Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House came into my film watching wheelhouse after watching The Money Pit. When I informed an older film fan about watching the movie, they let me know that General Electric built a dream home in my hometown to help promote the film. Naturally, this led me on a field trip to discover where the house was today. It took a few years, but finally found it. While looking at what it had become, I wondered if there was documentary potential in remaking one of the Blandings’ Dream Houses.
Twilight Time released the 1960s film I keep mistaking as a Blandings sequel and that was the first time in awhile that I thought about this film. That’s when I started digging out the documentary plans and I wanted to see if I could get any interest in the project. While I was able to get interest from local home remodelers, no one wanted to help finance the filming. So, that went into a drawer and COVID happened.
What’s amazing about all of this is that it showed what got Mr. Blandings into trouble with his dream house. Certain personalities love big projects and undertaking giant things. Cary Grant does amazing with the role of Jim Blandings. While everything he does gets pinned down via Melvyn Douglas’s narration, it still comes across as earnest. What’s fun to do for the math nerds out there is getting to hear how much housing projects cost in 1948. Even adjusted for today’s standards, Blandings still made out pretty well.
Watching Cary Grant playing a stressed modern male trying to get his work done, keep an eye on his wife and make his dream project work is interesting. Grant rarely got shown as not being in control on film, even in his screwball comedies. For 94 minutes, Grant flies around the screen trying to keep his world from falling apart. When they finally hit a breaking point with Blandings, everything works out. Then, he offers up a slight plug for the book.
RKO comedies always try to appeal to everyone without hitting any sorts of stable metrics. That sounds weird to talk about when discussing comedies, but it’s true for the era. A FOX comedy went big, an MGM comedy played to the acting and RKO comedies just kinda went everywhere. The issue of individual style wasn’t at play, because the studio system was looking more at an overall play to general tastes.
Having stopped writing for a moment to compare the Grant version of Blandings to Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation, something struck me. Why I had spent so long thinking Hobbs was a Blandings sequel? Is it because watching a classic comedy staple just blends in too deeply when the era is too far removed from my own? It’s fascinating to see what the film fan brain can do when trying to discern value from something outside of the wheel house.
Don’t worry, kids. I’ll be back to talking about 1980s comedies and horror films soon enough. All will be well again.
Warner Archive brings Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House to Blu-ray with a few special features. You get two radio productions of the show and a vintage cartoon. Plus, you also get to see the re-issue trailer. The A/V Quality is pretty strong for a movie from the 1940s. However, I’ve never known a clean DTS-HD 2.0 mono track to floor any home theater enthusiasts. I’d recommend a purchase to the curious.