Yours, Mine and Ours (1968 film)
||This article may contain original research. (July 2010)|
|Yours, Mine and Ours|
film poster by Frank Frazetta
|Directed by||Melville Shavelson|
|Produced by||Robert F. Blumofe|
|Written by||Helen Beardsley (book)
Bob Carroll Jr. (story)
Madelyn Davis (story)
Mort Lachman (screenplay)
Melville Shavelson (screenplay)
|Music by||Fred Karlin|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Running time||111 minutes|
Yours, Mine and Ours is a 1968 film, directed by Melville Shavelson and starring Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda and Van Johnson. Before its release, it had three other working titles: The Beardsley Story, Full House, and His, Hers, and Theirs.
It was based loosely on the story of Frank and Helen Beardsley, although Desilu Productions bought the rights to the story long before Helen's autobiographical book Who Gets the Drumstick? was released to bookstores. Screenwriters Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll wrote several I Love Lucy-style stunts that in most cases had no basis in the actual lives of the Beardsley family, before Melville Shavelson and Mort Lachman took over primary writing duties. The film was commercially successful, and even the Beardsleys themselves appreciated it.
Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball take turns providing voice-over narration throughout—and in at least one scene, Van Johnson talks directly to the camera (a technique known as breaking the fourth wall), as does Fonda.
Frank Beardsley is a Roman Catholic Navy warrant officer, recently detached from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and assigned as project officer for the Fresnel lens glide-slope indicator, or "meatball," that would eventually become standard equipment on all carriers. Helen North is a Roman Catholic nurse working in the dispensary at the California naval base to which Frank is assigned.
Frank meets Helen, first by chance in the commissary on the Naval base (presumably Alameda Naval Air Station, though it is never identified) and then when Frank brings his distraught teen-age daughter for treatment at the dispensary, where Helen informs him that the young lady is simply growing up in a too-crowded house that lacks a mother's guidance. They immediately hit it off and go on a date, all the while shying away from admitting their respective secrets: Frank has ten children and Helen has eight, from previous marriages that ended in their spouses' deaths.
When each finally learns the other's secret, they initially resist their mutual attraction. But Chief Warrant Officer Darrell Harrison (Van Johnson) is determined to bring them together. To that end, he "fixes up" each of them with a blind date that is sure to be incompatible. Helen's date is an obstetrician (Sidney Miller) who stands a good head shorter than she; this prompts Helen to observe in voice-over, "Darrell had a malicious sense of humor." Frank's date is a "hip" girl (Louise Troy) who is not only young enough to be one of his daughters, but also is far too forward for his taste. As the final touch, Harrison makes sure that both dates take place in the same Japanese restaurant. As Harrison fully expects, Frank and Helen end up leaving the restaurant together in his car, with Frank's date sitting uncomfortably between the two as they carry on about their children.
Frank and Helen continue to date regularly, and eventually he invites her for dinner in his home. This turns nearly disastrous when Mike, Rusty, and Greg (Tim Matheson, Gil Rogers, and Gary Goetzman), Frank's three sons, mix hefty doses of gin, scotch, and vodka into Helen's drink. As a result Helen behaves in a wild and embarrassing manner, which Frank cannot comprehend until he catches his sons trying to conceal their laughter. "The court of inquiry is now in session!" he declares, and gets the three to own up and apologize. After this, he announces his intention to marry, adding, "And nobody put anything into my drink."
Most of the children fight the union at first, regarding each other and their respective stepparents with suspicion. Eventually, however, the eighteen children bond into one large blended family, about to become a little larger when Helen becomes pregnant.
Further tension develops between young Philip North and his teacher at the parochial school that he attends, because his teacher insists that he use his "legal" name (which remains North even after his mother's marriage to Beardsley). This prompts Frank and Helen to discuss cross-adopting one another's children. At first the children (except for Philip) are aghast at the notion of "reburying" their respective deceased biological parents. Yet the subsequent birth of Joseph John Beardsley finally unites the children, and they agree unanimously to the adoption under a common surname.
Adult friends and relatives 
- Van Johnson as CWO Darrell Harrison, USN
- Walter Brooke as Howard Beardsley (Frank's brother, who in this film temporarily "borrows" Germaine and Joan Beardsley after Frank's detachment from the Enterprise.)
- Nancy Howard as Nancy Beardsley (Frank's sister-in-law)
- Sidney Miller as Dr. Ashford (Helen's date, an obstetrician who stands a good head shorter than she)
- Louise Troy as Madeleine Love (Frank's date, a "hip" girl young enough to be Frank's daughter)
- Tom Bosley as a family doctor who makes a house call on the Beardsleys in their "neutral" home. We later see this same doctor as the consulting physician for the California Draft Board when Mike Beardsley reports for a required physical exam.
