Monday, February 09, 2009

Reason #132 that I Enjoy Netflix

When I think back to my childhood, I am surprised to remember how many great old movies I saw. I clearly remember the day my father brought in our first VCR, as big as a coffee table, so it's not like I was sitting around watching videos through my tender years.

But still, I managed to see some gems. I remember how one of the major networks would make an event of showing "The Wizard of Oz". And then there was "The Sound of Music" every Easter, as well as "The Ten Commandments". I still have to watch that every Easter.

Lately I've been renting old movies from Netflix and using them as treadmill incentives. I only allow myself to watch a movie while I'm exercising -- a black and white celluloid carrot. I've been picking old movies that I remember enjoying because they are usually shorter and cleaner, in case any little people happen to cross my path.

I don't remember how old I was when I first saw the original "Cheaper by the Dozen", but I must have been a teenager at least. I liked it well enough, but it was my mother who was more touched by it.

I watched it again this week, now as a mother of what many consider a sizable family, and I think it has become one of my favorite films.

"Cheaper by the Dozen" was meant to be a lighthearted film adaptation of the autobiographical book of the same title, written by Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. Frank Gilbreth, Sr. was an engineer, an efficiency expert, who had a family of twelve children with his wife, Lillian Gilbreth, who was herself an accomplished engineer and 1948's Woman of the Year.

As I watched, I found myself pondering how much has changed in our culture, and what has stayed the same.

There is no doubt that Frank Gilbreth is the head of the household; he runs the family like a small army. His wife, an educated and intelligent woman, defers to his decision in all things without diminishing her position as his partner and helpmate. It is clear that he seeks her opinion in all things, often choosing her recommendation in the first place.

Fathers and husbands are not portrayed this way anymore, and I think it's to our detriment. In much of popular culture, if the man is not completely absent, he is shown to be lazy and ignorant at best and neglectful at worst.

I know not every husband or father is always worthy of being the head of their household, but I think it's an interesting comment on our society when we notice that having a responsible man around as not being "the norm."

I think one of my favorite things about the movie is the presentation of life in a large family. It's loud, it's messy, the children whine, the parents get grumpy, someone's always underfoot or forgotten, but it's also fun, and raucous, and tender, and never dull or lonely.

Besides all that, Frank Gilbreth had some of the best quick-draw answers I've ever heard.

On Work:
[while in a family meeting regarding who would paint the fence for extra money]

Frank: Do I hear any bids?

Son: I bid $10! (this is 1921, remember)

Frank: You must think this is a government job. Do I hear any reasonable bids?

On Health:
[after half the kids get whooping cough]

Frank: I'm not going to have an epidemic in this house. We haven't time for any such nonsense. You children have been given good health, and by jingo it's your job to keep it!

On Family:
[after stopping in the car with all of his children]

Man: Hey Noah! What are you doing in that ark?

Frank: Collecting animals like the good Lord told me, brother. All I need now is a jack*ss. Hop in!
[after a handyman sees all the kids clamoring for something]

Man: Are these all yours or is this a picnic?

Frank: Oh they're all mine and I can assure you it is NO picnic.

And my favorite line of all, the one that I am stealing the next time someone asks me if all my kids are really mine:

Mailman: Are all those kids yours?

Frank: Oh these aren't so many. You should see the ones I left behind!

An oldie but a goodie, my friends, and well worth a viewing. In fact, I think I might have to get on the treadmill for a little while tonight. You know it's extra cardio if I'm laughing while I'm walking, right?


  1. Wow, you must be my sister. Here's the next 6 movies on my Netlix:
    * Cheaper by the Dozen
    * Life With Father
    * Desk Set
    * That Touch of Mink
    * To Catch a Thief
    * Father of the Bride

    Oh yeah, and all of those are from the 50's or 60's and they have all been on my list for a long time!

    BTW, I was skeptical of what they would change in the Cheaper by the Dozen remake, and while some of the classic wit was replaced with slapstick, I thought they did a decent job of keeping the core messages in place.

  2. I read the book but never saw the original movie...I think I HAVE to now.
    I loved those movie nights- there was a panic in the house about not being seated and settle in time.

  3. I have never seen the movie, but Cheaper by the Dozen is one of my daughter's favorite books...

    I can't afford Netflix right now, but we had a 30 day free trial we really enjoyed!

  4. I love old movies--I remember seeing that when I was young--I need to get it again, I could use some good laughs! Enjoy the exercise!

  5. GeeGee8:05 AM

    I love the old movies, especially the 30's,and 40's. Last night we watched "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"...besides the story lines,one gets such a slice of life in America as it was in the early 20th century...the lingo, the clothing,and conditions of life.
    I especially love the stories of immigrants to various regions of our country, such as NY (as with "A Tree...") or San Francisco, for instance, in "I Remember Mama"...put that one on your list to watch as well. And, of course, my all-time favorite (because of my Welsh ancestry) is "How Green Was My Valley". It is not an American vignette, but it does speak to our family and our roots. And, there is always "The Quiet Man" for the Irish...

  6. I love this movie. I completely remember the scene where he teaches the kids to take a thorough bath in less than 3 minutes. I should have the kids watch it.

    I think I have similar feelings about Little House on the Prairie. I think Charles Ingalls may have been the perfect father/husband.

  7. Let me just say that apparently watching movies together as a family when we were younger, means that we have all developed the same love of them as we are older, because, not to be a copycat or anything, but the next 6 movies in my Netflix queue are:
    *The Long, Hot Summer
    *Meet Me in St. Louis
    *Cheaper By the Dozen
    *Belles on Their Toes
    *How Green Was My Valley
    *Swing Time

    All of which are at least 50 years old. How I love the good, old, classic many ways they are so much better to me than most things in the last 15 years! Happy Watching!

  8. I'll have to add that to our list, because Husband loves to watch the modern version. I'm sure we would both enjoy the original. And I completely agree with you regarding how men are portrayed these days. I've made a conscious effort to not pick on, make fun of, or diminish Husband on my blog, because the world does not need another woman putting down a man. It's no wonder men have ceded their roles to women, since all they hear and see is that they are incapable of doing a good job.

  9. The original "Yours, Mine and Ours" is a good one about large families, too!

  10. Anonymous2:14 PM

    I've never seen the original, but wanted to. I loved the remake and totally love your selected scene quotes!
    Mirabella MOM
    PS- Another good oldie, if you haven't seen it yet, Yours, Mine, and Ours.

  11. That must be the original. We have the version with Henry Fonda and, um, I Love Lucy. What the heck is her last name?

  12. Oh my.... rofl!

    Thanks for the jack*ss reminder.

    LOVE that comeback.


  13. I love the original movie. The remake was cute and my kids like it, but I stand by the original. My favorite part is when the population control lady comes to visit!

  14. I love this book. Thanks for the reminder. I'll have some of my girlies read this soon.


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