Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Never Say Die

Since I'm not certain how many movies I'm going to be able to watch off my DVR before the big move, I also put in a DVD to watch, and selected from my big Bob Hope box set a film called Never Say Die.

Hope plays John Kidley, who's at one of those Swiss mountain resorts because he thinks he's quite sick. Indeed, he's a hyopchondriac, and while me may or may not really be sick, he's actually going to have good reason to believe he's sick. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Kidley also came to this resort to get away from a woman he'd met earlier on his travels to Switzerland, Juno Marko (Gale Sondergaard). She's a widow, and has decided she's fallen in love with Kidley and thinks that he loves her, too. And she's not going to take no for an answer.

Meanwhile, at the resort, another patron isn't sick himself, but has a dog who is sick. The guy being rich, he's getting all sorts of lab tests performed on the dog, which will eventually indicate that the dog is in perfectly normal health for a dog. The problem is that what's normal for a dog is not normal for a human. And somehow, the lab report on the dog doesn't seem to indicate that it's for a dog, or even the name of the patient in an obvious enough place to obviate the next part of the story. As you might be able to guess from what I've written, Kidley's doctor winds up with the report for the dog thinking that it's actually for Kidley, which leads him to believe that Kidley has some sort of acid condition that's basically going to eat away Kidley's body and kill him within a month or so.

Meanwhile, at the resort but apparently not sick is Texan Mickey Hawkins (Martha Raye, who worked with Hope on several films early in his career). She's here trying to get away from Prince Smirnov (Alan Mowbray), a Russian émigré who has fallen in love with Mickey and is fully expecting her to marry him, even though she doesn't want that at all. And he's been hunting her to the ends of the earth. So since she's about to get trapped into a marriage she doesn't want, and Kidley is trying to avoid a marriage he doesn't want, he comes up with a brilliant idea. As he has good reason to believe he's terminally ill, why not have a quickie marriage between him and Mickey which will obviously dissolve, pun fully intended, when he dies.

Of course, we know that Kidley isn't really sick. And further messing things up is the entry of an old flame of Mickey's from back in Texas, Henry Munch (Andy Devine). He's hoping Mickey can marry him, and is understandably miffed to find that Mickey's gone and gotten herself married to someone else. Also, Juno and Smirnov are still around, with Smirnov trying to hasten Kidley's death by challenging him to a duel, leading up to the inevitably conclusion....

The more I get to watch Paramount programmers, which isn't as often as I'd like since TCM doesn't get to show as many of them thanks to Universal holding the rights, the more I find how much I tend to enjoy them. Bob Hope isn't always my cup of tea, but he works well with Martha Raye and the script is fairly good. (I wasn't paying attention and missed Preston Sturges' name as one of the co-writers.) They've also got good production values for the sorts of programmers they were making, without looking inappropriately polished the way certain MGM films do.

In short, Never Say Die is the sort of movie that's great to have on a box set and one that probably deserves more attention, both for Hope, and for Raye when she was younger before she really became known as the "big mouth".

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