Cheaper By the Dozen (1950)

Who would have thought that a 60-year-old former song-and-dance man would emerge as 20th Century- Fox’s top family star of 1950, as Clifton Webb did in this comedy about an efficiency expert bringing his job home to handle a household with 12 children? It’s doubtful studio head Darryl F. Zanuck did, at least not when he tried to keep Otto Preminger from casting Webb as the villain in Laura (1944), the actor’s first film at the studio. But when Webb won strong notices and devoted fans for that and subsequent unsympathetic roles, Darryl Zanuck came up with a series of films that turned negative qualities—unbending standards and a talent for sharp-tongued barbs—into positives. Audiences flocked to this film to laugh as Webb orders his many children around, and as he chaperones eldest daughter Jeanne Crain to the prom (where he becomes the beau of the ball). It helped greatly that he developed a strong onscreen rapport with leading lady Myrna Loy, Hollywood’s preeminent wife and mother. When she looked at him with love, audiences shared the emotion.

Dir. Walter Lang