Posted on Tue, Nov. 22, 2005

 

M O R E   N E W S   F R O M   

  Yours, Mine and Ours

MORE 'YOURS, MINE & OURS'

 

Hollywood revisits story of Carmel extended family

By BRENDA MOORE

Herald Staff Writer

 

 

When 11-year-old Kellyn Rodewald of Pacific Grove bought popcorn at the movies last week, she blurted "Oh, my God" at the image on the bag -- a picture of the cast of "Yours, Mine and Ours," opening at theaters on Wednesday.

 

Kellyn's reaction was genetic: The film was loosely inspired by her mother's family, the supersized Beardsley/North clan that once called Carmel home. Their story -- or at least a Hollywood-ized version of it -- was the springboard for the 1968 film of the same name starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda. Now, a modernized take, with Rene Russo and Dennis Quaid, is coming to the big screen.

 

Joanie Beardsley Rodewald, Kellyn's mother, expects to be in the audience this week. So does Joanie's sister, Louise Beardsley Ingram of Salinas. Their brother Greg Beardsley of Monterey figures he'll see it soon. Their stepbrother, Tom North of Carmel, enjoyed the first one but said he thinks he'll sit this one out.

 

The films were inspired by the real-life merger of their two mega-families: In 1961, Helen North, a widow with eight children, wed Frank Beardsley, a widower with 10 children. They set up house on a hill overlooking Carmel Mission, had two more children, and attracted widespread attention from people who wondered: How do they manage?

 

Today, the 20 siblings are scattered from one end of California to the other and into five other states. Helen Beardsley died in 2000. Frank Beardsley, who recently turned 90, lives near Santa Rosa and has remarried.

 

"To us it was normal" having such a large family, said Greg Beardsley. "I remember my parents were on the Johnny Carson show shortly after their marriage and he described their life as 'Camp Run Amok.' But we were pretty organized, actually."

 

Normal? An instant family of 20? Not to the rest of the world. The couple's wedding at the mission drew a big crowd and national news coverage. A bread company hired the family for commercials. Tour buses stopped outside their home. A book by Helen Beardsley about their early years, "Who Gets the Drumstick?", became a bestseller and led to the original movie with the two big-name stars playing the parents.

 

Lucille Ball came to Monterey for the premiere, a red-carpet affair at the Del Monte Center, where the entire Beardsley family joined her on stage. There was a dinner party with the actress in Pebble Beach and she also made an appearance at the Beardsley's candy shop, Morrow's Nut House.

 

"It was very exciting for us," Louise Ingram said last week as she flipped through a scrapbook of news clippings and other mementos that belongs to Joanie.

 

This time around the family isn't getting that red-carpet treatment. They weren't even contacted by the movie's producers. A family friend heard about the remake in January and the e-mails and telephone calls started flying among the 20 brothers and sisters.

 

"I think it would have been a little more positive if they had contacted us first and told us they were going to do something and maybe made us part of the scenario or process," Greg Beardsley said.

 

But because the Beardsleys sold the rights to their story years ago, and the new film bears little resemblance to their real lives, there's nothing they can do except sit back and watch it with the rest of us. They don't expect it to hit very close to home. The first one didn't and this one is even more removed. They clearly have affection for the first version, even though it's about as real as today's reality TV shows.

 

"Our (version) was made for kids and we got nothing but good opinions on it," said family patriarch Frank Beardsley.

 

It had a good combination of humor and warmth, Tom North said. "It had some wisdom about the practical realities of raising families," he said. "So I think for its time it was a decent film."

 

"We thought (at the time) it's not that true, a lot of things didn't happen," Rodewald said, "but it was entertaining."

 

So where was it close to home? The sheer numbers, of course, and the names -- every child and both parents were represented. Frank Beardsley the character and Frank Beardsley the man were both in the Navy. His military training played out at home and on screen.

 

"He ran a tight ship," Rodewald said, with every child assigned chores and expected to carry them out.

 

Scenes of assembly-line sandwich making were common in the movie and at home. The ordeal of grocery shopping for a family of 22 in those pre-Costco days also was an accurate depiction.

 

Two of the children were on "loan out" until the wedding, like in the movie. Joanie and Germaine, the two youngest Beardsleys, were living with a family friend because Frank Beardsley had his hands full with the other eight after the death of his first wife. They rejoined their siblings, and new stepsiblings, after the marriage.

 

And, yes, there was a large-scale adoption, similar to that in the movie, when each parent adopted the other's children. The real event took place at the courthouse in Salinas, recorded, like the wedding, by the media.

 

Other parts of the movie were entirely made up or were exaggerations of reality, played for laughs.

 

In the movie, the families move into a Victorian fixer-upper on the wedding night. In real life, the Norths moved into the Beardsleys' Rio Road home, later expanded with money made from their fame.

 

One of the funniest parts of the movie never happened -- never could have happened, according to Greg Beardsley. In the film, when Helen North meets the Beardsley children at a family dinner, the older boys spike her cocktail with extra alcohol and get her drunk.

 

"If I had done that, I wouldn't be alive today," Greg Beardsley said.

