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 byLeonard Nimoy
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onTrois hommes et un couffin
by Coline Serreau
Music byMarvin Hamlisch
CinematographyAdam Greenberg
Edited byMichael A. Stevenson
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • November 25, 1987 (1987-11-25)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$11 million[1]
Box office$297.8 million[1]

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

The film was the biggest American box office hit of that year, surpassing Fatal Attraction and eventually grossing $167 million in the United States.[2] The film 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 bachelors in their shared New York City apartment, with frequent parties and flings with women. One day, a baby named Mary arrives on their doorstep with a note revealing she is the result of Jack’s tryst with an actress named Sylvia during a Shakespeare in the Park production a year prior. Jack is in Turkey shooting a B movie, and made arrangements with a director friend to have a package delivered to the apartment. Jack asked Peter and Michael to keep the delivery a secret per his friend's wishes; when Mary arrives, they mistakenly believe she is the “package.”

Peter and Michael are totally befuddled how to care for Mary, and Peter leaves to buy supplies. Their landlady Mrs. Hathaway (Cynthia Harris) delivers a small box – the actual "package" of heroin – which Michael tosses aside. Peter and Michael learn to properly care for Mary, including diaper changes, baths, and feedings.

The next day, two drug dealers arrive at the apartment to retrieve the package. Peter and Michael mistakenly give them Mary, along with a can of powdered milk the dealers believe is the heroin. Peter discovers the actual package; realizing the mix-up, he runs downstairs but trips, spilling the package's contents. He gathers up the drugs and confronts the men outside, causing a scuffle. A police officer on horseback intervenes; Peter rescues Mary, but the dealers flee with the can of powdered milk. The officer detains Peter and Michael at the apartment until Sgt. Melkowitz (Philip Bosco), a narcotics officer, arrives to question them. Jack calls from Turkey, but Peter and Michael are unable to talk openly as they are being recorded. They successfully hide the drugs and learn that Jack's friend Paul Milner is also a drug dealer. A suspicious Melkowitz puts them under surveillance.

Mrs. Hathaway is persuaded to babysit Mary while Peter and Michael leave for work. Returning home, they find Mrs. Hathaway bound and gagged and the apartment ransacked by the dealers, but Mary safe; a note threatens, "Next time we'll take the baby". Peter and Michael continue to care for Mary, adjusting to surrogate fatherhood and growing attached to her.

Peter incapacitates an intruder, who turns out to be Jack, returning early after his movie role was cut. Jack assures Peter and Michael he knew nothing about the heroin. He initially denies his connection to Mary, but Sylvia’s note convinces him he is Mary’s father. Peter and Michael pass all parenting responsibility to Jack, who quickly grows to love her.

They receive a news clipping in the mail – Milner has been attacked by the drug dealers and hospitalized – with another threat: “Don't let this happen to you!” Peter, Michael, and Jack formulate a plan to trap the dealers, and arrange a meeting. Jack, disguised as a pregnant woman, leaves the building with Mary, while Peter and Michael leave in a cab, followed by undercover officers, but manage to lose them in another cab driven by Jack. The three meet the dealers at the top floor of a construction site. Michael, hidden in the vents, records Peter’s conversation with the dealers but falls into the room, and a chase ensues. They manage to trap the dealers in an elevator as the police arrive. With the recording, they prove their innocence to Melkowitz and the dealers are arrested.

Peter, Michael, and Jack fully embrace their role as Mary's guardians, until Sylvia (Nancy Travis) arrives to take Mary with her to London. After Sylvia leaves with Mary, the three realize how desperately they miss the baby. They race to the airport just as Sylvia’s plane departs. Defeated, they return home to find Sylvia and Mary at the door. Sylvia tearfully explains she doesn’t want to give up her acting career but must if she has to raise Mary alone. The three invite her and Mary to move in with them; she accepts, and the four of them live happily with the baby.



Mary was played by twins Lisa and Michelle Blair.[3]

The soundtrack included the Peter Cetera song "Daddy's Girl", which was used for the movie's big music montage sequence, the Miami Sound Machine song "Bad Boy," which opened it, and the John Parr song "The Minute I Saw You", which ended the film.

