The Blandings\' Bathroom Blues: Mr. Blandings and the directed negotiated reading, part three

Spoiler Warning: Discussion of the differences among the three presentations of the Blandings story will necessarily involve implicit and explicit spoilers

Jim and Muriel Blandings have been awoken by the alarm clock, he has received his morning glass of juice from the maid and brought Muriel\’s morning coffee to the bedroom. One daughter has finished showering and the other was last seen diving into the bathroom.

There is still more morning misery at the Blandings\’ home for the audience to witness.

Jim Blandings is feeling very put upon. He daughter asks him, very sharply, why every morning he neglects to knock on the bathroom door before opening it. I beg your pardon. Jim says peevishly after his daughter is out of earshot. Once in the bathroom he is clearly annoyed that someone has been squeezing the toothpaste tube from the middle and that items fall out of the medicine cabinet when he opens it. Jim proceeds to take a shower and is still in the bathroom (now shaving) while Muriel showers. When he opens the shower door to give her a washcloth (and then later a towel) the mirror becomes too steamed up to be of use. Jim, again, sighs to himself as only the put upon can sigh. Then Muriel, fresh from her shower, gets in his way as he continues to shave blocking out his view of the mirror. He cuts himself shaving and complains. I cut myself every morning. I kind of look forward to it. She asks, Why don\’t you use an electric razor?

This scene leaves me with a number of questions:

  1. Why is Jim so annoyed when his daughter asks him to knock before barging into the bathroom?
  2. Why won\’t Jim put up another shelf/mirror in the bathroom so that the storage space is adequate to the number of people sharing the room?
  3. Why does Muriel need to shower at the same time that Jim is shaving?
  4. What bathroom does Gussie (the maid) use?

One answer to questions 1-3 is, of course, because if they dealt reasonably with their limited space there would be no need for them to move to a very large house in the country. And therefore there would be no movie.

A second answer to questions 1-3 is that if the Blandings arranged they lives more efficiently their \”plight\” would not evoke as much sympathy from an audience made up of people who took home far less money and often had far less space than the family on the screen.

However the questions do bring some interesting thoughts to mind.

1) Earlier Jim didn\’t knock before opening his daughters\’ bedroom door. Jim treats all spaces as his. To knock is to acknowledge that someone else at least shares control over a space.

2) Jim doesn\’t do things. He is an executive. He is a manager. He tells other people to do things. Even he would, I think, feel slightly silly hiring a handyman to put up a bathroom shelf. If it is something that Jim doesn\’t know how to do (or cannot see himself doing) and it isn\’t a task that he can easily and routinely delegate to others then it never enters his conscious mind.

3) I think we can safely assume that Production Code would find it totally acceptable for either Muriel or Jim to use the toilet while the other is in the room however Muriel has to fix herself up so she can look like a nice upper middle housewife at breakfast. In the \”real world\” she would probably do this by getting up long before Jim so that she could use the bathroom before he got up. Muriel does not have a job. She doesn\’t need to get ready for work.

4) For those who have never seen the movie it may be important to point out that Gussie is African-American. It would be quite unlikely for the white maid of a white upper class family to use the same bathroom as did they but it would be totally unacceptable for an African-American maid to do so. So I found myself wondering if there were meager toilet facilities \”back there\” in the space Gussie used. Or perhaps there were facilities out in the hallway that all the \”help\” in the building used? Whatever the answer some of the square footage of that apartment was out of bounds to the Blandings given the attitudes at the time towards African-Americans.

So far the audience has seen life at the Blandings only through the eyes of Jim. And Jim sees himself as a put upon individual living in the middle of chaos and clutter. Thus members of the audience don\’t think to themselves that the Blandings have far more room than do they and if only if they used a little bit of elbow grease and common sense most of their problems would disappear.

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