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

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Majolica in the Movies: Life with Father

Life with Father was on Turner Classic Movies last night. It's a pleasant film with an all-star cast based on the long running Broadway play. I've seen it many times before. I remember watching with my own father on the "Late, Late Show" when I was growing up. I was a hopeless night owl as a teenager and he would come home from work and settle in to watch TV with me. It was really the only time we ever spent alone together while I was growing up.
He loved this movie.

What I never noticed before about Life with Father though was the prominent role that a majolica pug dog plays in the movie! How could I have watched this movie so many times and be so oblivious to it!

Towards the end of the movie the Mother character played by Irene Dunne gets into a verbal joust with Father William Powell over getting baptized. During the argument he is distracted by what he describes as "that repulsive object"which he sees out of the corner of his eye.

It is a majolica pug dog sitting on a table behind Dunne. When he insults it she rushes to its defense calling it "a great work of art", but when he asks the price and she tells him it was $15 he becomes infuriated.
Somewhere along the way words and meanings are twisted and Mother takes it to mean that Father will allow himself to be baptized if she will just return the pug dog, which she does. The movie ends with the whole family off to church to baptize Father.

This "repulsive object" is probably one of the best known majolica animal humidors available.

The glaze in the above example from Ophelia Fine Arts is different from the one in the film but the mold is identical. Actually, the coloring of the example in the film is more typical of this form.

Who would have thought that a piece of majolica would be responsible for the salvation of William Powell!

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