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An Old Movie Quirk--Siblings With Wide Age Gaps


speedracer5
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Right now I'm watching The Philadelphia Story, which inspired this thread.

 

In this film Katharine Hepburn portrays Tracy Lord, who is recently divorced from Cary Grant.  She's living at home with family at the large Lord estate.  She's the eldest child of the family.  Her younger sister is Virginia Weidler.  Hepburn's character is obviously an adult and has been for awhile, seeing that she's on her second marriage.  I'm guessing that she's supposed to be at least in her 20s, I'm guessing late 20s.  Hepburn herself was 33. Weidler, on the other hand, is probably supposed to be, I'm guessing 12-14.  Even though she dresses like a big version of a 5 year old, which the precious bows.  She's very much a child as her mother is constantly scolding her vocabularly ("Don't say 'stinks' darling, if absolutely necessary, 'smells,'...").  Weidler herself was 13.  

 

(As an aside, I find Weidler incredibly annoying in this film, but I digress)

 

This brings me to the point of my thread, there are so many films where the lead actor or actress portrays the sibling of a large family.  They're always an adult character (usually looking for a potential spouse) that lives at home with a bunch of little kids who are usually like 10-15 years younger.  

 

Meet Me in St. Louis.  There are five kids: Lon, Rose, Esther, Agnes and Tootie.  Lon is in college and Rose is graduating from high school.  This puts Lon and Rose in at least the 18-19 range.  Esther is going to be a senior, so she's probably about 17.  Both Rose and Esther are looking for husbands.  Seeing that the film takes place in the early 1900s, I'm sure 17-18 is bordering on "old maid" territory if you can't land a husband by high school graduation. Then there's Agnes and Tootie.  Tootie says she's 5 at the beginning of the film, and Agnes is a little bigger.  I'm guessing she's between 8-10. 

 

The Mating Game.  In this movie, Debbie Reynolds is the oldest daughter of a rural family who is deeply in debt to the government.  She's obviously an older teenager (18-19) or a young woman (early 20s) since she can be viewed as a love object for Tony Randall.  However, the rest of the kids are all very young.  The next oldest kid is maybe 12. 

 

The Birds.  Rod Taylor's character is supposed to be the son of Jessica Tandy and the brother of Veronica Cartwright.  Taylor is at least in his 30s and Cartwright is what? 11? 12? It would have made more sense for Cartwright to be Taylor's daughter.

 

I'm not saying it is impossible for people to have large age gaps between their children--but it seems like this is a phenomenon that is more present in old films.  Perhaps this is due to the lack of contraception and we can think that maybe some of these younger kids are "oopses."  Or maybe the parents missed having babies around the house.  Who knows.  

 

What other films feature siblings with large age gaps?

 

 

 

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I know what you're talking about, Speedy, but the thing that stands out for me in films of the 30's and 40's was how often the mothers of small children were played by women that looked to be in their late 50's or early 60's. I'm sure it was to draw a contrast between the matronly bit players and the ingenue actresses, but I've never seen so many old-lady moms than in films of the 1930's. I thought perhaps childbirth in the 1920's and 1930's aged a woman 25+ years overnight.

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I know what you're talking about, Speedy, but the thing that stands out for me in films of the 30's and 40's was how often the mothers of small children were played by women that looked to be in their late 50's or early 60's. I'm sure it was to draw a contrast between the matronly bit players and the ingenue actresses, but I've never seen so many old-lady moms than in films of the 1930's. I thought perhaps childbirth in the 1920's and 1930's aged a woman 25+ years overnight.

 

Yes! I agree with that as well.  The parents, especially the mothers, always look like the grandparents.  I know that people tended to look older back then, what with the harder lifestyle, the heavy smoking and drinking, and just the hairstyles and clothing made them appear older.  I think it's also funny how in old films, these are the types of females depicted:

 

The young girl, think Shirley Temple or Margaret O'Brien.

 

Then the young teenager, like Judy Garland or Bonita Granville

 

Then the young sophisticated working woman looking for a man, say Ginger Rogers or Rosalind Russell

 

The independent woman who seems to be getting along fine without a man, perhaps Claudette Colbert or Barbara Stanwyck

 

...

