it, as common as these cheese bells are but I couldn't help but be intrigued by the possibility. There's really no way to ever know for sure but wouldn't it be a hoot to know that something in your collection once appeared in a Bette Davis movie?

The things we collect have had many lives before they reached us. It would certainly be fascinating to know the stories behind some of them.

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