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Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)

You can’t measure the things you love in dollars and cents. Jim Blandings (Cary Grant) a bright account executive in the advertising business, lives with his wife Muriel (Myrna Loy) and two daughters Betsy (Connie Marshall) and Joan (Sharyn Moffett) in a cramped New York apartment. Muriel secretly plans to knock out a wall and remodel their apartment but when Jim comes across an ad for new homes in Connecticut they get excited about moving out of the city. Planning to purchase and fix up an old home, they buy a wreck at five times the going rate in (fictional) Lansdale County. It’s a leaning, dilapidated, 200-year old farmhouse on some 35 acres and needs to be razed, provoking Jim’s college friend/lawyer Bill Cole (Melvyn Douglas) to chastise him for following his heart rather than his head. The Blandings hire architect Henry Simms (Reginald Denny) to design and supervise the construction of the new home and a long litany of unforeseen troubles and setbacks beset the hapless couple and delay their move in date. When they have to get out of their apartment Jim realises he has to get the only morning train at 5AM to return to the city hours early. On top of all this, at work Jim is assigned the task of coming up with a slogan for WHAM Brand Ham (a whale of a ham!), an account that has destroyed the careers of previous account executives assigned to it. Jim also suspects that Muriel is cheating on him after Bill 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 ever wanted to live in the country … I’m entitled to know what I did. This is America. A man is guilty until he’s proven innocent. Adapted by writer/producers Melvin Frank and Norman Panama from the popular 1946 novel by Eric Hodgins, this plays well into the spirit of post-war optimism, particularly the notion of suburban mobility and own-goal jokes about advertising (capitalised upon in the film’s own publicity campaign). Grant and Loy are supremely well cast as the affable couple constantly dallying with their college chum whose attentions never waver fifteen years after she chose Grant: Douglas is sublime as the smooth naysayer who frequently gives Grant pause for thought and annoyance. As everything that can go wrong does and the builders do what builders always do, this is well paced and pleasingly predictable. There’s a nice subplot that illustrates this proto-Don Draper hitting on someone else’s line (the family maid’s) to save his own bacon (literally) at the eleventh hour. Loy tells insecure Grant what we all know – she fell for his cow eyes and that hole in his chin. That’s only part of it in a role that shows him at his dexterous best playing a predatory Mad Man but being had by cunning rustics and the kind of log line below the picture of a country cottage that would make a cat laugh. Classic American comedy, played to the hilt and directed by H. C. Potter. Maybe there are some things you should buy with your heart and not your head. Maybe these are the things that really count

About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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