' ' Cinema Romantico: 5 Favorite Movie Houses

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

5 Favorite Movie Houses

On Saturday I found myself passing for roughly the ninetieth-dozen time this particular house in my Chicago neighborhood that I have affectionately come to call The Meet Me In St. Louis House. Admittedly the two homes are not precise comparisons. The house in my neighborhood is classified as Colonial architecture whereas the Smith household in the 1904-set “Meet Me In St. Louis” is Victorian, and yet I compare them because they both evoke such an old-timey feel. Whenever I jog past the house in my neighborhood, with its wraparound porch, white picket fence and illustriously turreted window, I imagine a horse and buggy pulling up to drop off its family. I imagine them entertaining guests at the grand piano in the parlor room. I imagine someone sitting on the porch in the warm afternoon sun, sipping iced tea and reading The Saturday Evening Post. I imagine Jean Harlow seeing me from an upstairs window seeing the house and sassing me for gawking. “What do ya staring at, funny boy? Haven’t ya ever seen a dame in a three story home before?” All together now…… Sigh.

This house is right down the block from me.
Where was I? Right. The house in my neighborhood. Passing it yet again on Saturday finally, as it inevitably had to at some point or another, got me to thinking. What are my favorite houses in the movies? And before we get to the requisite list, let me make one thing clear – this is Cinema Romantico. When it comes to movie houses, we are not going to be interested in, shall we say, futuristic houses. In Des Moines, where I grew up, there was a house in the countryside referred to by the locals as The Spaceship House – as in, a colossal raised home that looked like a spaceship. It would have been right at home in Woody Allen’s “Sleeper”. But The Spaceship House compared to the house in my neighborhood isn’t the same ballpark. It isn’t the same league. It isn’t even the same sport. So you won’t find The Vandamm place in “North by Northwest” or or Tony Stark’s semi-bachelor pad in “Iron Man” or The Lake House in “The Lake House” or some such thing. No, these houses are more of the, shall we say, classical variety. These are the houses that hold court in the strange imagination of Cinema Romantico.

My 5 Favorite Movie Houses

5. The Goonies 

Despite barely being in the movie, the "Goonies" house drives the plot - they need the money to save it - and perhaps for that reason retains a popular place in pop culture imagination. But the house. Take "The Goonies" themselves out of the equation and just take the house at face value and, heck, it's not really that different from the Meet Me In St. Louis House in my neighborhood, is it? You can hear the whimsical creak in the floorboards, can't you? You can imagine looking out a second-story window and gazing at the ocean, can't you? You can hear the pitter-patter of rain on that porch awning, can't you, and smile?

4. Atonement 

Yes. I get it. I understand. I know what happens in this house in the movie, and that so much of it is awful and depressing and Debbie Downer Masterpiece Theater, etc., and I don’t care. You know why? BECAUSE IT’S THE TALLIS HOUSE, YOU AUTOMATONS!!!

3. Top Gun

To be sure, any house could probably look like The Greatest House On Earth with a little Tony Scott-ization. You know, he serves the orange sunset and the billowing drapes in the soft focus with the Berlin on the soundtrack but that's only half the battle. I mean, the house is parked under the palm trees and the Pacific Ocean is right over there and, well, heck this is the house on the list that I don't simply love but want to live in. Mansions really aren't my style. All I want is a seaside bungalow in California with my little front porch to drink my morning coffee while I gaze romantically at the water. (One great regret I have in life is the fact that my friend Jed and I on our infamous California road trip that found us in Miramar also found us in Oceanside, the location of this house. I had no idea. This was 14 years ago. You couldn’t just Google “Charlie’s House Filming Location” on your iPhone. C'est la vie.)

2. The Myth of Fingerprints

Originally erected all the way back in 1791, the Merrill-Poor House of Andover, Maine that served as the foremost location of my third favorite film of all time is a luxurious rental property with twenty-five rooms. Which, of course, is why the film never feels as if it runs out of space, why every room feels new and different, even as the film cleverly obscures the fact that the house is actually so freaking huge. And even if the characters and their feelings can often come across as cold, the house onscreen comes across so genuinely lived in, so astonishingly tangible, just like a childhood home, not simply a place but a thing ingrained in your psyche.

1. Meet Me In St. Louis

Well, if this wasn't the most obvious # 1 in the long history of Cinema Romantico's blatantly obvious # 1's. What can I blather about to summarize it? Just look.


Alex Withrow said...

Great list. And hey man, if you ever feel the urge to drive cross country on your motorcycle, playing "Take My Breath Away" on repeat, only to find yourself in Oceanside again... you can always crash at my place that night. LA is pretty close by. Just do what your heart tells you.

Nick Prigge said...

Ha! You never know. I might take you up on that offer. I've been back to California three times since that initial trip, though the last two times were up north rather than south, and I can never get enough of it. All due respect to where I live and where I'm from, but it's my favorite state in the union.

Zach Murphy said...

Cool list!

Andrew K. said...

Make this a meme Nick!

The Tallis house is an excellent choice, I'd love to have the miniature version Briony has at the beginning. The thing is, I'd really want it but the house is so gaudy (the green on the kitchen walls is truly hideous), and yet....

My house of choice would almost definitely be Howards End. (It's not a house but the monastery Hana and the Patient stay in in THE ENGLISH THE PATIENT is also an option.)

Nick Prigge said...

So often it seems like great movie houses are gaudy on the inside. But there's something about that gaudiness I find endearing. And comforting.