YOURS, MINE AND OURS
What happens when a family of eleven merges with a family of nine? Find out in this rollicking comedy starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda. Any project involving this many child actors must have been a director's nightmare, but veteran director Melville Shavelson managed to pull it off somehow. Released in 1968, the wide success of Yours, Mine and Ours may well have prompted the airing of the first episode of "The Brady Bunch" the following year.
Facts of the Case
Naval officer Frank Beardsley is the widowed father of no less than ten children. Helen North, a nurse at the naval base, is the widowed mother of eight. When their overloaded shopping carts collide at the commissary, it's love at first sight. At first they blanch at the idea of a family of twenty, but fate—and their mutual friend Darrel—conspire to bring them together, despite their children's initial resistance.
But making the two families one is no easy task. There are sibling squabbles, adolescent angst, and identity crises to be dealt with; every meal is a major production, Christmas is a phenomenal undertaking, and the grocery bills…well! Meanwhile Frank, though loyal to his family duties, is secretly longing to be back at sea, and Helen gets news from the doctor that (for some reason) catches her by surprise. It takes a lot of love, patience, and a robust sense of humor to run a household like this, but Frank and Helen are up to the challenge.
This sweet family film, released in 1968, stars Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda as the intrepid parents. The story is a mixture of comic mishaps and tender family moments, helped along by a series of narrative voiceovers from various members of the cast. The effect is almost like sitting down with the family to hear them tell their own history (only without the inevitable interruptions and corrections).
Yours, Mine and Ours was Lucille Ball's last successful movie, and though she's clearly not as young as in her "I Love Lucy" days, she is still every bit as sprightly and wacky. The script makes good use of her comic talents, particularly in an outrageous scene where Frank invites her to have dinner with his children, and the boys spike her drink—with the end result being rather the opposite of what they intended.
Henry Fonda (The Grapes of Wrath, On Golden Pond) still had quite a few good acting years left in him in 1968, and this is not one of his better-remembered roles. But he doles out military-style room assignments, sage advice, and one-liners with good-natured aplomb, and makes the perfect match for Lucille Ball's Helen. In fact, if you believe everything you read on the IMDb, the two of them had a bit of chemistry off the set as well.
Of course, Yours, Mine and Ours features a cast of child actors of varying abilities who don't look at all related to one another, or their screen parents. But they're all cute, and that's the important thing. For about half these children, this film was the height of their dramatic career. Several others went on to TV roles as adults; if you're familiar with the shows of the 1970s and 1980s, you may recognize Morgan Brittany, Michele Tobin, Mitch Vogel, Jennifer Leak, or Kimberly Beck (also seen recently in Independence Day). Oh, and that blonde toddler who keeps looking at the camera is Tracy Nelson of "Melrose Place," whose twin brothers would later form the very blonde band Nelson. Toothless little Eric Shea later appeared as an adult in The Poseidon Adventure, among other things. The youngster destined for the most successful acting career, however, was Tim Matheson, already well established as an actor by 1968. He got his start as the voice of the original "Jonny Quest," and can be seen more recently as the Vice President in "The West Wing." As for Gary Goetzman, he has had a few roles since Yours, Mine and Ours, but his greatest successes have been as a producer; that's his name on Philadelphia and Silence of the Lambs.
The most amazing thing about this movie is that it's a true story. There really were a Frank and Helen Beardsley, who had ten and eight children respectively, and who proceeded to have two more after their marriage for, that's right, a grand total of twenty kids. The U.S. Navy actually listed their family as a restaurant so they could buy groceries from the commissary at wholesale prices, since the Beardsleys would buy 50 loaves of bread at once. Somehow Helen found the time to write a book about their family, "Who Gets the Drumsticks?" which became a bestseller shortly after its publication in 1964.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
No real effort has been made to restore this print, and it shows. Dust speckles and blotches pepper the screen; colors are still bright, but the picture looks about like what you'd get on VHS. Sound is of course 2.0 mono, and not as clear as it might be. Worst of all, the film has been modified from its original aspect ratio to "full screen format." That means we never get to see the entire family on the screen at the same time, not even when they all line up for a Christmas portrait. When will MGM wake up to the fact that "standard format" is substandard?
Disc features are sparse, as is typical for movies of this era. Aside from French and Spanish language tracks, the only other item of note is the original theatrical trailer, which of course makes the film look rather well-preserved by comparison. (If for some reason you need a three-and-a-half-minute summary of the movie, just watch the trailer—it's all there!) No liner notes are included, not even an insert listing chapter headings.
If you love Lucy, or are just looking for some old-fashioned family fun, be sure to check out Yours, Mine and Ours. Is it worthy of purchase? Well, the disc is quite affordable, but if I had the videotape, I wouldn't bother to replace it.
MGM earns the court's continuing disapproval for dumping another good film onto DVD without giving it the care it deserves. As for the Beardsleys (Hush, I'm not done yet.), the court is heartily sorry for having brought all 21 of them into the courtroom. (Uh, sonny, that's my gavel you've got there…thank you.) Case dismissed! (And quit climbing on the railing!)