August 5, 2004

CC Has To Visit Mrs. Murphy

So Cinecultist inadvertently rented the most popular film of 1950 this week, Cheaper By The Dozen from Netflix. Well, renting the film wasn't by accident, it's been on the queue since we saw the Steve Martin film of the same title last year (notice we didn't call it an update or an adaptation as it was neither). CC just didn't set out to see the most watched movie in the year 1950. That sounds like the most square movie-watching endeavor ever, doesn't it? Like proposing to make your own ice cream with a hand crank ice cream maker on a Saturday night or suggesting knitting socks for the soldiers overseas in your free time.

This factoid about the film came courtesy of an extra on the DVD, a short newsreel film where the president of Universal Pictures and Ernestine Gilbraith Carey, the co-writer of the book Cheaper By the Dozen about her childhood growing up the 20s and 30s, are awarded some sort of prize and $5,000 for making such a lovely family film. The most watched film of 1950 is a designation they place on the film, and maybe CC is too trusting but we believe them, despite being unable to corraborate it with the expert help of Google.

The thing we find most intriguing about the popularity of this movie in 1950, real or trumped up by folksy pre-PR spin, is that even in 1950, an era our politicians love to fetishize as innocence personified, they too were nostalgic for an earlier era. Cheaper By the Dozen tells the "real story of an American family" which is apparently a beautiful cinematic fantasy of democratic family meetings, a self-sacrificing wife and a charming but kind brood of rugrats. But even in 1950 this pure family couldn't exist in their present day, it had to be imagined from their past, as a representation of an idyllic childhood recalled. It's an example of movies as our collective unconscious of what we wished was, not what was actually there.

If like Cinecultist, the novel Cheaper By the Dozen was a part of your idealized childhood, we strongly recommend seeing the 1950 version and leaving the 2003 one to the fans of Hilary Duff Duff, Ashton Kutcher and stupid, formulaic Hollywood filmmaking.

Posted by karen at August 5, 2004 10:02 AM