The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band

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The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael O'Herlihy
Screenplay by Lowell S. Hawley
Story by Lowell S. Hawley
Michael O'Herlihy
Based onThe Family Band: from the Missouri to the Black Hills, 1881-1900
by Laura Bower Van Nuys
Produced byBill Anderson
Starring Walter Brennan
Buddy Ebsen
Lesley Ann Warren
John Davidson
Cinematography Frank V. Phillips
Edited by Cotton Warburton
Music bySongs:
Richard M. Sherman
Robert B. Sherman
Jack Elliott
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release date
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,250,000 (US/ Canada) [1]

The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band is a 1968 American comedy musical western film from Walt Disney Productions. Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution, the film is based on a biography by Laura Bower Van Nuys, directed by Michael O'Herlihy, with original music and lyrics by the Sherman Brothers. Set against the backdrop of the 1888 presidential election, the film portrays the musically talented Bower family, American pioneers who settle in the Dakota Territory. The film stars Walter Brennan, Buddy Ebsen, Lesley Ann Warren, John Davidson, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn in her film debut.



The Bower Family Band petitions the Democratic National Committee to sing a rally song for President Grover Cleveland at the party's 1888 convention. On the urging of Joe Carder, a journalist and suitor to eldest Bower daughter Alice, the family decides instead to move to the Dakota Territory. There, Grandpa Bower, a staunch Democrat, causes trouble with his pro-Cleveland sentiments. The Dakota residents are overwhelmingly Republican, and they hope to get the territory admitted as two states (North and South Dakota) rather than one (so as to send four Republican senators to Washington rather than two). Grandpa's actions result in family strife, including nearly costing Alice her position as the town's new schoolteacher. The budding romance between Joe and Alice also suffers. In the end, more ballots are cast for Cleveland, but Republican nominee Benjamin Harrison nonetheless wins the Electoral College vote and the presidency. Before he leaves office, Cleveland grants statehood to both the two Dakotas, along with Montana and Washington, evening the gains for both parties. The Dakotans, particularly the feuding young couple, resolve to live together in peace.



"The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band" The film opens with Grandpa conducting all ten members of the Bower family, each playing a different musical instrument. Practicing in their barn, the family dances among the animals and hay, boasting of their unique talents and versatility.

"The Happiest Girl Alive" Alice expresses her intense emotions over receiving her latest letter from suitor Joe Carder.

"Let's Put It Over with Grover" The Bowers perform this Grover Cleveland campaign song to a representative from the Democratic National Committee. [2]

"Ten Feet off the Ground" Ecstatic at the prospect of performing at the National Convention, the family band engages in an impromptu celebration. They sing about the feeling which only music can bestow, figuratively lifting them "Ten Feet off the Ground". (This was one of two songs from the film covered by Louis Armstrong later in 1968.)

"Dakota" Joe Carder entices local Missouri families, singing about the marvels of the Dakota Territory. ("Dakota" is similar in style to the title song of the Oklahoma! and was once considered as a candidate for "state song" for South Dakota.)

"'Bout Time" Joe Carder expresses his devotion to Alice, telling her it's "'Bout Time" they were engaged, she responds in kind, and the two sing this duet. (This song was covered by Louis Armstrong and was later featured in the 2005 film, Bewitched .)

"Drummin' Drummin' Drummin'" Grandpa Bower recounts the tale of a young drummer boy during the Civil War, inspiring all the children in the school house that they too can stand their ground and make a difference.

"West o' the Wide Missouri" On election night, locals dance and celebrate their part in American expansionism west of the Missouri River.

"Oh, Benjamin Harrison" The Republicans in town have their own campaign song; they sing their praise for Benjamin Harrison, who is "far beyond comparison."

The original cast soundtrack was released on Buena Vista Records in stereo (STER-5002) and mono (BV-5002). [3] Disneyland Records released a second cast album with studio singers and arrangements by Tutti Camarata, with both mono (DQ-1316) and stereo (STER-1316) versions. [4] Neither the soundtrack or the second cast album have been released on CD or to iTunes.


The feature was originally planned as a two-part television special based on the Laura Bower Van Nuys memoir The Family Band, recounting her experience as the youngest of the Bower children, her family's brass band, and their journey from Missouri to their frontier life in the Black Hills.

Walt Disney sought the Sherman Brothers to help on the project, feeling the story was too flat. The Shermans wrote the song "The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band", which ultimately became the title of the motion picture. After hearing the song, Disney decided to add more songs to the film and turn it into a musical. In all, the Sherman Brothers wrote eleven songs for the film, though Robert Sherman reportedly did so under protest, believing the subject matter too mundane to be made into a feature-length musical film.

The film reunited Lesley Ann Warren and John Davidson as the romantic leads in a Disney live-action musical, having previously been paired in The Happiest Millionaire (1967). Disney brought back Walter Brennan from The Gnome-Mobile (1967) (starring the Mary Poppins kids Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber) to play Grandpa Bower because the actor reminded Walt of his father.

