Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962) was a family vacation get-together film long before Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) gathered up his wife and kids to travel across the country to
Disneyland Wally World in National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983).
Roger Hobbs (James Stewart) reluctantly gathers his tribe to meet up for a vacation at the beach, thanks to the
urging nagging of his wife, Peggy (Maureen O’Hara). He wants them to take a Honeymoon cruise but loses that argument before it begins.
By tribe, I’m referring to his teenage daughter Katy (Lauri Peters), who is away at boarding school, and his young son Danny (Michael Burns). Danny only has eyes for his TV and browsing the pages of Playboy Magazine that his father picks up for him once a month.
I guess that means Roger is a liberal kind of guy for 1962. My father never would pick me up a copy of Playboy every month. But I knew where he kept his stash, so it evens out.
Also invited are Hobb’s two married daughters, husbands, and children. Jani (Lili Gentle) is married to pompous know-it-all professor Byron Grant (John Saxon).
They have one child, an infant seldom seen and rarely heard from. Byron wants another one right away before that bit of magic wears off.
The other daughter Susan (Natalie Trundy), is married to Stan Carver (Josh Peine), and they have two of the meanest little
children shits ever to inhabit a movie screen. The older child, Peter, spends the vacation telling the world how much he hates Poompah, the name he uses for his grandpa and a term loathed by Roger. Roger to Susan: You couldn’t do better for your dad than that?
Both little horrors also spend some time trying to destroy every object in sight. To make matters worse, Stan and Susan seem on the verge of slitting each other’s throats. One gets the impression that Stan doesn’t go along with Susan’s method of child upbringing: Let the little monsters do what they want and never say no to them.
To add fuel to the fire, their cook and housekeeper, Brenda (Minerva Urecal), tags along for the ride but doesn’t last long when the kitchen sink explodes in her face. It’s time to pack your bags and head back to civilization.
If you’ve seen The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, you’ll instantly recognize Brenda as the shrewish wife who gets turned into stone when she gazes into the eyes of Medusa. That was an improvement.
The other star of Mr. Hobb’s Vacation is the Beach House. You’ll instantly recognize it as something imported from movies such as The Haunting or the house formerly owned by Norman Bates and his Mommy Mummy in Psycho. Upon entering the home, Hobbs turns on a light and calls it a dark because if you switch it on during the day, the room grows darker. Then there’s his attempt at conquering the water pump, which is more like fighting a dinosaur.
But without trying very hard, Hobbs manages to make things work for his very dysfunctional family. It does look iffy when he gets lost in the fog with his son, the TV addicted Danny, gets locked in the bathroom with the wife (Marie Wilson) of Stan’s possible future weirded-out boss, Martin Turner (John McGiver), then proceeds to finish that escapade off by punching a drunk Turner (although they claim earlier they never touch the stuff) in the nose. But some things work out with relative ease, like what he does to hook up daughter Katy with Joe Carmody (Fabian) so she’ll quit walking around in a zombie state because she’s wearing braces.
And it only takes one warning to stop yacht owner Reggie McHugh (Reginald Gardiner) from hitting on Peggy, who also isn’t happy about beachcomber and millionaire seeker Marika (Valerie Varda) who hits on both Roger and Stan.
You won’t even sniff that here if you are looking for the over-the-top vulgar antics of Chevy Chase’s Vacation. After all, this is 1962, and I don’t think audiences would have been kind if Danny was bopping his bologna and Katy was smoking a shoebox full of weed.
But it is about the family dynamic and how they cope despite being drawn apart over the years. Most of the humor comes from the dialogue and the messy relationships of the family members.
The interplay between Stewart and O’Hara alone makes the film worthwhile. It’s worth watching, although I wish somebody would sock him in the kisser if Peter yelled, “I hate Poompah” one more time. Brat.
If you want to see the movie it is available in HD on some of the streaming services like VUDU or Amazon. You can still buy the regular DVD, but who wants that these days? Back when Twilight Time was originally selling the Blu-ray, I passed on buying it because I was stupid and thought the DVD was good enough, especially since the Blu-ray even then was $30. Now it’s way more than that but there is an overseas English language version available on Amazon from third party sellers if you want to take that risk. Frankly, I’d just settle for the HD streaming version because the movie now rests in the vaults of Disney where it will slowly over the years crumble into nothingness just like most of the films Disney acquired from 20th Century Fox that are wasting away.