AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
Director: H. C. Potter (Dir)
Release Date:   Jun 1948
Production Date:   early Oct--late Dec 1947
Duration (in mins):   93-95
Duration (in feet):   8,455
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Cast:   Cary Grant (Jim Blandings)  
    Myrna Loy (Muriel Blandings)  
    Melvyn Douglas (Bill Cole)  
    Reginald Denny ([Henry L.] Simms)  
    Sharyn Moffett (Joan Blandings)  
    Connie Marshall (Betsy Blandings)  
    Louise Beavers (Gussie)  
    Ian Wolfe (Smith)  
    Harry Shannon (Tesander)  
    Tito Vuolo (Mr. Zucca)  
    Nestor Paiva (Joe Apollonio)  
    Jason Robards (John [W.] Retch)  
    Lurene Tuttle (Mary)  
    Lex Barker (Carpenter foreman)  
    Emory Parnell (Mr. PeDelford)  
    Will Wright (Eph)  
    Frank Darien (Judge Quarles)  
    Stanley Andrews (Murphy)  
    Cliff Clark (Jones)  
    Franklin Parker (Simpson)  
    Charles Middleton (Wrecker)  
    Jack Jahries (Elevator operator)  
    Robert Bray (Workman)  
    Frederick Ledebur (Workman)  
    Don Brodie (Charlie)  
    Hal K. Dawson (Harry Selby)  
    Kernan Cripps (Policeman)  
    Ralph Stein (Proprietor)  
    Gene Leslie (Taxi driver)  
    Mike Lally (Customer)  
    Bud Wiser (Customer)  
    Cy Slocum    

