Three Men and a Baby

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Three Men and a Baby
Three men and a baby p.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Leonard Nimoy
Produced by Ted Field
Robert W. Cort
Written by Jim Cruickshank
James Orr
Based on Trois hommes et un couffin 
by Coline Serreau
Starring Tom Selleck
Steve Guttenberg
Ted Danson
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Cinematography Adam Greenberg
Edited by Michael A. Stevenson
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • November 25, 1987 (1987-11-25)
Running time 102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $11 million
Box office $167,780,960

Three Men and a Baby is a 1987 comedy film starring Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, Ted Danson, and Nancy Travis, and directed by Leonard Nimoy. It follows the mishaps and adventures of three bachelors as they attempt to adapt their lives to pseudo-fatherhood with the arrival of one of the men's love child. The script was based on the 1985 French film Trois hommes et un couffin (Three Men and a Cradle).

Three Men and a Baby was the biggest American box office hit of that year, surpassing Fatal Attraction and eventually grossing US$167 million in the US alone.[1] The movie won the 1988 People's Choice Award for Favorite Comedy Motion Picture.


Architect Peter Mitchell (Tom Selleck), cartoonist Michael Kellam (Steve Guttenberg) and actor Jack Holden (Ted Danson) are happy living their lives as bachelors in their lofty New York City apartment where they have frequent parties and flings with different women. Their lives are disrupted when a baby named Mary arrives on their doorstep one day. A note with her indicates that she is Jack's, the result of an affair with a recent costar. She arrives in his absence – he is in Turkey shooting a B movie, leaving Peter and Michael to fend for themselves in taking care of her. Prior to leaving, Jack had made arrangements with a director friend to have a "package" delivered to the apartment as a favor. Before Mary's arrival, he calls and leaves a message with Peter and Michael informing them of the "package" and to keep it a secret per the director friend's wishes. When Mary arrives, they mistakenly believe she is the "package", even though there is a note from her mother.

Peter and Michael are totally befuddled on how to care for Mary, and Peter leaves to go buy whatever supplies are needed. While he is gone, Mrs. Hathaway (Cynthia Harris), the landlady, delivers a small box (which is the actual "package" containing heroin) to the apartment and Michael tosses it aside while trying to keep Mary under control. After Peter returns, they eventually figure out her proper care, right down to diaper changes, baths, and feedings.

The next day, two men (who are drug dealers) arrive at the apartment to collect the package. Peter and Michael mistakenly give Mary to them instead, and shortly after they leave, Peter discovers the actual package. He runs downstairs to intercept the dealers, but trips and stumbles, and the package's contents spill. He gathers the heroin and retrieves Mary from the dealers, but retains the heroin while allowing them to take a can of powdered milk. After the exchange, a police officer attempts to ticket them for illegal parking, but they escape. The officer accosts Peter and detains him in the apartment until Sgt. Melkowitz (Philip Bosco), a narcotics officer, arrives to question him and Michael about the drugs. They successfully hide them from Melkowitz during the interrogation, in which they learn that Jack's friend is a drug dealer as well. Melkowitz leaves with suspicions and puts them and the apartment under surveillance.

Peter and Michael are able to persuade Mrs. Hathaway to babysit Mary while they work. Once they arrive home, however, they find Mrs. Hathaway bound and gagged and the apartment ransacked, apparently by the dealers demanding the heroin. Mary is safe, however. The men continue with their care of her, adjusting to surrogate fatherhood and growing attached to her, until Jack returns.

Once Jack returns, Peter and Michael question him about the entire drug deal and Mary. He replies that he knew nothing about the heroin and initially denies everything about Mary until he reads the note from her mother, Sylvia. He then recalls the affair that eventually led to Mary being born. Peter and Michael do not hesitate in taking their revenge and passing all responsibility of looking after her to Jack, but he quickly grows to love her.

Later, Peter discovers in the mail a news clipping of Jack's director friend being hospitalized after a mugging (presumably by the drug dealers), with a handwritten note, "Don't let this happen to you." They formulate a plan to meet and trap them when they negotiate a deal to deliver the illicit goods. With a recording of the conversation, they prove their innocence to Melkowitz and the dealers are arrested.

By now, they have fully embraced their role as Mary's guardians. However, one morning, Sylvia (Nancy Travis) arrives, asking for her back intending to take her to London to live with her family. Handing her over, they quickly find themselves miserable and desperately missing her. Deciding to stop her and Sylvia from leaving, they rush to the airport to try and persuade the latter to stay, but they arrive just as her plane leaves. Defeated, they return to the apartment, where they find both Sylvia and Mary. Sylvia explains she doesn't want to give up her career but can't do this if she has to raise Mary alone, so Peter quickly invites her and Mary to move in with them with Jack and Michael's agreement, and she agrees.



