Home Sweet Home?

“House of Sand and Fog”
Photo courtesy of Reeling Reviews

By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer

Everybody wants to live in Pacific Palisades. The proof: California held 77 of the nation’s 100 most expensive residential zip codes in 2017, according to Property Shark, with 90272 ranking no. 19 ($2.73 million).

Yet as many homeowners can tell you, sometimes owning said home can prove challenging, as many a Hollywood film has testified.

Outsiders, for instance, can really put wear and tear on your investment, especially when they come in the form of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. In the 1929 silent Laurel & Hardy classic “Big Business,” the bunglers play door-to-door Christmas tree salesmen in California (adding further futility to their chosen métier, it’s summer!).

When their feud escalates with their would-be customer, mustachioed homeowner James Finlayson, Stan and Ollie retaliate by damaging the man’s doorframe. Finlayson retaliates by ruining their clothes. Then Laurel & Hardy take to demolishing Finlayson’s house, from roof to foundation.

Probably the most iconic movie about home restoration, the 1948 comedy “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” saw debonair Cary Grant’s advertising executive, the titular Jim Blandings, and wife (Myrna Loy) pull a “Green Acres”-type move to eschew the cramped recesses of Manhattan for the peaceful country life.

Blandings purchased a 200-year-old Revolutionary War-era farmhouse fixer-upper for $7,000 ($70,000 today) and hires an architect to oversee re-construction of the Connecticut home for $18,000 ($187,000 in current currency).

Everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. With skyrocketing expenses and a deadline from his firm, Blandings wonders why he wanted to live out in the country to begin with.

Remarkably, the full-set house built for the film still stands in neighboring Malibu on what used to be property of 20th Century Fox at the same Malibu Creek State Park area where Ape City was constructed for the original “Planet of the Apes.”

Today, Jim Blandings’ dream house doubles as park offices.

In 1960, Kirk Douglas and Barbara Rush played in what has to be the dark side of the Grant comedy. In “Strangers When We Meet,” Douglas plays an architect building an author’s dream house, married to Rush, only to get derailed by an affair with Kim Novak’s woman bound in a loveless marriage with the author, played by comedian Ernie Kovacs. Comic actor Walter Matthau also plays in the intense Richard Quine film.

With the crisscrossing relationship drama, this home project becomes a metaphor for the death of several relationships by the time both the house and the movie are finished. Scenes were shot all around the Palisades in Malibu, Santa Monica and Brentwood.

A more contemporary example of home building gone awry: “The Money Pit,” the 1986 comedy, which, contrary to its name, made a tidy profit at the box office (the $10 million-budget Universal feature earned nearly $55 million in 1986 dollars).

Directed by actor Richard Benjamin and starring longtime Palisadian Tom Hanks and “Cheers” actress Shelly Long, “Money Pit” concerns a couple attempting to renovate a $200,000 steal.

Of course, the moment Hanks and Long take possession of the house, it quickly falls apart as the door frame rips out of the wall, the main staircase and chimney collapse, the electrical system catches fire, gunk mucks up the plumbing, and the bathtub goes crashing through the floor. There’s even a raccoon taking up residence inside the dumbwaiter.

A classic
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

On a more serious note, 2003’s “House of Sand and Fog” dramatized the dark side of equity. Nominated for three Academy Awards, including Palisadian James Horner for Best Original Score, the feature, based on the acclaimed 1999 novel by Andre Dubus III sees recovering drug addict Kathy Nicolo (Jennifer Connelly) evicted from her Bay Area home, only to find it auctioned off for a quarter of its value to former Imperial Iranian Army Colonel Massoud Amir Behrani (Kingsley).

Determined to retrieve her house, she discovers Massoud renovating the house to flip it. The tension between Kathy and Behrami escalates into war, with Kathy manipulating her sheriff boyfriend to intimidate Behrani with the threat of deportation plus suicide and arson attempts, uxoricide and suicide.

Hopefully your Palisades home will come with a lot less drama.