House Movies

No charring stories today although they certainly increased readership yesterday. Last Friday, just before we bought our latest house, we watched Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House via the TiVO equivalent you get with expensive cable, which made me think about classic house remodeling movies. (Blandings was on Turner Classic Movies, and the guest co-host was Martha Stewart. Her other selections, Enchanted April, Madame Bovary, and Anna Karenina, had not so much to do with houses.)  We are always watching houses in old movies, but not many focus on the, ahem, glamour** that causes you to buy an old, tired house.

If you haven’t seen Blandings, the house was bought for love, and soon was torn down (after three structural engineers said there was nothing savable). Things only get worse, but eventually they get better. (In contrast, the remake, with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, features the struggles to actually salvage the house.)

A classic exchange between homeowner and contractor:

Mrs. Blandings: I want it to be a soft green, not as blue-green as a robin’s egg, but not as yellow-green as daffodil buds. Now, the only sample I could get is a little too yellow, but don’t let whoever does it go to the other extreme and get it too blue. It should just be a sort of grayish-yellow-green.

Now, the dining room. I’d like yellow. Not just yellow; a very gay yellow. Something bright and sunshine-y. I tell you, Mr. PeDelford, if you’ll send one of your men to the grocer for a pound of their best butter, and match that exactly, you can’t go wrong!

Now, this is the paper we’re going to use in the hall. It’s flowered, but I don’t want the ceiling to match any of the colors of the flowers. There’s some little dots in the background, and it’s these dots I want you to match. Not the little greenish dot near the hollyhock leaf, but the little bluish dot between the rosebud and the delphinium blossom. Is that clear?

Now the kitchen is to be white. Not a cold, antiseptic hospital white. A little warmer, but, still, not to suggest any other color but white. Now for the powder room – in here – I want you to match this thread, and don’t lose it. It’s the only spool I have and I had an awful time finding it! As you can see, it’s practically an apple red. Somewhere between a healthy winesap and an unripened Jonathan. Oh, excuse me…

Contractor (Mr. PeDelford): You got that, Charlie?

Subcontractor (Charlie): Red, green, blue, yellow, white.

Blandings* and its remake, The Money Pit come quickly to mind as examples of house remodeling movies, but there is a third one, which I thought of because of the season: It’s a Wonderful Life. (It’s on this Friday night on NBC.)

In It’s a Wonderful Life, you may remember Mary breaking a window on a vacant Second Empire house after that pivotal evening at the dance, and wishing for something. It turns out that she was wishing to live in that vacant house with George. You may even remember another pivotal scene where the ball on the newel post comes off in George’s hand. That was just about the last straw before he left for a drive … and got into the heart of the movie. When it fell off again after the angel intervention, he kissed it. Guess it is all about attitude.  Here’s hoping for the post-angel-intervention attitude for our house.  Except not too much — I would like our house to be more habitable than it is now.

*Besides starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy as the Blandings, Blandings’ contractor was named John W. Retch, and was played by Jason Robards (to become Sr. to Jason Robards, Jr.)

** Glamour in the sense of casting a spell over the future homeowner.

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