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July 21, 2014

Movie Review: Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962)

Directed by Henry Koster

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Mr. Hobbs (Jimmy Stewart) yearns to take a romantic holiday with his gorgeous wife (Maureen O'Hara). However, a vacant beach home on the Northern California coast proves too good to resist, and so the Hobbs bundle up their youngest daughter Katey (Lauri Peters) and only son Danny (Michael Burns) along with their Finnish cook (Minerva Urecal) and head out to later join their two older, married daughters and their husbands and children at the cottage. Said “cottage” turns out to be a Victorian ruin that makes the Bates Mansion in Psycho (1960) look positively inviting. Straight away, troubles ensue. Katey is far too self-conscious with the braces on her teeth, and dear old Dad must pay the boys at the yachting club to dance with her. Everything works out and Katey begins a chaste romance with beach bum Joe (teen idol Fabian Forte). Mr. Hobbs drags son Danny for a boating adventure that almost turns tragic – but turns into a bonding experience for both. The older daughters' families seethe with neurosis, one long unemployed son-in-law abandoning the home to seek work. Landing a job offer, it is up to Mr. and Mrs. Hobbs to entertain his prospective employers (John McGiver and Marie Wilson). Things go disastrously, but everything turns out alright in the end.

Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, a “sort of” sequel to Father of the Bride (1950, with Spencer Tracy) is high entertainment suitable for all ages. The Hobbs family finds themselves continually in compromised and awkward situations, but since both Stewart and O'Hara are clearly working towards the same goal – as well as pursuing an active sex life,and  all’s well that ends well. As the excellent liner notes penned by Julie Kirgo point out for this Twilight Time release point out, however, not all is well. There's more than a hint of dysfunction and insecurity going on in this vacation household. At one point, curvaceous Scandinavian beach bunny Valerie Varda appears on the scene, and we expect her to seriously challenge Mr. Hobbs' marriage vows. A curve ball is thrown and Varda goes on to ply her charms to someone else, and Hobbs' faithful resolve comes in the form of an entirely different threat.

In either case, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation remains top-flight old-style Hollywood entertainment. Twilight Time has done a bang-up job with a wide-screen transfer. As is the case with these older Hollywood features, it's always fun to pick out old familiar faces and performers who went on to do other things. Mr. Hobbs features an incredibly young John Saxon as one of the insufferable son-in-laws. This was an important gig for Saxon, as he would shortly go to Europe to work with the likes of Mario Bava and carve out a niche in horror and exploitation pictures. Minerva Urecal will be instantly recognizable as a reliable character actress, frequently used in poverty row pictures, costarring with Bela Lugosi in The Bowery Boy comedy Ghosts on the Loose (1943). Another thing entirely is John McGiver, who plays the stuffy, all-business boss-to-be. McGiver would appear in countless TV and movies roles, but for many, he left the most lasting impression as the terrifying religious fanatic Joe Buck (Jon Voight) crosses in Midnight Cowboy (1969). “Poop, I say, poop!”

Teen idol Fabian Forte, who gets to sing a duet with Lauri Peters in the film, had a most interesting acting career. Starring in such prestige pictures as The Longest Day (1962). His career seriously stalled, and he found himself working for the late, great anti-auteur director Larry Buchanan in the title role of Pretty Boy Floyd in A Bullet for Pretty Boy in 1970.

All interested parties should snap up this limited-to-3,000 copies Blu-Ray. The film in itself is highly worthwhile, but Twilight Time also offers the film's isolated music score by the legendary Henry Mancini. There is also the film's original trailer, which stresses its appeal to viewers of all ages. An unexpected bonus is a snippet of an old Fox Movietone News reel, which details the Minnesota Gophers' onset visit. On their way for a second time to that year's Rose Bowl game, the football players were drafted as extras that appear in the yachting club scene. Good luck must have rubbed off on them, as the Gophers would defeat the UCLA Bruins by the very wide margin of 3 to 21 that year. Enjoy!

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