Yours, Mine and Ours (1968)

It's August, and that means it's Summer Under the Stars on TCM! Henry Fonda films played all day yesterday, including a personal favorite, Yours, Mine and Ours (1968). Did you know this film was based on a true story? Read on to find out more exciting facts about this classic family film!

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It’s August, and that means it’s Summer Under the Stars on Turner Classic Movies! 

Each day during the month of August, TCM will highlight a different star, and play their films all day long!  How fun is that?

My Summer Star This Week: Henry Fonda

I can’t tell you how excited I was to find that one of my very favorite stars, the great Henry Fonda, is the star TCM chose to kick off Summer Under the Stars with!  And I was further thrilled to see that TCM would play a Fonda film that happens to be one of my favorite films of all time: 1968’s Yours, Mine and Ours.  If you missed it on TCM yesterday, you can watch it on through next week, and if you’re an Amazon Prime member, it’s currently included with your membership!  So take advantage!!!  Or you can purchase the film here.

French movie poster for the film!

Why I Love Yours, Mine and Ours

I love this film for so many reasons. My family loves this film for so many reasons. Well, my husband’s probably sick of it by now because MJ and I have been watching it basically on repeat for the past few years…!

One of the huge reasons we love Yours, Mine and Ours so much is that is pairs Hank with another of our favorite stars, the legendary Lucille Ball!  Hank and Lucy: a hard team to beat!  Another reason we love this film so much is that it’s based on a true story.  If you’ve seen the film, you already know why that’s so incredible!  And if you haven’t seen it, you’re about to find out why this true story is so neat.  Ok, let’s get to the plot!

The Beardsley Family! Fonda plays Frank Beardsley in the film, a widower with 10 children!

The Plot

Right off the bat, we meet our guy Fonda: he’s Frank Beardsley, a naval officer based in San Francisco.  His wife recently passed away, leaving Frank with 10 children to care for.

Cut to our girl Lucy, playing widow Helen North, whose husband just recently passed away, leaving her with 8 children to care for.  Helen is moving her brood from Washington to San Francisco, where she just got a job on the naval base as a nurse.

The North Family! Lucy plays Helen North in the film, a widow with 8 children!

Do you see where this is going?

YES!!!! Frank and Helen meet (thanks in part to Frank’s buddy Darrell, played by the always loveable Van Johnson!!), and go on an amazing first date.  Trouble is, each is reluctant to tell the other about all their kids.

“No man wants a liaison with a woman with 8 children!” 

As Helen’s oldest daughter Colleen points out.

Frank and Helen on their first date, trying not to let on that they each have so many children! "Tonight there are no children in the world!" Frank says.

Well, it doesn’t take long for Helen and Frank to come clean with each other, but the realization that they would have a grand total of 18 children if they end up together is staggering!  Almost enough to make Frank and Helen stop seeing each other.  Almost.  In the end, they decide they can handle it.  And if any couple can handle 18 children, it’s Frank and Helen, let me tell you!

L-R: Mike, Rusty, and Greg, the oldest Beardsley boys, spike Helen's drink when she comes over for her first family dinner at their home. Here they are shocked at the effect all the booze has on her! You may recognize Mike, played by a young Tim Matheson, who would go on to play Eric "Otter" Stratton in National Lampoon's Animal House (1978).

The Beardlsey vs. the North Children

The kids from both families are initially reluctant to see their respective parents married.  The oldest Beardsley boys, Mike, Rusty, and Greg, actually spike Helen’s drink at the family dinner where she meets them all!  As you can imagine, this paves the way for some of Lucy’s legendary physically comedy!  Truly a great scene.

Lucy got a chance to showcase her genius for physical comedy in the scene where the Beardsley boys heavily spike her drink! Mary Jeanne has belly laughed at this scene since she was two years old!

But Helen and Frank do marry, and from here on out, the film just gets more and more fascinating and fun as we watch the family figure out how to live with each other, and learn to like each other.

