Saturday, January 31, 2015

Stubs – It All Came True

It All Came True (1940) Starring: Ann Sheridan, Jeffrey Lynn, Humphrey Bogart, ZaSu Pitts, Una O’Connor, Jessie Busley. Directed by Lewis Seiler. Screenplay by Michael Fessler, Lawrence Kimble. Based on the short story "Better Than Life" by Louis Bromfield in Hearst's International-Cosmopolitan (Jan 1936). Produced by Jack L. Warner, Hal B. Wallis. Run time: 97 minutes. US. Black and White. Comedy, Crime, Musical, Drama

On the cusp of the 1940’s, Bogart was still a B-actor making B-movies at Warner Bros. He seemed to be a perpetual second or third on the bill, never the headliner. Known for portraying gangsters, he played it tough, but always got outsmarted or outgunned by a bigger name, like James Cagney or Edward G. Robinson.

75 years ago finds Bogart one year away from his big break, The Maltese Falcon, but it must have seemed like it was never going to happen for the 40-year-old actor. He had no way of knowing that in a year’s time he would become an icon and eventually become perhaps the biggest star Hollywood ever created.

While making It All Came True, Bogart was working on another film, the big-budget Errol Flynn western, Virginia City, in which Bogart was fourth billing behind Miriam Hopkins and Randolph Scott. Literally, for weeks he traded off between the roles, playing urban gangster in the morning and a western desperado in the afternoon.

Aspiring songwriter and piano player Tommy Taylor (Jeffrey Lynn) pins his hopes on the promises of his employer, gambler, gangster, and recluse "Chips" Maguire (Humphrey Bogart). Having finally had enough, Tommy tells Chips that he’s through and wants to quit. But the resignation is halted when the police raid Chips’ nightclub.

Taking Tommy with him, Chips escapes, but discovers that one of his associates, Monks (Herb Vigran), has betrayed him to the police. Using a gun registered to Tommy, Chips shoots and kills Monks on the spot. Chips informs Tommy in their taxi cab escape that he had Tommy carry the gun for just such a situation. If the police find the gun, Tommy will be the fall guy.

When Chips (Humphrey Bogart) discovers one of his associates, Monks,
has betrayed him, he gets his own revenge. Tommy (Jeffrey Lynn) watches.

Chips uses this to blackmail Tommy into providing him a hiding place, a theatrical boarding house owned by his mother, Nora Taylor (Jessie Busley), and her longtime friend, Maggie Ryan (Una O'Connor). Tommy hasn’t been home for five years and Nora keeps thinking up stories to explain this. She tells Maggie that Tommy will someday be a big success. They need for that to come true, because the mothers owe back taxes, less than $1200, and are on the verge of losing the boarding house to the bank.

Nora is overjoyed to see her son after such an absence and is only too happy to rent a room to Tommy’s friend, who pretends to be a man named Grasselli recovering from a nervous breakdown. The room used to belong to a long-time tenant, now dead, whose taxidermy specimens are still on display. Grasselli is told not to touch anything, nor does he want to.

By chance, Maggie's showgirl daughter, Sarah Jane (Sheridan), returns home the same day. And once again she is flat broke. While the two mothers dream of their children getting married, they’ve known each other all their lives, Tommy seems indifferent to Sarah Jane.

Sarah Jane becomes suspicious of Grasselli, since he does his best to avoid being seen. She eventually hides in the hall bathroom and recognizes him, having worked for him once. Unwilling to get Nora and Maggie in trouble, she agrees to keep Chips' secret. Chips asks her to come by and talk to him sometime since he’s going stir crazy looking at the stuffed monkeys.

Meanwhile, Sarah Jane makes up with Tommy, who she finds is writing songs. (There seems to be a rule that all sound Warner Bros. films have a song in them somewhere.) Tommy plays a couple of his compositions for her, "Gaucho Serenade" and "Angel in Disguise". He teaches her the songs and she decides they could work up an act (of course).

Sarah Jane (Ann Sheridan) finds out her old boyfriend, Tommy, also writes songs.

Nora starts mothering Chips, as does Maggie after a while. Chips, who doesn’t like mothers, now has two. Tired of hiding in his room all the time, Chips emerges and becomes acquainted with the other boarders: Miss Flint (ZaSu Pitts), Mr. Salmon (Grant Mitchell), washed-up magician The Great Boldini (Felix Bressart), and Mr. Van Diver (Brandon Tynan).

Chips doesn't like mothers, but ends up with two: Nora Taylor (Jessie Busley) and Maggie Ryan (Una O'Connor).

In honor of his coming down, the former performers put on a show for Chips. Mr. Salmon reads his original poetry and The Great Boldini does his magic act, but unwillingly, thanks to his dog, ends up doing a comedy routine. Sarah Jane and Tommy steal the show with their song and dance number.

Chips watches the other tenants perform and dreams of making the boarding house into a nightclub.

That night, when Sarah Jane learns that Nora and Maggie are about to lose their house, she turns to Chips for help. He gives her the money but tells her that it will only postpone their financial problems. He suggests (out of sheer boredom) that they set up a small exclusive nightclub, The Roaring Nineties, in the boarding house, with the added advantage that Tommy and Sarah Jane can showcase their talents. Nora is enthusiastic and makes up a story about how a successful nightclub could save them, but it takes some persuasion to get Maggie to go along.

Meanwhile, Miss Flint sees Chips' picture in a crime magazine and recognizes him as Mr. Grasselli. She confronts him and enjoys feeling control over him. Chips starts to pack to leave, but Sarah Jane knows if he leaves, the boarding house will close. Sarah Jane intimidates Miss Flint into keeping quiet, since guys like Chips have stool pigeons killed and in a gruesome manner.

Sarah Jane intimidates Miss Flint (ZaSu Pitts) to keep her from talking to the police about Chips.

On opening night, Chips makes remarks that further scare Miss Flint. Drunk on too much champagne, she becomes so frightened that she goes to the police asking to be arrested for her own protection. When she finally confesses that it’s Chips Maguire she’s afraid of, two detectives go to the nightclub to arrest Chips.

The policemen agree to let him watch the rest of the show, as he promises something if they do. Tommy sees the cops and assumes the worst, that he, too, will be arrested. He goes to the roof to be alone. When Sarah Jane joins him there, he finally admits he loves her. She urges him to flee, but he refuses to run away.

