Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Houseboat (1958)

This is kind of like "Parent Trap" meets "Swiss Family Robinson" or something...

Cary Grant plays a successful businessman - or is he a diplomat? I forget - oh he's a lawyer - whose estranged wife is killed suddenly before they are officially divorced. The wife's parents and sister expect to take his three children and keep them on the family farm, but the CG impulsively decides he will take them to live with him.

However, he hasn't been a hands-on parent in a long time and he quickly loses track of his impish son. Cue Sophia Loren, the bored daughter of a famous conductor who is being wined and dined in Washington while her father conducts the symphony. She sneaks out to go slumming a la Audrey H. in Roman Holiday, really.

Along the way, she picks up the runaway boy with a kind word and then can't shake him. Finally she takes him home, but they've both become so disheveled that his father assumes she is a maid. Treats her quite rudely. Soon he has a change of heart and decides to hire her as a nanny.

All this leaves us house boat. The house boat is the result of a very silly side plot but the whole story unfolds pretty amusingly. There is even a boy chasing Sophia and the sister of the dead wife chasing Cary to add to the fun.

The odd, precocious young children and the absurdity of a stunning, accomplished young woman (Sophia Loren!) chasing after an older man with three kids are outweighed by the sheer silly charm of the scenes.

Also, there are a few songs. The catchiest song became my anthem this spring when I watched the movie - it's about living life with a Bim Bom Bam and it's as nonsensical and pleasant as the whole darn film.

Three Stars, will watch again.

Side note: Cary Grant had been married to Betsy Drake for nine years at the time of the filming (I put Deborah Kerr the first time I posted this but I was tragically WRONG thanks Barbara for figuring it out!). But he had a terrible crush on Sophia Loren and insisted that she be cast in this movie (did they invent the traveling composer father to explain why she was foreign?). Unfortunately for him, Sophia was already involved with Carlo Ponti, the Italian filmmaker, to whom she became engaged during the course of filming. Apparently this made for a rather tense time on the set once it was announced. OMG just found out that Betsy Drake wrote the original script which was then re-written to accommodate Sophia AWK-ward.

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