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    Nunnally's Vacation

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Frequent Saturday Evening Post contributor Edward Streeter (1891-1976) is best remembered for writing the source novel that became the hit movie Father of the Bride (both 1950 and 1991). He was held in high esteem as an authentic American humorist by veteran Hollywood writer/producer/director Nunnally Johnson (1897-1977), who himself had a few works of notable Americana to his credit, movie greats like Jesse James, The Grapes of Wrath, The Gunfighter, O’Henry’s Full House and The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. When the film adaptation of Streeter’s 1954 book Mr. Hobbs’ Vacation came his way, the erudite Mr. Johnson considered it a good fit. He wrote to producer Jerry Wald: “I have done about 25 pages of Mr. Hobbs’ Vacation (which I prefer to think of as One Big Happy Family, its original title) just to see if it felt all right. This puts nobody under any obligations whatever. If I hadn’t been doing that, I might have been playing with myself or some mischief like that. Result? It feels quite good (the 25 pages, not the idle diversion). Whether it feels good to somebody else or not, I don’t of course know. But it tickles me. But I’ve done this without first arming myself with your ideas or notion of approach or anything like that, and these I would appreciate from you if you want me to press on. My only inspirations so far have been the visualization of Jimmie Stewart as Mr. H. and the enthusiasm you are reported to have for the project. But since I have never known you not to be enthusiastic about a project, this second inspiration may be a little naïve.” Opening 54 years ago yesterday, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962), turned out to be a good fit all around with a cast (wonderful Maureen O’Hara as Mrs. H., popular singer Fabian, John Saxon, Lauri Peters, Reginald Gardiner, John McGiver, Minerva Urecal and, in her final film, Marie Wilson), deft direction by Henry Koster (It Started with Eve, The Bishop’s Wife, My Cousin Rachel, The Robe), and a genial but prickly situation (Can three family generations make it through a summer “idyll” under one roof of a dilapidated beach house in one piece?) that made this Cinemascope charmer an audience pleaser that was Twentieth Century Fox’s second highest grosser that year behind another seaside saga of decidedly different and dramatic heft, The Longest Day. Johnson was so pleased with writing for Stewart that he went on to do two other widescreen family comedies for director and now producer Koster (Wald would die just a month after the release of Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation), Take Her, She’s Mine and Dear Brigitte, although creative clashes on the last title would provoke him to have his name removed from the credits (Hal Kanter is cited on screen). Flare-ups erupt in all families, not just the Hobbs clan, but the philosophical Johnson would later write to Streeter: “We are both old-timers, and since we will probably go on until one of Miss Jessica Mitford’s ghoulish characters comes for us, there is no reason why eventually you shouldn’t write another novel and why I shouldn’t have the good luck to knead it into a script. In any case, I take great satisfaction that I now have three authors who are still on speaking terms with me after my violation of their works. In view of what I know about other screen writing, this is not at all a bad record.” Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation is not at all a bad way to wile away two lazy beachfront summer hours watching a Henry Mancini-scored Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray, available here: