Breening Thursday: 19. “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation” from 1962


Today is Thursday, so it is time for another Breening Thursday article! It has been two weeks since we published the last article in the series, a Disney Renaissance cartoon breened by Rebekah. I wasn’t able to breen a film last week, but this week the series is back! I am contributing the nineteenth entry in the series, which is our first Breening article for March.

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We Brannans are taking a holiday this week by spending four days in Tucson, Arizona. In honor of this vacation, I am breening a movie about a family who goes on a month-long summer vacation, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation from 1962. This film, which stars James Stewart and Maureen O’Hara as the parents of a large family, is the latest Shurlock Era film which we have breened so far.

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This movie tells the story of Roger and Peggy Hobbs, two happily-married people from St. Louis, Missouri, who decide to take a month-long vacation one summer. While Roger envisions a romantic cruise for two, he learns that his wife has arranged for them to use a friend’s house in California for the whole month. She has arranged a family reunion, meaning that the borrowed abode will be home to Roger, Peggy, their four children, and their families. The house turns out to be a dilapidated Victorian on the seashore with an absurd water heater and antiquated conveniences. Within the faded walls, Mr. Hobbs must get along with Susan, his daughter who is obsessed with child psychiatry, Stan, her brooding and unemployed husband, Peter, her bratty son who calls his grandfather “Boompah,” Peewee, her spoiled little girl who also can’t be told “no,” Janie, his other married daughter, Byron, her opinionated psychologist husband, their baby, Katey, his moody fourteen-year-old daughter with a complex about her braces, and Danny, the antisocial son who constantly watches Westerns on television. At first, Mr. Hobbs decries that his family doesn’t want or need him anymore. However, as the trip progresses, he realizes that his children may need his help more than he thought.

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This movie is a comedy with a plot which follows the events that take place during the Hobbs family vacation. There are no major plot points beyond the premise which I mentioned. The action meanders along the incidents which take place at the house. It mainly focuses on Roger Hobbs, showing his interactions and adventures with different family members. I will explain parts of the story about which you need to know as we come to them. With no further ado, let the breening begin!

Image result for Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation 1962 Lili Gentle

The first problem occurs within the first minute of the film. As the movie opens, we see a rocket. We hear James Stewart’s voice in a narration about man’s space travel. He declares that he, Roger Hobbs, has discovered why man ventures into outer space. “It’s too – crowded down here!” he says, and the image changes to show a congested freeway. The dash represents a profane word which is forbidden under the Code. This pointed swearing starts the movie on a vulgar note. He should instead say, “It’s too darn crowded down here!”

When Peggy Hobbs decides that her family should have a wonderful vacation together in a house at Emerald Bay, she telephones her daughter Katey, who lives at a boarding school and who has different ideas for the summer vacation. She and a few school friends want to explore Europe during the summer months. Peggy tries to be reasonable and see her daughter’s point of view, but Katey doesn’t even try to see her mother’s point of view. She comments to her two roommates that her parents are so “weird.” The other girls respond about their parents, calling them “weird,” too. The Shurlock Era mentality of young people’s attitude toward their parents is very prevalent in this film. The girls should not refer to their parents so disrespectfully. They could say something like, “My parents just don’t understand,” but they shouldn’t call their parents “weird.”

In that scene, the three girls are shown in very casual evening attire. One of the girls is wearing extremely short shorts. They are indecently short. If she wears shorts, they should at least cover her upper thighs.

When Peggy tries to sell her husband on the idea of the vacation, he goes into a tirade about his children’s not needing him. He says that Danny, their only child living at home, only needs him to pick up a copy of Playboy Magazine every month. He is probably joking, but Playboy Magazine has a very bad reputation. It shouldn’t be mentioned in a film, especially as reading material for a young boy. He should name some other magazine.

When the Hobbs family first arrives at the vacation house, Roger reads a complex list of directions which he must follow to get the antiquated water pump working. It ends with a warning about keeping the pressure from getting too high, saying that if you get too much you’ll “blow up the whole – place.” As when this profane word was said before, it should be replaced with darn.

