Cary Grant Builds His Dream Movie
Monday morning. Another one. I’ve always wondered exactly which Monday it was in the history of time that started off the grand tradition of the Monday Blues. Did Homo Erectus beat his chest one day when emerging from the cave and through a series of disgruntled moans and wails declare that that was the world’s first ever case of the Monday Blues? Who knows, but regardless of whoever invented it, or wherever it stemmed from it is still a feeling that affects the global population whether they are working or not on that day.
It was a feeling that was affecting me from the moment my eyes opened this morning. Though I was undoubtedly thankful for the extra hour in bed, I still lay there with the sweeping feeling of doomy gloom shrouding my mind… “Oh goodness. Monday again! The start of another working week.” Thankfully though, the blues didn’t deter me from actually getting out of bed and going downstairs and taking up my usual place slouched on the couch in front of rubbish early morning television. However, today was different – rather than sticking to the regular daily tabloid tripe that seem to clog up ITV’s morning schedule, I took the Sky remote and ventured deep into the dark recesses of the endless list of channels…
What I discovered helped to completely eradicate my Monday Blues…
“Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” isn’t exactly a movie title that rolls off the tongue, nor is it one that would make every twenty-four-year-old male stop channel surfing and watch. Especially when it’s a black and white film from 1948. But this film has immense charm and such a timeless quality to it that it can trick anyone into believing they are enjoying a lovely little Saturday afternoon movie.
“Grant is up to his usual performance standard as Mr. Blandings, getting the best from the material, and Myrna Loy comes through with another of her screen wife assignments nicely.” – VARIETY Review, October 1948
The film sees classic MGM alumni Cary Grant and Myrna Loy (loaned out here to RKO Pictures) star as Jim and Muriel Blandings – a quaint middle aged couple with two daughters who are living in a cramped Manhattan apartment. The opening scene makes it comically obvious that the tiny apartment makes it almost impossible for the four characters to live in harmony together under the roof of this confined home – and yet they still have room for a canary and the archetypal post WW2 oversized black maid.
Above: The Blandings, canary, maid et al.
Jim Blandings starts his day by shuffling along the side of the bed, making his way through the cluttered apartment to the kitchen where he once again has to clamber around the kitchen table with his back against the wall, grab his morning cup of coffee then partake in a well choreographed bathroom ballroom with his wife in order to both make use of the sink and mirror. The hilarious realism in this scene is relatable to most viewers, both back in 1948 and in the modern world. It’s in this very opening scene that the film’s “sublime comedy” [Radio Times] comes into play and sets the foundations for what is a solid, well structured comedy that relies heavily on the great performances from it’s three leading players – Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and in the role of their friendly lawyer Bill, Melvyn Douglas.
I adore Myrna Loy. Ever since buying the “The Thin Man” box set many years ago I have enjoyed her amazing comedic timing and those eyes that seem to take in everything and hide so much intelligence it’s hard to bare! Her role in this film stands, as with many of her characters, to be the voice of reason amongst the chaos and calamity. As her character’s husband begins work building a bigger and better home for the family out in the sticks, Myrna manages to stay calm and cool through the entire process whilst it seems everything falls apart around Cary Grant. But then just as it seems she can hold her head up high as being the straight act to Grant’s clown, she goes and delivers a scene like this and it turns the film on its head…
“Not just yellow, a very gay yellow!” – Myrna Loy
Who cares if this film was made in 1948? Who cares if it’s in black and white? All you racist anti black and white film haters out there just have to give this film a chance. The themes, the story and the characters are all relatable to modern audiences. I was stunned at how advanced and how funny this film was even by today’s standards. This film shows that even without violence, sexual humour and crudity films can still be very very funny.
When the film was first released in the late forties it received some criticism. The weak storyline coupled with the fact the main character moans about making $15,000 a year (which at the time most cinema goers would have been HAPPY to make in a year) seemed to not sit well with audiences or critics. But the star power of the two main leads saw the film do very well at the Box Office. Since then the film has garnered huge praise, primarily because it has withstood the test of time and managed to appeal to generations over and over (clearly, if it has appealed to me… but that’s not saying much really). The only criticism I have of the film is the tedious and somewhat annoying and pointless voiceover that comes from Melvyn Douglas. It makes every scene in which the voiceover appears seem like one of those classically cheesy infomercials telling people how to use their new toaster oven or the old style film reels shown during the war warning people of the dangers of talking openly where Hitler’s spies could hear.
But asides from that, this film, much like other plain-Jane old school family movies from the era (such as “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies“) has a wholesome lovely American warmth to it that may be sickeningly sweet at points, but underlying holds a realism and naturalism to it that can appeal to families through different generations and decades.