Tuesday, April 8, 2014
MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE
(June 1948, U.S.)
In my profession as an architect, I've had my more-than-fair-share of dealing with engineers and contractors on various projects, none of which included residential housing, I must confess. However, it's my profession that gives me enough of a feeling of empathy for those who seek the American dream of home ownership and all of the bullshit that goes with it! Despite the fact that MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE is a film of 1948, the madness and insanity of trying to build a home from the ground up and dealing with the inevitable mess that comes with it hardly seems dated even in the 21st Century. Real estate brokers, architects, engineers, contractors, lawyers, interior designers, painters...they'll all drive you to brink of insanity if they don't financially bleed you dry first(and they will!)!
Mr. Jim Blandings (played by the-always-funny Cary Grant) is in the advertising business and lives with his wife Muriel (played by Myrna Loy) and two daughters in a cramped New York City apartment. Muriel secretly plans to remodel their apartment. After rejecting this idea because of the enormous cost, Jim is suddenly inspired to spend a little extra and build a home of their own in Connecticut rather than just renovate a rented apartment. A brainstorm like this will naturally start out as exciting, but will surely become a whole different story once things really get started. Initially, they plan to purchase and fix up an old, dilapidated farm house. This old house, dating from the Revolutionary War-era, turns out to be very structurally unsound and has to be torn down. The Blandings hire an architect to design and supervise the construction of the new home. From the time of the original purchase to the new house's completion, a long litany of unforeseen troubles and setbacks beset the poor, hapless Blandings and delay their move-in date. Particularly amusing is the old man drilling for water for a well on the property who doesn't seem to quite know what he's doing and persistently addresses every problem and issue with a rather annoying, "Y-e-e-a-a-h." You need to watch and listen to seriously appreciate the lunacy of a so-called professional like and understand what drives us as human beings to hire people like this to provide needful services for us. Of course, we need to remember that, at heart, this is a family film that's supposed to fill our heart with warmth and happiness, and there's a real good chance that such emotions can occur, if the damn house ever gets finished! Perhaps you've tried to build your own dream house. Perhaps you and your spouse were even able to agree on one or two things during the long and painful process. In the end, though, perhaps you finally experience the joy and comfort of that wonderful word we all call HOME.
Now here's an interesting, little observation I cannot help but discuss now. You may recall I've referred to this film as undated. Well, here's one part of the film I can not only call dated, but compare it to a real life sequence of my own. As I write this post for this film, my wife and I just happen to be in the process of renovating both of our bathrooms (and so far we've actually agreed on just about everything!). In the film, there's a scene where Muriel Blandings is describing to the professional painter each color she'd like each room of the house to be done in. In rather simple, vague and primitive descriptions, she's expecting the professional to understanding what she wants by comparing colors to loose pieces of thread, dots on a wallpaper pattern and asinine color comparisons with such things as apples and bird's eggs. This is perhaps how one had to describe things in the year 1948. When my wife and I visited a lighting store to choose fixtures for the bathrooms, my wife and the sales lady were standing there with iPads in hand comparing notes, ideas and lighting choices with clear, concise descriptions in the comprehensible language of English! Well, despite the fact that I'm the first one to knock 21st Century gadgets, if that ain't real-life progress, I don't know what the hell is! So here's to all of you iPad geeks out there who actually make it all work!
And here's to all of our dream homes! Mine's in the great town of Westhampton Beach, Long Island. It's been in my family since 1978 and here's what it looks like...
So come by and see me sometime! No, just kidding! Stay away! It's mine!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Mr. Blandings (having just seen the total estimates for his new house): "Never mind, Mr. Simms. If you'll send us a bill for your services, I'll see it's taken care of. Goodbye, Mr. Simms!"
Mr. Simms (the architect): "Oh, but one moment, Mr. Blandings, in the first place..."
Mr. Blandings: "Now in the first place, Mr. Simms, I am going out to get my head examined! Then if I don't jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, I'm going to find the owner of our apartment building and sign a twenty year lease! Goodbye!"