Image result for Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation 1962 Maureen O'Hara James Stewart

That evening, Mr. and Mrs. Hobbs are shown in their room, complaining about the problems of the house before going to sleep. As in several bedroom scenes in this film, they are shown in a bed together. Although they are married, the Code’s standard was that even married couples could never be shown in bed together. This policy was very sound because actors playing married couples are rarely married. It is suggestive and inappropriate to show them in such an intimate situation. In these scenes, there are two ways to solve the problem. Either the bed could be changed to two twin beds, in which case one person could sit on the other’s bed while they talk and kiss, or they could just sit on the side of a double bed. As long as they aren’t shown in bed at the same time, the situation is fine.

This strange house is equipped with a party line telephone. Every time Mr. Hobbs picks up the telephone, he hears two women discussing disgusting medical problems. They are always talking about internal organs, secretions, and the like. Their brief snippets of conversation are vulgar, distasteful, and offensive. The funny part about the situation is that they are always tying up the line with their organ recitals. They could be discussing medical problems as long as they are not disgusting. They must confine their conversation to arthritis, prickly heat, sciatica, and similar conditions.

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After many futile attempts to start the water pump, Mr. Hobbs calls the plumber who left the instructions. The funny little man, Mr. Kagle, arrives in filthy clothes. He jovially explains that he fell in Mrs. Colt’s cesspool. This information, combined with his grimy appearance, is absolutely disgusting. Peggy and Katey cringe after he shakes their hands, hastening to wipe off their hands with old newspapers. The entire cesspool situation is vulgar and must be eliminated.

Roger brings Mr. Kagle into the shed where the water pump is located. The plumber says that theirs is the sweetest little pump in the area. Mr. Hobbs replies, “I’m not challenging the sweetness of the pump. I’m just saying I can’t get the lousy thing to work.” The italicized word is a forbidden expression. It should be replaced with something like crummy.

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On the beach by their house, Roger meets one of their neighbors, a voluptuous blonde flirt named Marika. The ditzy foreign woman wears a bathing suit which indecently reveals her curvaceous figure. Firstly, it is a bikini, which was forbidden under the Code. Secondly, it is flesh-colored, so she looks like she is naked at first glance. Thirdly, she is first seen lying on her stomach on a towel. Her top is unhooked to get a good tan, and her chest is revealed. She should be wearing a full-piece bathing suit of a contrasting color to her skin which has a high neckline, proper support, and a covering bottom.

Image result for Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation 1962 Maureen O'Hara

Roger cordially converses with the young woman, unaware of how flirtatious she is being. She seems slightly deterred when he tells her that he is a grandfather. Then, Peggy comes to the door of their house and calls to her husband. Seeing the beautiful woman, Marika unbelievingly asks, “That’s a grandmother?” Referring to his wife’s lovely figure, Roger replies, “36-26-36, and still operating.” Listing a woman’s hourglass dimensions is an unduly pointed reference to intimate parts of her figure. In addition, his comment that she is still operating makes it sound like her body is machinery. His line should instead be something like, “Hasn’t changed since the day I married her.”

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Speaking of Peggy’s figure, a little too much of it is showing in this scene. Her top has a rather low neckline in this casual outfit, which she wears in multiple scenes. Also, her skirt is a wrap-around style which buttons down in the front but not all the way. Several times, it comes open, revealing her legs. She seems to be wearing either shorts or a bathing suit, but we don’t know exactly how much she is or isn’t wearing. She must wear a higher neckline, and the skirt should button all the way down so that it can’t open and show her legs.

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When Roger goes over to talk to Peggy, she sarcastically says, “Who’s the belly dancer?” Roger innocently replies, “Oh, she’s just a big kid.” Belly dancer would not be an appropriate name for Marika if she were wearing a full bathing suit. Instead, Peggy should say something like, “Who’s the siren?”

