This past week-end I sat down with my partner and watched one of our favorite movies: “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse”, the 1948 classic film every architecture client should be forced to watch. I don’t know what part this movie played on my choice of career, but I distinctly remember being mesmerized as a child by the house and the suburban Connecticut couple, Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, who built it. For those of you not familiar with the film, IMDB (Internet Movie Database) offers the succinct summary: “A man and his wife decide they can afford to have a house in the country built to their specifications. It’s a lot more trouble than they think.”
When I was a young apprentice on the drawing boards of Royal Barry Wills it was considered gospel among us draftsmen that the Connecticut dream-house of the title was a bona fide 1940′s creation of our own dear employer. The massive whitewashed chimney, the louvered blinds at windows AND front door, the wide fireplace and low beamed living room were all old familiar friends seen daily on our own drafting boards. Besides, who but Royal Barry Wills could have so perfectly rendered the ideal suburban residence of the post-war dream? Alas, subsequent scholarship has informed me that the house so beloved by classic film fans and architects alike was only a movie set built on R.K.O.’s rear lot in Los Angeles; the same lot used decades later for filming the T.V. series “M*A*S*H”.
However, in an interesting aside, the architect-turned-set-designer who created the “house” for the studio was asked by his bosses to send actual floor plans to contractors who were to participate in a publicity stunt: building Mr. Blandings’ dream house on real lots across the United States! It is estimated that seventy-eight replicas of varying degrees of faithfulness to the design were built in over twenty-five states to promote the movie. The poor man had to re-draw the set countless times to accommodate the building codes of every municipality chosen. A little research uncovered a copy of the first and second floor plans of this charming Colonial Revival house.