This one is an old black and white classic from 1948. Jim Blandings (Cary Grant) is married and has two daughters. They live in a two bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment in Manhattan. He is a college graduate, works as an ad man and makes about $15,000 per year.
As the family is getting ready in the morning we see that their apartment is really too small for all of them. Stuff falls out of closets and cabinets that are too full; they have to maneuver around furniture. We see Jim and his wife, Muriel (Myrna Loy), trying to both use the bathroom at the same time. Keep in mind this is back in the day when you only have one sink and a small medicine cabinet sized mirror.
Muriel gets the idea to have improvements made to the apartment to make it more livable. Jim is shocked to find out that the plan the interior designer has come up with would cost them $7,000 and it certainly wouldn’t make the place any bigger (plus they don’t even own the place, they are just leasing). After seeing an ad for houses in Connecticut, he decides it would be a much better idea to spend a few thousand more and buy a house that would suit them better.
They are shown a house in Connecticut. It’s obviously in very poor shape, but the real estate agent really talks it up and has them both picturing what it will be like after it’s all fixed up. Jim and Muriel are convinced that it’s the perfect house for them and make a deal. After showing the paperwork to Bill (Melvyn Douglas), Jim’s best friend who is also an attorney, they find that they have paid far more than the market value and are getting a lot less land than they thought.
Bill says that they are being swindled and he will contact the seller to renegotiate the deal. Unfortunately, Jim and Muriel have made the classic mistake when buying a home. They bought with their hearts and not their heads. Meaning they are both already in love with the idea of living there and don’t want to take the chance of losing the house by trying to alter the deal. They decide to stick with the current agreement.
They finally do take one piece of Bill’s advice and have an engineer look at the house. He tells them it’s in such bad shape that they should tear it down and build a new one. They are not happy with his answer so they get more opinions on the matter. Unfortunately for them, all the professionals tell them the same thing.
So the decision is made to tear down the house and build a new one. This means they now need an architect to draw up plans. During the planning process they keep coming up with new “necessities” for the new home. Such as, four bedrooms, a dedicated bathroom for every bedroom (keep in mind this is 1948), two closets in each bedroom and various specialty rooms.
Things just keep getting more and more out of hand as the building progresses. Jim and Muriel make decisions about things they don’t fully understand, which causes further complications and even more money being spent. Unexpected things keep cropping up during construction and the costs just keep climbing and climbing.
Some of my favorite quotes:
Bill – “Jim and Muriel Blandings are just like thousands of other New Yorkers: Modern cliff dwellers.”
Joan – “Ms. Stellwagon says advertising is a basically parasitic profession.”
Jim – “You don’t say.”
Joan – “Ms. Stellwagon says advertising makes people who can’t afford it buy things they don’t want with money they haven’t got.”
Bill – “Yes, sir, he knows a sucker … I mean customer, when he sees one.”
Bill – “You’ve been taken to the cleaners and you don’t even know your pants are off.”
Jim – “Well, so far it’s cost us $13,329.45.”
Muriel – “But we have the nicest vacant lot in the state of Connecticut.”
Muriel – “I refuse to endanger my children’s health in a house with less than four bathrooms.”
Jim – “For $1,300 they can live in a house with three bathrooms and rough it.”
Muriel – “What did you do?”
Jim – “I don’t know, they won’t tell me.”
Jim – “Just because a man is helpful in a business way doesn’t give him extracurricular privileges with my wife.”
Jim – “That’s fine. For the rest of my life I’ll have to get up at 5 in the morning to catch the 6:15 to get to my office at 8. It doesn’t even open until 9 and I never get there until 10.
Betsy – “Father, the first principle of lighting a fire is to see if the flue is open. A 3 year old child knows that.”
Bill – “Muriel, really? With your husband in New York and your children away? Think of my reputation.”
Muriel – “Don’t worry, Snow White. You’ll be just as pure and unsullied in the morning as you were the night before.”
This is a cute, fun movie to watch. The three lead actors are all terrific in their roles. However, I will say that I am partial to Cary Grant. I especially enjoy watching him in comedies like this. In addition to his great comedic timing, he has such a wonderful screen presence and really grabs your attention.
It’s so odd to see two twin beds in Jim and Muriel’s bedroom.
Why on earth do they both sing “Home on the Range” when they take a shower?
The Special Features Section includes a Tex Avery cartoon called “The House of Tomorrow”.
Following is additional information about the show that contains spoilers. If you don’t want to be spoiled don’t read any further.
It’s insane that their $11,500 house ended up costing around $38,000 by the time they were done. That’s the kind of thing that’s amusing in a movie, but completely tragic in real life.
I liked how Gussie just happened to give Jim the perfect ad slogan for Wham, thereby saving his job and in turn allowing them to keep the house.