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Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House

"Come to Peaceful Connecticut: Trade City Soot for Sylvan Charm." That's the copy on the front of a real-estate brochure that gets the attention of Jim Blandings (Cary Grant). But the thing is, he shouldn't be sold so easily. After all, Blandings is a Manhattan ad-man who makes his tidy upper-middle-class living selling people things they don't need, which they're expected to buy with money they don't have. But Blandings doesn't love his job all that much, and in fact his latest account (a breakfast ham called "Wham") has become a creative black-hole. And at home in his four-room, high-rise apartment, Blandings finds himself awkwardly sharing the bathroom mirror with his wife Muriel (Myrna Loy) every morning, and then squeezing into the kitchen to sit at the head of the table while his two progressive, precocious daughters criticize his capitalist line of work. So Connecticut it will be, and before long Mr. and Mrs. Blandings find themselves in the company of a local real estate agent, who shows them a ramshackle 18th century farmhouse on 50 rustic acres. Within days the papers are signed, but Blandings' attorney and friend Bill Cole (Melvyn Douglas) soon informs him he's been marked as a city-slicker and swindled — there's only 35 acres on the deed, he's paid almost four times the market value, and every home inspector declares the dwelling unsafe to be inhabited by anything but a wrecking ball. Undeterred, the Blandings stay on course and hire an architect to construct an entirely new home from the ground up, and damn the costs.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House arrived in theaters in 1948 with a topic as contemporary today as it was then — urban flight, and the universal desire for close-knit families to expand into lavish homes in bucolic surroundings. Just four years later, America's first planned suburb — Levittown, Penn. — would start accepting residents, marking a midpoint between town-and-country living (then available only to the very affluent) and the postwar commuter lifestyle so many folks experience today. But even if Blandings immediately precedes the American penchant for suburban sprawl, it remains a popular film — comedy is rooted in universal realities, and in particular the mistakes, misfires, and foibles that we often find in our own lives. Along with family and the workplace, building or remodeling a home is among the most universal of American experiences, and Blandings inspired a modestly successful remake in The Money Pit (1986). But few modern titles can compete with classics — fans return to this one thanks to Cary Grant, in a somewhat subdued performance compared to his broader screwball roles, while Myrna Loy (dubbed "The Perfect Wife" by the day's movie critics) is his loyal, if occasionally contentious, spouse. There's plenty to laugh at, from the digging of the water well to the locking closet to the misplaced windows, but the story ends on a tender, somewhat sentimental note that seems wholly appropriate. Like family and country, there's something about people's homes that's sacred.

Warner's DVD release of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House features a solid full-frame transfer (1.33:1) from a black-and-white source print that offers good granular detail and barely any collateral wear, while the DD 1.0 audio is clear and intelligible. Supplements include two complete one-hour radio broadcasts — a 1949 Lux Radio Theater production with Grant and Irene Dunne, and a 1950 Screen Directors Playhouse production with Grant and Betsy Drake. Also on board is the Tex Avery cartoon "The House of Tomorrow" (7 min.) and a trailer gallery. Keep-case.
—Robert Wederquist

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