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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Cheaper By the Dozen (1950)
Cheaper By the Dozen (1950)
Fox // Unrated // March 16, 2004
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted February 22, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

People today often wax nostalgically for the1950's, when life was slower and everything seemed calmer.  But the people in the 50's yearned for the 1920's.  The period between the wars when America's economy was expanding and it looked like war was a thing of the past.  Hollywood catered to the nostalgia with several films set in that time, among them Cheaper by the Dozen.

Based on a true story, Cheaper by the Dozen is the chronicle of Frank Gilbreth, an efficiency engineer who applies his theories of time management not only to companies, but also to his family.  Having twelve children, six boys and six girls, there needs to be some strict policies if there is to be order in the house.  He lines the children up for inspection, whistling like Captain Von Trapp from The Sound of Music, whenever he returns home from a trip so he can make sure that they are washing properly.  Always looking for ways to save time, he illustrates the most efficient way to take a bath, and even has all of the children's tonsils removed at the same time in their home, turning a room into an operating theater.

The movie is a slice-of-life picture, presenting a series of comic and not so comic events in the life of this large family.  Some time funny, occasionally touching, the movie shows how this group handles the conflicts, disagreements, and setbacks that invariable occur.

The film is pleasant to watch, but when all is said and done, it's mental bubblegum.  The characters are all two dimensional, each one having one trait, be it the authoritarian father, the faithful wife, or the elder daughter who wants to wear makeup, and they never breaking out of their mold.  The situations are entertaining, but nothing more.   When the movie was made in 1950, the audiences of that time probably found it novel and unique, but looking at it today, after having seen countless reruns of Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver, the movie plays like a long sitcom.

The acting was average.  Clifton Webb, was adequate as the father of the house.  He was the straight man for most of the jokes, but it was still hard to like him.  He wasn't able to make his character sympathetic from my point of view.  Myrna Loy (surprisingly billed third after Jeanne Crain,) who was delightful in the Thin Man movies, does not shine in this film.  She never really comes across as being her husband's equal, something Nora Charles never had problems doing.  Crain, who played the eldest, was fairly wooden and looks like she had a hard time with the role.  She was never able to sell her lines, it usually felt like she was acting in a school play rather than in an "A" film.

That is not to say that the movie is bad, because it isn't. Cheaper by the Dozen is a quaint picture that has many enjoyable moments.  Just seen through the lens of fifty years, it isn't fresh anymore.
 


The DVD:


Audio:

The menu on this DVD gives you the choice of the original mono English soundtrack, a stereo English track, or a mono Spanish track, but that is incorrect.  The mono tracks are not present, they are both two channel.  I was little if any difference between the English tracks that were labeled mono and stereo, they sounded virtually identical and I believe they were both two channel mono.  There are subtitles in English and Spanish.  The sound was adequate, though not exciting. There was no noticeable hiss or hums, and the dialog was clear.  The music was not dynamic and full, but that is not surprising for a film made in 1950.

Video:

The full frame transfer was very nice.  Filmed in Technicolor, the colors were bright and vivid.  The shadows lost a little detail, but on the whole the picture was very sharp.  There was some print damage in the form of dirt as specks but they weren't distracting.  An enjoyable transfer.

The Extras:

The DVD includes a trailer to the movie (oddly in black and white though the feature is in color,) one for the 2003 remake, and a trailer to the 1952 sequel Bells on Their Toes.  There is also a one minute clip from a news reel of one of the actual Gilbreth's daughters accepting an award for the movie.  This last piece was very washed out, but nice to see.

Final Thoughts:

This movie is a nice family film.  It is not a laugh a minute joke-fest, but an enjoyable light drama from the 50's.  It has the feel of a sitcom and, in many ways, it is.  That doesn't mean it isn't a good film, just that it is not be as fresh as it was when it was filmed.   While there is nothing objectionable in the film, there's nothing very memorable in it either.  Rent it.

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