The Spring of Cary: Houseboat (1958)

I love this graphic that Erin madr

Today Erin of Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs, and I are starting a spring feature called Spring of Cary Grant. We will be watching one Cary Grant movie a week and sharing our impressions of it on Thursdays.

I gathered this list of movies together not because they are his best movies, but because I either hadn’t seen them yet or had not seen them in years.

This week we are writing about Houseboat. Next week we will be writing about The Awful Truth.

Houseboat was released in 1958 and stars Cary and Sophia Loren.

Cary plays Tom Winters, a man whose estranged wife has passed away.

Sophia portrays Cinzia Zaccardi, the daughter of a famous Italian composer who is in the United States while he is touring and wants to experience life in the United States before she has to go back. She’s supposed to be 22 and I thought she looked older but she was actually 24 when the movie was made.

Cary was 54. I’ll just leave that where it is.

The opening of the movie was pretty heartbreaking and it doesn’t give too much away to say that the mother of Tom’s children has passed away and their father, who they rarely see, has returned from Europe. He was preparing to divorce their mother and they had been separated for four years so he didn’t know the children very well.

There is a definite undercurrent of sadness in the movie, but thankfully there is plenty of comedy.

As we get into the movie we realize Cary’s character truly is clueless about how to be a father.

He’s also a bit of a jerk. Then again the other men in the movie are sort of jerks too. Most of them needed slapping. A few of the women did as well.

Luckily,  he learns how to be a better father and a better person as the movie goes on.

There are some downright ridiculous moments in this movie, but I need a bit of ridiculous this week.

There were also a lot of heartbreaking moments of children really acting out in grief and their lives being turned upside down.

The child actors were excellent in this. I think they might have actually had more range than Cary in this one.

There was something awkward about this movie for me and I thought it was only because of the age gap, but when I read about the movie and how it came about, the awkwardness continued.

According to IMBD: “The original screenplay was written by Betsy DrakeCary Grant‘s wife at the time. Grant originally wanted it to star her, but his extramarital affair with Sophia Loren complicated the project. Grant decided to have Loren replace Drake. Adding insult to injury, it was drastically rewritten to accommodate Loren by two other writers, Jack Rose and Melville Shavelson (who also directed), bearing little resemblance to her original script, she received no writing credit, and the reworked script was Oscar®-nominated for Best Original Story and Screenplay.”

Ouch. I can’t even imagine that heartache. But here is some more complication – Sophia apparently wasn’t as in love with Cary as he was with her because before filming started she married another man, which is why I think the chemistry between them really wasn’t there for me. Cary, who was reportedly heartbroken, tried to back out of the movie but couldn’t because of his contract and so the director helped make it go smoothly – how, I have no idea.

I guess Cary got over it eventually since he was married five times (two times after that) Ha!

I guess this wasn’t a great kick off for The Spring of Cary Grant – learning about his personal life, but I still enjoy his movies. I hope that he apologized to his previous wife for that one before they both passed away. Eek! I did read that they actually remained friends until his death, so I think they did make amends.

Also, Cary had a lot of issues from his childhood that he carried into adulthood and that affected his relationships with women, unfortunately. It’s not an excuse but it does help me understand his issues in that area a little bit better.

And, again, it doesn’t take away from his acting ability or his movies.

I’m looking forward to writing about The Awful Truth next week, which I already watched when I planned on doing this feature myself. I’m so glad Erin decided to jump in with me. You can find her impressions of Houseboat on her blog.

The movies of Cary’s that we will be watching next include:

The Awful Truth

My Favorite Wife

An Affair To Remember


Operation Petticoat