Cheaper by the Dozen

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Cheaper by the Dozen
First edition cover (Thomas Y. Crowell Co.)
Author Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr., and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Language English
Genre Autobiography
Publisher Thomas Y. Crowell Co.
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 211
ISBN 0-06-076313-2
Followed by Belles on Their Toes

Cheaper by the Dozen is a biographical novel written by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, published in 1948, It tells the story of time and motion study and efficiency experts Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth, and their twelve children. The book focuses on the many years the family resided in Montclair, New Jersey, and was adapted to film by Twentieth Century Fox in 1950.

The title comes from one of Frank Sr.'s favorite jokes: it often happened 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.

In real life, the Gilbreths' second eldest child, Mary, died of diphtheria at age five. The book does not explicitly explain the absence of Mary Gilbreth; it was not until the sequel, Belles on Their Toes, was published that her death is mentioned in a footnote.

Belles on Their Toes, published in 1950, outlines the family's adventures after Frank Sr.'s death in 1924. Belles on Their Toes was also made into a film, starring Jeanne Crain and Myrna Loy, in 1952.

Film adaptations[edit]

Cheaper by the Dozen was made into a 1950 motion picture starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy as Frank and Lillian Gilbreth. One scene includes a visitor from Planned Parenthood (Mildred Natwick) being ridiculed by the family.[1]

Cheaper by the Dozen (2003) and Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (2005), starring comedians Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt, bear no resemblance to the original book or 1950 film, except that both feature a family with twelve children, though the mother's maiden name is Gilbreth.

Contemporary appraisals[edit]

Re-reading the book in 2003, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Jonathan Yardley wrote in The Washington Post, "[I]t is a joy to report that Cheaper by the Dozen still reads remarkably well. ... The prose ... is unadorned and matter of fact, and its organizational structure is a bit difficult to detect, but what matters most is that it is a touching family portrait that also happens to be very, very funny."[2]


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