Cheaper by the Dozen (1950)

Cheaper by the Dozen (1950)

4.5 6
Director: Walter Lang

Cast: Clifton Webb, Jeanne Crain, Myrna Loy

     
 

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Even allowing for the fact that it owed its existence to the popularity of Life with Father (1947), Cheaper by the Dozen is one of the freshest, funniest and most enduring "family" films ever to emerge from Hollywood. Based on the autobiographical novel by Frank Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, this is the mostly true story of famed efficiency

Overview

Even allowing for the fact that it owed its existence to the popularity of Life with Father (1947), Cheaper by the Dozen is one of the freshest, funniest and most enduring "family" films ever to emerge from Hollywood. Based on the autobiographical novel by Frank Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, this is the mostly true story of famed efficiency expert Frank Bunker Gilbreth. As played by Clifton Webb, Gilbreth is a benevolent despot in his own home, managing to keep order and (sometimes) sanity despite the presence of twelve children (hence the title). Myrna Loy co-stars as Gilbreth's wife Lillian, who provides balance to her lively household, while Jeanne Crain is allotted the somewhat thankless role of eldest daughter Ernestine (who also narrates the story). The original book was basically a series of non-chronological anecdotes: Lamar Trotti's screenplay provides a throughline in the form of Gilbreth's ongoing ambition to deliver a series of lectures in Europe. The best moments (taken almost verbatim from the novel) include: Papa Gilbreth's insistence upon filming his family's tonsillectomies, including his own; a cruel but undeniably funny vignette wherein the Gilbreths flummox a lady advocate of planned parenthood (Mildred Natwick); Mr. Gilbreth giving an impromptu demonstration on how to take a bath in the least amount of time; and daughter Ernestine's senior prom, where her father ends up as the life of the party (appearing in this sequence as a Southern belle is Betty Lynn, who later played Thelma Lou on TV's Andy Griffith Show). The decision to retain the book's surprisingly downbeat ending provides a poignant coda to this heartwarming comedy. Cheaper by the Dozen was followed in 1952 by a sequel, Belles on their Toes.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
This classic adaptation of the autobiographical novel written by real-life siblings Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth takes place at the turn of the 20th century. Clifton Webb, the starchy patrician who first achieved screen fame in Laura, plays the family's stern but loving patriarch. Myrna Loy, in a far cry from her spirited portrayals of Nora Charles in the Thin Man movies, plays the gentle and patient mother who presides over the occasionally unruly brood. Though it doesn't have a strong central plot, the movie is a series of comic vignettes that never loses steam. One highlight finds the father accompanying his dateless oldest daughter -- the radiantly beautiful Jeanne Crain -- to her high-school prom, where he becomes the hit of the evening. Another finds Webb shepherding the ailing younger children to the hospital, where he oversees a mass withdrawal of tonsils. Other moments are less rib-tickling and one in particular is heartbreakingly poignant. But the kids -- little scene-stealers, the lot of 'em -- are enjoyable, and the unusual pairing of Webb and Loy yields unexpectedly entertaining dividends. Directed with flair by journeyman Walter Lang, Cheaper by the Dozen depicts family life in a radically different way than the 2003 remake -- but it's every bit as engaging.
All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
A big hit in its time, and a favorite for many year after, Cheaper By the Dozen has lost a considerable amount of its appeal in more recent times. Simply put, while it has its charms and some considerable assets, Cheaper is dated. For some, this won't be much of a problem, but others will find it challenging to watch a man who is basically a dictator, who cares little for the opinions of others (while professing otherwise) and whose obsession with efficiency may strike some as a bit monomaniacal. Cheaper has some other problems, notably that it's basically just one long series of incidents and vignettes rather than a single cohesive story. However, it also has a warmth and charm about it, and many of the sequences do inspire genuine laughter. This is especially true of the "birth control lecture" sequence, which is just about perfect and which also benefits from a spot-on performance by Mildred Natwick. And whatever issues one may have with the father, there's no denying that he is played to the hilt by Clifton Webb. Myrna Loy plays another of her perfect wives to perfection, and Edgar Buchanan does well as the family doctor. Jeanne Crain is a bit stiff as the eldest daughter, though Barbara Bates as the next in live is quite good. Walter Lang's direction keeps things moving and is ultra-professional, if a bit impersonal.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/16/2004
UPC:
0086162142833
Original Release:
1950
Rating:
NR
Source:
20th Century Fox

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Clifton Webb Frank Bunker Gilbreth
Jeanne Crain Ann Gilbreth
Myrna Loy Lillian Gilbreth
Edgar Buchanan Dr. Burton
Barbara Bates Ernestine
Mildred Natwick Mrs. Mebane
Sara Allgood Mrs. Monahan
Anthony Sydes Fred Gilbreth
Roddy McCaskill Jack Gilbreth
Carol Nugent Lillie Gilbreth
Jimmy Hunt William Gilbreth
Teddy Driver Dan Gilbreth
Betty Barker Mary Gilbreth
Evelyn Varden School Principal
Frank Orth Mr. Higgins
Craig Hill Tom Black
Virginia Brissac Mrs. Benson
Walter S. Baldwin Jim Bracken
Bennie Bartlett Joe Scales
Sid Saylor Plumber
Ken Christy Mailman
Mary Field Music teacher
Patti Brady Martha Gilbreth
Betty Lynne Libby Lancaster
Norman Ollestad Frank Gilbreth, Jr.
Robert Arthur Actor

Technical Credits
Walter Lang Director
Cyril Mockridge Score Composer
Lionel Newman Musical Direction/Supervision
Leon Shamroy Cinematographer
Lamar Trotti Producer,Screenwriter
J. Watson Webb Editor

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Cheaper by the Dozen (1950) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this movie is hilarious! it brings back the old-fashioned values and beliefs of 'yesteryear!'
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I saw this movie I knew right at the beginning that it would become one of my all-time favorites. It is charming and very funny. I am both tickled and charmed at Frank Bunker Gilbreth, the road hog. This movie is almost like the book that is also very charming.
Animalicious More than 1 year ago
Old movies-Just don't make 'em like they used to! Great story, even by today's standards.
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