Fatherhood Institute Praises Films That Give Dads Star Billing: `Mrs. Doubtfire,' Others Cited for Caring Portrayals

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"To Kill a Mockingbird," "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Three Men and a Baby" have one major trait in common, the National Fatherhood Institute says. They're all positive portrayals of fatherhood and included on NFI's list of the top 10 fatherhood movies of all time.

"Our society desperately needs more positive portrayals of fathers as heroic and persons of character," said NFI President Wade Horn, a child psychologist.

He recommends fathers rent these movies on video and discuss them with their children.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" shows Gregory Peck playing a Southern country lawyer who defends a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman. The real story isn't the trial, Mr. Horn says, but how the lawyer's daughter discovers her father's strength of character. Without being preachy, he says, the movie shows fathers as competent, caring and knowledgeable.

"Movies tend to portray fathers as absent, incompetent or dangerous," Mr. Horn says. "We wanted to highlight a list of movies that a family could rent that would show an inspiring portrayal of a father. Unfortunately, such films are all too rare."

"The Little Princess" also earned kudos because one of the most powerful things a father can do for his children, according to Mr. Horn, is affirm their preciousness. In this case, the daughter of a widowed Army captain, who supposedly died during World War I, is transferred from riches to rags by her ogrelike boarding school headmistress once news of the father's "death" is made known. The father - who had suffered a memory loss - does eventually reclaim his daughter, but not before an ordeal of several years. During that time, the daughter gallantly puts up with various insults while maintaining her dignity as the daughter of a military officer. Shirley Temple starred in the original 1939 movie, and a remake was issued in 1995.

"One of the things a father can contribute to a child is an inner strength," Mr. Horn says. "The girl could withstand all her difficulties because the father used to tell her how wonderful she was; that she was his little princess."

Two films about divorced dads - "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Bye Bye Love" - also made the list because they showed men undergoing heroic measures to stay connected to their children. The NFI praises Robin Williams' performance as Mrs. Doubtfire, but advises viewers to "just ignore Williams' sappy and politically correct monologue at the end of the film in which he proclaims, `It really doesn't matter if your parents are divorced.' "

"It's a Wonderful Life" made the list because it describes a father sacrificing for the needs of his family.

"Father of the Bride" - both the Spencer Tracy original and the Steve Martin remake - is praised for showing a father helping his children's transition into adulthood.

Two films about the sons of dead fathers - "Field of Dreams" and "The Lion King" - made the list because, Mr. Horn says, they show how a good father's influence survives death.

"Three Men and a Baby" was praised for showing how babies socialize men and transform three self-absorbed bachelors into caring adults. It is the only film on the list that shows an unmarried father because, Mr. Horn says, the NFI doesn't normally promote unwed fatherhood.

"Before men become fathers, they ought to become married first," he said. …