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Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
Directed by H.C. Potter
“Advertising,” opines a precious moppet to her ad-exec father, “makes people who can’t afford it buy things they don’t want with money they haven’t got.” A decade before Tashlin’s caricature Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
and six before the brooding of Mad Men
, Potter’s domestic screwball Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
makes a mockery of marketing and the consumerism its rise portends. Jim and Muriel Blandings (Cary Grant and Myrna Loy), suffocated by the confines of their Manhattan apartment, eagerly overpay for “a bit of history”—13 acres of veritably uninhabitable Connecticut farmland—upon which they endeavor to construct a monument to the middle-class American dream. The task, of course, proves Sisyphean, and it’s up to Blandings and his bank account to weather catastrophe, compromise, and debt. Calum Marsh (June 2 at MoMA, part of “In Memoriam: Celeste Bartos”)