 

Then somehow... once your children grow up and marry, you become a resentful mother in law.  All of a sudden, your trim figure has become lumpy, your waist has disappeared and your bosom sags.  You loathe your son in law who stole your "little girl" and dedicate your life to trashing him whenever you get the chance. I find these women hilarious though.  They usually get the best lines.

 

There don't seem to be any older women depicted in old films that seems to maintain a youthful appearance.  If she does, she seems to be depicted as some type of seductress or bitter woman.  

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Speedy, my wife's (who was by far "the baby" in her Catholic Italian-American family) oldest sister Josephine, who died of breast cancer some 25 years ago or so now, was 23 years her senior, and then followed by her brother Tony who's 20 years her senior, and then followed by her sister Elizabeth who's a mere 10 years older than her.

 

And so yeah, this sort'a thing happens in real life too.

 

Now, the first movie that came to my mind in regard this sort'a thing was 1956's THE MOUNTAIN, and where this then pretty much baby-faced Robert Wagner here is supposed to be Spencer Tracy's younger brother....

 

themountain02.jpg

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I'm not sure if the parameter of this thread is supposed to be limited strictly to the characters' ages, or the ages of the actors/actresses can also be considered. Here's one featuring our current SOTM: The Bachelor & the Bobby-Soxer, It's never said how old Myrna Loy's character was supposed to be, but in real life, Loy was 42, and Shirley Temple, 19, played her sister. Not sure why Loy's judge couldn't have been a widowed mother. I don't think it was Loy's ego - she had just played a mother to a college-age daughter and high school-age son the previous year in The Best Years of Our Lives. Audiences were just more accepting of those sorts of things in those days, I think. There weren't message boards for people to go complain on.

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I'm not sure if the parameter of this thread is supposed to be limited strictly to the characters' ages, or the ages of the actors/actresses can also be considered. Here's one featuring our current SOTM: The Bachelor & the Bobby-Soxer, It's never said how old Myrna Loy's character was supposed to be, but in real life, Loy was 42, and Shirley Temple, 19, played her sister. Not sure why Loy's judge couldn't have been a widowed mother. I don't think it was Loy's ego - she had just played a mother to a college-age daughter and high school-age son the previous year in The Best Years of Our Lives. Audiences were just more accepting of those sorts of things in those days, I think. There weren't message boards for people to go complain on.

 

I think the actors' ages can be considered as well as I would think that it would lend to the age gap. I agree about Loy and Temple in The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer.  Temple could have easily played Loy's daughter in that film and it would have worked. 

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Speedy, my wife's (who was by far "the baby" in her Catholic Italian-American family) oldest sister Josephine, who died of breast cancer some 25 years ago or so now, was 23 years her senior, and then followed by her brother Tony who's 20 years her senior, and then followed by her sister Elizabeth who's a mere 10 years older than her.

 

And so yeah, this sort'a thing happens in real life too.

 

Now, the first movie that came to my mind in regard this sort'a thing was 1956's THE MOUNTAIN, and where this then pretty much baby-faced Robert Wagner here is supposed to be Spencer Tracy's younger brother....

 

themountain02.jpg

 

Wow! I knew that these big age gaps can happen, in Sophomore year of high school, I had a classmate whose siblings were like 10 years older than my parents! He apparently was a "oops" baby and his next youngest sibling was already well into their 30s when he was 15 or so.  I think his oldest sibling was already well into their 40s.  

 

Re: Wagner and Tracy being siblings.  Tracy looks like he could be his grandfather in this picture! Spencer Tracy is one of those actors, that even in his 1930s movies when Tracy is in his 30s, he already looks like he's in his 50s at least.  

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A few others: in The Pink Panther, David Niven (53) and Robert Wagner (23) played brothers.

 

Not quite as dramatic an age difference as the original, but in the Philadelphia Story remake High Society Grace Kelly (27) and Lydia Reed (12) played sisters.

 

In the MGM version of Little Women, the March parents took long breaks between children, at least five years each time, if you go by the actress' ages, anyway: you had June Allyson (32), Janet Leigh (22), Elizabeth Taylor (17) and Margaret O'Brien (12).

