Despite being such a great romantic lead, Cary Grant spent a portion of his career playing very convincing family men. Grant is probably the husband and father we all might prefer to have, as he often played these parts subtly fighting for his position as man of the house while still convincing the women around them that he revered them. In Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Grant takes charge of his family’s living circumstances only to be tripped up at every step along the way.
As Jim Blandings, Grant and his family live in a good-size apartment in New York City where he works in the advertising business. Despite living his whole life in the cramped metropolis, the man is starting to get fed up with sharing a tight bathroom with is wife Muriel, played by Myrna Loy, and the lack of closet space in part because of his two daughters. Seeing an ad promoting a country life in Connecticut, Jim makes up his mind to buy a home there instead of let his wife remodel the apartment for $7,000 on his $15,000 annual salary.
The city slickers get duped into buying a run-down “fixer upper” type home for $10,000 that has so many problems it ultimately must be demolished. The couple draw up plans for a new home with an excessive number of closets and bathrooms at a price tag of $11,000. Mishaps galore ensue that continually add to the cost of construction. The bills are driving Jim mad and the couple almost pulls out of the plan but a sketch of the proposed home is too perfect to walk away.
In the midst of this work is family friend and attorney Bill Cole, played by Melvyn Douglas. The man continually advises the family against their initial efforts but supports them regardless. In one scene when the skeleton of the home is in place, Jim and Muriel hear a pounding sound just after the workers have left the site. They ascend to the second floor where they find Bill had become locked in a closet and was there pounding a bucket against the floor. Mr. Blandings insists this special closet made just for him works perfectly. He goes in, closes the door, and comes out. Wanting to illustrate to Muriel the simplicity of an exit, he invites her in, and all three become trapped inside. Jim breaks the window in the small room to secure their freedom just as the door creaks open on its own.
As the hardships of homeownership surmount the family, Jim is struggling at work because of a new account for Wham brand ham. He spends a torturous night at the office trying to find a new slogan. Meanwhile, Bill has been forced to stay the night in the new home because bridge flooding has trapped him in Connecticut. The storm has also trapped the Blandings kids at a neighbor’s house. Muriel assures us from the get go we do not have to worry about an affair, but a jealous Jim is not so convinced in the morning. The house might cost Jim his job, send the family into bankruptcy and destroy a marriage, but the Blandings will endure.
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House reminds me of The Money Pit that also dealt with a couple’s endeavors to repair an old house. The latter is the sort of movie that can be too frustrating for some people to watch. This classic, however, is more tolerable because it brings more heart and spots of happiness to the screen and drives its characters to a lower degree of madness.
The best part of the movie is the witty dialogue and wonderful acting by Grant, who brings back shades of the screwball era in which he prospered. Loy stands in as the ever-devoted wife, who is not beyond making a financial mistake here or there. Douglas is charming and has his fair share of comedic lines as he watches the mistakes of his friends bite them in the ass.
Mr. Blandings is certainly among my favorite Grant movies. It helps that Loy is there to back him up, but the man really stands out as the star of this comedy.
- Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is set for 8 p.m. ET Sept. 4 on TCM.