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Remember Cheaper By the Dozen, the 1950 comedy about the Gilbreths and their twelve children? Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) ups the ante by bringing together a widowed ex-Navy officer with ten children and a widow from San Francisco with eight kids in tow. The result is chaos. The former sea captain tries to run his household like a battleship, the kids don't like each other, and we haven't even mentioned the financial challenges facing a family of eighteen. Uh, make that nineteen. There's a new baby on the way.
When Henry Fonda heard that Lucille Ball was developing The Beardsley Story as a feature film under the title His, Hers and Theirs, he immediately contacted his former co-star at RKO Studios (They appeared in The Big Street together) and expressed great interest in the male lead. He was quickly hired along with director Melville Shavelson who brought screenwriter Mort Lachman into the project. Lachman was well known as Bob Hope's top writer.
The title of the film was changed to Yours Mine and Our and in the early casting phase of the film, Ball tried to convince the director to cast her two children, Lucie and Desi, Jr. in the picture, a suggestion he refused. Since Ball had a financial stake in Yours Mine and Our and some degree of control, she often clashed with Shavelson on certain aspects of the picture such as ordering retakes of scenes and questioning camera and lighting setups. When things would get particularly tense during production, she would run to Henry Fonda's trailer to ask his advice. There she usually found him doing his crewel work which is a type of embroidery with heavy yarn. Usually Fonda liked to paint on set but it was too much trouble dragging his paintings from location to location so this was the way he occupied his time when he wasn't on call. After listening to her concern about certain scenes being cut by the director and other studio meddling, Fonda assured her things would work out and he returned to his crewel work.
Sure enough, Fonda's advice was right on the money. Yours Mine and Our went on to become the top grossing film for United Artists that year. It also proved to critics and audiences alike that Lucille Ball was not just an inspired comedian but a gifted dramatic actress as well. "There was a big scene in which Hank's kids spike her drink and she becomes drunk," recalls producer Robert F. Blomofe in the biography, Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz (Quill). "She practically orchestrated it herself. She went from laughter to tears from laughter, back and forth. It was a brilliant tour de force." However, according to Shavelson, "She wouldn't play the scene. She said, 'I can't do that.' It took about an hour of arguing to get her to go out and try it. And it was one of her best performances. She was afraid of combining the drama with the laughter. On the other hand, nobody else could have done it like she did."
Director: Melville Shavelson
Producer: Robert F. Blumofe
Screenplay: Melville Shavelson, Mort Lachman
Cinematography: Charles Wheeler
Music: Fred Karlin
Principle Cast: Lucille Ball (Helen Beardsley), Henry Fonda (Frank Beardsley), Van Johnson (Darrel Harrison), Tom Bosley (Family Doctor), Tim Matheson (Mike Beardsley).
by Jeff Stafford