Theatrical release and reception

The film premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Originally intended to run 156 minutes, the Music Hall requested 20 minutes of cuts. Disney responded by cutting the film to 110 minutes, excising the songs "Westerinʼ", sung by Calvin (Buddy Ebsen) and "I Couldn't Have Dreamed it Better", sung by Katie (Janet Blair). The Sherman Brothers and producer Bill Anderson objected, but the studio heads told them the cuts would be just for the Music Hall's engagement. Robert B. Sherman pointed out that the Music Hall is where New York film critics screen musical films, arguing that the cuts weakened the characters' dramatic motivation. He also predicted that those cuts would result in negative reviews.

Radio City Music Hall got its way, and the 110-minute version is the only one that ever saw a release. Sherman's predictions came true when the New York Times' critic Renata Adler panned the film after seeing it at the Music Hall, calling the film "about as pepless and fizzled a musical as has ever come out of the Walt Disney Studios." [5] As of 2014, Disney has made no attempt at a reconstruction of the originally intended cut, but sheet music of the two cut songs was included in the book Disney's Lost Chords, Volume 2.

Reception from other critics

The film fared no better among most other major critics. Variety described it as "an overly-contrived feature which soon forgets its promise and premise and turns instead to a political mishmash of events which has little novelty." [6] Charles Champlin of The Los Angeles Times wrote that the film "is, I am afraid, the worst Disney movie in a long time." According to Champlin, there were some "pleasant, chirpy tunes," but they "can't overcome the lack of any real dramatic conflict, even at the level appropriate to musical comedy, nor the lack of an interesting central character." [7] Clifford Terry of the Chicago Tribune called it "another Walt Disney studio production that isn't designed to appease squirmy family audiences, since it is filled with a flurry of limpid songs, Brennan's tiresome tirades, and the Warren - Davidson 'mush.'" [8] Edgar J. Driscoll Jr. of The Boston Globe said the film "flats like a tubeless tuba — if there is such a thing. Not that the kids won't enjoy it. They will. But for adults the sasparilla may go down the wrong way. Certainly it's no runner-up to 'Mary Poppins' or 'The Sound of Music.' Not by a long shot, though the pitch is definitely aimed that-a-way." [9]

One positive review of the film came from Lou Cedrone, who remarked in Baltimore's Evening Sun newspaper that "the Walt Disney studios have done with 'The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band' what they tried and failed to do with 'The Happiest Millionaire.' That is, the film is pleasant in the Disney tradition and what's more, the songs and dancing, the latter choreographed by Hugh Lambert, are especially nice." [10]

Box office and television airing

Bringing in $2,250,000 in rentals, it was never reissued to theaters; instead, it aired on The Wonderful World of Disney in two parts on January 23 and January 30, 1972. [11]

Home media

While a planned 1979 MCA DiscoVision release with the catalog number D18-513 was cancelled, the film was released on videotape in 1981 and on LaserDisc in 1982. [12] [13]

After 20 years of unavailability, the film was released on DVD on July 6, 2004. Though the transfer was not in the original aspect ratio, it included an audio commentary from Richard M. Sherman, Lesley Ann Warren and John Davidson and a 12-minute making-of featurette featuring all three.

Literary sources

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  1. "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969 p 15. Please note this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.
  2. The songwriters' father, Al Sherman (who was also a songwriter) wrote two songs which were used as campaign songs for two different Presidential candidates in the mid-twentieth century. In the 1948 election, Republican candidate, Thomas Dewey usurped the Al Sherman/Charles Tobias/Howard Johnson collaboration, "(What Do We Do On A) Dew-Dew-Dewey Day" for his campaign. Four years later Sherman wrote a song specifically for Dwight D. Eisenhower's campaign called "I Like Ike."
  3. Murray, R. Michael (1997). "The Golden Age of Walt Disney Records, 1933-1988". Dubuque, Iowa: Antique Trader Books. p. 72.{{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  4. Murray, R. Michael (1997). "The Golden Age of Walt Disney Records, 1933-1988". Dubuque, Iowa: Antique Trader Books. p. 33.{{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  5. Adler, Renata (March 22, 1968). "Film: 'One and Only Genuine Original Family Band". The New York Times . 55.
  6. "Film Reviews: The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band". Variety . March 20, 1968. 6.
  7. Champlin, Charles (July 12, 1968). "'The Original Family Band' Opens Citywide Engagement". Los Angeles Times . Tribune Media Services. p. 8, part IV.
  8. Terry, Clifford (July 23, 1968). "'Family Band' is Out of Tune". Chicago Tribune . Tribune Media Services. p. 5, s. 2.
  9. Driscoll, Edgar J. (July 11, 1968). "'Family Band' ideal film for youngsters". The Boston Globe . Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC. p. 36.
  10. Cedrone, Lou (July 1, 1968). "Showing Around Town". The Evening Sun . Baltimore, Maryland: Tribune Media Services. p. E10.
  11. Cotter, Bill (1997). The Wonderful World of Disney Television. New York, NY: Hyperion. p. 90.
  12. "MCA Discovision Library" . Retrieved December 27, 2013. Several anthology series episodes were released through this deal, and several other live-action features were part of it, but only Kidnapped ever saw a DiscoVision release.
  13. "Disney Laserdisc Database" . Retrieved 2013-12-27.