After the show, even though he can easily incriminate Tommy, Chips sees how happy Sarah Jane is with Tommy and decides to let the police take him in, even though he refuses to talk without his lawyer present.
In the end, all of Nora’s stories about love and money do seem to all come true.

Seeing how happy Sarah Jane and Tommy are, Chips decides to give himself up to the police.

Sort of an odd film, a mashup of the gangster, musical comedy, and drama. There is a murder committed early on, but the rest of the film is interesting without being tragic. While Bogart doesn’t embarrass himself, it is clear why he’s not best remembered as a comedian. The role of Chips Maguire was originally offered to George Raft, who turned it down, deeming it a Humphrey Bogart part. I don’t think that was meant as a compliment.

You almost feel sorry for Bogart, because he is clearly typecast and trapped in the B-movie universe at Warner Bros. In It All Came True, he’s playing a part he could no doubt play in his sleep by this point in his career. Still, he has a screen presence that demands the attention of the viewer. Clearly, he hasn’t earned the respect of the studio heads and is biding his time waiting for better things to come.

While this would appear to be a star-vehicle for Ann Sheridan, Sarah Jane is a role Bette Davis reportedly turned down first. Sheridan is good in the part, even if she’s not the reason I wanted to see the film.

Shapely with a head of red hair, Sheridan got into films almost as a joke. While attending North Texas State University, Sheridan’s sister, Kitty Kent, sent her photo to Paramount Pictures’ “Search for Beauty” contest. Ann, then called Clara Lou, emerged the winner of the local contest. The prize was a bit part in a Paramount Pictures film and Clara left college for Hollywood. Her first appearance in film was at the age of 19 in the movie that resulted from the contest, Search for Beauty (1934).

After playing parts at the studio where she didn’t receive screen credit and with no one trying to develop her talent-wise, she moved to Warner Bros. It was at Warners where a press agent dubbed her The Oomph Girl. While she reportedly loathed the moniker, Paul Muni convinced her that it would further her career, so she acquiesced and became an overnight sensation.

She is best remembered for her roles in films such as Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), Dodge City (1939), Indianapolis Speedway (1939), Torrid Zone (1940), They Drive by Night (1940), The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942), Kings Row (1942), Nora Prentiss (1947), The Unfaithful (1947) and I Was a Male War Bride (1949). During her career, she worked with such actors as James Cagney, George Raft, Bogart, Ronald Reagan, and Cary Grant.

Her film career slowed down considerably in the 1950s, with parts becoming harder for her to get, so she moved to television, appearing on Stop the Music (a Name That Tune type of show) in 1950, Wagon Train, and the soap opera Another World. She died in 1967 at the age of 51 of esophageal and liver cancer.

The other actor receiving billing over Bogart is Jeffrey Lynn. Lynn, a former school teacher, first appeared in Out Where the Stars Begin (1938), but received notice in Four Daughters (1938) appearing with Claude Rains, John Garfield, and the Lane Sisters: Rosemary, Lola, and Priscilla. The film spawned two sequels Four Wives (1939) and Four Mothers (1941), all including Lynn. A fourth film, Daughters Courageous (1939), has much of the same cast but is about a different family than the other three.

Following the success of Four Daughters, Lynn was screen-tested for the part of Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind (1939). Though the part would eventually go to Leslie Howard, Lynn was used extensively in the “Search for Scarlett” screen tests. He also appeared in The Roaring Twenties (1939) and The Fighting 69th (1940). His career was interrupted by military service during World War II, but when he came back to Hollywood he never did find his groove. He appeared in A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and Strange Bargain (1949), but his career stalled. In the 1960s, he would also appear in Butterfield 8 (1960) and Tony Rome (1967). His last appearance was on an episode of Murder, She Wrote in 1987, The Days Dwindle Down, a remake of Strange Bargain, and reunited him with his co-stars from that film, Martha Scott and Henry Morgan.

Compared to Bogart, Lynn doesn’t have the same screen presence. Again, like Sheridan, he’s good, but I can’t stop thinking he’s taking away screen time that should have gone to Bogart.

The rest of the supporting cast is pretty solid, featuring the likes of ZaSu Pitts, whose career is touched on in the review of The Plot Thickens (1936); Felix Bressart, perhaps best remembered as Pirovitch in The Shop Around the Corner (1940); Una O’Connor, who had small but memorable parts in such horror classics as Frankenstein (1931), The Invisible Man (1933) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1936); and Jessie Busley, a stage actress/comedian who appeared in only six feature films: Personal Maid (1931), Brother Rat (1938), King of the Underworld (1939), Brother Rat and a Baby (1940), It All Came True and Escape to Glory (1940).

Felix Bressart and ZaSu Pitts head up the supporting cast of It All Came True.

The film also features some rather forgettable stage acts: Tommy Reilly, The Lady Killer's Quartet, The Elderbloom Chorus, Bender and Daum, and White and Stanley; no doubt vaudeville performers getting their shot in Hollywood. I don’t believe any of them ever caught on and for good reason.

The story is strictly movie fare, in that there is no way this would really happen in real life. Realism is never a requirement for a movie, but this is obviously not ripped from the headlines, the way so many Warner Bros. gangster films seemed to have been. The main curiosity for watching the movie is Bogart. He’s still struggling with third-billing behind actors that his career would soon enough eclipse. It All Came True is a solid-B picture and no doubt provided a pleasant diversion when it was first released. Still does to this day. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Stubs – The Plot Thickens

The Plot Thickens (1936) Starring: James Gleason, ZaSu Pitts, Owens Davis Jr. Directed by Ben Holmes. Screenplay by Jack Townley, Clarence Upson Young. Based on the short story The Riddle of the Dangling Pearl by Stuart Palmer (Mystery, Nov. 1933). Produced by Samuel J. Briskin (Executive), William Sistrom (Associate). Run time: 69 minutes. US. Black and White. Mystery, Drama, Comedy

It seems Hollywood has always liked sequels. If The Thin Man was good, why not five more films with the same actors and the same basic frame work. Except, back in the heyday of studios they didn’t call them sequels so much as a film series. They weren’t called franchises, probably because studios made so many films that they weren’t dependent on one big film to carry the day as much as they are now.

