My Favorite Brunette (1947)
“He’s a hilarious hawkshaw… with a case on Dottie!”
Director: Elliott Nugent
Cast: Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Peter Lorre
Synopsis: Baby photographer Ronnie Jackson, on death row in San Quentin, tells reporters how he got there…
Bob Hope was arguably at the peak of his movie career when he made this comedy-mystery with Road movies co-star Dorothy Lamour, and eases his way through this reasonably high-quality material with the practiced accomplishment of an old pro. He’s one of those stars who played the same character in almost every film he made; in his case it’s the good guy whose mile-wide yellow streak is matched only by his eye for the ladies. That’s not meant as a slur: Hope found what worked for him … and worked it in return. Lamour was the other side of the coin — she was frustrated by being typecast in the mind of the public as the star in the sarong. She puts in a nicely appealing performance in this flick as a plucky damsel in distress whose uncle has been kidnapped by spies, and exudes an earthy sexiness at times that is perhaps a little surprising in a middle-of-the-road 40s comedy.
The story is pure Hollywood fluff — it’s good fluff, though, the kind of thing tinsel-town’s screenwriters seemed to churn out every week back then, but which they have seemed incapable of recapturing since the early 50s. Hope plays Ronnie Jackson, a baby photographer, who dreams of being a private eye like his business neighbour, Sam McCloud. Mistaken for McCloud by the beautiful Carlotta Montay (Lamour), Jackson embarks on a nervous mission to locate her missing uncle, Baron Montay (Frank Puglia). The baron, it seems, has been kidnapped by a bunch of spies (who count a deliciously sinister Peter Lorre and a not-quite-all-there Lon Chaney amongst there number) who are seeking the whereabouts of a stash of uranium. The story itself is by-the-numbers stuff and strictly predictable, but the comedy is frequently of the highest laugh-out-loud calibre. Stand-out scenes include Lorre’s attempts to place crucial evidence in Hope’s path as the hopeless would-be detective searches a room, and Hope’s foiled attempt to trick Chaney (who appears to be having a whale of a time) into helping him to escape from a sanatorium in which he is being held by the spies. There are a couple of amusing cameos — one predictable, one less so — and a nice brisk pace that suits the relatively short running time. If you’re not a Hope fan this isn’t going to convert you, but if you’re not averse to his one-size-fits-all brand of comedy then you’re sure to be entertained.
(Reviewed 2nd August 2005)