Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (Selznick; RKO Radio), like the original bestseller by FORTUNE Editor Eric Hodgins, is a sort of rich man's Egg and I: a comedy natural for all big city dwellers who have ever tried to get back to the land the easy way. It all starts off with the woes of Adman Jim Blandings (Gary Grant) & wife (Myrna Loy) as they suffer the beginning of an average day in their Manhattan apartment. Even for a $15,000 income-grouper, the Blandings apartment seems rather spacious (you could encamp a platoon of homeless veterans in the parlor alone); but the closet space is convincingly niggardly, and the bathroom problem is enough to tempt anyone to the wide open spaces.
These deep-city innocents pay a lot too much for a piece of unreal estate in Connecticuta pleasant-looking, rump-sprung old house which they are wild to patch up and are promptly advised to tear down. They get a lot of belated advice from their lawyer friend (Melvyn Douglas), and they go into a huddle with an architect (Reginald Denny) who is willing to design practically anythingat a price. Before their homing instinct comes to roost at last they have been put through the wringer by practically every type of swindler involved in, or parasitic upon, the building trades. Blandings saves his neglected job by the skin of his teeth; and for a time even his marriage seems to be headed for the rocks.
Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas have a highly experienced way with this sort of comedy, and Director H. C. Potter is so much at home with it that he gets additional laughs out of the predatory rustics and even out of the avid gestures of a steam shovel. Blandings may turn out to be too citified for small-town audiences, and incomprehensible abroad; but among those millions of Americans who have tried to feather a country nest with city greenbacks, it ought to hit the jackpot.
I Remember Mama (RKO Radio), an adaptation of John van Druten's stage hit, turns out much better than most such translations. A deeply domesticated "family" movie, Mama is a leisurely, kitchen-life chronicle of a tribe of Norse-American San Franciscans, in & around 1910. There is much less plot than incident, and the quality of the incidents increases in proportion to their deceptive simplicity.
Mama (Irene Dunne), who is very much the boss in her home, carefully allocates her husband's weekly pay. Katrin (Barbara Bel Geddes), who wants to grow up to be a writer, listens enraptured while the family's roomer, a worn-out old actor (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), reads aloud from Dickens and Shakespeare. Mama's painfully timid old-maid sister (Ellen Corby), who wants to marry an equally timid undertaker (Edgar Bergen), seeks Mama's moral support. Little Dagmar is operated on for mastoiditis (by Dr. Rudy Vallee, with a beard).
The bellowing Head of the Family, Uncle Chris (Oscar Homolka), who loves to scare and scandalize all the relatives he dislikes, dies, with a drinker's gasp of satisfaction, after tossing off his last neat drink. Mama, by swapping recipes, wheedles a successful authoress (Florence Bates) into reading Katrin's stories and passing on the secret of literary success (write about what you know); Katrin grows up, to write the stories that tell the whole movie in flashbacks.