Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 34 min.

Release Date: June 4th, 1948 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: H.C. Potter Actors: Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas, Reginald Denny, Sharyn Moffett, Connie Marshall, Louise Beavers, Ian Wolfe

 


 

A

glistening, modern giant of concrete and steel (with a population of 7 million, at the time), Manhattan represents contemporary America, teeming with people whether it rains or shines. Bill Cole (Melvyn Douglas), a lawyer and best friend of Jim Blandings (Cary Grant) – part of the fabric of the town, and as typical a New Yorker as anyone could ever meet – narrates the tale of how middle-class Jim, successful in the advertising business, decides to leave the rat race to build a dream house. With his wife Muriel (Myrna Loy) and their two daughters Betsy (Connie Marshall) and Joan (Sharyn Moffett), the current apartment keeps feeling more and more cramped and crowded, necessitating a move. One of the last straws is Jim’s difficulty in finding his socks, which were relocated to a basket in the closet when Muriel’s sizable collection of garments finally push his belongings out of his designated two-and-a-half dresser drawers.

“Take your time. I can spare the blood.” It doesn’t help that there’s never enough hot water, bathroom space, dining table room, or time in front of the mirror to shave, resulting in oodles of bickering. And when Muriel proposes a $7,000 renovation, Jim is beside himself with frustration. He wouldn’t even spend 7 cents on the place. Falling for an ad – and then the slick words of a realtor – the Blandings opt to purchase a house in Connecticut, not realizing just how much trouble and work it will be to buy a fixer-upper, especially when they grossly overpay. It’s a steal! “‘Swindle’ might be a little more appropriate.”

“It just needs someone to love it, that’s all.” Ignoring structural engineer inspections, an architect’s sensible floor-plan for a complete rebuild, and reiterative advice from their lawyer, the Blandings soon find themselves neck-deep in a money pit. But their debacle provides scene after scene of dependable laughs, stemming from financial woes to legal troubles to marital discord to contractor issues to construction obstacles. Yet what could have been a nerve-wracking drama – thanks to the real-world problems with real-world consequences – is instead a curiously light-hearted picture filled with quirky characters and funny interactions.

“It sounded less expensive to say ‘no.'” Due to the general mood of blitheness, which is somewhat unfitting but welcome nonetheless, there’s never really a sense that the Blandingses will meet an impassible impasse. Their ordeals are purely for the audience’s entertainment; surely, in the end, everything will turn out all right. It also helps that their situation is one of a well-to-do family – their trials are far removed from yarns about poverty-stricken folks struggling just to eat.

Of course, everything that can go wrong does go wrong, spreading even to suspicions of infidelity (leading to some of the most hilarious sequences). With a few adjustments, this film could have been an exasperating tragedy of depressing proportions. It’s quite fortunate that Grant and Loy are such an amusing onscreen couple, and that the script is overflowing with humorous dialogue. Unfortunately, it’s mostly comprised of little jokes as opposed to big gags, marking a pleasant but modest comedy; it’s never uproarious enough to be unforgettable. Still, the ending – though anticipated – is satisfying.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10