The voyage of Houseboat is to a nearly extinct era in motion pictures when screens and hearts bubbled over with the warmth of original family humor.
It’s a perfect role for Cary Grant, who plays a government lawyer separated from his wife and who, upon her accidental death, is brought into contact with his three children, none of whom are very friendly toward him.
Enter Sophia Loren, a full-blown lass with lovely knees who’s been kept in tow by her father, a noted Italian symphony conductor and who takes the first chance to get away from it all. Grant, though he takes her for a tramp, hires her as a maid at seeing her ability to handle his children upon first meeting. Off goes everyone to the country, and through living together begin to understand and love each other. This, of course, also goes for the two adults (by now, he’s noticed her knees).
Grant mixes concern with disconcern and says more with a head tilt than most residents of situation comedy are able to say with an entire script. Loren acts better in irate Italian than in emotional English, but she is believable and sometimes downright warm as the lover of Grant and his children.
Harry Guardino is outstanding as a fiery wolf who will take anything but a wife, and Martha Hyer, as the rich ‘other’ woman, is beautiful and skillfully competent. As one might expect, the moppets steal the show.
1958: Nominations: Best Original Story & Screenplay, Song (‘Almost in Your Army’)