But then as now Hollywood is always on the lookout for the source for a series of films. As with sequels today, they can develop a built-in audience that comes because they know what to expect. Sometimes there is a popular book or books that propels the series forward. In the 1930s one such series was made based on the characters developed by Stuart Palmer.

Author Stuart Palmer.
A former taxi driver and newspaper reporter, Palmer turned to writing fiction in 1932 with the mystery, The Penguin Pool Murder. His main character was a spinster school teacher named Hildegarde Withers, who also happened to be an amateur sleuth. Miss Withers was apparently based on Miss Fern Hakett, Palmer’s high school teacher.

RKO studios made a film version of Palmer’s book in 1932 starring Edna May Oliver. Her co-star James Gleason played Inspector Oscar Piper. While leading ladies came and went, Gleason would continue to play Inspector Piper in five more films. Twice more with Oliver, Murder on the Blackboard (1934), Murder on a Honeymoon (1935), once opposite Helen Broderick, Murder on the Bridle Path (1936) and twice opposite ZaSu Pitts: The Plot Thickens (1936) and Forty Naughty Girls (1937).

The Plot Thickens was only in production for a few weeks from mid September to early October 1936 and was released on December 11, 1936.

Pitts and Gleason’s first pairing, The Plot Thickens, starts late at night at the estate of John Carter (Richard Tucker). Two of Carter’s household employees are going out on a date, but Carter, who had promised them the roadster, commandeers it for himself. He tells them to take his sedan instead, but before they can take it, another household member, Joe (Paul Fix), the chauffer, takes it and follows the roadster.

While he’s out driving, Carter spies Alice Stevens (Louise Latimer) looking abandoned by the side of the road. He stops to offer her a lift when he is accosted by her boyfriend Robert Wilkins (Owen Davis, Jr.), who tries to stop her from going with Carter. Defending himself, Carter punches Wilkins, who is about to retaliate when a policeman who has witnessed the encounter steps forward. He plans to take Wilkins into custody, but Carter intercedes. Instead the policeman walks Wilkins back to his car, while Carter and the girl drive off. Even though the policeman tells Wilkins to go home, Wilkins promises revenge on Carter.

Later, when Carter puts the moves on Alice, she gets out of the car. While she is only a few feet away, Carter is shot and killed by an unknown assailant. Alice flees, looking for a phone to call the police. A gas station attendant (Billy Dooley) offers to let her use his phone, but before she can call the police, Wilkins, who has been following her, shows up. She tells him what happened and they return to the scene of the crime.

Trying to protect her, Wilkins sends her away in his car while he takes care of Carter’s body. Of course, the right thing would be to call the police, but that wouldn’t be thick enough for this plot. Adding flour to the gravy, Wilkins drives Carter’s car back to his estate.

But the next morning, Kendall (Arthur Aylesworth) finds Carter’s dead body in his study. He calls the police and inspector Oscar Piper (James Gleason) is assigned to the case. When you get Piper you also get Hildegarde Withers (ZaSu Pitts), a schoolteacher and clever amateur sleuth. Since first appearing in films, the character’s relationship had heated up. When Edna May Oliver played Hildegarde, she and Piper were careful not to touch. Now, Piper and Hildegarde are considered to be dating.

If Inspector Oscar Piper (James Gleason) is on the case,
amateur sleuth Hildegard Withers (ZaSu Pitts) is not far behind.

Oscar's first suspect is pretty Alice who was with Carter seconds before he was murdered, and her boyfriend, Wilkins whose jealous tirade against Carter had been witnessed. While inspecting Carter's house, however, Hildegarde discovers a mysterious jewel case containing a large emerald and learns from a jeweler that the gem is the famous Sultan emerald, which had been stolen years before from the Louvre. Her inquisitiveness nearly gets her arrested when the jeweler calls the police.

Under pressure from Oscar, Robert admits that, to protect Alice, he had returned Carter's corpse to his garage but not to the study. Back in his office, Hildegarde tells Oscar about the jewel and the two return to Carter's estate to question Joe, but Joe has fled. While Oscar tries to get to the bottom of Joe’s disappearance, Hildegarde goes through Carter’s study, looking at photographs of a decorative cup. With her back turned, Hildegarde is knocked out by a masked thief, who steals a cup from Carter’s safe that resembles the one in the photographs.

Hildegarde determines that the cup is the valuable Cellini Cup, which is housed in the city's Cosmopolitan Museum. At the museum, we see street kids running around making mischief and noise and a sculptress, Dagmar (Agnes Anderson), attempting to copy a museum piece. Hildegarde talks with Mr. Gordon (John Miltern), a guard very knowledgeable about the Cellini Cup. He shows Hildegarde that a dangling pearl in the cup vibrates to the clock chimes. But shortly after they talk, Gordon is murdered by being thrown down the steps. In the confusion, the cup is stolen, but the exits are locked and everyone is trapped inside. Dagmar is found unconscious and the police search in vain for a man wearing a derby. After an exhaustive search of the museum, the cup is found quite easily in the cloak room, wrapped as a package being held. But Hildegarde notices that its dangling pearl doesn’t vibrate; it’s a fake.

The police funnel everyone in the museum out through a single door and search them on their way out. Oscar notices one of the boys taking great interest and then running back into the museum to warn his accomplice, who happens to be Dagmar, of the search. The boy turns out to be a midget (John T. Bambury) in disguise, sort of a la Mission: Impossible. The Cellini cup is found in the base of Dagmar’s sculpture. Oscar and Hildegarde deduce that a gang of thieves connected killed Gordon (the only expert on the cup) and tried to plant a fake in its place.

With all the suspects lined up in Oscar’s office, the inspector, in the tradition of cozy mysteries, goes down the line, telling why each one has a reason to be a suspect. Joe snaps, stealing a policeman’s gun. But it’s full of blanks and he’s arrested for Carter’s murder.

It is the pairing of Gleason and Pitts that carries the film. Both are talented actors who possess great comedic timing. They make for a cute onscreen couple and the chemistry plays into the relationship between amateur sleuth and her policeman partner.

The pairing of James Gleason and ZaSu Pitts makes The Plot Thickens worth watching.