 

From what they've heard about the new movie, the Beardsleys and Tom North expect it to be even more slapstick and even less like them. The lead actors keep the names of Helen North and Frank Beardsley. But that may be where the similarities end. The children all have new names and six of the the Norths are adopted and there are different ethnicities among them.

 

"I've had clients who have called and said "Tom, I didn't know you had so many Asians in your family," North said. He understands that all the changes are a Hollywood reality. "It's really a different world than it was in 1968 and so the filmmakers just don't see it as the same story at all, and it isn't. In order to make the film marketable, they had to adapt it to a different audience."

 

Actress Linda Hunt, who plays a new character in the film, has said it probably isn't right to call it a remake. Rather, she said in press materials from the production company, they've taken the bare essentials from the original and built on them.

 

Despite that, the real Beardsleys and Norths are likely to find renewed interest in their real story. New fans will join a following that's endured for years. Rebecca Webb of Morris, Minn., who was only 5 when the first movie came out, maintains a Web page devoted to the film and the family -- and she's not even their most ardent fan. That would be Daniel Fortier, a Canadian who has tracked their story so long and so hard he knows more about the family than some of its members.

 

"He's the expert," Louise Ingram said. "When I want to know something about my family, I ask him."

 

New fans probably will want to know what it was really like to merge the two families, and what became of them in the years since.

 

Life, according to Joanie, Louise and Greg, wasn't all that extraordinary.

 

"I thought what's eight more kids? I'll just get lost in another crowd," Ingram said. "It just seems things were meant to be, things just worked out."

 

There were 10 children in his family originally, Greg Beardsley said, "and that was normal. So when you add 10 more, nothing really changes."

 

Tom North found life in the household chaotic.

 

"I think Frank and Helen were overwhelmed and in a sense underqualified for the job," he said. "A lot of the kids ended up raising themselves. In my conversations with other siblings, I've found that each of them had at least one birthday missed along the way because they just couldn't keep track. They missed my 8th birthday."

 

"They were exhausted and overwhelmed," he said. "Lucy portrayed that really well in the film. Imagine running a dorm for 20 kids."

 

But that doesn't mean he had an unhappy childhood. He spent as much time as he could outdoors -- at the beach, at Carmel River, in the forest.

 

"I was barely there," he said. "I am very much an outdoors person and I'm out in the world. It was great for me to have so many kids around because I could be gone and I wouldn't be missed."

 

In the years since, the family has spread out. Fourteen live in California; two live in Washington, and one each in Pennsylvania, Kansas, Ohio and Alaska, according to Ingram. They work in a range of jobs, several in health care. There's also an accountant, an artist and the operator of a bed and breakfast.

 

Some keep in touch more than others. News of family events -- births, milestone birthdays, marriages -- are shared. As they grew up and moved out, Ingram and North said, the Norths tended to stay in closer contact with the Norths and the Beardsleys with the Beardsleys. Five of the Norths, including Tom, changed their last name back to North.

 

"It was very much an effort to establish an identity with the North family," Tom North said. "It's not so much a rejection of Beardsley-ness. It's an affirmation of being a North."

 

None of children has been as prolific as their parents when it comes to offspring. There are 45 grandchildren in all.

 

North, an estate planner with Merrill Lynch, and his wife Connie have two daughters, Diana and Elyse.

 

Greg Beardsley, who is in commercial real estate, and his wife Becky have three children, Gregory, Samantha and Alex.

 

Louise Ingram and her husband Merv, who both work for Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, have a daughter, Sara, and a son, Tim.

 

Joanie Rodewald is a special education assistant in Pacific Grove schools and her husband Rick is a battalion chief for the Monterey Fire Department. In addition to Kellyn, they have another daughter, Alison, and a son, Ryan.

 

If the Beardsleys find renewed interest in their lives in the next few weeks, they don't seem worried about being able to handle it.

 

Rick Rodewald said it didn't go to their heads the first time around. Before his first date with Joanie, he said, "I expected her to be real stuck up because of her local fame.

 

"It was the total opposite," he said.

 

GregBeardsley credits his parents -- and the family's size -- for the humility.

 

"My parents," he said, "always used to remind us, 'You're only 5 percent of the equation, so 5 percent of a celebrity isn't too much to brag about.'"

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Trivia "Yours, Mine and Ours" (1968) trivia:  Helen Beardsley appeared on the game show "To Tell the Truth," where celebrity panelists have to decide which of three people is telling the truth about who they are.  The wedding invitation shown in the 1968 version of the movie is the actual wedding invitation designed by Frank Beardsley.  Lucille Ball, who co-produced the original film as well as starred in it, was reportedly upset about its surprising success. She hadn't anticipated the big box-office receipts and had failed to set up a tax shelter. Most of personal profits went to pay taxes.  The part of Louise was played by an actress named Suzanne Cupito, who went on to bigger fame under the name Morgan Brittany, including a regular role on the night-time soap "Dallas."  The child actor who went on to biggest fame is Tim Matheson, who played the oldest Beardsley boy, Michael. Matheson has played a range of roles, from a frat boy in "Animal House" to the vice president in "The West Wing." |-- Source: Internet |Movie Database

 

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Brenda Moore can be reached at bmoore@montereyherald.com or 646-4462.

 

 

 



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