This post is written as part of the Build-Your-Own-Blogathon sponsored by Rick of the Classic Film and TV Cafe. The blogathon runs for 20 consecutive days at 20 different blogs, with each blogger writing on a film connected in some fashion to the previous day's entry; visit the complete schedule for full details!
Yesterday Kristen wrote about SORRY, WRONG NUMBER (1948) at her blog Journeys in Classic Film. My entry, BELLES ON THEIR TOES (1952), is connected to SORRY, WRONG NUMBER by child actor Jimmy Hunt, who is in both movies. Tomorrow the blogathon will move to The Girl With the White Parasol, where Aubyn will write about BELLES ON THEIR TOES star Myrna Loy in TEST PILOT (1938).
My thanks to Rick for the fun idea and to Kristen for tagging me as the next blogger in line!
CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (1950) and BELLES ON THEIR TOES (1952) were two films I saw many times growing up, and years ago I bought the DVDs for my own children.
Despite having the movies in our collection, somehow many years had passed since my last viewing of either film, and then this spring I had the wonderful opportunity to see CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN on a big screen at the TCM Classic Film Festival. I enjoyed revisiting it so much I wanted to be sure to also watch BELLES ON THEIR TOES before too many months passed!
BELLES ON THEIR TOES, like CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, was based on a memoir by Frank Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. The book is one of the better sequels ever written; in fact, it's so much fun that at certain points in time I've thought I might like it even better than the original book.
Likewise, BELLES ON THEIR TOES is one of the more successful movie sequels ever made. Although there were some recasting oddities in the transition from the first film to the second, which I detailed in my CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN review, BELLES ON THEIR TOES feels very much as though it's simply a continuation of the first film. It has much the same tone and style, blending humor with poignance, and a fine cast headed by Myrna Loy, Jeanne Crain, and Barbara Bates in their original roles.
BELLES ON THEIR TOES chronicles the struggle of Lillian Gilbreth (Loy) to be accepted as a female engineer and support her large family after the death of her husband Frank (Clifton Webb, seen in photos and a brief flashback). The children pitch in and do everything they can to live within a tight budget as their weary mother battles prejudice and gradually makes her mark in the professional world. Her success would eventually enable each of her surviving 11 children to graduate college.
Meanwhile, Ann (Crain) is romanced by a young doctor (Jeffrey Hunter, seen earlier this weekend in THE MAN FROM GALVESTON). Ernestine (Bates) is "pinned" by a wealthy but rude frat boy (Martin Milner), and her brothers plot to break them up. And Martha (Debra Paget) turns heads wherever she goes.
BELLES ON THEIR TOES is a lot of fun, from root beer bottles exploding in the basement to the cash-strapped family spending a summer living on beans to the many Gilbreths tiptoeing up a hospital's back stairs to visit their mother after she has an accident.
I especially love the Gilbreths' worn Nantucket beach house, which looks just like one might imagine it from the book. The exterior beach scenes, incidentally, were filmed at Malibu's Paradise Cove, the same area where Jim Rockford's trailer was located in THE ROCKFORD FILES.
BELLES ON THEIR TOES is aided significantly by the casting of Hoagy Carmichael as Tom, the Gilbreth family's devoted cook/handyman/jack of all trades, and Debra Paget as an older Martha, taking over the part from Patti Brady in the first film. Some music is very naturally worked into the film which allows Carmichael and Paget a moment to shine during a cookout sequence. Carmichael captures Tom perfectly; I don't think anyone would have been better cast in the role.
BELLES ON THEIR TOES was directed by Henry Levin from a screenplay by Phoebe and Henry Ephron (parents of Nora). It was filmed in Technicolor by Arthur Arling. The running time is 89 minutes.
BELLES ON THEIR TOES is available on DVD.
Both CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN and BELLES ON THEIR TOES are recommended as well-made family fun. And don't miss out on reading the books, too!