While I best remember Gleason as a bit actor, playing the parts like Sylvester the cab driver in The Bishop’s Wife (1947), there really was a lot more to the man. Like practically every film actor, he got his start on stage. He was also a writer of plays and for our purposes, dialogue for comedies. As an example, along with Norman Houston, Gleason is credited with writing The Broadway Melody (1929), the second film and first sound film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. And this was at the beginning of his career. He also made his first movie appearance in The Broadway Melody in an uncredited role.

In 1931, Gleason and Robert Armstrong, Carl Denham from King Kong (1933), starred in a radio sitcom, Knights of the Road. The syndicated series, sponsored by Union Oil, ran for 103 episodes which were each fifteen minutes long, including commercials. While I have never heard an episode, the series revolved around two men, oddly enough named Jimmy Gleason and Robbie Armstrong, who have a dream of opening a gasoline station on land they plan to buy from Robbie’s girlfriend’s father. Their plan is to tour the U.S. for one year, observing how other filling stations are run so they can make theirs the best.

Gleason would appear in Change of Heart (1934), which he also wrote; Meet John Doe (1941); Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), A Guy Named Joe (1943); Arsenic and Old Lace (1944); The Bishop’s Wife; Suddenly (1954) and The Night of the Hunter (1955) to name a few. He was nominated Best Supporting Actor for his role as Max Corkle in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, which he later reprised in the musical sequel Down To Earth (1947).

ZaSu Pitts’ career goes back even farther. She got her first break in films playing in The Little Princess (1917) starring Mary Pickford. She appeared in a series of one-reel comedies for Universal starting in 1919, which led to a rise in her popularity. Her first full length lead was in King Vidor’s Better Times (1919).

Known as a comedic actress, Pitts was cast in 1924 to appear in Erich von Stroheim’s adaptation of Frank Norris’ 1889 novel, McTeague. Called Greed, the original film is both celebrated and notorious for being a 9 and a half hour long, line for line adaptation of the book. Hailed by many, seen by few, Greed is often touted as one of the greatest films ever made. Pitts played Trina Sieppe, McTeague’s wife.

ZaSu Pitts as she appeared in Greed (1924)

Declaring the comedienne “the greatest dramatic actress”, von Stroheim would cast her in The Honeymoon (1928), The Wedding March (1928), War Nurse (1930) and Walking Down Broadway, released as Hello, Sister! (1933). Pitts would also show off her dramatic skills in Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).

She would also continue to make comedies: Finn and Hattie (1931), The Guardsman (1931), Blondie of the Follies (1932), Sing and Like It (1934) and Ruggles of Red Gap (1935). She would also appear in Life with Father (1947), the film adaptation of the long running Broadway play. Her last film was It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, playing Gertie the switchboard operator.

My first attraction to the film was the title, which, as it turns out, nails it. The plot is as thick as gravy. It is saved by the fairly brisk pace. This is a lighthearted approach to the murder mystery and there are some funny moments. One of the more memorable ones revolves around the search for the man wearing a bowler whom Dagmar claims knocked her out. The bowler the police find and are trying to match, unbeknownst to them, belongs to Oscar. Having not read Palmer’s short story, I don’t know if these are touches from his pen or from Jack Townley and Clarence Upson Young, who wrote the screenplay.

This is not a movie to take too seriously. This was meant as a comedic diversion rather than a heart-pounding mystery/thriller. The Plot Thickens follows the standards for what is termed a cozy mystery the established routine of a crime victim, suspects, clues, questioning, locked rooms, alibis and so on, throwing in comedy without being an outright spoof of the genre like The Cheap Detective (1978) or as over-the-top as say Clue (1985).

The Plot Thickens is a B-picture all the way and one that is worth watching, especially if you’re in the mood for a comedic cozy mystery.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Stubs – Horse Feathers (1932)

Horse Feathers (1932) Starring: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx, Thelma Todd, Florine McKinney, David Landau, Directed by Norman McLeod. Screenplay by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby and S.J. Perelman. Produced by Adolph Zukor and Herman J. Mankiewicz (uncredited) Run Time: 70 minutes original release. (68 minutes as viewed). U.S. Black and White. Comedy

The Marx Brothers first brought their wild brand of humor to Paramount Pictures in 1929’s The Cocoanuts, which was a film adaptation of their successful Broadway show which was written by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind. They followed this with another film adaptation of another Kaufman-Ryskind show, Animal Crackers (1930). Both films were made in New York’s Astoria Studios.

After that, the chaos was moved to Hollywood, with Monkey Business (1931). Unlike its predecessors, this was written for the screen. That film was so successful that a sequel was planned, but due to the proposed subject matter and the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s son, that idea was dropped.

A new film, loosely based on a previous Marx Brothers’ vaudeville revue, Fun in Hi Skule, was written by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby and S.J. Perelman and Will B. Johnstone. Perelman and Johnstone had previously written Monkey Business together. Kalmar and Ruby would contribute two songs to the film, “I’m Against It” and “Ev’ryone Says I Love You”.

[Incidentally, the phrase Horse Feather, an euphemism for something else horses do, first appeared in print in the work of cartoonist T.A. Dorgan (aka TAD) and was notated by American etymologist Leonard Zwilling in part 46 of his dictionary of Dorgan’s work – A TAD Lexicon, printed in 1927. Some also credit another cartoonist, William Morgan "Billy" de Beck, for coining the phrase for his Barney Google comic strip at about the same time.]

The Marx Brothers were once again paired with Thelma Todd, who had co-starred with them in Monkey Business, and production began in late March 1932. Production was delayed for several weeks when Chico was involved in a traffic accident in late April and did not resume again until late June. The film was released on August 18th.

The story mostly takes place at fictitious Huxley College. With the retirement of the current president (Reginald Barlow), Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff (Groucho Marx) takes over. His specified goal in coming to Huxley was to help his son Frank (Zeppo Marx) graduate, as he has been attending Huxley for twelve years.

Wagstaff's inaugural speech is at best incoherent, and at one point, he bursts into song, after he hears the college board has suggestions for him. The song “I’m Against It” becomes part of a larger production number, including “I Always Get My Man”.

Professor Wagstaff (Groucho Marx) takes over poor Huxley College.
Higher education will never be the same again.

Following his speech, Wagstaff speaks to Frank, admonishing him for dating only one college widow in 12 years, whereas he had been to three colleges and dated three college widows in the same amount of time. (College Widow is a colloquialism from the 1920s and 30s referring to a woman who is available for younger college male students. Sometimes she is an actual widow, perhaps of a college professor or just a woman in a college town who loved the attention of the young men.)