Image result for Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation 1962 Minerva Urecal

The Hobbses are accompanied on the trip by their grumpy Finnish cook, Brenda. She hates the decrepit house and the desolate region. When the kitchen sink becomes a geyser that hits her in the face, she decides that she’s had enough. As she is leaving, Peggy tries to convince her to stay by reminding her that the region is supposed to look like Finland, her homeland. She disagrees, saying that it is too quiet. Glaring at Mr. Hobbs, she adds, “And in Finland, man no swear at woman.” After she has driven away, Roger insists that he didn’t swear at the cook. Peggy says that Brenda said he swore at her when he came down in the morning. Roger protests that he just asked the children if they wanted to get some sun on the beach. Suddenly, they both realize what happened. Because of her limited understanding of English, Brenda mistook an innocent phrase for profanity. The fact that a woman who speaks broken English with a heavy Finnish accent knows profanity is somewhat implausible, but one does learn some things quickly. The situation with the implied profanity is unacceptable, since it makes viewers try to figure out what expression Brenda thought she heard. She should just leave because she got the water in her face.

Image result for Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation 1962 Natalie Trundy

That evening, Susan asks Janie if she has fully recovered from the birth of her baby. She says that she has, adding that they plan to “try and have another one right away.” Mr. Hobbs is surprised to hear family-planning so plainly discussed, and he comments, “Well, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard that one in the drawing room.” The character’s shock upon hearing such intimate matters openly discussed reveals how inappropriate Jane’s line is. Instead, she should say, “We want to have more children as soon as we can.” This is a less-pointed reference to procreation, but it would still lead into Byron’s line about children who are born in close succession being less likely to develop neurosis.

Later in that scene, Susan’s son begins to wreak havoc on the furniture. Because his permissive parents have never forbidden anything, Peter purposely knocks over a lamp and smashes an ash tray. Mr. Hobbs is horrified to see his grandson’s loutish behavior, and he scolds the boy firmly for his destructiveness. His daughter soothes her son, saying that “Boompah” didn’t mean it. Her father angrily replies, “Yes, Boompah did mean it. He meant every – word of it.” The profanity in this line is the third use of this profane word in this film. Although it could be replaced with darn, I think that the expletive could simply be removed.

That night, Roger and Peggy talk about their family’s problems. After discussing their children’s strange views and behavior, Roger concludes that their offspring don’t want their help and involvement. He says that they should butt out before their children tell them to. Peggy doesn’t like the sound of this. “But what about communication?” she asks. “Oh, to – with it. Let them communicate with us for a change.” It will suffice to say that the dash does not stand for heaven. It could be replaced with heck. However, I think it would sound better if he said something like, “Oh, who needs it? Let them….”

Right after that, they kiss goodnight and prepare to go to sleep. After lying quietly for a moment, Roger grouses, “You’d think that lousy surf would lay off for a couple minutes.” The italicized word is a forbidden expression. If it were replaced with crummy, it would improve the line without removing its hilarity.

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Marika appears again the next day. This time, she is wearing a black one-piece bathing suit. It’s good that it is not a bikini, but it is still cut too low on top and too high on the bottom. Also, it has an open back. As before, she must be wearing an acceptable bathing suit.

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That morning, Roger and Marika are joined on the beach by Byron. When he takes off his robe, we see that the young intellectual has a very developed physique, which is significantly shown in the small bathing shorts he is wearing. The black swimsuit is really little more than a loincloth. The trunks should come up higher and be a little longer.

In an attempt to cheer up the dismal Katey, Mr. Hobbs takes his daughter and wife to a local teenage dance. One of the dancers there is Marika, who is wearing something besides a bathing suit for the first time. Like her swimwear, her dress has an indecently low neckline, which must be raised.

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At this dance, many of the young people do the twist. This was a dance which was very popular during the Shurlock Era. Since it consists of no terpsichorean activity besides various types of shaking, it is no wonder that it didn’t originate until after the end of the Breen Era. The isolated, jerky movements of this dance are quite risqué, making this dance unacceptable. The dancers should be doing the swing instead.