Mary was played by twins Lisa and Michelle Blair.[2]

The soundtrack included the Peter Cetera song "Daddy's Girl", which was used for the movie's big music montage sequence and the Miami Sound Machine song "Bad Boy" which opened it.

Urban legend[edit]

Shots from the film showing what some believe are a shotgun and a young boy.

In the final cut of the movie, there is a scene, just over an hour into the film, in which Jack Holden (Ted Danson) and his mother (Celeste Holm) walk through the house with the baby. As they do so, they pass a background window on the left-hand side of the screen, and a black outline that appears to resemble a rifle pointed downward can be seen behind the curtains. As the characters walk back past the window 40 seconds later, a human figure can be seen in that window. A persistent urban legend began circulating August 1990 (shortly before the film's sequel, Three Men and a Little Lady, premiered) that this was the ghost of a boy who had been killed in the house where the movie was filmed. The most common version of this rumor was that a nine-year-old boy committed suicide with a shotgun there, explaining why the house was vacant because the grieving family left. This notion was discussed on the first episode of TV Land: Myths and Legends in January 2007[3] and was referenced in "Hollywood Babylon", a second season episode of the TV series Supernatural.

Danson's character standing next to a cardboard cutout of himself.

The figure is actually a cardboard cutout "standee" of Jack, wearing a tuxedo and top hat, that was left on the set. This prop was created as part of the storyline, in which Jack, an actor, appears in a dog food commercial, but this portion of the story was cut from the final version of the film. The standee does show up later in the film, however, when Jack stands next to it as the baby's mother comes to reclaim her child. The website contends that the figure in the first scene looks smaller from its appearance in the latter scene because of the distance and angle of the shot, and because the curtains obscure its outstretched arms. As for the contention that a boy died in the house, all the indoor scenes in the film were shot on a Toronto sound stage, and no kind of residential dwellings were used for interior filming.[4][5]


The critical reception of Three Men and a Baby was generally positive. Film critic Roger Ebert, while noting several aspects he saw as flaws, said of it "Because of Selleck and his co-stars... the movie becomes a heartwarming entertainment." He gave it 3 (out of four) stars.[6] It holds a 74% "fresh" rating on the movie review aggregation site, Rotten Tomatoes based on 34 reviews.[7]

Box office[edit]

Three Men and a Baby grossed USD$168 million.[8][9][10][11][12][13] Three Men and a Baby was notable for the Walt Disney Studios since it was the first production from the studio to gross over $100 million domestically.


Three Men and a Baby was followed by a 1990 sequel, Three Men and a Little Lady. A new sequel (titled Three Men and a Bride) supposedly in development would reunite Selleck, Guttenberg and Danson.[14]


The 1990 Malayalam film "Thoovalsparsham (Feather Touch)" is based on the film and stars Jayaram, Mukesh and Saikumar in lead roles while Suresh Gopi plays the father of the baby. The film was remade as Heyy Babyy in Hindi, and was remade also in Tamil as Asathal in 2001.

In August 2011, it was reported Adam Sandler was planning to remake the film, starring Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider.[15]

In Popular Culture[edit]

In the 2009 film The Hangover, where three of the main characters acquire a missing baby while searching for their lost friend, character Alan Garner references the film, saying "it's got Ted Danson, Magnum, P.I. and that Jewish actor".


  1. ^ 1987 Yearly Box Office Results from Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ Maslin, Janet (November 25, 1987). "Film Review: Three Men and a Baby". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-06-29. 
  3. ^ TV Land: Myths and Legends at the Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ "Three Men and a Ghost";; January 9, 2007.
  5. ^ ""The Questions That Will Not Die";; March 6, 2008". 2004-10-13. Retrieved 2010-09-28. 
  6. ^ Three Men and a Baby :: :: Reviews from Roger Ebert's website and the Chicago Sun-Times
  7. ^ Three Men and a Baby at Rotten Tomatoes
  8. ^ "Field Marshal". Newsweek. Retrieved 2010-12-22. 
  9. ^ Easton, Nina J. (1989-01-05). "Roger Rabbit' Hops to Box-Office Top; 'Coming to America' Hits 2nd". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-26. 
  10. ^ "Three Men and a Baby Is Top Box-Office Film". The New York Times. 1988-01-14. Retrieved 2010-12-08. 
  11. ^ Mathews, Jack (1988-01-06). "Laughing Their Way to Bank Hollywood Accounts Swell From `Baby' and `Momma'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-08. 
  12. ^ Hunt, Dennis (1989-01-19). "Red Heat' Sets Rental Market on Fire". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  13. ^ Mathews, Jack (1987-12-29). "Weekend Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  14. ^ WENN Exclusive: Guttenberg, Selleck and Danson to reunite for Three Men and a Bride[dead link]
  15. ^ "Adam Sandler plan to remake ‘Three Men and a Baby’". Great New Movies. August 1, 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 

External links[edit]