Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House fulfills my romance portion of the draft.
In the 80s a loose remake of this movie was made…it was called The Money Pit…but it doesn’t stack up to this one in my opinion. I first saw this movie in the late eighties and have watched it many times since.
This movie was based on a true story, which was turned into a bestselling book. It was written by Eric Hodgins from his own experience. Hodgins and his wife had a house built and the initial estimate for building it came in at $11,000. It ultimately cost $56,000 to finish and nearly drove him into bankruptcy. He said the book “wrote itself.”
A New York advertising executive Jim Blandings (Cary Grant) lives in a cramped apartment with his wife Muriel, two daughters, and housekeeper Gussie. Anyone who has an apartment or starter home with a growing family will be able to relate to this movie.
They look on upgrading the apartment but after the 7,000 dollar estimate is shot down…Jim and Muriel start looking at houses to in Connecticut to live. They find an old house and Jim buys it without checking with his lawyer Bill Cole (played wonderfully by Melvyn Douglas) who informs Jim he got rooked. Jim still wants it…he says somethings you have to buy from the heart. They looked at the house more thoroughly and it is basically falling in.
After getting it checked out it is determined that it would be cheaper tearing the house down and building a new one. This is when the movie really starts. All the estimates seem to shoot up (as in real life) and the price they started with escalates. Partly because of the Blanding’s “small” requests. Anyone who has worked with a contractor can relate.
Wrong estimates, supplies shipped to the wrong address, Jim and Muriel’s naivety, and unforeseen problems in building the house has Jim wanting his head examined for attempting to build a house. All the while the house was being built Jim has to come up with a slogan for “Wham Ham” or his job could be in jeopardy.
The movie was released in 1948 so yes the prices are different now but many of the problems are just the same. It’s a very funny movie with the problems of the house along with Jim’s growing jealousy of Bill’s closeness to Muriel.
Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, and Melvyn Douglas are perfectly cast for this film. Grant and Loy were a great couple but the one that makes this movie tick is Melvyn Douglas as Bill Cole… Jim’s best friend and lawyer. He really stands out in this movie with comedic relief.
As with other movies in this era…the character actors flow in and out of the story and make a lot of scenes great. This is one of the reasons I like these older Hollywood movies so much. Pay attention to the well digger Mr. Tesander played perfectly by Harry Shannon. They add humor and the human element.
RKO (who made the movie) made a deal with 20th Century Fox who had 2,000 acres of landscape in the Malibu hills that served as their location ranch. After the deal was struck the house was built and is the one you see in the movie as it’s being built. It still stands and is now part of the Malibu Creek State Park, and it’s used for the administrative offices
Seventy three “replica” Dream Houses were built in 1948 to tie in with the promotion and release of the movie. Some were raffled off at the day of film release, after ticket sales held during public viewing prior to premiere, and others were put up for public sale by the contractors who built them.
A scene in the movie where Muriel is explaining the color scheme
“First, the living room. I want it to be a soft green. Not as blue-green as a robin’s egg, but not as yellow-green as daffodils. Now, the dining room. Not just yellow–something bright and sunshiny. If you send one of your workers to the grocer for a pound of butter and match that, they can’t go wrong.”
The painter turns to the guy next to him. “Got that, Charlie?”
“Uh-huh. Red, green, yellow, blue, and white.”
- Jim Blandings – Cary Grant
- Muriel Blandings – Myrna Loy
- Bill Cole – Melvyn Douglas
- Joan Blandings – Sharyn Moffett
- Betsy Blandings – Connie Marshall
- Gussie – Louise Beavers
- Mr Tesander – Harry Shannon
- Henry Simms – Reginald Denny
- John Retch – Jason Robards Sr
- Smith – Ian Wolfe
- Carpenter foreman – Lex Barker
- Director – H C Potter