Summary: One morning, like every morning, Jim Blandings, a $15,000-a-year advertising executive, wakes in his cramped Manhattan apartment and is forced to compete with his wife Muriel and their two children, Joan and Betsy, for bathroom privileges and closet space. Jim then learns from his best friend, lawyer Bill Cole, that Muriel has been talking to an interior decorator, who wants $7,000 to remodel the apartment. After vetoing the remodeling scheme, Jim goes to work, where he notices an ad for Connecticut real estate and decides suddenly that the family should move there. Soon after, an unscrupulous real estate agent named Smith convinces the trusting couple to buy a rundown Connecticut farm for $10,000. Later, Bill, who has discovered that the Blandings have not only been overcharged for the land, but have been hoodwinked about the farm's actual size, advises Jim and Muriel to re-negotiate the deal. Unwilling to jeopardize his idealized purchase, Jim refuses to file a complaint, but takes Bill's suggestion to consult a structural expert before renovating the dilapidated farmhouse. When Bill's expert declares that the house should be torn down, Jim and Muriel seek several "second" opinions and eventually hire architect Henry L. Simms, who convinces them to build a new house. Simms's modest plans for a new house are immediately expanded by Jim and Muriel, who demand one bathroom and two closets for each family member, as well as various hobby rooms. After the old house has been destroyed, Jim and Muriel learn that, because they failed to ask the holder of their mortgage for permission to tear down the property, they now owe him $6,000, the amount outstanding on their original loan. Although dubious about the entire deal, Bill offers to help Jim arrange to use his insurance policy as collateral for the construction loan. Soon after, however, Simms informs the couple that their additions will add $11,000 to the cost of construction. Shocked by the revised estimates, Jim and Muriel are about to terminate the deal when they see Simms's sketch for their dream house and are lovestruck by it. As soon as work gets underway on the house, unforeseen construction problems and questionable workmen begin to plague the Blandings. An imbedded stone "ledge" requires blasting before the foundation can be laid, and the water well cannot be built until costly drilling reveals a water source. Jim's work, meanwhile, is suffering because of his domestic distractions, and he is told by Bill, the firm's lawyer, that unless he comes up with a winning ad campaign for Wham ham in six months, his boss will fire him. Although confident his creativity will return, Jim is distressed to learn that, while an underground spring has been found, it is located under the house's proposed foundation and will have to be drained. Finally, following weeks of setbacks, the house's foundation is laid and building begins. Before the house is completed, however, the Blandings are evicted from their apartment. As soon as they move to their new home, Jim is informed that the window panes are the wrong size and that, in order to catch the early train to Manhattan, he must wake up at 5:30 every morning. Betsy and Joan then tell their harried father, who has felt increasingly jealous of Bill's close relationship with Muriel, that Bill's fraternity pin is in their mother's jewelry box and show him a diary entry from her college days in which she lovingly describes Bill. Jim later confronts Muriel with this "evidence," but she scoffs at his accusations and reassures him that she loves only him. A few months later, however, while Jim spends the night at the office trying to come up with his Wham slogan, Bill is stranded in rainy Connecticut and ends up staying the night alone with Muriel. Though still without his winning slogan, Jim decides to return home, fully aware that his departure will cost him his job. At home, after being told by Simms that a seemingly innocuous building request by Muriel has resulted in an additional $1,200 charge, Jim sees Bill dressed in his pajamas. Although Bill and Muriel maintain their innocence, Jim is furious and declares that he hates the house and wants to sell it. Before Jim's tirade concludes, however, one of the workmen interrupts to confess that he overcharged the Blandings $12.36 for his work and offers them a refund. Bill then tells the suddenly shamed Jim that, despite his criticisms, he truly loves the house and acknowledges that some things in life must be bought with the heart, not the head. Now convinced to stay in the house with his faithful wife, Jim is further relieved when Gussie, the maid, utters the phrase "If you ain't eatin' Wham, you ain't eatin' ham" while serving breakfast. Jim turns the phrase into his job-saving slogan, and sometime later, he, Muriel, Joan, Betsy and Gussie enjoy their beautiful dream house with their dear friend Bill. 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Selznick Releasing Organization  
Director: H. C. Potter (Dir)
  James Lane (Asst dir)
  Alex Finlayson (2d asst dir)
Producer: Dore Schary (Pres)
  Norman Panama (Prod)
  Melvin Frank (Prod)
Writer: Norman Panama (Wrt for the scr by)
  Melvin Frank (Wrt for the scr by)
Photography: James Wong Howe (Dir of photog)
  Charles Burke (Cam op)
  Gaston Longet (Stills)
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino (Art dir)
  Carroll Clark (Art dir)
Film Editor: Harry Marker (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Darrell Silvera (Set dec)
  Harley Miller (Set dec)
Costumes: Robert Kalloch (Gowns)
Music: C. Bakaleinikoff (Mus dir)
  Leigh Harline (Mus)
Sound: Francis M. Sarver (Sd)
  Clem Portman (Sd)
Special Effects: Russell A. Cully (Spec eff)
Make Up: Gordon Bau (Makeup supv)
  Hazel Rogers (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: John Swope (Tech adv)
  James Anderson (Unit mgr)
  Kay Phillips (Script supv)
  James Kirley (Grip)
Stand In: Dan Cassell (Stand-in)
  Jean Nash (Stand-in)
  Pete Weissmuller (Stand-in)
  Ivy Keene (Stand-in)
  Charles Cirillo (Stand-in)
  Charles Phillips (Stand-in)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House by Eric Hodgins (New York, 1946), which was based on his article "Mr. Blandings Builds His Castle" in Fortune (Apr 1946).
Authors: Eric Hodgins

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 25/3/1948 dd/mm/yyyy LP1655

PCA NO: 12766
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

 
Genre: Comedy
Sub-Genre: Domestic
 
Subjects (Major): Connecticut
  Dwellings--Remodeling
  Family life
  Finance--Personal
  Houses
  Jealousy
  Marriage
 
Subjects (Minor): Advertising
  Architects
  City-country contrast
  Construction industry
  Construction workers
  Contractors
  Diaries
  Lawyers
  Maids
  New York City
  Real estate agents
  Wells

