The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band is a 1968 musical film 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.

Walter Brennan, Buddy Ebsen, Lesley Ann Warren, and John Davidson head the cast. Kurt Russell is also featured, and, in a bit part, Goldie Hawn makes her big-screen debut.

Production history

Originally planned as a two-part television show titled, The Family Band, the project was based on a book by Laura Bower Van Nuys. The memoir by Van Nuys, the youngest of the Bower children, described her family's brass band, their journey out of Missouri, and their frontier life in the Black Hills.

Walt Disney had asked the Sherman Brothers for their help on the project, feeling the story was too flat. The Shermans wrote the song "The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band", which was ultimately used as 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 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 musical, having previously been paired in The Happiest Millionaire.


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 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 school teacher. 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 presidency—the first time in the nation's history that the Electoral College reverses the popular vote. Before he leaves office Cleveland grants statehood to the two Dakotas, along with two Democrat-voting territories, evening the gains for both parties. The Dakotans, particularly the feuding young couple, resolve to live together in peace.




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