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Cheaper by the Dozen (1950 film)

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Title: Cheaper by the Dozen (1950 film)  
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Language: English
Subject: Belles on Their Toes, Cheaper by the Dozen, The Psychology of Management, Walter Lang, Tin Pan Alley (film)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Cheaper by the Dozen (1950 film)

Cheaper by the Dozen
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Walter Lang
Produced by Lamar Trotti
Written by Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Frank Gilbreth Jr.
Screenplay by Lamar Trotti
Based on book Cheaper by the Dozen
Starring Clifton Webb
Myrna Loy
Jeanne Crain
Betty Lynn
Narrated by Jeanne Crain
Music by Cyril J. Mockridge
Alfred Newman
Cinematography Leon Shamroy
Edited by James Watson Webb, Jr.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • April 17, 1950 (1950-04-17)
Running time 85 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $4,425,000 (US)[1]

Cheaper by the Dozen (1950) is a Technicolor film based upon the 1948 autobiographical book Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. The film and book describe growing up in a family with twelve children in Montclair, New Jersey.


The parents were time and motion study and efficiency experts Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr. and psychologist Lillian Moller Gilbreth. The title comes from one of Gilbreth's favorite jokes which played out in the movie that when he and his family were out driving and stopped at a red light, a pedestrian would ask "Hey, Mister! How come you got so many kids?" Gilbreth would pretend to ponder the question carefully, and then, just as the light turned green, would say "Well, they come cheaper by the dozen, you know," and drive off.

The story opens with typical days in the lives of a family in the 1920s with 12 children and an efficiency engineer as the parent. This includes scenes where Frank employs his unorthdox teaching methods on his children, classic clashes between conservative parents and children's desire for more freedom (flashier clothing, make up, etc.). Frank takes every opportunity to study motion and increasing efficiency, even filming his children's tonsillectomies to see if there are ways to streamline the operation.

After Frank's death, the family agrees that Lillian will continue with her husband's work; this enables the family to remain in their house (the alternative is to move to their grandmother's in California) although, with a widowed working mother and one income, the children will have to assume much greater responsibilities.

Their life after Frank's death is chronicled in the sequel Belles on Their Toes.



Because of the success of Cheaper by the Dozen, Gilbreth and Carey wrote a follow-up to their book, entitled Belles on Their Toes, which was also made into a movie by 20th Century Fox in 1952.

Comparison to real life

Some of the children are not shown in the same order the real Gilbreth children were born in. Robert is shown being born in 1922 as the last child after Jane, though in real life, Robert was born in 1920, before Jane in 1922. This is changed around in the sequel. In real life, Mary, who was the second child, died in 1912 at the age of 5. Mary is placed as the third child after Ernestine, and has little or no lines in the film.[2]

Both Frank and Lillian Gilbreth were important figures in real life. The voice-over at the end of the film informs the audience that Lillian went on to become the world's leading efficiency expert and Time Magazine Woman of the Year in 1948. Additionally, in 1984, her image was put on a US postal stamp.


  1. ^ "All-Time Top Film Grosses" Variety Weekly January 13, 1954
  2. ^

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