Written by Eric Hodgins, Norman Panama, and Melvin Frank
Directed by H.C. Potter
At the suggestion of a fellow writer, I rented this movie to see how it compared to what I was going through with selling this house on Long Island and moving to rural New Hampshire. What I got was a very funny movie which I believe was the root of the Tom Hanks/Shelly Long film The Money Pit.
The opening sequence of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House shows New York City as it was in 1948 with crowded subways, crowded beaches, crowded restaurants. Funny, this was about the time that my own parents left their apartment in the city for suburbia!
We are then introduced to Mr. Jim Blandings (portrayed by Cary Grant), a born and bred New Yorker in the advertising business, married to Muriel (portrayed by Myrna Loy) with two children, Joan and Betsy (Sharyn Moffett and Connie Marshall). One particularly troublesome morning, they decide that it’s time to give up their cramped, crowded apartment and have a house built for them in the country.
What follows is a series of misadventures as it appears the family has leapt before they really looked at what they were getting themselves into. Their decision to purchase is driven by emotion. They purchase a “fixer upper” which ends up needing so much work that they have to demolish it and start from scratch. From there, as Jim and Muriel inject their personal desires into the new home, the work grows as does the price. Mishaps happen and things don’t quite go as planned….
Cary Grant is funny as Jim Blandings. He doesn’t have any overt moments of comedy, the kind where he knows he’s funny. He’s funny because he’s in such an impossible situation, the kind we like to look at and figure we’ll never get into ourselves (yeah, right). In addition to all of the mishaps involving the new home, the green-eyed monster rears it’s head over the past relationship between his wife and family friend and lawyer Bill Cole (portrayed by Melvyn Douglas). Grant doesn’t laugh but we do. His performance is much more subtle than Hanks’ performance in what is a similar role many years later.
Myrna Loy shares good chemistry with Grant. The couple are very good on the screen together and the two of them come off very comfortable – the way I would expect a couple to be after a certain number of years together. Nothing seems to really phase Muriel, not the money being poured out, not her husband’s jealousy, not the terrible weather. One of the funniest scenes comes when Jim won’t listen to Muriel about how to get to their new house and they keep coming back to the same bridge. Muriel doesn’t yell at Jim, but instead calmly sits there, knowing that sooner or later his pig-headedness will give way to the sensibility of listening to his wife’s directions. She’s as funny as he is, because many of her funny lines come inadvertently and she doesn’t really know she’s being funny.
Overall, I thought the film was really funny and anyone who enjoyed the movie The Money Pit will enjoy this film as well. Some of the situations are just as contrived as some of the setups in that later movie, but it’s handled in a humorous manner which will make anyone who’s ever gone through building a house or doing major renovations laugh.
• The House of Tomorrow – cartoon short
• Audio Vault
– 10/10/1949 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast with Cary Grant & Irene Dunne
– 6/9/1950 Screen Directors Playhouse Broadcast with Cary Grant & Betsy Drake
• Grant Trailer Gallery – Bringing Up Baby, Gunga Din, My Favorite Wife, The Philadelphia Story, Destination Tokyo, Arsenic and Old Lace, Night and Day, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, North By Northwest
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