Sixty-four years ago today, the film Houseboat premiered. It’s one of those mid-century movies in beautiful Technicolor and VistaVision. Cary Grand and Sophia Loren are at their most gorgeous. You need to watch this movie.
Directed by: Melville Shavelson
Written by: Melville Shavelson, Jack Rose, and Betsy Drake (uncredited)
Produced by: Jack Rose
Starring: Cary Grant, Sophia Loren, Martha Hyer, and Harry Guardino
Cinematography: Ray June
Edited by: Frank Bracht
Music by: George Duning
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release date: November 19, 1958
Running time: 109 minutes
Country: United States
Box office: $3.5 million
For over three years, Tom Winters (Cary Grant), a lawyer working for the US State Department, has been separated from his wife and three children: David (Paul Petersen), Elizabeth (Mimi Gibson), and Robert (Charles Herbert). The film begins as he returns home to Washington from Europe following his wife’s death. The children want to stay in the countryside with their mother’s wealthy parents and her sister Carolyn (Martha Hyer), but instead Tom takes them with him to live in Washington, D.C. They all visit the Washington Monument. Robert complains about visiting dead people. One evening, they attend the Boston Symphony. Robert disrupts the concert when he plays his harmonica. An Italian girl, Cinzia (Sophia Loren), laughs. After the concert ends, Robert separates himself from the family and disappears. Cinzia has an argument with her father. Robert later shows up in a small rowboat with Cinzia, who seeks to experience America up close and personal. They land at a nearby carnival, where they eat pizza, dance, and “win” a harmonica. Robert catches on quickly on how to play a song on his new harmonica. Later, she brings Robert home to a worried Tom. Cinzia’s father is upset with her arriving home so late. He demands that she travel with him. Cinzia decides to accept Tom’s job offer. The next day, he hires her as maid to care for the children while he is away.
What follows are a series of misadventures as Tom attempts to move Cinzia and the kids away from Washington to a house in the country. Unfortunately, a train destroys the house. They wind up as inhabitants of a leaky, rotting houseboat. However. a complete renovation of the premises proves successful, and their floating new home becomes the backdrop for various episodes where Tom discovers that Cinzia is unable to cook, do laundry, or even make coffee. David tries to run away in a boat in order to be with his aunt Carolyn. Tom rescues him after David almost drowns. Tom wakes up in the morning and discovers that the house is lopsided. He decides to go fishing with David. Tom finally is able to win over his children and Cinzia. Cinzia eventually learns how to cook. Winters’ sister-in-law, Carolyn, suspects Cinzia’s relationship with Tom is not entirely platonic. She discovers that the houseboat is all fixed up. So does Tom’s military aide, Captain Wilson (Murray Hamilton), who while somewhat drunk, rudely jokes about Cinzia’s living arrangement with Winters. In the end, all misunderstandings are explained and Tom Winters finally marries his maid, as the children look on approvingly.