Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation - 1962

Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation - Released June 15, 1962. Directed by Henry Koster

Light-hearted comedy (with satire thrown in here-and-there) about American family dynamics based upon the book by Edward Streeter* in which James Stewart (as Roger Hobbs) reluctantly agrees to a month-long California vacation that will include all of his children, which means the two oldest will also be bringing their spouses and children. Also along for the Laguna Beach reunion is their family cook Brenda (played by Minerva Urecal) and their youngest kid's favorite playmate, a TV set.

Disaster ensues: the house they're staying in is a dilapidated Victorian wreck (at least on the outside) with a continually malfunctioning water pump (showers play an important part in the film story), the makeshift TV aerial rigged by son Danny (played by Michael Burns) works fine until tubes blow out of the 1962-era TV, which forces the kid out into the sunshine and bewilderment about what to do with his time. The older children are at war with their spouses or ignoring each other, and the grandchildren are either ill-disciplined brats or simply hate Grandpa Hobbs on sight. Teenage daughter Katey (Lauri Peters) refuses to open her mouth because of her braces and hired help Brenda keeps quitting.

Mr. Hobbs, who didn't want this vacation to begin with, has to pull the family fat out of the fire (he will enlist Fabian to help with the honors), and Stewart and Maureen O'Hara (as Mrs. Hobbs) work to either reverse various family members down spirits, or create ruses to get them out of their ruts, though this never works long enough to keep the cook from continually quitting.

O'Hara and Stewart onscreen together make a good team for this job. Their comradeship in an often thankless job (keeping the family from falling apart) establishes a model picked up and used in many TV shows and movies that followed.

Valerie Varda (as Marika) appears as a husband-hunting sunbather who takes up reading War and Peace because Hobbs is struggling through it. They have several cockeyed conversations about the book (and also how banking works; Hobbs is an executive from a St. Louis bank) and that adds to the general portrayal of upper-middle-class Americans trying to meet cultural requirements they don't quite understand but have to attempt anyway, which is where the satire appears at its best in the script by Nunnally Johnson.

The film did well in America and even better in the foreign market release, and resulted in Stewart following up the success with several other family comedies. Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation was also at the front end of Hollywood Studio interest in California beach culture and contains elements of the muscle-beach movies that came along shortly thereafter.

Footnote * Streeter also wrote Father of the Bride which was a top-grossing film for Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor in 1950.

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