Monday, August 18, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Belles on Their Toes (1952)

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.

Jimmy Hunt, who inspired this blogathon post, played Bill in the first film but moved on to play Fred in the sequel!

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!


Blogger Rick29 said...

This was a fun selection because it's not as well known as CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, but is still entertaining in its own right. I always forget that both films are biographical and based on books by two of Frank and Ernestine's children. That's interesting that Jimmy Hunt was in both films, but played different characters. I met him recently at a film convention. He has remained popular throughout the years, which I assume is largely due to INVADERS FROM MARS (his booth emphasized that cult classic). This was a wonderful pick for the blogathon, Laura. Thanks for participating!

3:19 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

These movies and books meant a lot to me growing up. Today they still give me a warm feeling with an added appreciation for the art behind the work. Jimmy Hunt is one of my favourite movie kids. He reminds me of kids when I was one.

6:15 AM  
Blogger Silver Screenings said...

I'd never even heard of this film, and it sounds every bit as charming as the first movie. I'm so glad you introduced us (me) to this film. :)

5:46 PM  
Blogger Beth Ann Gallagher said...

This is a sweet movie that might get overlooked by those only interested in the first film's Webb-Loy pairing, but they would be missing out on the rare strong sequel as you detail. I hope your post encourages others to view or rewatch this film!

6:25 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all so much for your very nice comments!

Rick, I really appreciate you hosting the blogathon and giving me a good reason to revisit this enjoyable film. I'm so glad you got to meet Jimmy, that's wonderful!

Caftan Woman, like you the books and movies all meant a lot to me growing up! Jimmy was in so many good movies including one of my favorite McCrea films, SADDLE TRAMP.

Silver Screenings, I hope you have the chance to see it! I'd love to know what you think.

Beth, thank you so much, I really hope that others will seek out this very enjoyable film.

Best wishes,

3:01 PM  
Blogger FlickChick said...

Oh, I remember seeing this film so very long ago and being totally charmed by Miss Loy. It is a very sweet film and Myrna is just so warm and comfy. Great review!

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for introducing me to this movie! It sounds wonderful!

10:39 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

FlickChick, so glad to have reminded you of this film!

Blonde at the Film, glad I could acquaint you with this film and hope you'll enjoy checking it out!

Best wishes,

10:45 AM  

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