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RKO's Dream House for Mr. Blandings

As the saying goes, "Change is good." That is until it actually happens to you. Then you wish it never happened in the first place. Much like in the film "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" (1948), when "Jim Blandings" (Cary Grant) decided his family needs to move out of their cramp city apartment to a spacious house in the countryside. But when Mr. Blandings decides that he doesn't merely want to buy a house, but build one, hilarity ensues when one thing after another seems to be going wrong. It leaves you to wonder, will Mr. Blandings ever see his dream house built into a real home?

Believe it or not, the origin of this film is based on one real man's life experience. His name was Eric Hodgins, vice president of Time Inc. at the time, and his original budget for the house was around $11,000 but by the time the house was finished, it cost the Hodgins family nearly $56,000. When the construction was complete, Hodgins was nearly bankrupt. Unfortunately, their trouble did not end there. After only living in their dream house for two years, they were forced to sell their house. It was published in the April 1946 issue of "Fortune" magazine. Later, Hodgins turned his experience into a short story that was published in "Fortune" magazine. After the success of the short story, he decided to turn it into a novel titled, "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" and it would become an instant bestseller. He eventually wrote a sequel to his novel, titled "Blandings Way." When Hollywood approached Hodgins for the film rights, RKO struck a deal with him for $200,000.

When production on the film began, RKO needed a rural setting that was authentic to what they were trying to convey in the film. The studio knew that 20th Century Fox owned almost 2,000 acres of land, so RKO made a deal with 20th Century and RKO was able to build their house for the exterior shots. Although it was only used for those specific shots, it was built with strong material and still stands today. The house is now used as a park facility in what is now known as a part of the Malibu Creek State Park in California.

As a part of a promotion for the film, RKO built another 73 full-scale replicas of the house in various locations around the US including places such as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Spokane, Washington. They were sold by raffle contests and from research, we can tell that they were functional with the help of General Electric. One house had thousands of people line up to view the inside the day of its opening and some of the houses still stand today. As for what happened to Hodgins original house, it is still a full-functional house in New Milford, Connecticut. As of 1991, it was bought by film biography and writer Anne Edwards.

In time, Hodgins novel inspired countless other films, but most notably - the hilarious "The Money Pit" (1986) with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as well as the abysmal "Are We Done Yet?" (2007).

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