The Brady Bunch is pop culture’s most famous blended family.
The story of a “lovely lady who was bringing up three very lovely girls,” and a “man named Brady with three boys of his own,” who “would somehow form a family,” ran for fives seasons on TV, endlessly in reruns and even spawned two movies.
“The Brady Bunch is a live-action modern fairy tale of family,” says Christopher Knight who played Peter Brady on the original show. “In this context it’s less odd that it’s lasted for over 30 years; and why it may last in some respects as long as Mother Goose!”
He may be optimistic on the eternal appeal of his show, but he’s not wrong to imply that the idea of blended families could remain the subject of stories and movies for years to come.
This weekend “cinematic soulmates” Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler reunite for a third time, following The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, for Blended, a romantic comedy about the mixing and mingling of two families.
Hollywood has been blending screen families for years. The grandfather of these blended family stories has to be Yours, Mine and Ours.
Based on the memoir Who Gets the Drumstick? by Helen Beardsley, this 1968 Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda film sees a widow with eight kids and a widower with 10 children (including Mike, played by Tim Matheson 10 years before he found fame in Animal House) become one big (almost) happy family.
The film was produced by Ball, who became so friendly with the Beardsleys she treated all 20 of them to a trip to Disneyland. ABC and Paramount Studios were so impressed with the film they gave the green light to the similarly themed The Brady Bunch show.
The same year, movie legend Doris Day made her final big-screen appearance in With Six You Get Egg Roll, a blended family story about a widow with three sons who marries a man with a daughter. The kids don’t see eye to eye, but soon figure out a way to live together. Released so soon after Yours, Mine and Ours, Eggroll got good reviews, but, as Roger Ebert wrote at the time, “would probably seem funnier if it didn’t suffer by comparison.”
Finally, Step Brothers is an R-rated look at extreme Peter Pan Syndrome. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly play 40ish men who become bunkmates and reluctant stepbrothers when their parents (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins) marry. The familiar reprimand “Grow up and act your age” fell on deaf ears with these guys. It’s like watching two overweight, foul-mouthed 10-year-olds with thinning hair going at each other, but it is good vulgar fun.
Mark S. Reinhart, author of Abraham Lincoln on Screen claims the 16th President of the United States, “is the most frequently portrayed American historical figure in the history of the film and television arts.”
Portrayed over 300 times on film and TV, Honest Abe has done everything from pardon a sentry who fell asleep on duty in the 1908 short film The Reprieve: An Episode in the Life of Abraham Lincoln, to getting revenge on his assassin in Police Squad to teaming up with Star Trek’s Captain Kirk to explain the concepts of good and evil to the aliens of Excalbia.
In this weekend’s Abraham Lincoln, starring Daniel Day Lewis, the prez oversees the passing of the 13th Amendment, guaranteeing freedom for the country’s slaves and ending the Civil War.
Day-Lewis is a lock for an Oscar nomination, and a favorite to win, but his portrayal stands in the shadow of two movie legends.
Henry Fonda played the title character in Young Mr. Lincoln, a melodramatic and inaccurate chronicle of Abe’s formative years. Wearing specially made boots that made him appear taller, Fonda was honored to play the pres. “I felt as if I were portraying Christ himself on film,” he said.
Canadian-born Raymond Massey, played Lincoln multiple times on stage and film. He was so attached to the character a colleague joked that Massey wouldn’t be satisfied with his Lincoln impression until someone assassinated him.
For a certain generation, however, Lincoln might be best remembered for a speech that began with, “Fourscore and seven minutes ago…” and ended with, “PARTY ON, DUDES!” But Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure isn’t the only movie to take a light-hearted look at the Great Emancipator.
In Coneheads Dan Aykroyd’s character uses Abe’s famous stovepipe top hat to cover his oblong head. One of Brendan Fraser’s seven wishes in Bedazzled is to be president but he soon learns to be careful what he wishes for when he is zapped back into history as Lincoln watching a play at Ford’s Theatre. Abe also gets a laugh in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian when the Lincoln Memorial comes to life.
Perhaps the strangest portrayal came earlier this year. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is exactly as advertised, leading one critic to call it, “a funny, scary, and cheer-worthy adventure that somehow manages to make the 16th President of the United States a bad-ass action hero.”