[box cover]

Houseboat

Tom Winters (Cary Grant) has just found himself tossed in the deep end. The Washington D.C. bureaucrat has been separated from his wife for a few years, but after she's killed in a car accident, he finds himself at risk of losing his children. You see, Tom spends all of his time in Washington, working as an attorney for the State Department and living a lonely bachelor's life in a small apartment. And that being the case, Tom's father-in-law (John Litel) and sister-in-law Carolyn (Martha Hyer) believe it's best the three children stay at Carolyn's spacious home in the country. Indignant, Tom will have nothing to do with the idea, and thus carts his moppets off to his urban digs. The cramped quarters don't work out so well, and before long the youngest boy wanders off to a carnival, where he meets Cinzia Zaccardi (Sophia Loren), a sheltered Italian girl who is traveling America with her father, a famous conductor, but would rather be allowed to experience the country for herself. Tom eventually agrees to hire Cinzia as the children's maid and relocate back to the country — the only problem is that the house he's selected has become suddenly unavailable, and the ad hoc clan wind up renting a dilapidated houseboat on the Potomac. Billed as "The Greatest Romantic Comedy Ever" upon its 1958 release, Houseboat is far from it — but that doesn't mean it's without merit. Fundamentally, it's a typical film project for Cary Grant at the time. After being typecast in his early career as a simple, good-looking leading man, Grant spent the rest of his life in pictures looking for material that gave him comic opportunities. In this case he's paired with a trio of children whom he cannot begin to fathom, often leading to comical, exasperated outbursts. Houseboat also was a good opportunity for Sophia Loren, given that co-starring in anything with Cary Grant couldn't hurt an actress's career. She's largely appealing, often playing against Grant's closed-minded intransigence, and she gets a catchy song to sing a few times ("Bing Bang Bong"). The duo don't sparkle with chemistry, but they are a delight to see together. The main problem with Houseboat is that the story veers around too much for its own good — at first it seems a wacky comedy, but the budding romance takes too long to get underway, and there are some melodramatic moments with the children (all of whom have little pop-psychology issues) that fall rather flat. Still, for Cary Grant fans, Houseboat is another example of his ability to be.... well... Cary Grant, and remain a compelling star simply by appearing on the screen. Paramount's DVD release of Houseboat features a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) of a source-print that's colorful and in good shape, while audio is in monaural Dolby Digital 2.0. Features include a gallery of publicity stills and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
—JJB



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