Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House

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Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
Blandings1948.jpg
DVD cover
Directed byH. C. Potter
Screenplay byMelvin Frank
Norman Panama
Based onMr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
by Eric Hodgins
Mr. Blandings Builds His Castle
1946 Fortune
Produced byDore Schary
Melvin Frank
Norman Panama
StarringCary Grant
Myrna Loy
Melvyn Douglas
Narrated byMelvyn Douglas
CinematographyJames Wong Howe
Edited byHarry Marker
Music byLeigh Harline
Production
company
Distributed bySelznick Releasing Organization
Release dates
March 25, 1948 (New York)[1]
June 4, 1948 (US)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$2,750,000 (US rentals)[2]

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is a 1948 American comedy film directed by H. C. Potter and starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, and Melvyn Douglas. Written and produced by the team of Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, it was an adaptation of Eric Hodgins's popular 1946 novel illustrated by Shrek! author William Steig.

It was the third and last pairing of Grant and Loy, who had shared a comfortable chemistry in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) and Wings in the Dark (1935).[3]

It was a box office hit upon its release. Warner Home Video released it to DVD with restored and remastered audio and video in 2004. It was remade in 1986 as The Money Pit, starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long,[4] and in 2007 as Are We Done Yet?, starring Ice Cube.[5]

Plot[edit]

In the late 1940's, Jim Blandings, a bright account executive in the advertising business, lives with his wife Muriel and two daughters, Betsy and Joan, in a cramped New York apartment. Muriel secretly plans to knock out a wall and remodel their apartment for $7,000. After rejecting this idea, Jim comes across an ad for new homes in Connecticut and they get excited about moving. Planning to purchase and "fix up" an old home, they contact a real estate agent, who convinced them to buy "the old Hackett Place" in (fictional) Lansdale County, Connecticut—a leaning, dilapidated, nearly 200-year old farmhouse on some 35 acres where, they are told, General Gates stopped to water his horses during the Revolutionary War. They buy the property for five times the going rate per acre for locals, provoking Jim's friend and lawyer Bill Cole to chastise him for following his heart rather than his head.

The old house, dating from the Revolutionary War era, turns out to be structurally unsound and must be torn down before the previous owner's mortgage is paid off. The Blandings hire architect Henry Simms to design and supervise the construction of a new home for $18,000, which Muriel insists must have four bedrooms and four bathrooms. From the original purchase to the completion of the new home, a long litany of unforeseen troubles and setbacks—including digging a deep well only to find a spring just a few feet under the foundation—beset the hapless Blandings. The demolished house's owner also sues them for the balance of his mortgage. Meanwhile, back in the city, Jim is given the task of creating a slogan for WHAM Ham, an account that has destroyed the careers of the previous executives assigned to it. Jim also suspects that Muriel is cheating on him when Bill spends a night in the house during a violent thunderstorm, with Muriel being the only other person present.

With mounting pressure, skyrocketing costs, and the encroaching deadline for his assignment, Jim starts to wonder why he wanted to live in the country. Bill observes that although he has been the voice of doom, pointing out all the ways they were being cheated, when he looks at what they have finally built, he realizes that some things "you do buy with your heart and not your head. Maybe those are the things that really count.” Gussie, a Black maid working for the Blandings, provides Jim with the perfect WHAM slogan—"If you ain't eating WHAM, you ain't eating ham"—and saves his job. The Blandings reward her with a $10 raise, and her likeness is used in the WHAM ad campaign.[6][7] The film ends with the family and Bill enjoying the beautiful front yard. Jim, who is seen reading the book Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, invites the audience to “drop in and see us some time.”

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

Promotional still for film with Cary Grant and Myrna Loy

According to Time magazine, "Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas have a highly experienced way with this sort of comedy, and director H. C. Potter is so much at home with it that he gets additional laughs out of the predatory rustics and even out of the avid gestures of a steam shovel. Blandings may turn out to be too citified for small-town audiences, and incomprehensible abroad; but among those millions of Americans who have tried to feather a country nest with city greenbacks, it ought to hit the jackpot."[8]

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote that "as straight entertainment, this ambling and genial report on a young advertising man's disasters (and final triumph) in becoming a country squire is as much casual fun as can be looked for on our sparsely provided screen."[9]

Variety called it "a mildly amusing comedy" with Grant "up to his usual performance standard," but found the script to be flawed when an "unnecessary jealousy twist is introduced, neither advancing the story nor adding laughs."[10]

John McCarten of The New Yorker described the film as "quite ingeniously put together," comparing it to George Washington Slept Here and finding it "just as amiable" as that earlier film.[11]

