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"Their wedding night set new attendence records"
Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball take turns providing voice-over narration throughout—and in at least one scene, Van Johnson talks directly to the camera (a technique known as breaking the fourth wall), as does Fonda.Frank Beardsley is a Roman Catholic Navy warrant officer, recently detached from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and assigned as project officer for the Fresnel lens glide-slope indicator, or "meatball," that would eventually become standard equipment on all carriers. Helen North is a Roman Catholic nurse working in the dispensary at the California naval base to which Frank is assigned.Frank meets Helen, first by chance in the commissary on the Naval base (presumably Alameda Naval Air Station, though it is never identified) and then when Frank brings his distraught teen-age daughter for treatment at the dispensary, where Helen informs him that the young lady is simply growing up in a too-crowded house that lacks a mother's guidance. They immediately hit it off and go on a date, all the while shying away from admitting their respective secrets: Frank has ten children and Helen has eight, from previous marriages that ended in their spouses' deaths.When each finally learns the other's secret, they initially resist their mutual attraction. But Chief Warrant Officer Darrell Harrison (Van Johnson) is determined to bring them together. To that end, he "fixes up" each of them with a blind date that is sure to be incompatible. Helen's date is an obstetrician (Sidney Miller) who stands a good head shorter than she; this prompts Helen to observe in voice-over, "Darrell had a malicious sense of humor." Frank's date is a "hip" girl (Louise Troy) who is not only young enough to be one of his daughters, but also is far too forward for his taste. As the final touch, Harrison makes sure that both dates take place in the same Japanese restaurant. As Harrison fully expects, Frank and Helen end up leaving the restaurant together in his car, with Frank's date sitting uncomfortably between the two as they carry on about their children.Frank and Helen continue to date regularly, and eventually he invites her for dinner in his home. This turns nearly disastrous when Mike, Rusty, and Greg (Tim Matheson, Gil Rogers, and Gary Goetzman), Frank's three sons, mix hefty doses of gin, scotch, and vodka into Helen's drink. As a result Helen behaves in a wild and embarrassing manner, which Frank cannot comprehend until he catches his sons trying to conceal their laughter. "The court of inquiry is now in session!" he declares, and gets the three to own up and apologize. After this, he announces his intention to marry, adding, "And nobody put anything into my drink."Most of the children fight the union at first, regarding each other and their respective stepparents with suspicion. Eventually, however, the eighteen children bond into one large blended family, about to become a little larger when Helen becomes pregnant.Further tension develops between young Philip North and his teacher at the parochial school that he attends, because his teacher insists that he use his "legal" name (which remains North even after his mother's marriage to Beardsley). This prompts Frank and Helen to discuss cross-adopting one another's children. At first the children (except for Philip) are aghast at the notion of "reburying" their respective deceased biological parents. Yet the subsequent birth of Joseph John Beardsley finally unites the children, and they agree unanimously to the adoption under a common surname.The film ends with Mike Beardsley, the eldest, going off to Camp Pendleton to begin his stint in the United States Marine Corps.
DVD : 2001-03-06