Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
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. The film was written and produced by the team of Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, and was an adaptation of Eric Hodgins' popular 1946 novel, illustrated by Shrek! author William Steig.
|Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House|
|Directed by||H. C. Potter|
|Screenplay by||Melvin Frank|
|Based on||Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House|
by Eric Hodgins
Mr. Blandings Builds His Castle
|Produced by||Dore Schary|
|Narrated by||Melvyn Douglas|
|Cinematography||James Wong Howe|
|Edited by||Harry Marker|
|Music by||Leigh Harline|
|Distributed by||Selznick Releasing Organization|
|March 25, 1948 (New York)|
June 4, 1948 (US)
|Box office||$2,750,000 (US rentals)|
The film was a box office hit upon its release. Warner Home Video released the film to DVD with restored and remastered audio and video in 2004. The film was remade in 1986 as The Money Pit, starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, and in 2007, as Are We Done Yet?, starring Ice Cube.
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 ($75,400 today). After rejecting this idea, Jim Blandings comes across an ad for new homes in Connecticut and they get excited about moving. Planning to purchase and "fix up" an old home, the couple contact a real estate agent, who uses them to unload "the old Hackett Place" in (fictional) Lansdale County, Connecticut. It is a leaning, dilapidated, nearly 200-year old farmhouse on some 35 acres where General Gates stopped to water his horses during the Revolutionary War. The Blandingses purchase the property for 5 times more than the going rate per acre for locals, provoking his friend/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 has to 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 the new home for $18,000 ($193,900 today). 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 there was a spring only a few feet under the foundation - beset the hapless Blandings and delayed their move-in date. Mrs. Blandings insists on having four bedrooms and four bathrooms. The demolished house's owner also sues them for the balance of his mortgage. On top of all this, at work Jim is assigned the task of coming up with a slogan for "WHAM" Brand Ham, an advertising account that has destroyed the careers of previous account executives assigned to it. Jim also suspects that Muriel is cheating on him after Bill Cole slept alone in the house with Muriel one night due to a violent thunderstorm.
With mounting pressure, skyrocketing expenses, 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 here, 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. Gussie is rewarded by the Blandings with a $10 raise ($100 today), and her likeness is used in the WHAM advertising campaign. The film ends with the family, with Bill, enjoying the beautiful front yard. Jim, who is reading the book Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, invites the audience to “Drop in and see us some time.”
- Cary Grant as James Blandings
- Myrna Loy as Muriel Blandings
- Melvyn Douglas as William "Bill" Cole
- Louise Beavers as Gussie
- Reginald Denny as Henry Simms
- Jason Robards, Sr. as John Retch
- Connie Marshall as Betsy Blandings
- Sharyn Moffett as Joan Blandings
- Ian Wolfe as Real Estate Agent Smith
- Nestor Paiva as Joe Apollonio
- Lex Barker as Carpenter Foreman
- Harry Shannon as W.D. Tesander
- Tito Vuolo as Mr. Zucca
- Emory Parnell as Mr. PeDelford
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."
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."
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."
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."
While quite popular, according to one source the film actually recorded a loss of $225,000 during its initial theatrical release.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
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; over 60 of the houses were equipped by General Electric, including the ones in the following cities:
Phoenix, AZ, Little Rock, AR, Bakersfield, CA, Fresno, CA, Oakland, CA, Sacramento, CA, San Diego, CA, San Francisco, CA, Denver, CO, Bridgeport, CT, Hartford, CT, Washington, DC, Atlanta, GA, Chicago, IL, Indianapolis, IN, South Bend, IN, Terre Haute, IN, Des Moines, IA, Louisville, KY, Baltimore, MD, Worcester, MA, Detroit, MI, Grand Rapids, MI, St. Paul, MN, Kansas City, MO, St. Louis, MO, Omaha, NE, Tenafly, NJ, Albuquerque, NM, Albany, NY, Buffalo, NY, Rochester, NY, Syracuse, NY, Tarrytown, NY, Utica, NY, Greensboro, NC, Rocky Mount, NC, Cleveland, OH, Columbus, OH, Toledo, OH, Oklahoma City, OK, Tulsa, OK, Cedar Hills, OR (near Portland),Philadelphia, PA, Pittsburgh, PA, Providence, RI, Chattanooga, TN, Memphis, TN, Nashville, TN, Amarillo, TX, Austin, TX, Dallas, TX, Fort Worth, TX, Houston, TX, Salt Lake City, UT, Seattle, WA, and Spokane, WA.
Locations also included Worcester and East Natick, Massachusetts; Portland, Oregon; and Ottawa Hills, Ohio. Thousands lined up in front of the house in Ottawa Hills, paying admission to view the house at its opening.
The story behind the film began as an April 1946 article written by Eric Hodgins for Fortune magazine; that article was reprinted in Reader's Digest and (in condensed form) in Life before being published as a novel.
A half-hour radio adaptation of the movie was broadcast on NBC's Screen Directors Playhouse on July 1, 1949. 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 of the film, with Irene Dunne taking on the role of 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 playing Muriel.
On January 21, 1951 a weekly radio series starring Cary Grant and Betsy Drake and titled Mr. and Mrs. Blandings premiered on NBC. The comedy series was sponsored by Trans-World Airlines and 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. This episode was a television pilot produced by Four Star Productions for a planned, but ultimately unproduced, weekly series entitled Blandings' Way. 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 the predictably disastrous results.
In the late 1950s Screen Gems Productions also proposed a weekly television series featuring the Blandings family. Robert Rockwell was considered for the show but the television pilot for the planned series featured Steve Dunne instead, along with Maggie Hayes. The show would have been titled The Blandings, but a series was never produced. However the pilot ran on April 27, 1959 as an episode of Goodyear Theatre, under the title A Light in the Fruit Closet.
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. It is used as an office for the Park.
After seeing the picture at a local theater, in 1950 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. The Fetters moved into the house at Christmas in 1950. Mary Fetter continued to live in the home until her death in an automobile accident in 1960, while Dr. Fetter remained the sole occupant of the property until his death in 2002.Coordinates:
In real life, the family of the author, Eric Hodgins, built their house in the Litchfield County town of New Milford, Connecticut. The last recorded sale was in 2004 for $1.2 million.
- The Money Pit, 1986 film starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long.
- Drömkåken, 1993 Swedish film.
- Are We Done Yet? (a sequel to the 2005 film Are We There Yet?) starring Ice Cube, was released on April 4, 2007.
- George Washington Slept Here, 1942 film based on a 1940 play about a couple who refurbish a broken down old house of some possible historical significance.
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The Portland-area house was built in the Cedar Hills area of Beaverton... on the northwest corner of SW Walker Road and Mayfield Avenue.
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- Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House at IMDb
- Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House at AllMovie
- Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House at the TCM Movie Database
- Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House at Rotten Tomatoes