Later in the film we see Frank Wagstaff (Zeppo Marx) woo Connie Bailey (Thelma Todd), the College widow.

The conversation quickly turns to more important things, football. When Frank informs his father that the school has had a new President every year since 1888, which incidentally is the last time the college had won a football game, he insists what the college really needs is a win against Darwin University in the big rivalry game, scheduled for Thanksgiving.

When Wagstaff asks where they can get football players, he is informed that the two best players in the nation, Mullens (James Pierce) and McCarthy (Nat Pendleton), are down at a speakeasy in downtown. Wagstaff goes off to buy their loyalty, but he is already too late. Jennings (David Landau) is already down there buying Mullens and McCarthy to play for Darwin. They have left by the time Wagstaff arrives.

Baravelli (Chico Marx) is manning the door when Wagstaff tries to gain entrance to the speakeasy.

He gains admittance to the speakeasy after some quick exchanges with Baravelli (Chico Marx), a bootlegger who has been pressed into action to watch the door. The password is swordfish and Baravelli gives Wagstaff the hint that it’s a type of fish:

Wagstaff: I got it! Haddock.
Baravelli: 'At's a-funny, I got a haddock too.
Wagstaff: What do you take for a haddock?
Baravelli: Sometimes I take an aspirin, sometimes I take a calomel.
Wagstaff: I'd walk a mile for a calomel.
Baravelli: You mean chocolate calomel? I like-a that too, but you no guess it.

[Calomel, for those of you wondering, is a compound also known as Mercury(I) chloride, which was used as a cure-all for many ailments until the early 20th century, though the side-effects were often worse than the disease.]

After using his three guesses, Wagstaff tries again and is informed by Baravelli that he can’t get in until he says “swordfish”, which Wagstaff repeats. But once in, he locks out Baravelli, but this time swordfish is no longer the password. When Wagstaff admits he can’t remember it, he joins Baravelli outside.

Pinky (Harpo Marx) knows the password is swordfish.

Meanwhile, Pinky (Harpo Marx), Baravelli’s partner and dog catcher, gets into the club using pantomime and a sword and fish as props. Wagstaff and Baravelli crawl in when Pinky is admitted. Once inside, Pinky creates havoc throughout. First he steals a bottle of scotch, using his own shot glass that’s a funnel for an empty bottle; kibitzes at a card game, literally cutting the cards with a butcher’s cleaver; annoys a slot machine player to the point he takes over the machine and instantly wins and continues his winning ways with the payphone and the bus man’s change maker.

Everything pays off for Pinky, even the payphone.

Wagstaff assumes Baravelli and Pinky are the football players he’s looking for and hires them for the Darwin game and enrolls them as students at Huxley.

Later, Baravelli and Pinky make an ice delivery to Wagstaff’s office. Inside each block of ice is a bottle of bootlegged liquor. Baravelli demands payment, saying that Wagstaff owes him $2000, but Wagstaff thinks the amount is too high:

Baravelli: I make you proposition. You owe us $200, we take $2000 and we call it square.
Wagstaff: That's not a bad idea. I tell you ... I'll consult my lawyer. And if he advises me to do it, I'll get a new lawyer.

Wagstaff then gets Baravelli and Pinky to sign not only a blank contract, but a blank piece of paper. The only thing missing is the seal, which turns out to be a real seal, which the three follow out of the office.

Professor Hornsroge (Robert Greig) doesn't stand a chance when Wagstaff visits his classroom.

After starting school, Wagstaff delivers Baravelli and Pinky to Professor Hornsroge’s (Robert Greig) biology class. The routine is supposedly lifted from Fun in Hi Skule .When they chase off Hornsroge, Wagstaff takes over the class:

Wagstaff: Let us follow a corpuscle on its journey... Now then, baboons, what is a corpuscle?
Baravelli: That's easy! First is a captain... then a lieutenant... then is a corpuscle!
Wagstaff: That's fine. Why don't you bore a hole in yourself and let the sap run out?

Jennings (David Landau) conspires with Connie on how to steal Huxley's signals.

Meanwhile, Jennings goes to see Connie Bailey (Thelma Todd), Frank's college widow, with whom he conspires to get Huxley’s football signals from Frank. Pinky is already there, hiding under the coats and as Jennings puts on his coat to leave, places a flower down his back. No sooner does he walk out the door, then Frank arrives. He goes to make her a drink and as soon as he leaves the room, Wagstaff shows up with his umbrella and galoshes. He’s ostensibly there to convince her to leave Frank alone, but he puts the moves on her for himself.
Pinky and Baravelli try to deliver ice to Connie, which she insists she doesn’t want. Each time, the block gets thrown out the window and is smaller the next time it is brought to her. When Wagstaff is away from the couch, Baravelli takes his place. When Jennings comes back, Baravelli pretends to be her voice coach.

Baravelli ruins Wagstaff's seduction of Connie.

While Baravelli plays Collegiate (written by Moe Jaffe), Wagstaff breaks the fourth wall and directly addresses the audience:

Wagstaff: I've got to stay here, but there's no reason why you folks shouldn't go out into the lobby until this thing blows over.

After the next team practice, Frank informs his father that he hired the wrong football players. Wagstaff then instructs Baravelli and Pinky to kidnap the real athletes so they won’t be available for the game. Soon after, Jennings shows up and buys the signals from Baravelli for $500, only to discover they are Darwin’s signals. During their conversation, Baravelli lets slip the kidnapping plot, so Mullens and Murphy are already waiting for them to arrive.

Wagstaff seduces Connie while she rows out on the lake.

Out on the lake, Connie seduces Wagstaff to get the signals from him. But when he catches her stealing them from her pocket, he throws her out of the row boat. He throws her a candy when she asks for him to throw her the lifesaver.

The kidnapping of Mullens (James Pierce) and McCarthy (Nat Pendleton) doesn't go as planned.

The plan to kidnap Mullens and McCarthy quickly goes south and it is Pinky and Baravelli who are detained. Using the saws they had brought with them in their bag of tools, they saw through the floor of the room they’re being kept in, only to fall one floor below into Mullens’ and McCarthy’s. When they get locked in that room, they once again saw through the floor into the apartment below where a group of women are gathered to play cards.