Harrison's Reports called the film "a first-rate topical comedy farce ... The story itself is a flimsy affair, but it is so rich in witty dialogue and in comedy incidents that one is kept laughing all the time."[12]

While quite popular, according to one source the film actually recorded a loss of $225,000 during its initial theatrical release.[13]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Promotion[edit]

As a promotion for the film, the studio built 73 "dream houses" in various locations in the United States, selling some of them by raffle;[15] over 60 were equipped by General Electric.[16][17] Thousands lined up in front of the house that was built in Ottawa Hills, Ohio, paying admission to view it at its opening.[15]

In Phoenix, Arizona, the dream house was a ranch house built by P.W. Womack Construction Company in a central city development called BelAir (now part of Encanto Village).[18] The dream house built in Rocky Mount, North Carolina still stands at 1515 Lafayette Avenue.[19] In Greensboro, North Carolina, the house was built in the Starmount Forest community.[20]

The home that was built in Omaha, Nebraska still stands. It is located at 502 North 72nd Ave and retains the original look even today. Approximately 30,000 people toured the home before it was raffled off.[21]

Related works[edit]

The story behind the film began as an April 1946 article written by Eric Hodgins for Fortune magazine. It was reprinted in Reader's Digest and (in condensed form[22]) in Life before being published as a novel.[23]

A half-hour radio adaptation of the movie was broadcast on NBC's Screen Directors Playhouse on July 1, 1949.[24] Grant reprised his role as Jim Blandings, and Frances Robinson played his wife Muriel. On October 10, 1949 CBS's Lux Radio Theatre presented a one-hour adaptation,[25] with Irene Dunne as Muriel. Screen Directors Playhouse gave a second performance of its half-hour version on June 9, 1950, this time with Grant's wife Betsy Drake as Muriel.[26]

On January 21, 1951, Mr. and Mrs. Blandings, a weekly comedy radio series starring Cary Grant and Betsy Drake, premiered on NBC.[27] Sponsored by Trans-World Airlines, it followed the adventures of the Blandings family after their move into their dream house.

An episode of the 1950s television anthology series Stage 7, titled The Hayfield, aired on September 18, 1955, and was based on the Blandings characters. The episode was a television pilot produced by Four Star Productions for a planned but ultimately unproduced weekly series, Blandings' Way.[28] Macdonald Carey and Phyllis Thaxter played the Blandings in this version. In the episode, Mr. Blandings attempts to clear a hayfield on his property by burning it off, with predictably disastrous results.

In the late 1950s, Screen Gems Productions also proposed The Blandings, a weekly TV series featuring the family. Robert Rockwell was considered for the lead,[29] but the pilot featured Steve Dunne instead, with Maggie Hayes.[30] The series was never produced, but the pilot ran on April 27, 1959 as an episode of Goodyear Theatre titled A Light in the Fruit Closet.[31]

Buildings[edit]

The house built for the 1948 film still stands on the old Fox Ranch property in Malibu Creek State Park, in the hills a few miles north of Malibu.[32] It is used as the park's office.

In 1950, after seeing the film at a local theater, dentist Luther Werner Fetter and his wife Mary purchased the plans for the house from RKO Productions, which produced the film, and built a complete replica of it on Mt. Joy Street in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. They moved into the house that Christmas. After Mary Fetter died in an automobile accident in 1960, Dr. Fetter remained the house's sole occupant until his death in 2002.[33] Coordinates: 34°5′41.4″N 118°42′43.63″W / 34.094833°N 118.7121194°W / 34.094833; -118.7121194

In real life, the family of the author, Eric Hodgins, built their house in the Litchfield County town of New Milford, Connecticut. It was last sold in 2004 for $1.2 million.[34]

Remakes[edit]

Similar themes[edit]

  • George Washington Slept Here, a 1942 film based on a 1940 play about a couple who refurbish a broken-down old house of some possible historical significance

