Houseboat is directed by Melville Shavelson who also co-writes the screenplay with Jack Rose. It stars Cary Grant, Sophia Loren, Martha Hyer, Paul Petersen, Charles Herbert, Harry Guardino and Mimi Gibson. A Vista Vision production in Technicolor, music is by George Duning and cinematography by Ray June.
Widower Tom Winters (Grant) is reunited with his three estranged young children and finds they don't particularly think too highly of him. Struggling to pay them due care and attention and commit to his work, salvation may come in the guise of Cinzia Zaccardi (Loren), the daughter of a famous Italian conductor whose firm hand at parenting has led to Cinzia running away. Even though she has no discernible skills for the job, Tom hires Cinzia to be the maid to the Winters family, which once they wind up living on a rickety houseboat, has life affirming consequences for all of them.
Family drama, a romantic comedy, a 54 year old Cary Grant as the romantic lead opposite a 24 year old Sophia Loren as the prime love interest. Behind the scenes sparks as Grant yearns deeply to be Loren's better half, to which she responds by marrying Carlo Ponti, while Grant's then wife, Betsy Drake, gets passed over for the role given to Loren in a film based on an original script that she wrote herself! All that and the film leans heavily on three moppet characters. Had to be a miserable failure, surely?
Thankfully no. Houseboat is an utterly delightful picture, a throwback to time when Hollywood knew how to produce charming family friendly movies. Propelled by Grant, the man who could find chemistry with a door, the pic may not hold any surprise with its outcome, but the comedy is strong throughout and the family values inherent are rich with their story telling rewards. There's the odd musical interlude to tap your feet along with as well.
With Grant showing more comic ability with just facial expressions than many of today's comedy actors can provide in an hour of film, Houseboat is very much essential viewing for the Grant purists. True, Loren is hardly providing any acting gravitas here, but by the time she wanders into view looking absolutely knockout in a gold dress, nothing else really matters! Bonus, too, is the child actors, wonderfully directed by Shavelson, there's no irritants here, just honest and engaging reactions to scenes and scripting that stop the formula becoming stagnant, while Guardino shines bright as a commitment phobic lothario.
Delightfully warm as a rom-com, but not ignorant to the trials and tribulations of a family coming to terms with a big change, Houseboat is always on safe entertainment waters. 7.5/10