This colorful depiction of life in a family of 12 children stars Clifton Webb as Frank Bunker Gilbreth, an eccentric father who prides himself on some truly unorthodox child-rearing methods. Based on the bestseller by two children of the real Mr. Gilbreth, this charming film co-starring Myrna Loy is "alive with big laughs" (Los Angeles Times).
Narrated by the oldest daughter (Jeanne Crain), the story follows a series of family crises over the years: from how the children over-whelmed their new school's administration office, to the time they threw a hospital into chaos when they arrived for a mass tonsillectomy. There's even a memorable encounter with a birth control advocate. Simultaneously hilarious and sentimental, "Cheaper by the Dozen is a family comedy in the truest sense.
Though it's impossible to gauge just how much of it is true, this endearing family comedy (based on the book by their children Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey) is inspired by the true story of the husband-and-wife efficiency experts Frank and Lillian Gilbreth and their adventures raising 12 kids at the turn of the century. Director Walter Lang takes a loping pace through the episodes of family life: the kids descend upon the new school in force while Dad (fussy Clifton Webb) offers his unsolicited views on education; Dad takes his oldest daughter (wholesome Jeanne Crain) to the school dance and becomes the hit of the ball; a mass tonsillectomy becomes an opportunity to document the ordeal as an experiment in efficiency. Myrna Loy almost steals the film in her one standout scene, holding back a smirk while a birth-control advocate (played by Mildred Natwick) solicits this mother of 12 to speak at a rally, but her martini-dry comic deadpan is criminally underused in this picture, which is dominated by Webb's stern, military-like parenting and Crain's adolescent crises. Though this sometimes overly sentimental classic never builds to any real dramatic plateau or comic highlights, it maintains an even tone of good humor and warmth throughout, capturing a bygone era through the travails of a loving family. A charming sequel, Belles on Their Toes
, followed two years later. --Sean Axmaker
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.