All four Marx brothers play in the big game.

The big football game is already underway by the time Baravelli and Pinky arrive and Wagstaff and Frank are both on the field of play. The game is full of slapstick and wordplay signals, as Baravelli ends up calling the plays while not being the quarterback. To give you an idea of the antics, the final game-winning touchdown is scored by Pinky in a horse-drawn garbage wagon, which he rides like a chariot. [I wonder if some of this sequence was shot while Chico was recuperating, since the face of the Chico we see in the chariot is sometimes hidden from view, suggesting a stand-in.]

The best way to break through the line is a horse drawn trash cart.

Victory on the field leads to a three-way marriage between Baravelli, Pinky, Wagstaff and Connie, which ends the film.

Baravelli, Wagstaff and Pinky all marry the college widow, Connie. (No Zeppo)

Supposedly, a different ending was shot by director Norman McLeod and other scenes were either edited out for censorship reasons or lost, including one in which the four Marx brothers in character play cards while Huxley College burns to the ground behind them. Also missing are an extended ending to the apartment scene and additional scenes with Pinky as the dogcatcher. Further, part of a scene described in a contemporary review in Time magazine (August 15, 1932), with Pinky bowling grapefruits at bottles in the speakeasy, is also missing.

Still, the film we’re left with is one of the funniest films ever to come from Hollywood and the Marx Brothers. The humor comes from a delightful blend of slapstick humor, sight gags and clever wordplay. While all of these have been repurposed by others, there is a comedic timing that no one save the Marx Brothers could achieve.

Three of the Marx Brothers are really featured in the film, as they have the most developed characters going in. Zeppo, who would soon leave the troupe, is the odd man out. He’s really nothing more than a straight man for Groucho and has a nice, but not exceptional, singing voice. His character literally disappears by the end of the film, when the other three line up to marry the college widow he’d been pursuing.

Groucho is, as usual, the ringleader for the chaos. Here his fast talking and way with words carry the load, though he is not above the slapstick, though it is kept to a minimum with him. His grease paint moustache is perhaps the second most recognizable facial hair in films (Chaplin’s being the first). He has an incredible comedic sense of timing.

As always, Groucho is the ringleader.

Chico, whose character has English as a second language, uses words as well, though a lot of his humor comes from mispronunciations and homonyms. One of the great joys with a Marx Brothers film is getting to watch him play piano. His finger work is unusual and the fun he seems to be having playing is captured on celluloid.

Chico pretending to be Connie's voice instructor plays piano. His playing is fun to watch.

While Chico and Groucho use words, Harpo is perhaps the last great silent comedian, using body language and props for most of his humor. Who else could produce a hot cup of coffee or a candle burning on both ends from the pockets of his shabby costumes? And like Chico, Harpo is a master of his instrument and we’re treated to his playing as well.

It is always a treat to watch Harpo play the harp.

Thelma Todd, who was making her second appearance with the Marx Brothers, is really more of a straight woman in the vein of Margaret Dumont, though she was much younger and prettier. Only 26 at the time, Todd had a background in comedies having worked with Hal Roach on a series of shorts with Zasu Pitts in 1931 and prior to that, appearances in the films of Harry Langdon, Charley Chase and Laurel and Hardy. Here she is not given much more to do than to react to the Brothers’ antics.

Sadly, as bright as her future looked at the time, Todd was found dead on December 16, 1935 at the age of 29. A successful restaurateur in addition to her acting, Todd’s death was ruled a suicide, even though it was clouded in mystery.

While there is a screenplay and a vaudeville revue before that, it’s hard to know how close to either the final film really is, as the Marx Brothers were known for ad-libbing on the set to keep things fresh. There is a familial comfort zone that is unique to siblings so I would have to imagine they felt comfortable trying different ideas out on the fly; throwing as much as they could think of at the screen and keeping the best bits. But no matter the source, the dialogue spoken is fast-paced; it takes multiple viewings to catch all the subtleties.

Like any Marx Brothers film there is time set aside for musical interludes. We are treated to five different renditions of the same song. “Ev’ryone Says I Love You”, including Zeppo singing to Connie when he brings her breakfast in bed, Harpo whistling to his faithful horse which draws his dog catcher wagon, Chico playing piano and singing to her during her supposed vocal lessons, Groucho singing it to her while she paddles him in a canoe and finally Harpo playing a musical rendition on the harp. These sequences allow the Brothers to showcase their musical prowess, with Harpo and Chico being the standouts on their instruments. Harpo certainly knows his way around the instrument from which he took his stage name and Chico’s piano playing seems as effortless as it is fun to watch. Zeppo has a nice, if not outstanding voice. [Woody Allen would lift the song for one of his films, Everyone Says I Love You (1996), which ends with a Marx-brothers themed costume party.]

It's hard to know what sort of box-office the film had, as numbers from that time are scarce and unreliable, but no matter, the film has endured. For what it's worth, The American Film Institute (AFI) named it #65 on their 2000 100 Years...100 Laughs list. The Marx Brothers also placed #73 Monkey Business, #59 A Day At the Races (1937), #12 A Night at the Opera (1935) and #5 Duck Soup (1933). Also, because of Horse Feathers, Swordfish is perhaps the most famous password in history, even inspiring the movie title Swordfish (2001), a film about hacking, which starred John Travolta, Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry.

There are many laugh-out loud moments in Horse Feathers and you really need to pay attention to get all of the innuendos and wordplay, so this might be a movie you might want to watch more than once. If you’re a fan of slapstick and sight gags, you’re in luck as well. No one seemed to marry the two as well as the Marx Brothers did, especially in their early films at Paramount Pictures. Horse Feathers should be seen and enjoyed as one of the funniest films ever made.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Stubs – Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) Starring: Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas, Louise Beavers Directed H. C. Potter. Produced by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank. Screenplay by Norman Panama, Melvin Frank Based on the novel Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House by Eric Hodgins (New York, 1946), which was based on his article "Mr. Blandings Builds His Castle" in Fortune (Apr 1946). Run Time: 95 minutes. U.S. Black and White. Comedy

As we’ve written about previously, Hollywood likes to adapt books. Such is the case with Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. The book, written by Eric Hodgins, was based on his own experiences with building a home in New Milford, CT. In 1939, a Vice-President with Time, Inc., Hodgins set out to build a house, budgeted at $11,000. However, when he was through, the house ended up calling five times that amount, $56,000. It was an amount that would lead him, two years later, to declare bankruptcy and force him to sell his dream house.

