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Turner Classic Movies
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Yours, Mine And Ours, 1968
Written by A.J. Hakari   
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Just as other families tend to keep particular movies close to heart, mineís been watching 1968ís Yours, Mine and Ours for as long as I can recall. When my eyes first caught this cordial comedy ripped from realityís pages as a little hazy, its frames (not to mention my dadís boasts of distant relation to the people itís based upon) constitute an inextricable portion of my memory banks. Starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, Yours, Mine, and Ours has always been around, serving as cinematic comfort food when any of my loved ones needed a pick-me-up.
But as we must eventually call out our own kin for the dumb moves they make, so has time forced me to consider the sheer volume of fluff just barely propping up this whole production. That the flick paved the way for nontraditional family dynamics through media like The Brady Bunch is terrific, but favoring sit-com gags over tapping into its rich vein of social commentary is a move from which it never totally recovers.

Frank Beardsley (Fonda) and Helen North (Ball) have no clue just how much in common they have. Both work within the Navy, both of their spouses have passed away, and both stand at the head of big families...†really†big! Frank is the proud papa of an incredible ten children, while Helen has a hefty eight in her charge. These facts become impossible to dance around after the two meet up for a date, but in spite of some initial friction, they quickly bond and fall in love.

Wedding bells arenít far behind, though one faction isnít so pleased about the union: the kids. Adjusting to a new life in a house of twenty souls sees the usual gripes, pranks, and tantrums spring up. Yet bit by bit, the Beardsley/North clan comes to learn just how potent the power of love can be in bringing the entire lot together as one

Branding Yours, Mine and Ours with the "sitcom" label isnít meant as a total slam. As the story is centered on the growing pains of two sizable clans combining forces, it only makes sense that its overall structure be episodic in nature. From bathroom rituals to trips to the supermarket, the flick blows up lifeís everyday moments to a grand scale and pays each one a brief visit during its running time. Yours, Mine and Ours has little concern for contrived conflict or anything that might send it scrambling towards a fruitless finish line. It bides its time in a warm and leisurely fashion despite the liberties taken with what happens for real, and is said to have even won over the Beardsley/Norths.

However, a few points arise of which less hesitance to rock the boat could have resulted in a deeper, more actively progressive film. Just as their true-life counterparts faced societal criticism for their unconventional domestic life; so do these characters. Yet what pickles the family does encounter are either resolves quickly or eventually is ignored wholesale. One scene in which Helen quarrels with a nun over her sonís new last name should have felt like a plea for empathy from the mainstream, but as is, its execution renders it no less silly a snippet than Frank having to buy Corn Flakes by the cartload.

fonda.jpgAll too often does Yours, Mine and Ours scamper away from challenge, content to coast its way to the finale via amusing and inoffensive observations. That said, if youíre going to fuel an entire picture on charm alone, casting screen icons Ball and Fonda as the leads is one heck of a first step. Simply put, these beloved performers make a wonderful pair, never losing sight of their charactersí humanity, even as the script insists on steering them into stock slapstick scenarios time and again. Neither one strikes an insincere note, each pulling through with a grounded and compassionate turn.

lucy.jpgFonda and Ball truly are at the heart of Yours, Mine and Ours, so much so that, unfortunately, overshadowing the rest of cast is pretty much inevitable. The most one can expect is the occasional figure to pop in for the odd quick gag, from Van Johnson as a friend and fellow officer of Frankís to Tom Bosley as the familyís exasperated doctor.

The Beardsley/North children have it equally as bad, with the few lucky enough to get an extra dash of screen time hoisted with bland subplots (a la Jennifer Leakís boyfriend troubles or Tim Mathesonís desire to enlist in the service). In keeping with the filmís habit of rushing past any potentially difficult material, the kidsí objections to the family merger are scarcely dwelled upon, presented as opposed vehemently one second and having gotten over it off-screen by the next scene.

My admiration for this series isnít as resolute as it may have been, but despite its shortcomings, the flick isnít without merit. The cornball story is nevertheless delivered in earnest, thanks in no small part to a cast working their hindquarters off to not let all the wacky antics overwhelm the proceedings. Though laden with narrative issues as it can be, Yours, Mine and Ours still knows how to cue up the warm Ďní fuzzies just as frequently.

FILM DATA

Director: Melville Shavelson Writers: Script, Mort Lachman and Melville Shavelson; Story, by Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Davis.

Cast: Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda, Van Johnson, Tom Bosley, Tim Matheson Rating: No MPAA Rating (nothing offensive) Classic Movie Guide Rating: 3 out of 5 Run Time: 111 minutes

Studio: United Artists (Yours, Mine and Ours is available on Blu-ray from Olive Films.)

 



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