In Manhattan, the American middle class Jim Blandings lives with his wife Muriel and two teenage daughters in a four bedroom and one bathroom only leased apartment. They decide to move to the country and find that buying and building and living in their own home is easier said than done.
Remade in 2007 as 'Are We Done Yet?'
Cary Grant ... Jim Blandings
Myrna Loy ... Muriel Blandings
Melvyn Douglas ... Bill Cole
Reginald Denny ... Simms
Sharyn Moffett ... Joan Blandings
Connie Marshall ... Betsy Blandings
Louise Beavers ... Gussie
Ian Wolfe ... Smith
Harry Shannon ... Tesander
Tito Vuolo ... Mr. Zucca
Nestor Paiva ... Joe Appollonio
Jason Robards Sr. ... John Retch (as Jason Robards)
Lurene Tuttle ... Mary
Lex Barker ... Carpenter Foreman
Emory Parnell ... Mr. PeDelford
Anyone who has ever embarked on a construction project, from a tree-house to a skyscraper, will identify with the beleaguered Mr. Blandings. His simple vision of an idyllic life in the suburbs encounters the harsh reality of recalcitrant geology, feuding contractors, exploding costs, and other complications -- all to hilarious effect.
The script has a perfect ear, the director's timing is impeccable, and the sophisticated style of the stars gives the entire production a polished sheen. Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas are all brilliant, but this is much more than a star vehicle. It's one of the best sophisticated comedies Hollywood ever committed to celluloid. And even 60 years later, the story is all too true.
This film is a fantastic showcase for Grant's bewildered man of America, and he always did that so well. The Blandings, a 'typical New York family, on about 15,000 a year', decide to leave their four room apartment in the city and buy a 'dream house' in rural Connecticut.
Of course, this being a comedy, you know it won't go smoothly (you get a good clue as well from Melvyn Douglas' laconic narration here and there, as the Blandings' long-suffering lawyer, and Mrs B's high school sweetheart). First the picturesque little home is a wreck, then they start to plan a substitute (the scene where Mr and Mrs B plan what rooms their new house will have is classic), then everything that can go wrong goes wrong ... on top of this, Grant's harrassed advertising executive has to find a slogan for the bete noire of his company, Wham! ham.
My particular favourite scenes involve Myrna Loy, perfect as Mrs B, instructing which colours of paint each room will have; and a little room at the top of the house which regularly traps Grant inside. A highly recommended RKO goodie, this film. Hugely enjoyable.
Manhattan apartment dwellers have to put up with all kinds of inconveniences. The worst one is the lack of closet space! Some people who eat out all the time use their ranges and dishwashers as storage places because the closets are already full!
Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, a great comedy writing team from that era, saw the potential in Eric Hodgins novel, whose hero, Jim Blandings, can't stand the cramped apartment where he and his wife Muriel, and two daughters, must share.
Jim Blandings, a Madison Ave. executive, has had it! When he sees an ad for Connecticut living, he decides to take a look. Obviously, a first time owner, Jim is duped by the real estate man into buying the dilapidated house he is taken to inspect by an unscrupulous agent. This is only the beginning of his problems.
Whatever could be wrong, goes wrong. The architect is asked to come out with a plan that doesn't work for the new house, after the original one is razed. As one problem leads to another, more money is necessary, and whatever was going to be the original cost, ends up in an inflated price that Jim could not really afford.
The film is fun because of the three principals in it. Cary Grant was an actor who clearly understood the character he was playing and makes the most out of Jim Blandings. Myrna Loy, was a delightful actress who was always effective playing opposite Mr. Grant. The third character, Bill Cole, an old boyfriend of Myrna, turned lawyer for the Blandings, is suave and debonair, the way Melvin Douglas portrayed him. One of the Blandings girls, Joan, is played by Sharyn Moffett, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Eva Marie Saint. The great Louise Beavers plays Gussie, but doesn't have much to do.
The film is lovingly photographed by James Wong Howe, who clearly knew what to do to make this film appear much better. The direction of H.C. Potter is light and he succeeded in this film that will delight fans of classic comedies.
By the late forties the era of the screwball comedy was over, as films were moving in a different direction, comedically and otherwise. With television looming on the horizon, Hollywood would soon be in for a very rough time. Where, one wonders, would movies have gone had television not come along, or its arrival on the scene been delayed by five or ten years? Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House offers one particular way comedy might have developed.
Ad man Jim Blandings, along with his wife and two daughters, are living in a nice but way too cramped New York City apartment, as one day he gets the bright idea that it might be fun to realize his dream of building a house in the suburbs. So he buys some property in Connecticut and has one built to his precise specifications. Well, almost. Had he known the trouble he was in for he might have changed his mind. Then again he might not have. You decide. On this frail premise a wonderful film results, full of conflict between the middle class dream of owning one's own home and the the oftentimes unpleasant reality of acquiring one. Nothing comes easy in this life, as Mr. Blandings learns; but one needn't be miserable just because things don't always go one's way. There is, after all, the long run. But, Blandings asks himself every few minutes, how long is long?
This movie is a delight. It is not, I suppose, a masterpiece in the Capra-McCarey tradition, but it is a worthy successor to their thirties pictures, and may well have been a harbinger of things to come had the arrival of television not changed the cultural landscape so radically. There is real warmth in the picture, and a good deal of (W.C.) Fieldsian hard-edged reality obtruding periodically, but not so much as to leave a bad taste. The people in the film are all very smart and affluent, but decidedly of the professional upper middle not the idle rich upper class.
Lead players Cary Grant and Myrna Loy plays Mr. and Mrs. Blandings to perfection; while Melvyn Douglas is fine as their pragmatic lawyer friend, who often has to bring up unpleasant topics, such as how the real world works. There is, too, a wonderful sense of what for want of a better term one might call the romance of suburbia, which was in its infancy in the immediate postwar years, as one sees the woods and streams that drew people to the country in the first place. These people are most definitely fish out of water in the then still largely rural Connecticut. In a few short years things would change, as the mad rush to suburbia would be in full gear, destroying forever the pastoral innocence so many had yearned for in the small towns, which soon would be connected by highways, littered with bottles and cans, their effluvia rivaling anything one would encounter in the city.
* The pairing of Irene Dunne and Cary Grant was a consistent box office winner and director H.C. Potter wanted Dunne for the role of Muriel Blandings. Unfortunately, she was already working on another RKO film, I Remember Mama (1948), and wasn't available for this production.
* Grand total for the house and property was $38,000 according to Mrs. Blandings in their first night in the house. Assuming the factor used to arrive at the 2004 value show above is correct, the total cost of the house and property would be $298,000.
* Although this film was from the novel of the same name, much of the story is autobiographical. Eric Hodgins and his wife built the actual house in the rural Litchfield County, Connecticut town of New Milford. Located in the bucolic Merryall section of town, the house recently sold for $1.2 million.
* The house "Blandings' Way" really exists on Indian Hill Road in New Milford, Connecticut. It's a beautiful huge white art deco/colonial house that has many of the actual rooms discussed in the movie--such as a room to cut flowers. Also less than a mile away on Long Mountain Road is executive producer of the movie and MGM head Dore Schary's old country home.