But from his experience came a short story, published in Fortune magazine in 1946 and eventually a book, with illustrations by William Steig. The book was popular enough that it was the first story acquisition Dore Schary made after becoming RKO’s executive vice-president in charge of production. Schary, who had previously worked at MGM in charge of their B-pictures production unit, had been under contract to David O. Selznick prior to taking the job at RKO. Eventually, he would move back to MGM, replacing Louis B. Mayer as head of the studio.

Schary paid Hodgins $200,000 for screen rights to his novel and brought the author out to consult on the adaptation. Changes were made to the story, such as Jim Blandings’ income and the final cost of the house were both lowered. The studio felt that the average moviegoer wouldn’t be sympathetic about the plight of someone making $25,000 a year, which was his income in the book.

Jim Blandings (Cary Grant) is a $15,000 a-year advertising executive, who lives in a cramped Manhattan apartment with his wife, Muriel (Myrna Loy), their two children, Betsy (Connie Marshall) and Joan (Sharyn Moffett), and a live-in maid, Gussie (Louise Beavers). The apartment is short on closet space and its one bathroom gets quite the workout in the morning. While Jim is trying to shave, he has to work around Muriel’s shower.

Every morning, Jim (Cary Grant) and his wife, Muriel (Myrna Loy), vie for mirror time in their bathroom.

Bill Cole (Mervyn Douglas), who serves as a sort of narrator for the film, is Jim’s best friend and his lawyer. Muriel has turned to Bill to help her with an interior designer. Bill is one of those kinds of friends who are always showing up at the Blandings’ apartment. When Jim finds out that it would cost $7,000 to remodel their apartment, he vetoes the idea.

The Blandings' apartment is bursting at the seams with Jim, housekeeper Gussie (Louise
Beavers), children Betsy (Connie Marshall) and Joan (Sharyn Moffett) and Muriel all living there.

At work, Jim sees an ad for Connecticut real estate and that gets him to thinking. Soon, he’s driving Muriel around with a real estate agent named Smith (Ian Wolfe) who takes them to a rundown farmhouse on a 50-acre farm. Thinking they can remodel it, Jim buys the farm for $10,000, only to be informed later by Bill that he paid twice the going gouge rate, $200 an acre. Further, the 50 acres turns out to be only 35. But against Bill’s advice, Jim is determined to move forward.

The house is a real fixer-upper.

When they take Bill out to see their dream house, he suggests that they have a structural engineer take a look at it before they start to renovate it. Bill’s expert has one suggestion, tear it down. Not happy with that, the Blandings bring out their own experts, all of whom have the same advice.

Jim and Muriel drive Bill Cole (Mervyn Douglas) out to see their new home.

Giving up on the idea of remodeling, they hire an architect, Henry L. Simms (Reginald Denny), who sets out to design them a house they can afford to build. But Jim and Muriel have ideas about extras they want to have incorporated, including a bathroom and two closets off every bedroom, a game room in the basement for Jim and a sewing room for Muriel.

Jim and Muriel start adding to the plans architect Henry Simms (Reginal Denny) has drawn up.

To get things started, they first have to tear down the old house. Only after it’s torn down than Bill informs them they should have gotten the mortgage holder’s permission first. Now the note is called and the Blandings have to come up with $6000. Still needing money to build the house, Bill offers to help arrange to use his life insurance as collateral for the loan.

But the Blandings are just about ready to walk away from the deal when Smith informs them that the additions they want to make to the design will cost an additional $11,000. But on their way out of his office, they see a sketch he’s made of their final house and they are love struck by the notion.

Work gets underway, but nothing goes smoothly as every possible construction problem comes to light. A stone ledge has to be blasted away to allow for the foundation to be poured and the well they need for water requires John Retch (Jason Robards, Sr.) to drill over 200 feet down. But as soon as he finds water, the foundation gets flooded when a spring is discovered beneath it only six feet down.

John Retch (Jason Robards, Sr.) is hired to drill for water,
but he has to drill down over 200 feet to find it.

Meanwhile, things are not going smoothly at work. Not only is Jim preoccupied with his house, but he’s also under the gun to come up with a winning slogan for Wham Ham, a campaign which has already cost one of his co-workers his job. Bill, who is also the firm’s lawyer, informs Jim that his boss has given him six months to come up with a winning slogan for the ham product, but try as he might, Jim can’t think of anything good.

The spring drained, the foundation is poured and building begins. But when visiting the site, Jim is asked for an opinion by one of the carpenters (Lex Barker). Not sure what the man is talking about, Jim nevertheless gives him an answer and watches the other men literally rip out studs from the second floor. When the workers go home early, because it’s a Saturday, Jim and Muriel hear an odd banging sound and find Bill trapped in a closet upstairs. In trying to show Bill that it’s impossible to get trapped, Jim gets everyone at least momentarily, locked in.

Jim and Muriel visit the house while it's still under construction.

With construction still in progress, the Blandings find themselves evicted from their Manhattan apartment. With no place else to go, they have to move into the house, but upon arriving, find that they have the wrong sized windows; a mix up with similar sounding customer names. And Jim finds that in order to catch the train into New York, he’ll have to get up at 5:30, rather than the leisurely 7:30 he’d wake up back in the city.

The Blandings have to move in before the construction is completed.

Finally moved in, Jim and the girls are putting things away when Betsy and Joan discover that their mother has two fraternity pins in her jewel box; their father’s and one with the initials WC, or Bill Cole’s from college.

Further, they read in her college diary that she had feelings for Bill. Jim is already a little jealous of Bill and Muriel’s close relationship, Bill does kiss her good-bye on the cheek, and confronts Muriel with this evidence of her continued affections. But Muriel laughs off the allegation, telling Jim that he’s the only man she loves.

Time goes by and Jim is still wrestling with the slogan for Wham Ham with his assistant Mary (Lurene Tuttle). With a deadline in the morning, they work through the rainy night. Jim wishes he was home with Muriel reading his paper in front of the fireplace. Unbeknownst to him, Bill has been caught in the rain and the bridge out is unusable. The girls are likewise trapped at a friend’s house down the road.

