The Reel Review


After his estranged wife dies, a government lawyer returns from Europe to Washington DC to raise and get reacquainted with his three precocious children. Impressed with her easy rapport with them, he hires a woman to be their nanny and temporarily moves them to a leaky, rundown houseboat, not realizing she is a wealthy Italian socialite escaping a controlling father, in this 1958 romantic comedy starring Cary Grant and Sophia Loren.

Sophia Loren, Cary Grant and Harry Guardino in Houseboat

From corny, fake looking backdrops, to an equally corny story, the eye-rollingly formulaic Houseboat plays out like a really hokey, unrealistic TV sitcom. Even so, its two iconic leads have enough charm to overcome some wooden performances and make the film worth a watch – particularly for fans of nostalgic cinema. The period visuals, filmed in vivid Technicolor, are also interesting even if the Italian stereotypes haven’t aged well over the decades.

At just under two hours, Houseboat is still a journey that lasts about 30 minutes too long, with some painfully slow parts in its midsection. But Loren breaks out into song often enough – including her iconic tune “Bing Bang Bong” – to make this a classic.


1955 photo of Cary Grant and Betsy Drake

• Cary Grant’s third wife, Betsy Drake, wrote the first screenplay for Houseboat, with Grant initially intending for her to co-star with him in the film, before Grant replaced her with Loren, with whom he was having an affair during filming of 1957’s The Pride and The Passion, and had the story drastically rewritten. Grant later wanted to back out of the film after Loren married Italian filmmaker Carlo Ponti just as production got underway.

• Grant was 54 and Loren was 24 when they filmed Houseboat.

• Loren, on her affair with Grant during filming of The Pride and the Passion: “I was charmed by his dry wit, his wisdom, his affectionate manner, his experience.” Loren said she felt that being Italian, she would never fit into Grant’s world in America. Loren’s husband Carlo Ponti died in 2007.

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