Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Shameless Self Promotion


Unless you have been living in a bubble, you know that there is a new Indiana Jones movie coming out at the end of the month.  What?  Sex in the City?  Yes, I've heard of it, but all the boys are talking about at my house is Indy.

With a PG-13 rating, it's somewhat interesting that the movie promoters have chosen Legos as one of their avenues of indoctrination, but Blandings' boys 1, 2 and 3 can tell you almost everything you need to know about a movie made well before they were born.

Catalogues and computer games extol the adventures of Dr. Jones and what mommy can argue with a hero with a Ph.D.?  You don't think I missed the opportunity to tell them how many years he went to school and how hard he had to study do you?  Yes, the message is definitely that women and adventure follow straight A's and advanced graduate degrees.

Indy wasn't our first Lego love.  Star Wars was number one in the Blandings' box office, a smash hit, for over two years.  Again, PG-13 movies promoted by products with "7 & Up" on the box.



A Star Wars "museum" was erected in the dressing room.  ("She'll never let us do it, you know she won't.")  Sheets removed and Chicken Walkers installed. 

 Alas, the Legos rarely stay in the museum.  Not made to reside on shelves they are brought out for battle and sometimes just to show.  Repairs must be made when #3 gets in over his head.

But do not count our day as the day of shameless promotion.  In 1948, David O. Selznik and RKO Radio Pictures built 73 houses across the nation to promote the new film, "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House."


Based on Eric Hodgins's book of the same name, the movie struck a chord with American audiences.  Postwar movie-goers were flocking to the suburbs looking for dream houses of their own.  The star, not Grant or Loy, but the house, was modeled after Hodgins's house in Connecticut.  His book was a fictionalized account of its conceptualization and construction.  Building the house nearly bankrupt him and he ended up selling it.  Once he had success with the book and the movie, Hodgins attempted to buy it back.  The owners would not sell.



RKO's original plan was for 100 houses in 100 cities.  The studio provided the blueprints which local builders could modify.  It seems all the kitchens were state of the art GE electric.  Fancy.  Generally, tours of the homes were conducted and proceeds benefited a local charity.  PR machine.

I have relatively recent articles from Tulsa, Toledo, South Bend, Oklahoma City, Chattanooga, Portland and, yes, Connecticut, providing updates on the Blandings' homes in their cities.  Most of the homeowners were not aware of the houses history when they purchased them, but all are captivated by the charm of the homes and the story.


We have one right here in Kansas City a short stroll from my Dream House.  I didn't know until I started writing the blog and folks started saying, "Oh, like the house around the corner."  One of our iconic developers, J.C. Nichols claimed he could build the house of a fraction of the $18,000 that Grant's character paid for his.  I contacted the owner and asked her if I could post an image.  Lovely and gracious, she agreed.  She knew, of course, the house's pedigree.  She said, "Come by soon, everything is green and blooming."  A dream house, indeed.

Many thanks to my sister-in-law who was an unbelievable help with the research.  Love 'ya lots, Luc. 

21 comments:

Linderhof said...

What a great post!

Martha

pve design said...

You must see the lego necklace being given away over at design mom, my boys are past the lego craze, but such fond memories of those times. Glad that your boys are Lego crazy, I still kept them all and all the catalogues too for my Lego dream house.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post! I am in awe when true genious is shown by marketeers & promoters, such as Selznick and RKO in building Dream Houses across the country. Of course, he had already set the bar high while promoting Gone With The Wind in 1939. Similar to how Mrs. Blandings is the gold standard on clever blog writing. Comrades in arms are good, too. Right, Indy, oops, I mean Luc?

Style Court said...

I never knew that about the Blandings promotion. Fascinating. Loved seeing the boys' legos area too :)

Anonymous said...

You prove daily that you are the best at this (mothering and blogging)!!!!!!! Thanks for the fun post.

LondonCalling said...

A classic Mrs. B.! The post with the most!

The Peak of Chic said...

I had no idea about the Blandings promotion. Very interesting, and how very appropriate that you live so close to one!

Pigtown-Design said...

How funny... I don't think I'd ever seen the Blandings house!

teaorwine said...

I have saved large boxes of Legos and Play mobil sets, as well. My "kids" are in their twenties, but I just will not give away these fabulous toys for anything!

priscilla said...

Is there a list of locations for these homes? this is fascinating.

Marie Louise said...

What a totally cool blog about Mr. Blandings house. I don't believe I've ever seen that particular Cary Grant film but will definitely be checking it out. I live in Connecticut but never knew the connection to the movie. I'll be back for more interesting stuff!

Lee said...

I'm like teaorwine. Our boys are in their 20's and several gigantic containers of Legos are moving with us - hopefully for grandchildren.

I'd enjoy seeing a list of house locations, too. We could be like the people who want to see a game in every baseball stadium in the country, except we'd be checking off the Blandings houses we had seen. Much more exciting!

Mrs. Blandings said...

Unfortunately, I do not know all of the locations. Google provided some information and your local paper might have some archived info if you request it. Let me know if you find out more!

Claudia said...

What a fabulous post - I actually live about 20 minutes away from Blandings Way in New Milford. I could go stop by and take a photo for you, if you'd like! :-) (seriously)

emily@designsmack said...

It's all Indy in my house - and I don't have kids, lol, but I was one when the last movie came out and it's one of my all time favourites. Very cool about the Blandings house!

Easy and Elegant Life said...

"You don't think I missed the opportunity to tell them how many years he went to school and how hard he had to study do you? Yes, the message was definitely that women and adventure follow straight A's and advanced graduate degrees."

It's absolutely true, you know Mrs. B. Ask my father-in-law or brother-in-law...

I think there's a book in the Blandings' Houses story... Publishers, are you listening? You've got the author here at this blog.

Teacats said...

Wonder if the house plans are still available?? ((Not that we could ever build such a dream home but someone might!)) What a wonderful posting -- of course -- the Blandings home is still marvellous! Perhaps the kind owner might let you peek inside one day? Pretty please with sprinkles on top?? As for the new Indiana Jones movie -- a couple of mums on a decor forum were re-doing their kids rooms into the "Indy Style" LOL! Many thanks for a GREAT posting!

Jan at Rosemary Cottage

WordsandMusic said...

A few years ago the "Dream House" in Portland, Oregon was offered for sale. It's on a huge lot just a few miles form downtown Seattle, and the lot has a lovely garden.

My husband and I toured the house several times and came thisclose to buying it. It had been added on to...a guest suite off the living room, with another bedroom above it. That made the proportions a little odd. The master bedroom had no closets (typical of the period.) The kitchen had been remodeled in the 1960s, it seemed. Needed more work. But the house was still magical...especially the tiny den between the living room and kitchen. We both wish we'd bought it, even though we love the house we did buy. The realtor had lots of photos of the movie displayed at the open house.

Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to send me the link to your post! I just love that they built all of those houses for the movie--what a great promotion idea. Here we are, still talking about it all these years later!

Tea Time Consultants said...

Oh you must come to Houston, we have many of these dream homes. Some are still up and surving in the River Oaks subdivision.

Anonymous said...

The Blandings house just north of Chicago is located at 7 Williamsburg Road in Skokie IL. Google maps has a good street level picture. Great post and very interesting.