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Roger wants his daughter to have a good time at the dance, but her shyness and self-consciousness about her braces are driving the boys away. Mr. Hobbs takes matters into his own hands and pays several young men $5 each to dance with her. One of them, Joe, tells him that she won’t talk. Devising a way to make his daughter communicate, Roger asks Joe how he feels about his father. When he replies that his dad is sometimes a little “kooky,” Mr. Hobbs knows that he has found a common topic between Joe and Katey. With this new information, Joe dances with Katey again. Soon, they are having a great time gossiping their fathers. Joe tells Katey that his father is a real “dingbat.” As I said about Katey’s feeling toward her parents, it is a bad influence for real young people to depict sympathetic young characters who are so disrespectful of their parents. That is detrimental to the home and family. Instead of saying that his father is a little kooky, Joe should say something like, “Sometimes he doesn’t understand me,” reflecting Katey’s opinion that her parents don’t understand her. While they are dancing, he shouldn’t call his father a dingbat. Instead, he could just say, “Well, you oughtta see my dad.”

Image result for Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation 1962 James Stewart

Once they see that their daughter has found a friend, Mr. and Mrs. Hobbs start dancing together. The current dance is the twist, which Mrs. Hobbs does too well and Mr. Hobbs does with comical clumsiness. As I noted before, they should be doing the swing, which Roger could do comically clumsily, as well. Then, eager to stop doing the frantic dance, Roger hands Peggy $5. She laughs and sticks the bill in her top as they start to do the foxtrot. It is suggestive for her to put the money in her top. Instead, she should just hold the money in her hand as she dances with Roger.

The next day, Marika is on the beach again in a third bathing suit. This one is a bikini. It should be changed as noted for her first bikini.

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Later, we see Katey and Joe at a pizza restaurant, Pizza Heaven. Joe tells Katey that he thinks her father is a good fellow. Katey hesitantly agrees, noting that her father is so insecure. Joe says that all parents are, adding, “My parents average three or four complexes a week.” However, he concludes that he still likes her father. This is part of the problem about disrespect toward parents. Instead of calling her parents insecure, Katie could refer to them as patronizing. Joe’s line about his parents’ complexes is unacceptable and must be eliminated. I think that a good message was begun here, but the opportunity wasn’t used to its full potential. Joe obviously admires Mr. Hobbs, and he tries to tell Katey that he is a good man. I think that, instead of making such a point about all parents’ “shortcomings,” Joe should really emphasize that Mr. Hobbs is a wonderful, kind, caring man. More importantly, Katey should listen to this idea and appear to understand it. This would be an important turning point for her and her relationship with her parents, especially her father. It would be a good conclusion to show that she grows to respect her father.

On a later day, Katie goes to another date with Joe at the pizza restaurant. In this scene, she is wearing a short top which exposes her midriff. Her navel isn’t showing, but it seems indecent and inappropriate for a fourteen-year-old girl to wear a top which doesn’t fully cover her torso. She should be wearing a full top.

Image result for Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation 1962 Valerie Varda

Eventually, the Hobbs family is joined by Mr. and Mrs. Turner, an eccentric older couple who spends a few days at their odd house. Mr. Turner is a potential employer for Stan, who has been out of work for months. Stan is away, so it is up to his wife and parents-in-law to make a good impression on the Turners. Mr. and Mrs. Hobbs try desperately to find an activity which will amuse the Turners, but their guests seem unable or unwilling to enjoy every pastime they suggest. When Peggy says that they should lie around on the beach and soak up the sun, Mr. Turner explains that his wife, Emily, can’t go in the sun for more than a few minutes, since she gets big red blotches. Emily adds, “It’s probably because my body’s so white. Every square inch of it.” She says the line in a girlish voice, looking flirtatiously at Mr. Hobbs as she says it. The word body makes the line very suggestive. Body should be replaced with skin.

The only thing which the Turners enjoy is birdwatching. To befriend them, Roger says that he likes birdwatching, too. He suggests that he and Mr. Turner might have an enjoyable day of spotting, stating that “this place is just lousy with birds.” The italicized forbidden expression should be replaced with full of.

