Mr Blandings Builds his Dream House

1948 movie

If you haven’t seen it:

mrblandingsbuildshisdreamhouseMr Blandings Builds his Dream House is a lighthearted comedy, with some good one liners. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon.

Poor Mr Blanding (Cary Grant) just wants a nice house with enough bathrooms and closet-space for his family and (remember this is 1948) their live-in black maid. He buys a house out of town, but things do not go quite as planned.

The domestic setting, and the style of the film’s voiceovers, the music, and the set pieces – all make Mr Blandings Builds his Dream House feel more like an extended episode of a sitcom rather than a movie. This being 1948 though, it is not so much “Sex and the City” as “Pipe Smoking and Dodgy Moustaches and the City”.

If you have seen it:

Scroll down past the trailer for more.

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SPOILER ALERT: The plot summary and comments below contain details that might spoil your enjoyment of the movie if you have not already seen it.

Plot:

Jim Blandings is an advertising executive and family man, fed up with the cramped living conditions of his New York apartment. One day he sees an advert for an old house out of town, and takes his wife Muriel to see it. They fall in love with it and decide to buy it.

Unfortunately, as his lawyer points out to him, because he allowed his heart to rule his head, he has agreed to pay well above the going rate. Furthermore, he did not get a full survey done, and discovered too late that house actually needs to be demolished and rebuilt.

Jim and Muriel plan the rebuilding together, but with all the extras they ask for (e.g. a bathroom for every bedroom) the costs escalate.

mr-blandings-builds-his-dream-house-money-pit
The Money Pit

The rebuilding goes ahead, but the costs continue to spiral upwards – they have to use dynamite to blast a ledge, a legal dispute costs $6000, the well has to be dug much deeper than anticipated, and they uncover a spring that needs to be diverted.

While the building is going on, Jim is also having problems with other aspects of his life. At work he seems to have a mental block over the tinned ham advertising campaign he has been assigned to, and in his personal life he is becoming jealous and suspicious of his wife’s relationship with their lawyer.

Eventually, the family move into their new home (before it is completely finished in fact) and Jim resolves his issues at work and realises he was wrong not to trust his wife.

 

Steve Sunday Says:

This most surprising thing about Mr Blandings Builds his Dream House is that although it was made over 60 years ago, we can clearly see that perils of buying and building a house have not changed at all. Anyone who has ever built anything will recognize the problems – legal headaches, unscrupulous salesmen, incompetant contractors, and mounting costs. Probably not everyone locked themselves in a store room however.

The cruel way that everything Jim tries to do, however simple, ends in disaster, reminds me of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Let’s not feel too sorry for Mr Blandings though – I have got my calculator out and checked his finances, they are not too bad. We know that he earns $15000 per year, and the quote for the house was $18000. We do not find out what the final cost was, but even if it is double the estimate, a mortgage of 240% annual salary is nothing by today’s standards. He’ll be fine!

mr-blandings-builds-his-dream-house-varnish
It took a few seconds for him to realize why the decorator was not laughing at his “Look, I’m Carry Grant” joke.

Trivia Trish Says:

  • Mr Blandings Builds his Dream House was from the autobiographical novel of the same name, by Eric Hodgins. Hodgins and his wife built their house in the rural Connecticut town of New Milford. That house recently sold for $1.2 million.
  • Many critics at the time felt that Cary Grant and Myrna Loy were too old to play the naive young couple who don’t know about building a house.

 

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