The wedding! You can tell from the looks on the older kids' faces that it's not going to be an easy transition to their new family life!

Adjusting to Family Life

One of the things Frank and Helen must learn how to do is shop for and feed a family of 20 people!  You would not believe the sheer number of oatmeal canisters, eggs, and milk (20 quarts!!!) they have to buy!  When Frank and Helen check out at the grocery store, they have four carts full of food.  The grocery clerk who rings them up jokes to his buddy,

“It’s an emergency the Beardsleys are here! More boxes!….”

The grand total of their groceries comes out to $126.43.  In 2018 dollars, that would be $1067.27!!!!  Can you imagine?

The morning grind! Lucy as Helen prepares dozens of eggs, loads of bacon, and 40 pieces of toast every morning to feed the kids before school!

As a Navy man, Frank uses his training to effectively organize such daily tasks as the morning routine.  Don’t miss the assembly line scene where everyone does his or her part in preparing lunches for the day, and getting breakfast on the table.  This scene culminates in all 18 kids leaving the house for school, with oldest Beardsley brother Mike helping one of the youngest North Boys, Phillip, get out of a mud puddle on his way to the bus: poor Phillip has fallen into the puddle because his galoshes are too big!  Seriously, it’s the sweetest scene and makes me emotional every time I watch it!

Big Brother Mike helps little brother Phillip out of a mud puddle and onto the school bus. Such a sweet scene!!!

Unity at Last?

And it’s moments of solidarity like this that bring the kids together.  Well, that and learning that Helen is pregnant…!  When the family doctor played by Tom Bosely delivers the news on Christmas day, Helen’s reaction is,

“Doctor, this is Christmas, not April Fool…are you sure?!”

Frank is away at sea for most of Helen’s pregnancy, so the Beardsley and North children really come together as they help Helen prepare for the new baby.  I won’t spoil it, but the scene where Helen goes into labor, and Frank—now home—and the kids form a united front to get her to the hospital in time, is so so touching and profound without feeling heavy-handed.  This family film from 1968 has messages just as timely and relevant to today’s audience.

It's legal! The Beardsley family celebrates after the judge officially declares Frank and Helen the legal parents to all the kids!

Making it Legal

I don’t think I’m spoiling the predictable ending when I tell you that the film culminates with the birth of child number 19, and Frank adopting all of Helen’s children, and Helen adopting all of Frank’s children.  The excitement everyone feels at being legally united at last is summed up perfectly by little Phillip, who proudly exclaims after the judge’s pronouncement:

“I’m Legal!”

And with the family happy and legally as one, the film ends.

The whole family!

True Story

Yours, Mine and Ours is based on the real life story of Frank Beardsley and Helen North: Frank really had 10 children, Helen really had 8 children, and the film actually stayed true to the real names of all the kids!  In fact, in the film, when they show Frank and Helen’s wedding invitation with all the North and Beardsley children’s name on it, we are seeing the actual invitation, designed by Frank Beardsley himself, to the real-life wedding!  Pretty cool.

The wedding invitation shown in the film was the actual wedding invitation to the real life wedding of Frank and Helen, designed by Frank Beardsley himself!

Book vs. Film

Many of the situations in Yours, Mine and Ours are straight from Helen’s book, Who Gets the Drumstick?, although dramatized a bit for the film, as is often the case with book to film adaptations. But there are also several ways the film differed from the book.

One of the biggest ways the film departed from the book was that in real life, the Beardsley and North children were excited about their parents marrying each other: from the very beginning of Frank and Helen’s courtship, there was no reluctance or disgruntlement from the children on either side.  In fact, when Helen first met Frank’s children at a family dinner, Mike, Rusty, and Greg Beardsley tried so hard to make Helen feel welcome, she never forgot how these sweet boys used their very best “company manners” that night.  Very different from what we see in the film, when the three boys attempt to get Helen blind drunk by spiking her drink!  (This scene was in fact written to be reminiscent of the Vitameatavegamin commercial in I Love Lucy!  Watch that iconic scene here!)