 

 

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I'm not sure if the parameter of this thread is supposed to be limited strictly to the characters' ages, or the ages of the actors/actresses can also be considered. Here's one featuring our current SOTM: The Bachelor & the Bobby-Soxer, It's never said how old Myrna Loy's character was supposed to be, but in real life, Loy was 42, and Shirley Temple, 19, played her sister. Not sure why Loy's judge couldn't have been a widowed mother. I don't think it was Loy's ego - she had just played a mother to a college-age daughter and high school-age son the previous year in The Best Years of Our Lives. Audiences were just more accepting of those sorts of things in those days, I think. There weren't message boards for people to go complain on.

 

Loy couldn't have played Temple's mom because that would have been too odd and creepy since a basis of the plot was a much older man (Grant) being accused of trying to bed a high school student (Temple).    Grant falling for her older sister is at least somewhat 'acceptable' but her mom,,,  no that wouldn't have worked.

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Good point, James, one that I hadn't really considered. Ordering a man from the court bench to date your daughter would have been exceedingly weird, although ordering him to date your much younger sister is still a little weird.

 

Yeah, I suppose.

 

But HEY, ya gotta admit ANY man that can STILL move like THIS at his age is still pretty young in spirit anyway, RIGHT?!...

 

giphy.gif

 

;)

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A few others: in The Pink Panther, David Niven (53) and Robert Wagner (23) played brothers.

 

Not quite as dramatic an age difference as the original, but in the Philadelphia Story remake High Society Grace Kelly (27) and Lydia Reed (12) played sisters.

 

In the MGM version of Little Women, the March parents took long breaks between children, at least five years each time, if you go by the actress' ages, anyway: you had June Allyson (32), Janet Leigh (22), Elizabeth Taylor (17) and Margaret O'Brien (12).

I think Niven was Wagner's uncle in The Pink Panther. Spencer Tracy played Wagner's brother in The Mountain.

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How about Sandra Dee and Joan Fontaine as sisters in Until They Sail? It doesn't help that Joan began to look matronly at a comparatively early age.

 

I had a co-worker who was the oldest of five children. Then after a ten-year gap her mother had five more children. In families like this the older siblings are like aunts or uncles and may even have children older than their youngest siblings.

 

D.W. Griffith liked the mother character to be white-haired, and as Lawrence said, this continued into the thirties. Little Caesar is one of the films that comes immediately to mind.

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In "The Sons Of Katie Elder" (1965), John Wayne plays the eldest brother with the appropriate name of John Elder.  He was 58 at the time the movie was released.  Dean Martin played the next brother.  Dean was 48 then.  Brother number 3 was Earl Holliman, who was a mere 37 at the time.  The youngest brother, Bud Elder, was played by Michael Anderson Jr, who was 22 in 1965.  So there was a 36 year gap between the oldest and youngest brothers.  Katie Elder must have been a remarkable woman!

 

hqdefault.jpg 

  

 

 

 

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In "The Sons Of Katie Elder" (1965), John Wayne plays the eldest brother with the appropriate name of John Elder.  He was 58 at the time the movie was released.  Dean Martin played the next brother.  Dean was 48 then.  Brother number 3 was Earl Holliman, who was a mere 37 at the time.  The youngest brother, Bud Elder, was played by Michael Anderson Jr, who was 22 in 1965.  So there was a 36 year gap between the oldest and youngest brothers.  Katie Elder must have been a remarkable woman!

 

hqdefault.jpg

 

Yea, and Katie must have been a very strong women,  because if she had her first child at 15,  she would have been 51 when she had her last child  (based on the age of the actors).    And all without modern medicine.

 

So you have found a good one for this thread!

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It has been mentioned in this thread that Spencer Tracy and Robert Wagner, with a thirty year age difference, played brothers in "The Mountain".  It should be noted that two years earlier, they played father and son in a western called "Broken Lance".

In another bit of clever casting, Robert Mitchum and his real-life son James played brothers in "Thunder Road" (1958).  When the movie was released, Robert Mitchum was 41 and lookalike son James was 17.

 021a1fda06e3d6b4254ba9641388f6d3.jpg

 

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