Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dorothy Lamour Is Bob Hope's "Favorite Brunette"

Confession: I sometimes get the plots of Bob Hope's three My Favorite... movies mixed up. While recently viewing My Favorite Brunette again, I kept waiting for the scene where the baddies give Bob truth serum--with predictably silly results. However, that classic bit is from My Favorite Spy with Hedy Lamarr. Well, to my defense, at least Hedy and Bob's Brunette co-star Dorothy Lamour both have dark hair--as opposed to leading lady Madeleine Carroll from My Favorite Blonde.

Bob Hope made the three My Favorite... films between 1942 and 1951, the peak period of his Paramount career. Technically, he played a different character in each film, though they all displayed the typical Hope persona. The series’ premise had Bob encountering mysterious women that got him involved in murder mysteries and spy intrigue. In My Favorite Blonde, he meets Madeleine Carroll (already a spy movie veteran after 1935’s The 39 Steps) on a train and winds up helping her elude Nazi agents. My Favorite Spy pairs him with the gorgeous Ms. Lamarr in a spy spoof with Bob as a comedian posing as a tough secret agent.

In My Favorite Brunette, Bob plays baby photographer Ronnie Jackson, who tells his story in flashback as he awaits the San Quentin gas chamber. As Ronnie explains in voiceover, he was ready for a career change and knew what it took to be a detective: "Brains, courage, and a gun. And I had the gun."

Tough-guy Hope and Lamour.
When the exotic Carlotta Montay (Lamour) mistakes Ronnie for out-of-town detective Sam McCloud (an unbilled Alan Ladd), the baby photographer plays along. He is soon involved in a plot with a kidnapped uncle, mineral rights, and plutonium. Of course, the story is really just an excuse for the zany situations and frequently funny Hope wisecracks (to Carlotta: "We're caught like two rats in a least, we're a boy rat and a girl rat."). And while this may not be the Hope comedy with the truth serum scene, it is the one with the "keyhole camera" and a classic routine in which Hope keeps overlooking a clue that bad guy Peter Lorre repeatedly places in front of him.

Hope feels Lon's muscles.
As was typical in Hope's Paramount comedies, the supporting players are first-rate, especially Lorre as a knife-throwing henchman. The most surprising performance, though, comes from Lon Chaney, Jr., who channels his Lenny (from Of Mice and Men) to charming comedic effect as Lorre's oafish partner.

My Favorite Brunette may not be a top-notch Hope vehicle along the lines of Son of Paleface or The Ghost Breakers, but it's a solid comedy that will keep a smile on your face for 87 minutes.

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