As we watched Cheaper by the Dozen the other night (I really hope you don't have to ask which one), I felt another analyzing session coming on.
What better way to illustrate a society's moral metamorphosis than to compare a film with its remake?
Not just any film, though. A film whose central figure is the father of twelve children. Could Cliffton Webb and Steve Martin be more contrasting?
I must admit, when I watched the 2003 remake, I glazed. Strangely enough, the scenes I didn't skip through usually contained Tom Welling ... huh. But one glance at the movie's tagline gives a pretty good basis for comparison: "This Christmas, The More... The Scarier!"
How did filmmakers in 1950 view large families? Fathers who ruled with dignity and discipline? Mothers who lovingly welcomed each new addition? Granted, the real Gilbreths were far from perfect. But they were a family. And they had real happiness.
Frank and Lillian were partners, not just in raising a dozen children, but in managing the consulting firm of Gilbreth, Inc. Tom and Kate, on the other hand, can barely keep their "insane amount of kids" in order while pursuing their individual dreams.
The Gilbreth children were a mixture of good and horrid. Kind of like my six siblings. But they stuck together. Each time I reread Cheaper by the Dozen, I think, despite inevitable cons, I would love to be a Gilbreth. But who has mentally planted themselves into the Baker family? (Except for wanting to live with Tom Welling.) Making a home with fourteen Bakers holds no appeal at all.
"We'd roll along, we'd sing three and four part harmony, with Mother and Dad joining in as soprano and bass... "What do other children DO with themselves?" we'd think. Dad would lean back against the seat and cock his hat on the side of his head. Mother would snuggle up against him as if she were cold. The babies were asleep now. Sometimes Mother turned around between songs and said to us: "Right now is the happiest time in the world." And perhaps it was.
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
They don't make them like they used to.