You have to feel sorry for men who became fathers of large families after 1950. They may well have fallen for the dream that family life is pertinently this idyllic, and this film is partly to blame for this seductive yet uneffusive notion. If only all children were this well ironed, polite and willing to concede to such starch family rules… unfortunately the ’60s and ’70s were just around the corner and nice, middle class kids were fast learning how to set fire to the local rugby club after a brief flirtation with their skinhead friend from the wrong side of the tracks, whose father definitely doesn’t subscribe to Spare Rib.
The father, Frank Senior, is a business consultant, travelling lecturer and all-round beady eye over a brood of twelve. The mother, Lillian, is a successful psychologist who also has a deft line in diplomacy, especially with the daughters in their delicate teen years. She skilfully manages to smooth over widening cracks in the dissenters who have ambitions to cut their hair into a bob and hang out with a beefcake lifeguard, but father has other ideas (mainly chaparoning them everywhere and honking his car horn very impatiently) which, even by 1950s standards, stretches the definition of strict Dad.
The post Frank Snr sequel, Belles on Their Toes (1952) continues the story, (which laughs in the face of Outnumbered) with Lillian taking over the rambling family’s ropes.