MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE
(director: H.C. Potter; screenwriters: Norman Panama/Melvin Frank/from the novel by Eric Hodgins; cinematographer: James Wong Howe; editor: Harry Marker; music: Leigh Harline; cast: Cary Grant (Jim Blandings), Myrna Loy (Muriel Blandings), Melvyn Douglas (Bill Cole), Reginald Denny (Henry Simms), Sharyn Moffett (Joan Blandings), Connie Marshall (Betsy Blandings), Louise Beavers (Gussie), Ian Holm (Smith), Lex Barker (Carpenter Foreman), Tito Vuolo (Mr. Zucca), Harry Shannon (Tesander), Jason Robards (Retch), Lurene Tuttle (Mary, Jim’s Assistant); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Norman Panama/Melvin Frank; RKO/Warner Brothers Video; 1948)
“Those in the middle-aged demographic might find this middlebrow comedy more pleasing than others.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This is the third and last pairing of Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, who showed good chemistry previously in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) and Wings In the Dark (1935). Directed by H.C. Potter (“The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle), the film received a fine reception by audiences and critics alike. Adapting the novel by Eric Hodgins for the screen were longtime Oscar-nominated collaborators Melvin Frank and Norman Panama (1942- Road to Utopia). The novel is based on the experiences of the writer, who ended up paying five times more for his dream house than estimated and decided to write about it to ease his mind from the aggravation it caused. The book rights were bought by David O. Selznick. It was filmed in Southern California subbing for Connecticut. The film inspired the 1986 Tom Hanks/Shelly Long comedy “The Money Pit.”
The old-fashioned frothy comedy reflects on the housing boom and time of prosperity during the postwar period, as Americans in droves deserted the city for the so-called paradise of the suburbs and the right to become commuters. The smug script can’t blueprint enough laughs from the home buyer’s nightmare and the heavier than need be direction offers no help in letting in a cool breeze. Those in the middle-aged demographic might find this middlebrow comedy more pleasing than others.
The story concerns a $15,000-a-year New York City ad executive, Jim Blandings, who suddenly finds his four-room city dwelling too cramped, where he lives with doting wife Muriel (Myrna Loy) and school-aged daughters Betsy (Connie Marshall) and Joan (Sharyn Moffett). Given an estimate of $7,000 by an interior decorator to redo the apartment, he opts to buy a run-down house on 35 acres, envisioned as his dream house, that dates from the American Revolutionary days in rural Connecticut. After the house is purchased, Jim finds he had been taken in by unscrupulous real estate agent Smith (Ian Holm) and now realizes he has to tear down the house and build another structure, as his $10,000 original cost will eventually triple. The humor is supposed to come from his dealings with the locals who profit from his mistakes. His architect Simms plans a modest house but the couple envisions one that’s more fancy. Then they have to deal with the threat of a law suit over not getting permission to tear down the house from the owner holding the mortgage (which means Jim has to fork over $6,000 not to lose the property). Also there’s workers to deal with who might be padding the expenses such as plumbers, well-drillers, painters, carpenters and other contractors. Narrating the film in a tongue-and-cheek manner is Bill Cole (Melvyn Douglas), who tries to keep the mounting costs in check and helps Jim get a loan off his insurance policy to meet the additional costs. Bill can’t help telling Jim “You’ve been taken to the cleaners, and you don’t even know your pants are off.” Bill’s the family lawyer and the Blandings’ best friend; he also dated Muriel in college, which leads to some romantic complications as Jim gets jealous when he’s alone with Muriel and that the two are so close. That subplot wasn’t in the book and shouldn’t have been in the movie, as it seemed out of place and not necessary.
Jim’s work, meanwhile, is under fire because of his personal distractions. Bill, who also happens to be the firm’s lawyer, says that unless he comes up with a successful ad campaign for Wham ham in six months, his boss will fire him. With the time limit at zero hour Jim’s black housekeeper Gussie (Louise Beavers) ad libs while serving breakfast “If you ain’t eatin’ Wham, you ain’t eatin’ ham.” Jim steals her saying and turns it into a winning slogan that saves his job. At the end, Jim is a happy commuter living in his peaceful roomy dream house with his wonderful nuclear family.
Though the three stars get the best from the material, the flimsy material was too bland, never really funny and never had any bite other than being just so sweet.
REVIEWED ON 4/19/2006 GRADE: C+