Cast & Crew
On the day that Jane, the youngest of her twelve children, graduates from college, Dr. Lillian M. Gilbreth remembers her beloved husband Frank, and how this happy day has come about: After Frank's death, in the 1920s, Lillian is forced to sell their home in Montclair, New Jersey, and move to a smaller house. Various relatives, including the overbearing Leora, pressure Lillian to allow them to rear the children, but Lillian is determined to keep her family together. With the help of her eldest daughter Anne and the family handyman, Tom Bracken, Lillian maintains order, and decides that while she is away fulfilling the lecture tour obligations of Frank, an industrial engineer and efficiency expert, the children should go to Nantucket for the summer. There, while the others enjoy the beach, Ernestine becomes besotted with Al Lynch, an oafish college student, and is quickly engaged to him. The family bemoans Martha's insistence that their budget will allow them to eat nothing except beans, but the clever Martha arranges for them to crash a barbecue hosted by a neighbor. During the barbecue, Lillian arrives and informs Anne that the lecture tour was not successful, because the chauvinistic engineers refused to renew Frank's contracts, even though Lillian is emminently qualified. Anne helps the family by staying home from college and getting a job, and back in Montclair, she mistakes handsome young doctor Bob Grayson for a barber while trying to obtain a discount for her many siblings. Bob is amused by the error and entranced by the lovely Anne, but does not succeed in learning her name. Shortly after, Lillian is visited by influential businessman Sam Harper, who hopes that she can recommend some of the men trained by her husband. When Lillian reveals that she trained the men along with Frank, Sam grumbles that women are "creeping in everywhere" and refuses her offer to train executives for him. Lillian angrily shows Sam the door, but he reconsiders and sends her enough students to establish a profitable school. Anne returns to college, although she happily comes home for a visit at Thanksgiving. Also visiting is Al, whose lack of manners irritates the boys, especially Frank, the eldest, and Frank conspires with his brothers to drive Al away. Lillian reprimands Frank for his interference, but when Frank shows her that Ernestine is cheerfully dancing with another boy, Lillian accepts his admonition that from now on, the men of the family will handle certain matters. Later, the Engineers' Club of America invites Lillian to give a speech, but when the chairman discovers that "Dr. L. M. Gilbreth" is a woman, he turns her away at the door. Infuriated, Lillian does not pay attention to her driving and smashes into a parked truck. Anne rushes to the hospital, where Bob, who is delighted to see her again, assures her that Lillian will recover completely. After Lillian's recuperation, Sam, who has become devoted to her, decides that she needs publicity to overcome the prejudice against women engineers. The family is aghast when Sam hosts a public premiere of the newsreel he has had made of them, during which their jerky movements provoke gales of laughter. Despite their mortification, the scheme of promoting Lillian's name works and she is offered a professorship at Purdue University. When Lillian tells Anne of the job offer, and of how she will need to rely upon her for help now that she has graduated from college, Anne hestitates to inform her of her engagement to Bob. Instead, Anne tells Bob that they must postpone their marriage, and Bob bitterly accuses her of sacrificing her life to a family that is merely using her. Lillian notices that Bob has stopped calling, but Anne deflects her questions and agrees to accompany Ernestine on a date to a dance with Morton Dykes and his gawky, Southern cousin Franklyn. As the children rush about preparing for the dance, Sam arrives and attempts to propose to Lillian. His proposal is continually interrupted by the hectic comings and goings, and by the arrival of Bob, who informs Lillian that he is leaving that night for Detroit. Lillian and Sam go to the dance to tell Anne, and Lillian urges her daughter to be happy and have a family of her own. Before Anne can leave, however, Bob arrives for one last attempt at a reconciliation and is stunned when Lillian commands him to take Anne. Lillian and Sam then enter and win a waltz contest, and as they are driving home, Sam comments on how crowded Lillian's life is, and Lillian gently tells him that there is not enough room for him, too. Lillian's reminiscences come to an end, and when Anne accuses her of sleeping through Jane's graduation, Lillian replies that she was saying "thank you" to someone who loved them very much.
Mary Alan Hokanson
A. Cameron Grant
Arthur E. Arling
Raymond B. Egan
Samuel G. Engel
Arthur L. Kirbach
Richard A. Whiting
Before this film's opening title cards, the last page of the book Cheaper by the Dozen is shown, and the book is closed. The book Belles on Their Toes is then shown and opened to reveal the title "Twentieth Century-Fox presents Belles on their Toes the Further Adventures of the Gilbreth Family." Voice-over narration by Myrna Loy, as her character "Dr. Lillian M. Gilbreth," is heard throughout the picture. At the film's end, a brief sequence from Cheaper by the Dozen is shown, in which "Frank," played by Clifton Webb, sings "When You Wore a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose" with his family. Several other novelty and period songs are briefly featured in the picture, such as "Beans, Beans, Beans" and "Love's Old Sweet Song."
The film is a sequel to the popular 1950 Twentieth Century-Fox film Cheaper by the Dozen, which also depicted the adventures of the real-life Gilbreth family, whose father and mother, Frank and Lillian, reared twelve children. As shown in the film, after Frank's death, Lillian continued his work in order to keep her family together and eventually became a very successful industrial engineer. For more information about the Gilbreths, please see the entry for Cheaper by the Dozen in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50. Several of the actors, including Myrna Loy, Jeanne Crain and Barbara Bates, reprised their roles from Cheaper by the Dozen. Some of the boys from the original cast, having grown too much to reprise their roles, were recast as older Gilbreth boys, such as Jimmy Hunt, who originally played "William" but played "Fred" in the sequel.
Although Hollywood Reporter news items include the following actors in the cast, their appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed: Jack Boyle, Edward Stoddard, Jacques Kennelly, Boyd Cabeen, Bryan McKay, Ivan Hayes, Michael O'Brien, Carole Nugent, Wesley Bilson, Robert Bowman, Dean Dillman, Jack Downs, Buddy Robinson, Bob Street, Buzz Barbee and Mike Marienthal. J. Farrell MacDonald was included in the cast by a September 7, 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item, but he does not appear in the released picture. According to a August 30, 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, director Henry Levin signed the following "old-time stars" to appear in the graduation sequences: Leah Baird, Cleo Ridgely, Gertrude Astor, Stuart Holmes, Richard Neill, Dorothy Phillips, Vada Lee Heilman, Barry Norton, Anne Luther, Arline Pretty, Brooks Benedict, Heinie Conklin, Scott Seaton, Jean Acker, Helen Foster, Lillian West, Ida Pratt, Wilbur Mack, Colin Kenny and Pauline Garon. Their appearance in the released picture also has not been confirmed, however.
According to studio publicity, the graduation sequences were filmed at Santa Monica High School, and the barbecue sequences were filmed on location at Paradise Cove in Malibu, CA. Although publicity announced that the songs "Watermelon Weather" by Hoagy Carmichael and Paul Webster and "Monterey" by Carmichael and John Scott would be in the picture, they were not included in the released film. According to a June 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, theater managers in the midwest offered patrons a "money-back guarantee" on their enjoyment of Belles on Their Toes, and the publicity stunt substantially raised the picture's box-office intake and thereafter was used at other venues. The picture marked the first onscreen credit of dance director Angie Blue.