Well, since I’m not doing as many films this month, I’m going to start off with a movie featuring this month’s Screen Team, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour! That film would be the 1947 comedy My Favorite Brunette, which also features Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney, Jr.
Coming Up Shorts! with… Fair Weather Fiends (1946)
(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)
(Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)
Everything is just fine for Woody Woodpecker and his friend, Wolfie Wolf, as they sail around on their boat, eating all day long. Then a storm leaves them stranded without food on an island, and hunger sets in. This one was quite humorous, with the two attempting to eat each other. I’ll admit, the story was fairly predictable, pitting the two “friends” against each other when they get hungry, but they did have another bird to compete over briefly, which added to the hilarity. Not the most original cartoon, but it was funny, and I certainly would gladly watch it again!
And Now For The Main Feature…
Ronnie Jackson (Bob Hope) is a baby photographer, but he dreams of being a private eye, just like Sam McCloud (Alan Ladd), whose office is right across from Ronnie’s studio. While Sam is away on a trip, Ronnie messes around in Sam’s office (since Sam asked him to man the phones while he is away) when Baroness Carlotta Montay (Dorothy Lamour) comes in. Mistaking him for Sam, she asks for his help in finding her missing wheelchair-bound husband. She leaves a map with him to keep hidden, and gives him an address to meet her at. Ronnie decides to take her case, especially when he sees her being followed by someone else, and drives out to the address. It turns out to be the mansion home of a friend of her family’s, Major Simon Montague (Charles Dingle). While she is out answering a call, the major tells Ronnie that her “husband” (actually, her uncle, as she thought that making him out to be her husband would make the case more attractive to “Sam”) is alright, and that she is currently mentally disturbed (which is why the baron is hiding in another room). At first, Ronnie believes the major based on her behavior when she returns, but, upon exiting the mansion, he looks in a window and sees the “baron” up and walking around (which he takes a picture of), leaving him to believe Carlotta’s story. He is discovered and makes a run for it, but one of Montague’s henchman, Kismet (Peter Lorre), follows him and attempts to burn the photo and its negative. Ronnie later tries to bring the police up to the mansion, but they don’t find anybody there (except for Kismet, who is posing as a gardener). Still suspicious, Ronnie tries to sneak in and look for clues. He does indeed find one (which was planted in an obvious spot for him to see by Kismet). Ronnie follows the clue to a sanitarium, where he is captured and held prisoner, alongside Carlotta and the real baron. While Montague explains to Ronnie what is really going on (he wants the baron’s mineral rights to a uranium mine), the baron secretly gives Carlotta a message to go see an engineer who had helped him put together the map (the one Carlotta had asked Ronnie to keep hidden). When they get the chance, Ronnie and Carlotta escape, and make their way to see the engineer, James Collins (Reginald Denny). However, before they can bring any of this to the police, Kismet kills James and makes it look like Ronnie did it. Ronnie gets away from the police, and escapes to Washington, D.C. with Carlotta. There, they attempt to stop Montague from getting the mineral rights, but will they ultimately be successful?
During the latter part of World War II, Bob Hope had some issues with the studio heads at Paramount Pictures, as he had wanted to hold onto more of his salary. It had been suggested to him by a big show business lawyer that he should form his own production company, and make his movies in partnership with Paramount. While he liked the idea, the heads at Paramount did not, and he was suspended for a few years. Of course, he had all his work with the USO to keep him busy, and enough popularity with audiences that the studio finally relented, and Hope Enterprises, Inc. was born. For their first production, they went with My Favorite Brunette, a sequel (in name only) to his earlier hit, My Favorite Blonde. Of course, with his own money being put in the picture, Bob Hope (known for goofing off on the set of his movies) took things a bit more seriously this time around. Given that they were spoofing film noir this time around, they were able to get genre regular Peter Lorre, as well as Lon Chaney, Jr. (in his first film upon leaving Universal Pictures). It worked well enough at the box office, though, as Hope Enterprises continued to produce Bob’s movies, and the My Favorite series would be revisited one more time in the early 1950s with My Favorite Spy.
Personally, I’ve seen My Favorite Brunette a number of times over the years, and enjoyed it. But when watching it for this review (the first time I’ve seen it in most of a decade), the film overall made a lot more sense to me. The biggest reason, of course, is that I am now a lot more familiar with the film noir genre (having mainly seen a bunch of movies from the genre after I made the jump to HD in 2014). So, that makes the presence of Alan Ladd (in a brief cameo as Sam McCloud) and Peter Lorre much better, as well as Lon Chaney, Jr., in a role reminiscent of the type that Mike Mazurki would normally be playing. Of course, the movie itself is fun because of Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour! While the film has many wonderful comedic moments, one of the most memorable is the scene where Bob’s Ronnie has just been told that Dottie’s Carlotta is crazy (while she was out of the room), and, when she comes in, she more or less does act a bit crazy, especially in the way that she handles the letter opener she is carrying (I know I certainly would be questioning her sanity while she is doing that)! And this film has what I consider to be one of the best “Bing Crosby cameo in a Bob Hope movie” moments (I can’t really say anything more without spoiling things, it’s one of those things that just HAS to be seen)! Quite simply stated, this is a fantastic comedy, with a great cast! I personally consider it the best of the My Favorite series with Bob Hope, and I have no trouble whatsoever in recommending it!
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.
Film Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes
My Rating: 9/10
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