Frank's children 
Helen's children 
Other acquaintance 
Teachers, officials, etc. 
- Mary Gregory as Sister Mary Alice, who questions Philip's use of the Beardsley name
- Harry Holcombe as the Judge who handles the grand mutual adoption
Frank's unsuccessful housekeepers 
- Ysabel MacCloskey as Number One, who lasts less than a day.
- Pauline Hague as Number Two, aka "Mrs. Anderson." She lasts a week—because she is hiding from the police. After a stint with the Beardsleys, she turns herself in.
- Marjorie Eaton as Number Three, aka "Mrs. Ferguson," who famously says, "Mrs. Anderson was last week; I'm Mrs. Ferguson, and you can mail me my check!" She has the fight with Louise that precipitates Frank's second meeting with Helen.
Truth versus fiction 
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This film departs in many critical ways from the actual lives of Frank and Helen Beardsley and their children. The names of Frank and Helen Beardsley and their children are real. (In fact, the wedding invitation that appears midway through the film is the actual invitation that went out to Frank and Helen's real guests.) The career of Lieutenant Richard North USN is also described accurately, but briefly: specifically, he was a navigator on the crew of an A-3 Skywarrior that crashed in a routine training flight, killing all aboard, exactly as Lucille Ball (portraying Helen) describes in the script. Frank Beardsley is described correctly as a Navy warrant officer. The "loan-out" of the two youngest Beardsley daughters is also real, and indeed Michael, Charles ("Rusty"), and Gregory Beardsley were determined to see their father marry Helen North as a means of rectifying this situation. The movie correctly describes Frank Beardsley as applying his Navy mind-set to the daunting task of organizing such a large family (although the chart with the color-coded bathrooms and letter-coded bedrooms--"I'm Eleven Red A!"—is probably a typical Hollywood exaggeration). Finally, Michael Beardsley did indeed serve a term in the Marines, as did his brother Rusty.
The similarities, however, end at this point. The critical differences, which one may observe by comparing this movie to Helen Beardsley's book Who Gets the Drumstick?, include the following:
- The film changes the ages and birth order of many of the children. As a corollary to this, the film places some of the children, most notably Colleen and Philip North, into situations having no historical warrant. For example, Colleen North did not have a boyfriend who took inappropriate liberties with her.
- Contrary to the depiction in the film, Helen North and Frank Beardsley began their relationship by corresponding with one another in sympathy for similar losses that each had recently sustained: he of his wife and she of her husband. Furthermore, each knew exactly how many children the other had before their first meeting. Indeed, Frank and Helen did not meet by accident in a Navy commissary. Rather, Frank's sister told Helen about Frank's situation, and Helen wrote to Frank to offer her sympathy. (Similarly, on their first date, Helen made no attempt to hide her children from Frank.)
- Frank Beardsley was a yeoman (that is, a clerk) in the Navy and afterwards the personnel officer at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He played no role in the development of the "meatball," nor is he ever listed as having served aboard any ship named USS Enterprise.
- There is no historical warrant for the existence of Frank's "friend" CWO Darrell Harrison USN, the character portrayed by Van Johnson. In the film, CWO Harrison draws Frank and Helen together. Helen Beardsley says in Who Gets the Drumstick? that her own sister and brother played this role.
- Frank Beardsley never told his own story in print, and Helen provides very little description of Frank's home life before he married Helen. Nevertheless the historical warrant for Frank's home (before he marries Helen) not being exactly "shipshape," and for his not being able to keep a housekeeper longer than a week (see the Cast section above) is highly dubious.
- The couple who temporarily took care of Germaine and Joan Beardsley were not Frank's brother and sister-in-law, but were two unrelated friends of his.
- The North and Beardsley children received the prospect of Helen and Frank's marriage with enthusiasm and without reservation. Indeed, when Helen visited Frank at his house for the first time, she took her five oldest children in tow. They met some of their Beardsley counterparts and immediately became friends. From the moment that the prospect of Frank and Helen's marriage became real, the children all began regarding Frank and Helen as their parents and even brought pressure to bear on them to celebrate the marriage as soon as possible.
- The "drunken dinner scene" in which Mike, Rusty, and Greg Beardsley serve Helen North a double (or perhaps triple) screwdriver with Scotch and gin, is without foundation. The scene is, however, reminiscent of the episode titled Lucy Does a TV Commercial in Lucille Ball's television show I Love Lucy in which she over-rehearses a television commercial for a vitamin elixir with a very high alcohol content. (Vitameatavegamin) This scene was probably a legacy contribution from Madelyn Pugh (Davis) and Bob Carroll, two writers for I Love Lucy.
