Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day for the family

I happened to turn on the TV at lunch today, and saw TCM airing For Love of Ivy, specifically the scene in which Sidney Poitier and Abbey Lincoln were kneeling in a table at a Japanese restaurant. This brought to mind a movie that's both a romantic comedy, and suitable for the whole family: Yours, Mine and Ours.

Based on a true story, this 1968 movie stars Lucille Ball as Navy nurse widow Helen North, who has eight children. One day at the infirmary, she meets Frank Beardsley, played by Henry Fonda, a naval officer who is a widower with ten children of his own. Even if you have never seen the movie, you can guess what happens next: they eventually fall in love (with a bit of help from co-star Van Johnson) and get married, with the attendant problems that a Brady Bunch on steroids brings.

It seems fairly obvious that even at the time, the studio execs were looking at the parents' generation to market this movie: Lucille Ball was an improbable 56 when the movie was made, much too old to have kids as young as Helen North did. Fonda, meanwhile, was already over 60! And the choice of the co-stars, as the man who sets up Helen and Frank, and Tom Bosley as a doctor, also seems designed to appeal to an older generation. There's some mild sexual innuendo, notably in one scene where Frank's blind date discovers how many children he and Helen each have, but for the most part, the pacing is genteel enough that it's obviously different from the teen movies of today.

But, there are also scenes for the younger children, as you would expect from any movie that's got eighteen of them in the cast. There's a scene, for example, of Helen's children trying to make her fit in with the 60s by turning one of her old-fashioned skirts into a miniskirt, with the expected consequences; also, Lucille Ball gets the chance to do the sort of comedy she routinely did on I Love Lucy in a scene where she meets Frank's children, as they spike her mixed drink with enough alcohol to make even an NFL lineman drunk.

Teenagers, however, may not care for the movie. In many ways, it's dated as a product of the 60s, particularly the more "conservative" 60s (by which I mean that it basically ignores the idea that there was any social upheaval going on, instead presenting everybody as being as clean-cut as the Bradys were before they let their hair go frizzy in the early 1970s). Have fun laughing at the interior decorating, hairstyles, and fashions of that decade. Also, some of the score can only be classified as elevator music, particularly an extended sequence in which Ball and Fonda are walking around San Francisco to the treacly MOR tune "It's a Sometimes World".

Yours, Mine and Ours was remade in 2005; stick to the original, however. Fortunately, it's available on DVD.

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