I’m back for another round of Screen Team Edition, and, this time, the focus is on Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, who made three films together: The Cat And The Canary, The Ghost Breakers and Nothing But The Truth. Of course, before I comment on this pair , I have the plot descriptions for all three of the movies that they made together.
The Cat And The Canary: Lawyer Crosby (George Zucco) comes out to the isolated mansion of the late Cyrus Norman. There, he is to read Cyrus’s will to his potential heirs, including Wally Campbell (Bob Hope), Joyce Norman (Paulette Goddard), Fred Blythe (John Beal), Charlie Wilder (Douglass Montgomery), Aunt Susan (Elizabeth Patterson) and Cicily (Nydia Westman). According to the will, Joyce is to inherit everything, unless she dies or goes insane in a short period of time (at which point everything would go to the second heir, whose name was being kept hidden in a second envelope). Since the mansion is rather isolated in the swamps, with no way for anybody to get away that night, they are all given rooms to spend the night in. Soon, some rather spooky things start happening, particularly around Joyce, including Crosby disappearing while he was trying to warn Joyce. While all the remaining men volunteer to help Joyce, Wally in particular helps her out. The two of them manage to find a valuable necklace that Cyrus had left for Joyce, but it ends up disappearing. Wally does his best to try and find out who is behind everything going on, as he cares for Joyce, but can he stop the other heir before Joyce is driven crazy with fear?
The Ghost Breakers: Mary Carter (Paulette Goddard) is on her way to Cuba to see an old, supposedly haunted castle that she has inherited. She is joined (accidentally) by crime reporter Lawrence “Larry” Lawrence (Bob Hope), who is trying to escape the police when he thinks he accidentally murders somebody (which he didn’t do). Larry decides to continue the trip with her when he discovers that somebody is trying to scare her away from the castle. Once they arrive in Cuba, he sneaks on ahead to the castle with his valet, Alex (Willie Best). Some time later, Mary comes to the castle by herself. Can they all figure out what is going on, or will they be scared out of their wits?
Nothing But The Truth: Stockbroker T. T. Ralston (Edward Arnold) is in trouble: his niece, Gwen Saunders (Paulette Goddard), is trying to collect $40,000 for charity, and he has promised to give her $20,000 if she can raise the other half. Of course, he doesn’t want to keep that promise, and, behind her back, convinces everybody he knows not to donate. However, she has managed to collect $10,000, and turns to the one person he hasn’t talked to: the newly-hired Steve Bennett (Bob Hope). Gwen asks him to invest the $10,000 in something that will double her money in a quick period of time (without telling her uncle or anybody else where the money came from). Before Steve can do anything, his boss T. T. tries to get him to sell some bad stock. Steve is unwilling to do so, believing that honesty is the best policy. T. T. and his partners, Tom Van Dusen, a.k.a. “Van” (Leif Erickson) (who also happens to be Gwen’s boyfriend) and Dick Donnelly (Glenn Anders) decide to call him on the idea by betting him that he can’t the tell the truth and nothing but the truth for twenty-four hours. Steve takes up the bet, using Gwen’s money, since he figures he can win easily. With nobody allowed to tell about the bet, the three men decide to stay close to Steve to keep him honest (and try to force him to lie). He’s stuck going with them on T. T.’s yacht for the weekend, and, with their constant pestering in an attempt to get him to lie, he manages to insult almost everybody on the boat. To make matters worse, Dick Donnelly (who is married to T. T.’s daughter) also finds himself trying to avoid trouble, when his mistress, actress Linda Graham (Helen Vinson), comes on board, looking for the money that she had been promised would be put into her show. Since Dick had promised her that Steve would pay, she appeals to Steve by trying to tell him about the show (and, in the process, convincing some of the eavesdropping women that the two are an estranged couple). With everybody mad at Steve (including Gwen, whom he had fallen for), will he be able to win the bet, or will he tell a lie to get himself out of trouble (and lose all that money)?
As a young boy, Bob Hope had idolized comedian Charlie Chaplin, and famously won a prize for impersonating Chaplin in 1915. Paulette Goddard started going out with Chaplin in 1932, and they would marry in 1936. Her big break was opposite Chaplin in his classic Modern Times, proving her abilities as a comedienne. In 1938, Bob Hope broke in to the movies with The Big Broadcast Of 1938, but, outside of that film introducing what would become his theme song, his early films didn’t register much with audiences. However, he was enough of an up-and-comer that Paramount Studios kept trying, and, in pairing him with Paulette Goddard for The Cat And The Canary, they not only gave him a film that would make him a star, but also enabled him to meet his childhood idol, Charlie Chaplin, who complimented Hope on his abilities as a comedian. The chemistry between Bob and Paulette worked, bringing in the box office and leaving Paramount wanting to pair them up again. The following year, they did The Ghost Breakers (also to great success), so of course, Paramount decided to pair them again.
However, with Nothing But The Truth, things were starting to change. The two didn’t get along as well offscreen, as his ego was starting to become too much of a problem, not just for her, but also for that film’s director. Not only that, but he had also enjoyed success with a different team, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, through the first two Road pictures. Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard would still appear in another film, Star Spangled Rhythm from 1942, but they would not share the screen, as she mainly appeared for a song with Dorothy Lamour and Veronica Lake, while he acted as emcee for the “show-within-a-show.” Plans were made for them to possibly work together in the film Murder, He Says, but that didn’t come about (although the film did reference The Ghost Breakers).
Personally, I find all three films to be enjoyable, and I can see some progression in style between them. The Cat And The Canary works as an old, dark house film, but, as I said when I originally reviewed the film, Bob Hope is pretty much the reason it is considered a comedy. Everybody else in the movie (including Paulette Goddard) seem to play it straight. The Ghost Breakers keeps that “haunted house” idea going, but increases the comedy. Again, it is mostly Bob, although Paulette does add some more to the comedy. After both of those films, Nothing But The Truth is a bit of a rude awakening, abandoning the horror aspects altogether, and heaping on the comedy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Paulette gets more of a chance to show off her comedic skills, while we see Bob trying to tell the truth for twenty-four hours (and making others mad in the process). I think that The Ghost Breakers is the best film of the three, but, depending on my mood and what type of film I’m looking for, I could easily sit through any of these three. So I would certainly have no hesitancy in recommending any films featuring this screen team!
All three movies are available on Blu-ray (individually) from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.
The Cat And The Canary
Film Length: 1 hour, 14 minutes
My Rating: 9/10
The Ghost Breakers
Film Length: 1 hour, 25 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
Nothing But The Truth
Film Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes
My Rating: 10/10