Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cheaper by the Dozen (1950)

Mr and Mrs Gilbreth pack up their twelve children and move from Providence, RI to Montclair, NJ. I bet they have a lot of crazy adventures along the way. Yea. Well, that sums up the story.

This movie is a fairly faithful adaptation of the book by the same name, written by the actual eldest Gilbreth daughter. Old friend Myrna Loy plays the Missus Gilbreth and Clifton Webb plays dad. Frank is some sort of process engineer and work has dictated he move from a post-industrial, mafia run city to, well, New Jersey. Not exactly culture shock. The book and movie were successful enough to spawn sequel book and movie called Belles on their Toes (1952). Most of the cast came back.

Cheaper by the Dozen is a well produced, well acted, first class work and I was about a half hour into it when I decided that I wasn't enjoying it much. 50's family comedies aren't my thing, I suppose. I watched too much Brady Bunch growing up. That's not to say it was hard to watch. I just didn't find their predicaments all that funny and I kinda didn't care what happened to them.

Speaking of the Brady's, I went into it thinking this was the movie that inspired the series. It's not. That movie was 1968's Yours, Mine, and Ours.

Well, who should show up as a lesser daughter but Barbara Bates, fresh from her Inspector General success and still years away from her tragic suicide. I wasn't sure if I could believe Webb as the father of twelve, but he managed to pull it off. It was nice to see Myrna again, looking very matronly, almost unrecognizable from her Nora Charles. In fact this encouraged me to see if I couldn't find some of her later work. I found the Burt Reynolds comedy The End (1978). She had a small part as Burt's mom and I had to pause it on her face to take in the fact that this was the same person.

Well, as the great-grandson of a Providence couple who managed thirteen children (twelve to survive into adulthood), I am guessing my ancestors life looked little like the onscreen Gilbreth clan. But 50's cinema wasn't about reality. Contemporary audiences didn't care, so why should I? AMRU 3.

Man on street: Hey Noah, what are you doing with that Ark?
Frank Gilbreth: Collecting animals like the good Lord told me, brother. All we need now is a jackass. Hop in!

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