Friday, July 11, 2014

My Favorite Brunette

I'm not the biggest fan of Bob Hope. But for those of you who are, you may enjoy the double feature of Hope movies that TCM is running tomorrow morning. I'm really not a fan of Hope's 1960s work, so I wouldn't recommend A Global Affair (8:45 AM). The first movie, however, My Favorite Brunette at 7:15 AM, is rather better.

Bob Hope stars as Ronnie Jackson, a baby photographer. Except that, as the movie opens, he's on death row in San Quentin. So the movie goes into a flashback to tell us what happened.... As I said, Ronnis is a baby photographer, so the movie switches to his photography studio, in the same building as the detective agency of Sam McCloud (Alan Ladd in a cameo). Ronnie has always wanted to be a detective, but Sam has never had any desire to let Ronnie do anything to help him, because surely everybody knows that Bob Hope trying to be a detective is going to be fraught with unintentional incompetence. But Sam is going off to Chicago for a job, so Sam lets Ronnie man the phones while Sam is away.

You can of course guess what's going to happen next: Somebody walks into the office desperately needing a detective. That woman is Carlotta Montay (Dorothy Lamour), who claims that she's the daughter of a baron, and that her father is in danger because there are bad guys who want the mineral rights to a mine he owns, and will stop at nothing to get them. This nothing includes almost every trope in old detective movies: disguised identity; trying to claim somebody is insane when they're not; an old dark house; trying to find and destroy negatives to a photograph that will be evidence; and so on.

The difference is that with Bob Hope as the star, My Favorite Brunette is not designed to be a straight-up detective movie, or perhaps not even a detective movie at all, but a comedy. The plot is a bit convoluted, but that might have been by design, with the intention that this not be a detective movie, but a comedy that's simply using the tropes of the detective genre to hang its jokes on.

My Favorite Brunette stands or falls largely on what you think of Bob Hope and his distinctive style. He's certainly competent at doing it here, and fresher than he would be by the time he started making all those unfunny sex farces in the 1960s. Dorothy Lamour is a good foil for Hope, and the bad guys were more or less typecast for comic effect, those being Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney Jr. Bing Crosby shows up briefly for a cameo. If you like Bob Hope, you'll probably like this movie and probably already have seen it. If you don't know too much about Hope, this is a better place to start than the later movies.

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