Note: Norman Panama and Melvin Frank's onscreen credit reads: "Produced and Written for the Screen by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank." The film opens with a tongue-in-cheek prologue narrated by character "Bill Cole." After the prologue, which features shots of harried New York life, Bill then addresses the audience onscreen and introduces the "Blandings family." During the rest of the story, Bill provides occasional offscreen commentary. In one scene, Bill describes the scene's action and delivers all of the characters' dialogue offscreen, while the actors mouth dialogue that is obviously different from the narration.
       Modern biographical sources provide the following information about the novel and its author: Eric Hodgins' novel was inspired by his own experiences building a house in New Milford, CT. In 1939, when he was a vice-president of Time, Inc., Hodgins set out to build his dream house for $11,000, but ended up paying $56,000 for its completion. Two years after moving in, he was bankrupt and was forced to sell the property. After he had written the novel's sequel, Blandings Way , he tried to buy back the house with the $200,000 RKO had paid him for the rights to Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House , but was unsuccessful. As of 1991, film biographer Anne Edwards owned the house.
       News items and articles provide the following information about the film's production: Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House was Dore Schary's first story acquisition after being named RKO's executive vice-president in charge of production. According to an article in Life , written by Hodgins, the author was brought to Hollywood to consult on the adaptation. One of the studio's concerns about the original story was "Jim Blandings'" income. In the novel, Jim earns $25,000 per year, but Frank and Panama felt that the average moviegoer would not be sympathetic to someone earning that much, so his salary was dropped to $15,000. Similarly, the final cost of the house, which was $58,000 in the novel, was lowered to $39,500. RKO borrowed Cary Grant from David O. Selznick's Vanguard Films for the production. Multiple sets were built at Hunter Ranch, near Girard, CA, in what is now Malibu Creek State Park. (The finished house set is currently being used as a Park facility.) In order to create the closing shot, in which a close-up of Grant, Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas pulls back to reveal much of the entire "dream" property, cinematographer James Wong Howe employed a new technique whereby a standard lens was combined with a zoom lens on a crane-mounted camera.
       Costume designer Robert Kalloch died on 20 Oct 1947, just after completing Loy's gowns for the production. Although Dan Tobin is listed in HR production charts and the FD review as a cast member, he was not seen in the viewed print. In her autobiography, Loy recalls that director H. C. Potter shot the script in chronological order. Hodgins' contemporary recollections, however, dispute that claim. Although produced by RKO, the picture was distributed by Selznick Releasing Organization, which held a sixty percent interest in it. RKO owned the remaining forty percent. (Modern sources add that, as part of a deal between RKO and David O. Selznick in which Schary was allowed to terminate his contract with Selznick and become RKO production head, RKO gave SRO the U.S. and Canadian distribution rights to the film. In 1953, however, RKO reclaimed full distribution rights.) After the film's completion, RKO sold the "prop" architectural plans to charity, and seventy-three Blandings houses were constructed around the country, including ones in Bel-Air, CA, Washington, D.C., Portland, OR, and Toledo, OH. Excerpts from a scene in which "Muriel" discusses the unusual colors she wants for the house with two bemused painters were used in a 1993 Sherwin Williams paint commercial. Cary Grant reprised his role in a 10 Oct 1949 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast, co-starring Irene Dunne. Hallmark Playhouse broadcast two more radio versions, the first on 1 Jul 1949 and the second on 9 Jun 1950. Cary Grant starred in both broadcasts, and Betsy Drake, Grant's then-wife, co-starred with him in the second. Panama and Frank's screenplay for Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House also was the basis for the 2007 release Are We Done Yet? , directed by Steve Carr and starring Ice Cube and Nia Long. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   3 Apr 1948.   
Close-Up   ca. 1948.   
Daily Variety   26 Mar 48   p. 3.
Film Daily   29 Mar 48   p. 6.
Hollywood Citizen-News   8 Jun 1948.   
Hollywood Reporter   11 Feb 47   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Sep 47   p. 1, 18
Hollywood Reporter   12 Sep 47   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Sep 47   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Oct 47   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Oct 47   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Dec 47   p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Dec 47   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Mar 48   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Mar 48   p. 6.
Los Angeles Examiner   11 Feb 1947.   
Life   12 Apr 1948.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   10 Jan 48   p. 4010.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   24 Mar 48   p. 4110.
New York Times   9 Nov 1947.   
New York Times   26 Mar 48   p. 26.
Variety   31 Mar 48   p. 15.

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