Urban legend[edit]

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

Just over an hour into the final cut of the film, there is a scene that shows Jack and his mother (played by Celeste Holm) walking through the house with Mary. 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 they 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 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 film (or this scene) was filmed. The most common version of this rumor was that a nine-year-old boy committed suicide with a shotgun there, explaining why it was vacant: because the grieving family left. This notion was discussed on the first episode of TV Land: Myths and Legends in January 2007, 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. It was created as part of the storyline, in which he, an actor, appears in a dog food commercial, but this portion 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 Sylvia comes to reclaim Mary. contends that the one in the first scene looks smaller from its appearance in the later 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 were shot on a Toronto sound stage, and no kind of residential dwellings were used for interior filming.[4][5]


Critical response[edit]

The critical response to Three Men and a Baby was generally positive. The film holds a 74% "fresh" rating on the movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 34 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "The American remake of the popular French comedy mostly works a charm under the combined talents of the three leads, who play nicely against type – although forced plot elements and sentimentality at times dampen the fun."[6] The film critic Roger Ebert, despite noting several aspects he saw as flaws, praised the film, remarking, "Because of Selleck and his co-stars... the movie becomes a heartwarming entertainment". He gave it 3 (out of four) stars.[7]

Box office[edit]

The film opened in theaters on November 25, 1987 (a Wednesday). It ended up grossing $170 million.[8][9][10][11][12][13] It was notable for the Walt Disney Studios since it was the first production from the studio to gross over $100 million domestically. It was the highest-grossing film of 1987 domestically, with an estimated 42 million tickets sold in the US.


The film was followed by a 1990 sequel, Three Men and a Little Lady. In June 2010 it was announced that Disney was interested in filming a third film, tentatively titled Three Men and a Bride.[14] As of 2013, the film was still listed as being in development.[15]


This film was remade as Thoovalsparsham (1990) in Malayalam, which was remade as Chinnari Muddula Papa (1990) in Telugu, as Thayamma (1991) in Tamil, as Asathal (2001) in Tamil and Heyy Babyy (2007) in Hindi.

An American remake is being produced for Disney+.[16]

In popular culture[edit]

TV comedy parodies of Three Men and a Baby included a famous sketch on In Living Color called "Three Champs and a Baby," where Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard are played by David Alan Grier, Keenen Ivory Wayans and Tommy Davidson. A few years later, The Ben Stiller Show parodied the franchise with "Three Men and a Little Old Man," where Selleck, Guttenberg, and Danson's characters were played by Bob Odenkirk, Ben Stiller, and Andy Dick.

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".

In the TV show Home Improvement, season 4 episode 21, Tim manages to change a tire in 38 seconds. The head racer says, "In that amount of time, we could change 23 tires and a baby", to which Al Borland replies, "I love that movie", referencing the film. Earl Hindman (Wilson) played the minor role of Satch, Vince's assistant, in the film.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Three Men and a Baby (1987)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  2. ^ "1987 Yearly Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo.
  3. ^ Maslin, Janet (November 25, 1987). "Film Review: Three Men and a Baby". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-29.
  4. ^ Mikkelson, David (June 2, 1997). "Does a Ghost Boy Appear in Three Men and a Baby?". Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 6, 2008). "The Questions That Will Not Die". Retrieved July 26, 2018 – via
  6. ^ "Three Men and a Baby". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 25, 1987). "Three Men and a Baby". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  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". 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". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-08.
  12. ^ Hunt, Dennis (1989-01-19). "Red Heat Sets Rental Market on Fire". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-10.
  13. ^ Mathews, Jack (1987-12-29). "Weekend Box Office". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  14. ^ Reynolds, Simon (June 3, 2010). "Selleck confirms Three Men sequel plans". Digital Spy. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  15. ^ Martinovic, Paul (January 5, 2013). "Tom Selleck: 'I think Three Men and a Bride is a good idea'". Digital Spy. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  16. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (February 8, 2018). "Disney Unveils Inaugural Streaming Service Launch Slate To Town; No R-Rated Fare". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 8, 2018.

External links[edit]