Even though it’s not thought of as a traditional Christmas movie, I love watching Funny Farm at this time of the year. Chevy Chase plays Andy Farmer, a sportswriter who quits his job and buys a house in the country, where he plans to write a novel. The movie takes us through all four seasons in the small town of Redbud, Vermont, but it ends during the holidays when the Farmers’ charming Cape Cod is decorated with white lights and covered in snow.
Funny Farm was based on a comedic novel by Jay Cronley (now out of print, but I managed to find a used copy online, and it’s hilarious). Andy and his wife Elizabeth think life will be perfect and peaceful in Redbud, but things go wrong from the start. The fact that he has writer’s block is the least of his problems.
Here they are, pulling up to the house on moving day, still optimistic for their future in Vermont:
The house is a simple Cape Cod that sits (in real life) on a pond in Grafton, Vermont. I haven’t been able to find out if the interiors were filmed on location or not, however. If you have any information, let us know!
1/10 UPDATE: A reader wrote me with the answer. Michelle says:
“Wanted you to know I got an e-mail from the Grafton Historical Society regarding the house in the Funny Farm movie. The house is still around and is also a private residence. The owner does not want the house location listed on the Internet and wants people to respect their privacy.
“The exterior and interior house shots in the movie were of the same house. The owners’ furnishings were moved out and stored, and the movie company furnished the house to fit their needs.”
For the first week that they’re in the house, the Farmers can’t find the phone. Turns out it was hiding in the bottom cabinet of the built-in bookshelves. When Andy tries to make a call, the operator tells him he must put 25 cents in the slot. He explains that it’s his home phone, not a pay phone, but she doesn’t believe him.
Elizabeth unpacks boxes in the living room as Andy heads out to do some fishing in the pond–where he catches a snake instead:
Things haven’t been going too well for the couple, but they get worse when Elizabeth digs up the body of a former homeowner buried in the garden:
They also have to deal with a crazy mailman who flies past their lane, throwing their mail out into the road every day. Andy tries everything he can think of, but nothing works:
The decor is a little dated–the movie came out in 1988, after all–but I like how simple and unpretentious it is:
Andy and “Yellow Dog” sit by the fire in the living room:
Looking into the living room from the kitchen:
The kitchen as it looks on moving day:
The kitchen after they move in:
They finally get a phone installed in the kitchen–too bad it’s a pay phone:
Looking up the stairs to the second floor:
Andy and Elizabeth’s bedroom:
Andy’s study, where he works on “The Big Heist:”
It turns out Elizabeth is more successful as a fiction writer than Andy. While he’s still stuck on his novel, she sells a children’s book about a squirrel named Andy who moves to the country. She starts using his study and typewriter more than he does:
Elizabeth finds a stuffed squirrel in an antique shop that inspires her children’s books. The shop is actually in Townshend, Vermont, at The Old Brick Tavern B&B:
After a series of mishaps, misunderstandings, and general misery, Elizabeth and Andy decide to sell the house and get a divorce. They know it will be easier to sell the house if the town is on board, so they offer a $50 reward to anyone who does something to help them sell it. At the town meeting, Andy says:
Citizens of Redbud, we came to Redbud filled with hopes and dreams for a better life and a better place. Basically, we’ve seen those hopes and dreams crushed and shattered before our very eyes.
Bud and Betsy Culbertson are the unwitting couple that comes to see the house. The Farmers are prepared to wow them:
As the Culbertsons walk around the side of the house, Andy grabs his walkie-talkie and says, “Cue the deer!” A fawn is let loose to run across the lawn.
Apparently the snow scenes in the movie were real, even though they weren’t planned that way. According to ThisIsVermont.com:
In 1987, the Chevy Chase film, “Funny Farm” was being filmed in the area and a local citizen’s home was used for the movie character’s house. The film crew meticulously decorated the building and lawn for winter, complete with plastic snow and icicles; cotton batting over rooftops and fences and the next day eight inches of heavy wet snow fell.
Andy and Elizabeth take Bud and Betsy into Redbud, which has been staged to impress with lights and carolers for Christmas. These scenes were shot in Townshend, Vermont. The filmmakers built the gazebo you see in the photo below, and the community liked it so much that they kept it. It’s still standing there today.
The residents of Redbud are so intent on earning the $50 that the Farmers have promised them that they crowd into the house to sing carols to the prospective buyers:
It’s all so perfect that even Elizabeth and Andy start falling in love with Redbud.
The next day, when Bud and Betsy make an offer on the house, Andy turns it down. They have decided to stay. They go outside to make the announcement to their neighbors, who aren’t as excited about the news as the Farmers expect them to be… (they’d rather have their $50).
Madolyn Smith (Elizabeth Farmer) kind of disappeared from Hollywood after making this film. I think it’s time for her to stage a comeback! I loved her in this movie.
Have you seen Chevy Chase in the new sitcom Community? He also has several movies coming out in 2010. Last week I featured another Christmas movie that he starred in–National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.