Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (1950). Director: Walter Lang.

Inspired by real events, this film takes a serio-comic (mostly comic) look at the Gilbreth family, which consists of father Frank (Clifton Webb), wife Lillian (Myrna Loy), and eleven children with a twelfth on the way. Ann (Jeanne Crain), the oldest, wants to join her peers in wearing modern fashions and make up, which her father, a bit of an old poop at times, rails against. The film misrepresents Planned Parenthood with a dumb scene in which Mildred Natwick plays a representative of the organization who finds Gilbreth and his brood "disgusting" -- although the sequence when he has all the children (and his own) tonsils removed in the living room is a little strange as well. Webb is fine as the virile husband, but Loy gives an odd, once-removed performance, as if telling the world that this drab, matronly character is definitely not the real Myrna Loy. Crain and Betty Lynn as Deborah are better, but the picture is nearly stolen by talented little Jimmy Hunt as their mischievous brother, Billy. Cheaper by the Dozen is pleasant and entertaining. Steve Martin did a farcical remake many years later. Followed by Belles on Their Toes.

Verdict: Anything with Webb in it ... ***.

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