Monday, November 06, 2006

"Cheaper" by Dozen

Mills of the gods

Ernestine Gilbreth Carey has died. Many, probably most, but for sure one, will not recognize that name. Carey wrote the book Cheaper by the Dozen, which for years made up the bulk of outside reading in American Junior High Schools. There is not a person over the age of 45 in the United States who has not at least looked through the red colored paperback edition which documented the misadventures of the twelve children in the Gilbreth family, presided over by their father Frank, an industrial time and motion study expert.

The book was made into a movie with Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy. The movie is always confused with "Life with Father" which had William Powell in the title role. Powell always played opposite Myrna Loy in the "Thin Man " series of movies, and so the two movies about big house fulls of children sort of run together in the alzheimering minds of baby boomers. I can never recall which of the two Clifton Webb appears in. I know Elizabeth Taylor is in Life with Father, as the visiting from out of town girl.

At any rate, at Jane Long Jr. High, I once sat through a book report on a book called "Cheaper" which had been authored by "Dozen". The young idiot presenting the report thought that the title contained the name of the book as well as the author's name, and since the teacher,Mrs Denny, had already heard about eleven different book reports on that book that period, and probably 50 over the course of her day, she never noticed this particular mistake. Of course the rest of the class did, about half way through the report. "Hey, this sounds like Cheaper by the Dozen" one of my classmates said to me toward the end of the report. No one said anything to the teacher or the student and so I assume to this day that the death of Ms. Carey means nothing to him.

Carey lived to be 98. because my my confusion between the two movies listed above, I was shocked to hear that she was still alive (Life with Father took place in turn of the 20th century New York). Now that I have my bearings straight,and recall that Clifton Webb is not William Powell, despite the presence of Myrna Loy, it makes more sense. I also understand that this particular generation was brough up on a remake of the movie with Steve Martin and Bonny Hunt(more's the pity) and so none of my confusion matters anymore. I don't think anyone would ever remake Life with Father. It is too sappy.

The author of Cheaper by the Dozen was the third of the twelve children and the one who ended up raising the younger ones after her dad died in her teen years. I don't recall who played her in the the original movie. I don't know who played her in, or anything else about, the Steve Martin version, but I do know one thing. If you had a dozen kids and had to save for college for each one of them, you would really have to be a saver.Without any inflation you would be looking at needing to save about two million dollars to be fairly secure. Cheaper by the dozen ? Not anymore.


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