On the Turners’ last night with the Hobbses, Roger and Peggy are in their room, happily discussing the success of the day’s birdwatching expedition as they get ready for bed. Suddenly, they hear the explosive noise which has come to identify the troublesome plumbing of the house for them. Then, they hear Mrs. Turner screaming for help. “What the – is she doing in the sink?” Roger says before they rush to her aid. The profane word should be replaced with heck.

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It turns out that Mrs. Turner is in the bathroom, enveloped by steam because the water for the bath went awry. While Peggy goes downstairs to shut off the valve, Roger goes into the bathroom to turn off the steam. Emily is wearing nothing but a shower cap, but she is hiding behind a shower curtain and is blocked by steam. Roger tries to leave after he has turned the steam off, but the knob falls off the door, trapping him in the room. Realizing that he hasn’t left, Mrs. Turner says, “Are you aware that I am in the nude?” The expression in the nude is a little too pointed. Instead, she should say undressed. 

Embarrassed by the knowledge that Mrs. Turner is undressed, Mr. Hobbs asks if she has a robe or something. She says that she has her little shortie nightgown, which is hanging on the door. She comments, “Aren’t I naughty, skipping down the hall in only my little shortie?” The flossy little nightgown is too short and indecent. Instead, she should say that she came in just her French silk nightgown. It should be very glamorous-looking, but it must not be suggestive or risqué.

Image result for Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation 1962 Marie Wilson

Emily Turner spends a long time behind the shower curtain. She holds it up so that only her shoulders and head are exposed. However, it sometimes is low enough to show part of her chest. She should always hold it above her shoulders so that her nakedness is not emphasized.

While Roger waits for Peggy and Mr. Turner to get the doorknob back on the door, Mrs. Turner tells him that she and her husband, who profess to be total abstainers, have a drink every night before going to bed. This accounts for her silly behavior, since she is obviously tipsy. She then says in reference to her husband, “And then you know what he likes sometimes?” Her tone is very suggestive. When combined with Mr. Hobbs’s reaction and unwillingness to hear the continuation of her statement, it is very suggestive. This line should be removed.

Eventually, Emily puts on a towel. However, it is just wrapped around her torso, showing part of her chest and too much of her legs. Instead, it should be a large bath sheet which she can wrap around her legs, torso, and upper body. Code films such as A Kiss in the Dark from 1949 show the covering possibilities of a towel.

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The next morning, Roger plans how to explain the catastrophe in the bathroom the previous night to Mr. Turner. However, just after he gets out of bed, he sees the Turners drive away. Fearing that he has ruined Stan’s chances for getting the job, he frustratedly says, “Oh, my God.” This vain use of God’s name is blasphemous and against the Code. He should either say, “Oh, my gosh” or “Oh, no.”

When the Hobbs family is packing to leave the house, Katey is wearing short, flesh-colored shorts, which are indecent. If she wears shorts, they must be long enough and a color which contrasts her skin.

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That concludes my breening of this film! The amount of Code-violations in Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation is standard for 1962. The biggest problems are profanity and vulgarity of dialogue, which give the movie an unnecessarily coarse feeling. There is also some risqueity in dialogue and costuming. It is a shame that these problems were in this movie. It has a clever script, a strong cast, amusing comedy, and good acting. However, because of the unnecessary unacceptable elements which were included, there are parts of this film which are uncomfortable for me to watch. Why must a family film like this contain swearing, vulgar humor, women in revealing costumes, and suggestive situations? It doesn’t need them! If the changes I suggested were made, this movie would be acceptable and enjoyable for everyone. No one would miss the raunchy elements, but anyone could watch the movie without being offended. I know that we would watch it more often!

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If you are looking for a family comedy from the Shurlock Era, I recommend this film. Classic film fans will enjoy the strong cast of stars and the hilarious antics which they perform. As you watch this movie, consider the changes which I suggested for it. Ask yourself how this breening would have changed the general tone of the movie. Wouldn’t you rather see a film like that than one which contains profanity, low necklines, suggestive situations, and disgusting humor? I know that I would. Why did the filmmakers taint the film with these things? “What’s there to prevent it?”

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