HOUSEBOAT (1958) 

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Cary Grant
Sophia Loren
Martha Hyer
Harry Guardino
Eduardo Ciannelli
Murray Hamilton
Mimi Gibson
Paul Petersen
Charles Herbert

Melville Shavelson



About Grant

About Loren

Time: 110 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Comedy/Romance

Academy Award nominations for Best Song and Best Original Screenplay.

There are several reasons I chose to watch this movie. I'm a big fan of Cary Grant, so I try to see every film he's in. I was intrigued, as his characters are rarely parents and I wanted to see how believable he'd be as a father. Plus, though Sophia Loren is an international movie star, I have to admit I had never seen any of her pictures. This was one of Loren's first Hollywood films and she's marvelous in it. You never doubt for one second that all of the men in the film, including the little boys, would instantly fall in love with her. Accept Grant's character of course. That comes with time. If he fell for her immediately, there'd be no story. The fact that he's more than old enough to be her father – there's a 30 year age difference – would be somewhat creepy if he were the aggressor. However, since he merely sees her as a friend and keeper of his children – his romantic inclinations lean elsewhere at first – you go along with the story with no ill feelings. It's pretty clear why Loren would fall for Grant. Who wouldn't?

Grant plays Tom Winters, a mainly absent father forced back into the role of full-time parent when his estranged wife dies. His children – David (13), Elizabeth (8) and Robert (5) – are not on familiar terms with their father and aren't thrilled with his reappearance. They were more than happy to stay with their Aunt Carolyn and grandparents, who have horses and a pool. Being dragged to a tiny apartment in Washington D.C. is not what they had in mind. Their father, feeling guilty for being an absentee dad, decides that they're going to be a family again come hell or high water. The children do everything they can to make his life miserable. Especially Robert, who disappears from a symphony concert on the mall, spending hours in the arms of a young Italian woman also on the run from her father.

Cinzia (Loren) just wants to have a little fun, this being her first time in America. Her father is a visiting conductor with the symphony and has planned out every moment of her visit. Cinzia is 22 and wants to experience the real America, not hang out in the parlors of upper class snobs. She and Robert become fast friends at an amusement park and when she finally gets him home, Robert begs his father to hire her as their housekeeper. Tom doesn't know what to make of this young woman, especially after she lectures him about how to be a parent. He offers her the job as he's desperate for help, but she refuses. Though after the dressing down from her father, who's going to keep a tighter rein on her than ever, she reconsiders, showing up the next morning ready and willing to work. Tom doesn't have time to interview her about her skills as the family is leaving for the country and larger accommodations at Aunt Carolyn's.

Unfortunately, a small train accident leaves the family homeless and forced to take refuge on a ramshackle houseboat until a proper home can be found. Still unsure about their father, the children immediately fall in love with Cinzia, who becomes a great friend, but is a useless housekeeper. Tom is displeased with her lack of skills, but can't afford to alienate the children any further, so he agrees to let her stay. She may not how to cook or clean, but she sure understands the children. Her advice begins to slowly help break the ice between Tom and the kids. Pretty soon, they're fixing up the boat and having a grand old time. It's clear to everyone, but Tom that Cinzia is falling in love with him. Carolyn knows that she's a rival for Tom's affection and goes out of her way to ensnare him herself before she loses him again. It takes some unfortunate incidences for Tom to realize that Cinzia is the perfect woman for him and will be a wonderful mother to his children. The kids put up a fight, unwilling to share the father they just got back, but in the end, they all live happily ever after, so to speak.

What makes HOUSEBOAT different from most romantic comedies of this type is the presence of the children. They are wonderfully funny and add unique situations and dialogue to an otherwise tried and true genre. The fact that Cinzia is able to better understand the children because she's closer to their age than their father's, is a little bit unsettling. Of course, with her figure, it's pretty clear that Loren is all woman and certainly ready for an adult relationship. She is amazingly gorgeous with an earthy sexuality that just won't be denied. Most of the men in the film never look past her beauty, but Loren makes sure that Cinzia is not just a bimbo. She may be young, but she's not stupid and her performance gives the film honesty and heart. What surprise me about Grant's performance was the ease and generosity he had with the kids. It's rare to see him in the role of father and he pulls it off with flying colors. All of the kids give honest, heartfelt performances, which helps the film a great deal. Nothing will ruin a movie faster than an annoying child.

If you're a fan of Grant and haven't seen HOUSEBOAT, put it on your list. It's not the best movie he ever made, but it's a fun family romp with a little sex appeal thrown in for good measure. It also has more of a plot than most films of its kind. Plus, when you seen Loren in her gold party dress, you'll know why she's become an enduring sex symbol. It's an image that will stick with you for a long time.

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