- Mike, Rusty, and Greg observed "company manners" from the beginning of Helen's first visit to the Beardsley home. Their gestures touched Helen greatly in a manner that the film fails utterly to convey.
- The blended family did not move into a neutral home. Instead, Frank Beardsley had bedrooms and bathrooms added to his existing home, and Helen North sold her home and moved into his. (However, the leaking-roof scene has a basis in an incident occurring to Helen North while she still lived on Whidbey Island; that incident prompted her to move to California.)
- The North boy who was determined to be bad because "the good die young" was actually Nicholas North, not Philip. Likewise, it was Nicholas who first noticed that his teachers commanded him to continue to use the North name after his mother's marriage, even though at the time he preferred the Beardsley name. (However, the near-riot in the film, that a schoolteacher incites in her classroom over the naming issue, is also totally unfounded.)
- Philip's idolization of Mike, and Mike's willingness to be a role model to Philip, are real enough. However, all of Frank Beardsley's three eldest sons, not Mike alone, played this role in the blended family. Likewise, all of Helen North's sons, not Philip alone, lionized Mike (and Rusty and Greg). The high mutual respect that the stepbrothers developed for one another was one of the most important developments that knit the blended family into a functioning, harmonious whole. (In this regard, the petty jealousies between Frank's and Helen's children, as depicted in the film, are generally without foundation.)
- The one incident of mutual jealousy that did develop in real life—between the eldest of Frank's daughters and the eldest of Helen's daughters, between whom Helen had to mediate—was never depicted in the film.
- The children never objected to the massive cross-adoption by Frank and Helen of one another's biological children. The chief objectors fell into two groups: Richard North's brother and some of his other relatives, who objected to the "erasure" of Mr. North's name; and a large number of readers of a major magazine (which Helen Beardsley never named) who objected in principle to the adoption when that magazine mistakenly reported it as an accomplished fact. However, Frank and Helen ultimately ignored those objections in the face of more pressing and important consequences of their having married without initially adopting one another's children.
In addition to the above, the film distorts certain facts about Navy life and especially about flight operations aboard an aircraft carrier. Specifically:
- When Frank learns that Helen is pregnant (with Joseph John), he asks the catapult launch officer to stop the launch of the mail plane to permit him to board it. But that officer does not have that authority. In fact, the Air Boss is the lowest-ranking officer who can stop the launch of an aircraft, and normally he does not keep station on the flight deck at all.
- Frank is seen wearing a ship's ballcap, and then a combination cap. Neither sort of cap would be permitted, as they constitute a foreign object damage hazard. Furthermore, no one would be permitted on the flight deck during active flight operations without wearing helmet, goggles, and ear plugs.
As much as this film departed from the Beardsleys' actual life, the remake departed even more significantly.
Background and production 
That Lucille Ball would portray Helen Beardsley was never in doubt. But a long line of distinguished actors came under consideration, at one time or another, for the role of Frank Beardsley. They included Desi Arnaz, James Stewart, Fred MacMurray, Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, and John Wayne. Henry Fonda finally accepted, and indeed asked for, the role in a telephone conversation with Robert F. Blumofe in 1967. Ball, who had worked with Fonda before in the 1942 release The Big Street, readily agreed to the casting.
One account says that Ball recalled in 1961 that Desilu Productions first bought the rights to the Beardsley-North story in 1959, even before Helen Beardsley published her biography. This is highly unlikely, however, as Frank and Helen Beardsley married on September 6, 1961.
More likely is the story that Bob Carroll and his wife brought the story of the Beardsley family to Ball's attention after reading it in a local newspaper. Mr. Carroll's memory must have been faulty, because he is said to recall his wife mentioning the story in 1960—again, a full year before the Beardsleys were married and probably when Dick North was still alive.
In any event, Desilu Productions did secure the rights early on, and Mr. Carroll and Madelyn Pugh began at once to write a script.
Production suffered multiple interruptions for a variety of reasons. It began in December 1962 after Ball's abortive attempt at a career on the Broadway stage. In 1963, production was halted after the box-office failure of her comedy effort Critic's Choice (with Bob Hope). Later, she had a falling-out with Madelyn Pugh (then known as Madelyn Pugh Martin) and Bob Carroll, precisely because their script overly resembled an I Love Lucy television episode, and commissioned another writer (Leonard Spigelgass) to rewrite the script. Mr. Spigelgass does not seem to have succeeded in breaking free of Lucy's television work, so producer Robert Blumofe hired yet two more writers (Mickey Rudin and Bernie Weitzman) to make an attempt. This, too, failed, so Blumofe hired Melville Shavelson, who eventually directed. All further rewrite efforts came to an abrupt end at the insistence of United Artists, the film's eventual distributor.
