We’re back for one final film as part of May’s Screen Team Of The Month featuring Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour! To finish it off, we’ve got one of Bob Hope’s solo outings, the 1951 comedy My Favorite Spy, also starring Hedy Lamarr!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)
(Length: 6 minutes, 25 seconds)
Woody Woodpecker is pushed by insurance salesman Buzz Buzzard into signing an insurance policy… with Buzz as the beneficiary! This one was an entertaining short, with a different slant than usual for a Woody Woodpecker cartoon. Usually, he’s the one being the pest for everybody else, but here, Buzz makes him look like a good guy! This time, Woody is mostly on the run from Buzz, who just keeps coming back after Woody hits him. I won’t say that it’s the greatest Woody Woodpecker cartoon, as the interplay between Woody and Buzz falls short of that between Woody and Wally Walrus. Still, it provided a few good laughs, making it worth returning to in the future!
And Now For The Main Feature…
At an airport, Eric Augustine (Bob Hope) is trying to evade some agents trying to capture him. He manages to get away, and the agents turn to the local police to help them catch him. The police pick up vaudeville comedian Peanuts White (Bob Hope) (who greatly resembles Eric). Peanuts tries to convince them of his identity, but they don’t believe him. That is, until they receive word that the real Eric is still hiding at the airport, so they let Peanuts go. However, they have to turn to Peanuts for help when the real Eric is injured in a shootout with the agents. They need Peanuts to impersonate Eric, who was going to buy a top-secret microfilm, but Peanuts, a bit of a coward, wants nothing to do with their spy intrigues. It takes a phone call from the U.S. President Harry Truman to convince Peanuts to go through with the whole charade. The agents help make him over to look more like Eric, and help him learn not only how to act like Eric, but who all Eric’s “friends” and enemies are. Upon getting him through enough training, Peanuts is sent off to Tangier. Upon arriving, he narrowly escapes an assassination attempt before ending up in a cab with Eric’s on-again-off-again lover (and fellow spy), Lily Dalbray (Hedy Lamarr). She quickly resumes her romance with “Eric,” but what Peanuts doesn’t know is that she is working for his nemesis, Karl Brubaker (Frances L. Sullivan). The plan is for her to steal the microfilm from “Eric” when he gets it, and have him killed. At the hotel he is staying at, Peanuts meets Tasso (Arnold Moss), another agent posing as “Eric’s” valet. Peanuts only has eyes for Lily, so Tasso has to keep reminding him that anybody could be passing him info on when and where he should meet with Rudolph Hoenig (Luis Van Rooten), the man who possesses the microfilm. Of course, while all this is going on, the real Eric has gotten away from the agents, and is making his way to Tangier. With all the double-crossing going on around him, can Peanuts successfully get the microfilm AND get out of the country alive? And will Lily fall for him, or follow through with her plan to have him killed?
With both My Favorite Blonde (1942) and My Favorite Brunette (1947) doing well for him, of course Bob Hope was going to return to this “series” again. For My Favorite Spy, he went back to spoofing the spy genre. Joining him for this third go-round (without any reference to her hair color in the film’s title) was Hedy Lamarr, whose own career was waning at this point. She hoped that, by working with Bob (then one of Hollywood’s biggest stars), she might be able to reverse that decline. Of course, the initial idea for the film was slightly different than what we got, with Bob’s character of Peanuts initially envisioned as being a schoolteacher (instead of a vaudevillian) being sent to Cairo (the movie’s working title was Passage To Cairo). But, things changed as they went along. Reportedly, Hedy Lamarr proved more adept at comedy (possibly even upstaging Bob Hope), resulting in Bob having some of the movie re-edited to make him the funnier one. The movie’s premiere took place at the home of Anne Kuchinka in Bellaire, Ohio (she had won a radio contest through Bob’s program in which people wrote letters giving reasons why the premiere should be held in their own home).
I’ve seen this one once or twice before, and I will admit that it’s one that I enjoy. As usual for a Bob Hope film, he’s certainly got his quips throughout, which usually land pretty well for a few good laughs. One of the film’s most memorable moments is when Bob’s main character, Peanuts, gets a dose of truth serum, with unexpected results (since the bad guys still think that he is the spy). I also enjoy the final chase sequence, which with its fire truck antics, is reminiscent of similar moments in the classic comedies Never Give A Sucker An Even Break (1941) and In Society (1944) (although, unlike those two films, it doesn’t share any footage). The film isn’t without its faults, though. For one thing, there’s no cameo from Bing Crosby (outside of a veiled reference). I’ll grant you that it’s not a major thing, since he didn’t make cameos in every Bob Hope film, but his presence is missed after he did make appearances in the other two “My Favorite” films. Another problem for me is that it feels like they really underused the “real” Eric Augustine in this movie. For the most part, he’s really not there a lot, and when he is around, he really doesn’t speak much, if at all (which is certainly enough to make you pause and wonder how everybody else mistook the far chattier Peanuts White for him). I don’t know how much of that is the tech (and its cost), but it just takes away from what could have been something more. It’s certainly far from a perfect film, but I think it provides enough humorous moments that I don’t mind coming back to it every now and again. Maybe for others, it might be better as a rental, but I think it’s worth recommending, anyway.
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Olive Films.
Film Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes
My Rating: 7/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) – Bob Hope – Son Of Paleface (1952)
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