Unable to come up with a winning slogan, Jim tells Mary to go home and leaves himself for the country, knowing that it means the end of his job. Simms is already there with an additional bill from the builder. What Muriel had thought was a simple request about using some left over sandstones has added about $1200 to the cost of the house. While he’s dealing with Simms, Jim sees Bill come downstairs dressed in his pajamas and robe. Even though Bill and Muriel maintain that nothing happened, this is enough to send Jim over the edge and he declares that he wants to sell the house.

Jim doesn't like seeing Bill dressed in his pajamas and robe.

But before he’s done with his tirade, Retch comes by about $12.36. Jim naturally assumes Retch is there to collect, but in fact, he overcharged the Blandings and offers them a refund. Bill seizes on the moment and convinces Jim that he doesn’t want to sell, but in fact loves the house. Bill even concedes that despite his criticism of the Blandings’ real estate purchase that some things in life should be bought with the heart and not the head.

Convinced to stay and reassured about his faithful spouse, Jim’s career is saved from the ashes when Gussie, who is making breakfast for the girls, declares that “If you ain’t eating Wham, you ain’t eating ham.”

Later we see that Gussie is now the spokes model in Wham Ham ads and the Blandings, along with Bill, can at last enjoy their dream house in Connecticut.

Finally finished, Jim, his family and friends can finally enjoy country living.

Produced by RKO, the film was actually originally distributed in the U.S. and Canada by Selznick Releasing Organization, which held a sixty percent interest in the property. Some sources say the arrangement and split of the film was negotiated when Selznick let Schary out of his contract to become production head at RKO. Later, in 1953, RKO would reclaim full distribution rights in the film.

The finished house in the movie.

With the money he received for the film rights, $200,000, Hodgins tried to buy back his dream house. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful. The house, which still stands, sold most recently for $1.2 million.

The dream house in the movie was really built on land owned by movie producer George Hunter and, too, still stands, according to Los Angeles an Architectural Guide. The 2476 square foot Connecticut Colonial was used by Hunter as his ranch house and is now used by the Malibu Creek State Park as offices.

The house built for the movie is still standing in Malibu Creek State Park.

As a promotion for the film, RKO built 73 “dream houses” in various cities throughout the U.S. selling some by a raffle. The money raised by the sales went to charity.

One of the 73 "dream houses" being built, this one in Toledo, Ohio.

Despite the promotional ploy, the film recorded a loss during its initial release to the tune of about $225,000.

Still, the movie was good enough to have been remade twice: The Money Pit (1986), directed by Richard Benjamin, starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long and Are We Done Yet? (2007), directed by Steve Carr, starring Ice Cube and Nia Long. The latter is a remake as well as a sequel to Are We There Yet? (2005).

Anyone who has to take on a role created by Cary Grant is in trouble from the start, even Tom Hanks. While he might not be as urban as Ice Cube, he is definitely urbane at a level few, if any, in Hollywood have ever reached. I’m a big fan of his. There seems to be nothing that he can’t do on film, of course, I’ve never seen him ride a horse or carry a tune. Grant is one of those actors that never seems to strike a sour note and he certainly doesn’t start here.

Myrna Loy is also solid as usual, her character a sort of fore-runner to the Lucy Ricardo character when I Love Lucy moved to the country. Perhaps best known for her films with William Powell, Loy was an actress who had a nice comedic touch. She seems to have played a lot of wives during her career, including Clark Gable’s in Wife vs. Secretary (1936), as well as Mrs. Charles in all those Thin Man Films.

Loy and Grant had first appeared together in Wings in the Dark (1935), a romantic adventure, and were paired again the year before this film in The Bachelor and The Bobby-Soxer (1947). That film is perhaps best remembered for starring a teen-aged Shirley Temple, whose own film career was coming to an end. As was common, following the success of one film, the studio, RKO, was looking for another vehicle to put the two leads in. It is a real shame that Loy and Grant did not do more pictures together after this one, they seemed to have very good on-screen chemistry.

Melvyn Douglas had been a suave leading man throughout the 1930’s, appearing opposite the likes of Joan Crawford in A Woman’s Face (1941) and with Greta Garbo in three films, As You Desire Me (1932), Ninotchka (1939) and Two-Faced Woman (1941), her last film.

Following World War II, in which he served in both the Office of Civilian Defense and the Army, Douglas returned to Hollywood, taking more mature roles. He had been the lead in most of his films, now he was playing the second. He seems to be quite natural as an actor, here coming across as a well-meaning, if sometimes meddlesome, friend.

Louise Beavers is one of those actresses you see in so many movies, usually playing a maid or mammy character. This started with her second picture, Coquette (1929), starring Mary Pickford, and continued until her last film, The Facts of Life (1960), in which she played another maid also called Gussie. Given the state of African-American actors in Hollywood, at the time, there really weren’t many other roles available for her.

The acting is across the board top notch. Every character seems believable from the stars down to the supporting cast, which included Jason Robards, Sr., Ian Wolfe, Reginald Denny, Lurene Tuttle and Lex Barker.

Like so many other directors of films we’ve reviewed at Trophy Unlocked, the name H.C. Potter is not very well known. In his day, he was perhaps best known for this film, as well as Mr. Lucky (1943), with Grant, and The Farmer’s Daughter (1947) with Loretta Young. He is one of those directors that doesn’t seem to have an obvious touch, like Ernst Lubitsch or style like Alfred Hitchcock. That said, there really isn’t anything that rings false in the film. Sometimes the material doesn’t need a director who puts his stamp on the film to work. Instead, Potter relies more on the story, the actors and the house to carry the film.

Having at one time added on to my own house, I can personally attest to just how true much of the film is. Though I didn’t have exactly the same experiences, I’ve had the pleasure of working with contractors and construction. Nothing ever seems to go right, schedules are missed and money is never a consideration, except for the person who has to pay the final bill. While my problems were nothing compared to Mr. Blandings’, I can honestly say I’ve lived through some of his heartache. And while it’s too soon for me to find humor in my add-on project, a lifetime won’t be long enough for it ever to be funny; I do find Blandings' follies very amusing.

I would definitely recommend you see Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, especially if you ever find yourself contemplating re-modeling your house.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is available as a single disc or part of the Cary Grant: The Signature Collection at:
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