At this point in the production cycle, Helen Beardsley's book Who Gets the Drumstick? was actually released (1965). Helen Beardsley nowhere states that anyone at Desilu Productions ever contacted her to discuss remuneration or even elementary fact-checking. Exactly how much the book informed the final shooting script is impossible to determine—although the book did receive an explicit "based on" credit in the opening titles.
Production began in 1967 with Henry Fonda definitely signed on to portray Frank. Mort Lachman, who had been one of Bob Hope's writers, joined the writing team at the recommendation of Shavelson. (Leonard Spigelgass did not receive any on-screen writing credit for his efforts in this film.)
One thing that made production especially difficult was the condition of Ball's face. Years of make-up had taken their toll, and she was very much concerned about whether the cinematographer could light her face properly. The measures that the cinematographer and make-up crew took appear to have been successful, by all accounts.
Filming was done largely on-location in Alameda and San Francisco, California (one exception was Mike's high school graduation, which was filmed at Grant High School in southern California). This represents another departure from the truth, in that Frank Beardsley's home, to which the blended family eventually moved, was in Carmel. The total budget is estimated at $2,500,000 US, including $1,700,000 for actual filming and post-production.
The film ended up being a United Artists production in association with Desilu. The copyright was renewed, however, by Paramount Pictures, which had acquired Desilu, and producer Robert Blumofe, but UA has retained ancillary distribution rights via now-sister-studio MGM—both UA and MGM would ultimately become owned by a partnership led by Sony, the parent of Columbia Pictures. All this explains why MGM, Columbia, and Paramount, would partner on the 2005 Raja Gosnell remake.
It was a massive commercial success, earning nearly $26 million at the box office (on a tight budget of $2.5 million) and earning over $11 million in rentals. Thus, it was the top-grossing film released by United Artists in 1968 and the 11th highest grossing film of the year. (Both figures are for U.S. and Canada only.) This came about probably on the strength of Lucille Ball's name and performance (which many of her fans regard as a classic).
Frank Beardsley commented that his family enjoyed the film as general entertainment, and acknowledged that perhaps the scriptwriters felt that their screenplay was "a better story" than the truth.
Lucille Ball, unhappily, failed to make appropriate tax shelter provisions for such a large profit, and thus saw most of her share going to pay taxes.
The success of the movie partly inspired network approval of the television series The Brady Bunch (the original script for the series pilot was written well before this movie became a reality).
Among the child actors cast as the Beardsley and North children in the film, several went on to greater success, including Tim Matheson (billed here as Tim Matthieson) who went on to play the character Otter in the more adult oriented comedy Animal House, Morgan Brittany (billed here as Suzanne Cupito) appeared in many episodes of Dallas, Mitch Vogel appeared in "The Reivers" with Steve McQueen for which Vogel received a Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor nomination in 1970 and Tracy Nelson, daughter of actor/musician Ricky Nelson who eventually starred in the series Father Dowling Mysteries beside Tom Bosley who portrayed the doctor in this movie.
The actor who played Mike Beardsley, Tim Matheson, and the actress who played Colleen North, future soap opera actress Jennifer Leak, married in real life, in 1968 although they later divorced, in 1971.
Home video releases 
A Laserdisc version was released in 1994, featuring noise reduction applied to the film soundtrack.
Awards and nominations 
- Lucille Ball received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy.
- The film itself was a candidate for the Golden Globe Award for Best Musical or Comedy Picture of 1968.
- Lucille Ball won the Golden Laurel award for Best Female Performance in a Comedy. Henry Fonda placed third in the Golden Laurels for Best Male Performance in a Comedy.
- The film itself won the Golden Laurel for Best General Entertainment Film.
- Melville Shavelson and Mort Lachman received a nomination for the 1969 Writers Guild of America Award for Best-written American Comedy.
- "Box Office Information for Yours, Mine, and Ours". The Numbers. Retrieved January 9, 2012.
- Helen Beardsley, Who Gets the Drumstick?, New York: Random House, 1965, 215 pp.
- Yours, Mine and Ours on GeoCities.
- Yours, Mine and Ours at LucyFan.com
- "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969 p 15. Please note this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.
- Fred Sorri, "Famous Carmel Family Operating Nut House," Monterey Peninsula Herald, April 1, 1968.
- Yours, Mine and Ours at the Internet Movie Database
- Yours, Mine and Ours at AllRovi
- Yours, Mine and Ours at the TCM Movie Database
- Yours, Mine and Ours at Rotten Tomatoes
- "Official" site of the actual family of Frank and Helen Beardsley, a valuable reference that includes key differences between Helen Beardsley's biography and the films.