Imagine my shock—not to mention distaste—when I went online to the IMDb site to check something about Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) and found that the first film that turns up when you type in the title is the dismal so-called remake Are We Done Yet? that was thrust on an unsuspecting world earlier this year. The real Mr. Blandings showed up as the second possibility for what I was after. Stuff and nonsense. Balder and dash. Anyway, the Asheville Art Museum will be screening the 1948 original, not the Ice Cubed travesty of it. Maybe Mr. Blandings isn’t a great comedy, but it’s a very good one. It’s also the film that first domesticated Cary Grant, and remains perhaps the most effective of Grant’s domesticated films. Grant’s performance as the much put-upon Jim Blandings is one of his sharpest—a perfect (and perfectly good-humored) portrait of a regular guy (to the degree that Cary Grant could be called that) driven to the point of madness by the increasingly complex and expensive adventures of trying to build a house. The film is also a perfect comment on its era—the one in which people started leaving the city for the suburbs or even the country. (The George S. Kaufman-Moss Hart play George Washington Slept Here had something of this and almost certainly left its mark on Mr. Blandings.)
With Grant and Myrna Loy in the leads, Melvyn Douglas in support as the family friend (who seems pretty besotted with Loy), reliable Reginald Denny as the architect and the great Louise Beavers as the family maid (who inadvertently saves Grant’s job), it’s hardly surprising that the film is generally delightful, despite the somewhat lackluster direction of H.C. Potter. (Grant probably liked working with him a few years earlier on Mr. Lucky (1943), but Potter’s career is largely uninteresting.) It’s an altogether charming and funny depiction of the American Dream, of a showplace home going wrong at every turn—albeit of mild concern, since we know from the onset that it’ll all work out. I mean, come on, it’s a Cary Grant picture!