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Selznick-Eyssell Tiff Results In 'Blandings' Shift to N.Y. Astor". Variety: 7. March 10, 1948.
  2. ^ ""Top Grossers of 1948", Variety 5 January 1949 p 46". Archived from the original on 30 March 2016. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  3. ^ "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) - Articles - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on 2015-11-27. Retrieved 2015-11-27.
  4. ^ "Remembering the Money Pit on its 30th anniversary". Archived from the original on 2019-07-06. Retrieved 2019-07-06.
  5. ^ "Are We Done Yet? (2007)". New York Times. April 4, 2007. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  6. ^ Regester, Charlene B. (14 June 2010). African American Actresses: The Struggle for Visibility, 1900–1960. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 103. ISBN 978-0253221926.
  7. ^ Palmer, Phyllis (8 August 1991). Domesticity And Dirt: Housewives and Domestic Servants in the United States, 1920-1945. Women In The Political Economy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. p. 40. ISBN 0877229015.
  8. ^ "The New Pictures". Time. April 5, 1948. Archived from the original on September 14, 2012. Retrieved 2011-03-19.
  9. ^ Crowther, Bosley (March 26, 1948). "The Screen". The New York Times: 26.
  10. ^ "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House". Variety: 15. March 31, 1948.
  11. ^ McCarten, John (April 3, 1948). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. p. 58.
  12. ^ "'Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House' with Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas". Harrison's Reports: 50. March 27, 1948.
  13. ^ Eyman, Scott (2005). Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer. Robson Books. p. 420. ISBN 9781439107911. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  14. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-06-24. Retrieved 2016-08-20.
  15. ^ a b "A home made famous in the 1948 mega-hit 'Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House' is in Ottawa Hills". toledoblade.com. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2011-03-19.
  16. ^ "General Electric has made your Dream House come true! (advertisement)". Life. June 28, 1948. p. 78. ISSN 0024-3019. Archived from the original on January 5, 2014. Retrieved 2011-03-19.
  17. ^ The Oregonian (January 17, 2012). "Mr. Blandings' Dream House, 1948". Vintage Portland. vintageportland.wordpress.com. Archived from the original on September 23, 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-04. The Portland-area house was built in the Cedar Hills area of Beaverton... on the northwest corner of SW Walker Road and Mayfield Avenue.
  18. ^ Susie Steckner (August 2008). "Arizona Dreamin'". Phoenix magazine. Archived from the original on 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2011-03-19.
  19. ^ Nicholas Graham (July 2013). "Mr Blandings Dream House Rocky Mount NC". Digital NC blog. Archived from the original on 2013-07-23. Retrieved 2013-07-19.
  20. ^ Benjamin Briggs (October 2012). "Secrets of Hamilton Lake". Preservation Greensboro blog. Archived from the original on 2013-09-28. Retrieved 2013-07-19.
  21. ^ "Mysteries of Omaha: Mr. Blandings' Dream House". My Omaha Obsession. March 23, 2020. Retrieved November 5, 2022.
  22. ^ "Mr. Blandings Builds His Castle". Life. April 29, 1946. p. 114ff. ISSN 0024-3019. Archived from the original on January 5, 2014. Retrieved 2011-03-19.
  23. ^ "Mr. Blandings Goes to Hollywood". Life. April 12, 1948. pp. 111–124. ISSN 0024-3019. Archived from the original on January 5, 2014. Retrieved 2011-03-19.
  24. ^ "Radio Programs - TODAY'S BEST BETS (9:00 pm)". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (New York). 1949-07-01. p. 19. Archived from the original on 2016-08-27. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
  25. ^ "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House". radio adaptation. Lux Radio Theater via the Internet Archive. October 10, 1949. Archived from the original on August 6, 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-19.
  26. ^ "Radio Programs - TODAY'S BEST BETS (9:00 pm)". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (New York). 1950-06-09. p. 27. Archived from the original on 2016-08-18. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
  27. ^ Bundy, Jane (1951-02-03). "Television-Radio Reviews: Mr. and Mrs. Blandings". The Billboard. p. 8. Retrieved 2016-06-18.
  28. ^ "Expansion at Four Star; to Add 3 Shows". The Billboard. 1955-05-14. p. 6. Retrieved 2017-03-06.
  29. ^ Hyatt, Wesley (2003). "The Man from Blackhawk". Short-Lived Television Series, 1948-1978: Thirty Years of More Than 1,000 Flops. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 102. ISBN 0-7864-1420-0. Retrieved 2017-03-06.
  30. ^ Goldberg, Lee (2015). "Screen Gems Production #403". Unsold Television Pilots: 1955-1989. Adventures in Television, Inc. ISBN 978-1511590679. Retrieved 2017-03-06.
  31. ^ "Desilu Resumes with Smashup Of Capone Empire". The Pittsburgh Press. 1959-04-27. p. 37. Retrieved 2021-08-26.
  32. ^ "Movie History". Malibu Creek State Park. Retrieved November 5, 2022.
  33. ^ Reed, Lloyd (April 8, 2014). "1950 House Inspired by "Mr. Blandings"". The Elizabethtown Journal. The Elizabethtown Journal. Archived from the original on 1 January 2018.
  34. ^ "The Blandings House in Conn. Inspires the Ultimate Movie Premiere". New England Historical Society. 2018-02-21. Retrieved 2021-03-25.

External links[edit]