Van Johnson, Lucy, and Hank behind the scenes on the film set.

Despite the differences between real life and reel life, the whole Beardsley family publically approved of the film and enjoyed it. Lucy actually got so close with the whole Beardsley family that she took them to Disneyland!

Lucy's Pet Project

There are differing versions of the exact year that Lucille Ball bought the rights to Helen North Beardsley’s story, but some sources say Lucy acquired the rights as early as 1959, years before Helen’s book, Who Gets the Drumstick?, was published in 1965!  (Frank and Helen’s story was a familiar one in the US even before the publication of Helen’s book.)

Nurse Lucy! In the film, Helen is a nurse at the naval base when she meets Frank.

It was a story near and dear to Lucy’s heart for many years before Yours, Mine and Ours was finally made.  Lucy may have been particularly touched by the story of the Beardsley family in part because she and husband Desi Arnaz struggled for years to conceive (Lucy was a month shy of turning 40 when Lucie, her first child, was born), and Lucy strongly believed in and appreciated the importance of family.  And if there’s a film that stresses how wonderful families can be, it’s Yours, Mine and Ours!

Lucy also loved the film because she felt the messages—family love and the heroes that everyday Moms and Dads are—were important ones to stress in the changing times of the 1960s.  In Lucy’s own words:

Helen packs up the kids and heads to San Francisco! Little does she know, this will lead her to Frank!

“They [movies] have gone too far now, and we are all so satiated with the extremes, with what they call reality.  I refuse to admit this degradation is reality.  I’m also getting tired of mini-skirted beauties running the world.”

Lucy actually didn’t think Yours, Mine and Ours would be much of a money-maker in this world, as she put it, run by “mini-skirted beauties.”  As such, Lucy didn’t make any tax shelters for the potential income she could receive as producer (under her company, Desilu Productions) of the film. 

Well,Yours, Mine and Ours turned out to be a huge success, earning $26 million!!!!  That’s $182 million by today’s standards.  Yours, Mine and Ours was the 11thhighest grossing film of 1968.  Because of the film’s success and revenue, her producer status, and lack of tax shelter, most of Lucy’s cut of the earnings ended up going to taxes, and this frustrated the business-savy Ms Ball to no end!  I can just imagine Lucy fuming about this, her temper as ablaze as her gorgeous red hair!

Young Lucy and Hank. Their friendship went way back, and they actually dated for a time!

Hank and Lucy: Henrylu Productions?

Lucy was always set to play Helen North, but there were several other actors in the running for the role of Frank Beardsley before Hank Fonda got it, including Fred MacMurray, Desi Arnaz, and James Stewart.  I must say, I think any of these men would have been amazing!  But I am so glad the role went to Fonda in the end.  Apparently, Hank was so excited about the prospect of playing Frank Beardlsey and working with Lucy, that he actually asked for the role.  So cute!

Hank and Lucy relax on the set of Yours, Mine and Ours.

Hank and Lucy’s history went waaaay back. They made one film together during their early Hollywood careers, The Big Street (1942), and even dated briefly before either of them were super stars.  Hank was living with roommate Jimmy Stewart at the time, and Lucy was really good friends with Ginger Rogers, who was a frequent date of Jimmy’s.  So Lucy and Hank would tag along and make it a foursome!

The two never dated seriously, but years later, Hank would joke that

“If I’d behaved myself, they might have named that studio Henrylu.”

Here's a Story...

The great success of Yours, Mine and Ours actually paved the way for a super iconic television show.  Can you guess which one?

Yes, The Brady Bunch (1969-1974)!

The storyline similarities are obvious! And once Yours, Mine and Ours proved that there was an audience for such a show, it was full steam ahead for The Brady Bunch!

I hope you were able to catch Yours, Mine and Ours on TCM yesterday! 

Have you seen it?  Do you love this sweet film as much as I do?

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I’m Shannon, thanks for visiting!  When I’m not on an adventure with my little girl, I’m developing plant-based recipes or watching a Classic Film!

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