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Cheaper by the Dozen (1950 film)

Cheaper by the Dozen is a 1950 Technicolor film based upon the autobiographical book Cheaper by the Dozen (1948) by Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. The film and book describe growing up in a family with twelve children, in Montclair, New Jersey. The title comes from one of Gilbreth's favorite jokes, which played out in the movie, that when he and his family were out driving and stopped at a red light, a pedestrian would ask: "Hey, Mister! How come you got so many kids?" Gilbreth would pretend to ponder the question carefully, and then, just as the light turned green, would say: "Well, they come cheaper by the dozen, you know", and drive off.

Cheaper by the Dozen
Cheaper by the dozen film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWalter Lang
Produced byLamar Trotti
Screenplay byLamar Trotti
Based onCheaper by the Dozen
1948 novel
by Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr.
StarringClifton Webb
Myrna Loy
Jeanne Crain
Betty Lynn
Narrated byJeanne Crain
Music byCyril J. Mockridge
CinematographyLeon Shamroy
Edited byJames Watson Webb Jr.
Distributed by20th Century-Fox
Release date
March 31, 1950(New York)[1]
Running time
85 min.
CountryUnited States
Box office$4,425,000 (US)[2][3]


The parents are the time and motion study and efficiency experts Frank Bunker Gilbreth Sr. and psychologist Lillian Moller Gilbreth. The film shows typical days in the lives of a family in the 1920s, but here with 12 children and an efficiency engineer as the parent. Frank employs his unorthodox teaching methods on his children, and there are clashes between parents and children. Frank takes every opportunity to study motion and increase efficiency, including filming his children's tonsillectomies to see if there are ways to streamline the operation.

After Frank's sudden death, the family agree that Lillian will continue with her husband's work; this enables the family to remain in their house, rather than move to their grandmother's in California, although, with a widowed working mother and one income, the children will have to assume much greater responsibilities.



Because of the success of Cheaper by the Dozen, Gilbreth and Carey wrote a follow-up to their book, entitled Belles on Their Toes (1950), which was also made into a 1952 movie by 20th Century-Fox. Another film called Cheaper by the Dozen, also about a 12-child family, but with totally different characters and storyline, was made 53 years later starring Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt.

Comparison to real lifeEdit

The birth order in which Cheaper by the Dozen portrays some of the children is not the same order in which the real Gilbreth children were born. For example, Robert (who was born in 1920) is shown as being born in 1922, as the last child after Jane (who was born in 1922). This is reversed in the movie's sequel.

In real life, Mary, who was the second child, died in 1912, aged 5. However, in the film Cheaper by the Dozen, Mary is placed as the third child after Ernestine, and has few or no lines.[4]

Both Frank and Lillian Gilbreth were important figures in real life. The voice-over at the end of the film informs the audience that Lillian went on to become the world's leading efficiency expert and the TIME magazine Woman of the Year in 1948. Additionally, in 1984, her image was put on a US postal stamp.


Reviews from critics were mostly positive. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote that "it all adds up to entertainment of a broad, brash and innocent sort."[5] Variety called it "a lot of fun" with "a lot of humor, and just enough clutching at the heart to please any audience."[6] Harrison's Reports called it "delightfully amusing" with comedy "that keeps one chuckling throughout and at times reaches hilarious proportions."[7] "Pleasant light entertainment," reported The Monthly Film Bulletin.[8] John McCarten of The New Yorker was less enthused, writing that "since nothing much happens in the way of conflict, there just isn't any drama, and the piece boils down to one of those typical fluffy comedies about home life in America."[9]


  1. ^ "Cheaper by the Dozen". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved June 9, 2018.
  2. ^ "All-Time Top Film Grosses" Variety Weekly January 13, 1954
  3. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century-Fox: A Corporate and Financial History Rowman & Littlefield, 2002 p 223
  4. ^ "Cheaper by the Dozen". TCM.
  5. ^ Crowther, Bosley (April 1, 1950). "The Screen In Review". The New York Times: 22.
  6. ^ "Cheaper By the Dozen". Variety: 11. March 29, 1950.
  7. ^ "'Cheaper by the Dozen' with Clifton Webb, Jeanne Crain and Myrna Loy". Harrison's Reports: 50. April 1, 1950.
  8. ^ "Cheaper By the Dozen". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 17 (196): 65. April–May 1950.
  9. ^ McCarten, John (April 8, 1950). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 112.

External linksEdit