Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Five Best Bob Hope Films

John Greco, the classic movie blogger behind the delightful Twenty Four Frames, recently listed his favorite comedies of the 1940s. Not surprisingly, two of Bob Hope's best efforts made the list. That got the Cafe staff thinking about our favorite movies starring Mr. Hope. So, here goes!

Paulette Goddard and Bob Hope.
1. The Ghost Breakers (1941) - This first-rate haunted house comedy benefits from a funny script and a strong cast. It reteams Hope and Paulette Goddard from the similar The Cat and the Canary (1939). Both movies feature spooky settings and were adapted from stage plays. However, while The Cat and the Canary comes off as a bit creaky, The Ghost Breakers holds up nicely. Willie Best, a fine comedian in his own right, has his share of great lines, too, as Hope's valet. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis remade The Ghost Breakers as Scared Stiff in 1953. Both original and remake were directed by George Marshall.

2. Son of Paleface (1952) - This is the rare case where the sequel is better than the original--and that's saying a lot because The Paleface (1948) is pretty funny. Bob plays Junior, an Eastern dandy who heads out West because his father--Paleface Potter--supposedly left behind a fortune in gold. Instead, he finds that Dad pretty much owed money to everyone in town. Jane Russell, Hope's Paleface co-star, plays a saloon owner with a secret identity and Roy Rogers is an undercover government agent with a rifle hidden in his guitar case. This is classic Hope, with lines like: "Why, I'm so mean, I hate myself."

Crosby and Hope.
3. Road to Utopia (1945) - The best Road movie casts Bob Hope and Bing Crosby as a a pair of vaudeville performers who stowaway on a ship to Alaska. Their plan is to cash in on the gold rush, but they end up impersonating a couple of killers named Sperry and McGurk. Naturally, Dorothy Lamour is on hand, as well as a talking fish, a cameo by the Paramount mountain, and Bing playing the adult offspring of Bob and Dorothy. (Yes, this is one road Road movie where Bob got the girl...sort of.)

4. My Favorite Brunette (1947) - I'm a fan of all three of Bob Hope's My Favorite... films. In this outing, he plays a baby photographer with aspirations of becoming a private detective. He explains in voiceover that he knew what it took to become a detective: "Brains, courage, and a gun. And I had the gun." When Dorothy Lamour's exotic client mistakes him for a real private eye, Bob tackles a case involving a kidnapped uncle, mineral rights, and plutonium. Peter Lorre plays a knife-throwing henchman and Lon Chaney, Jr. is a delight as his oafish assistant. I also love the "keyhole camera."

Bob with Madeleine Carroll.
5. My Favorite Blonde (1942) - There were a lot of candidates for this final spot, but you can't go wrong with this comic variation of a Hitchcock espionage film. Bob plays a vaudeville entertainer (with a roller-skating penguin, no less) who encounters a mysterious, beautiful blonde on a train ("Is that your real hair or did you scalp an angel?"). She turns out to be a secret agent who needs Bob's help to elude her pursuers. Bob and Madeleine make a fine duo; it's too bad they didn't make any more movies together. Actually, Ms. Carroll took a five year break from acting after My Favorite Blonde, devoting herself to caring for the wounded and orphans during World War II.

Honorable Mentions:  The Paleface; The Lemon Drop Kid; and Casanova's Big Night.

13 comments:

  1. "Utopia"'s ending was just so great; at first you're left thinking Crosby got the final laugh, but then Hope pulls it out with "we adopted him." The cutting-but-friendly rivalry between these two was what made the "Road" movies so appealing to me.

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    1. I love these old amateur detective and comedy-horror movies as you mention above, and hope you'll give some play to the Red Skelton "Whistling" movies as well if you haven't already.

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    2. It's been awhile since I saw Red's "The Fox" movies. I definitely need to visit them again.

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  2. Great list. My favorite part of My Favorite Brunette is Hope playing golf and losing to the guy using an invisible ball. Another favorite which shows a different side of Hope is Beau James. A pretty straight forward drama.

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    1. It's very different to see Bob in a dramatic role in BEAU JAMES, but he pulls it off.

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  3. another honorable mention is "The Princess & the Pirate"

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  4. You mentioned the Martin & Lewis remake; didn't Hope & Crosby make a cameo at the end of that one?

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  5. I can't argue with any of this, especially when you HM'd Casanova's Big Night. Nonetheless, I will give a nod to The Princess and the Pirate and a mention of a personal favourite, The Facts of Life with its dramatic over or undertones.

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    1. Ah, yes, I'm another one who would include "The Princess and the Pirate" – it has one of the best concluding punchlines ever.

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  6. "Utopia" has maybe the funniest line in movies, delivered by Hope of course. When he and Crosby swagger into a Nome saloon as Sperry and McGurk and sashay up to the bar with everyone in the room scared, Crosby orders "Whiskey!" and Hope simpers "I'll have lemonade." adding in a gruff voice, "In a dirty glass!"

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  7. I loved this post! You can’t go wrong with any of the gems you’ve listed. I loved that you included “The Ghost Breakers”. Several decades ago a little film society in central Kentucky showed this and I have never forgotten their advertising for this classic: “Ghost Breakers: Hope ain’t ‘fraid of no Ghost!”

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  8. I good selection but oh, I would have definitely put Casanova's Big Night into the mix! Actually, Hope made a number of great films late in his career too, such as Cancel My Reservation. I don't know why it is but usually comedians end up making really dumb films at the tail end of their career.

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  9. CASENOVA'S BIG NIGHT definitely up there. 'Farfel, farfel, pippick.' I also liked CAT AND THE CANARY even if the screenplay was kind of lame. I love THE GHOSTBREAKERS. I can actually quote lines from the film. So sad. Ha!

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