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 took the opportunity to write in several classic I Love Lucy-style stunts that in most cases have no basis in the actual lives of the Beardsley family, before Melville Shavelson and Mort Lachman took over primary writing duties. Nevertheless, it enjoyed great commercial success, and even the Beardsleys themselves appreciated it, though Frank Beardsley would definitely say that the version of the Beardsley story in the film was not exactly true.
This film was later remade in 2005 with actors Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo as Frank and Helen Beardsley.
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.
Henry Fonda's character, 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. Lucille Ball's character, 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 vicious 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 step-parents 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.
The film ends with Mike Beardsley, the eldest, going off to Camp Pendleton to begin his stint in the United States Marine Corps.
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.
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 Bearsleys, 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
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 Colleen.
- 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 utterly 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, the two head 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 step-brothers 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
would finally accept, and indeed ask for, the role in a telephone conversation with Robert F. Blumofe
in 1967. Miss Ball, who had worked with Fonda before in the 1942 release The Big Street
, readily agreed to the casting.
One account says that Miss 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 Lucy'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 of 1962 after Lucy's abortive attempt at a career on the Broadway stage. In 1963, production was halted after the box-office failure of Lucy's comedy effort Critic's Choice (with Bob Hope). Later, Lucy 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 Lucy's face. Years of make-up had taken their toll, and Lucy 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 received lukewarm critical reviews--although Leonard Maltin
looked favorably upon it as a "wholesome, 'family' picture" with an excellent script.
It earned $17,000,000 US at the box office by January of 1970 and to date has earned $11,639,245 US in rentals. Thus it was the top-grossing film release by United Artists in its year. (Both figures are for U.S. 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), Morgan Brittany (billed here as Suzanne Cupito), and Tracy Nelson.
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, although they later divorced.
Home video releases
This film was released to DVD
on March 6, 2001
. The current release specifications are:
- Region 1
- Keep Case
- Full Frame - 1.33 (The original film was a widescreen release; this therefore constitutes a pan and scan.)
- Single Side - Single Layer (DVD-5)
- *Dolby Digital Stereo - English
- *Dolby Digital Stereo - French
- *Dolby Digital Mono - Spanish
- Additional Release Material:
release was made in 1994
. This release features noise reduction applied to its soundtrack.
This film was released in VHS
format under at least three known covers. After-market offerings do exist on the Internet, but this format is out of production today (February 2007
Awards and nominations