MY FAVORITE BLONDE
(director: Sidney Lanfield; screenwriters: Don Hartman/Frank Butler; from a story by Melvin Frank and Norman Panama; cinematographer: William C. Mellor; editor: William Shea; music: David Buttolph; cast: Bob Hope (Larry Haines), Madeleine Carroll (Karen Bentley), Gale Sondergaard (Madame Stephanie Runick), George Zucco (Dr. Hugo Streger), Lionel Royce (Karl), Walter Kingsford (Dr. Wallace Faber), Edward Gargan (Mulrooney), James Burke (Union secretary); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paul Jones; Paramount; 1942)
“Lives up to its rep as one of Bob Hope’s better comedies.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Lives up to its rep as one of Bob Hope’s better comedies. The former vaudevillian and jazzman and future TV director, Sidney Lanfield (“The Lemon Drop Kid”/”The Houndof the Baskervilles”), keeps it breezy with his smartly paced direction. Hope gives off with his usual quips, slapstick and double-takes. The usually grating Hope shtick that has his character veer between playing the coward and the braggart, is less grating here. The film’s high energy level and semi-serious nature, keep things hopping. It’s a parody of the 1935 Hitchcock thriller “The 39 Steps,” which costarred Madeleine Carroll. The gorgeous blonde whom the married Hope school-boyishly chased after, married Sterling Hayden in a secret ceremony while filming My Favorite Blonde much to Hope’s dismay.
The film is set just before the entry of the Americans into World War II. British agent Karen Bentley (Madeleine Carroll) is passed the scorpion (a bug containing the revised flying orders for American bombers headed for England) when her fellow agent is killed by Nazi spies on a boat entering New York City’s harbor and she’s ordered to get the scorpion to an agent in Chicago (a hazy explanation is offered that this info is secretly coded and can’t be passed on by phone). Followed by the dangerous spies, Bentley ducks into the dressing room of vaudeville entertainer Larry Haines (Bob Hope), who works an act with a trained penguin named Percy. Larry is heading by train that night to Hollywood, where Percy has a $500-a-week contract to appear in a film while Larry has a $30-a-week contract as the bird’s trainer. Karen comes on to Larry so that he’ll act as a distraction to get her safely out of the theater the Nazis have surrounded, and when she’s in danger at the train station slips the scorpion to the unsuspecting Larry and joins him at the Albany stop. When they reach Chicago, they discover the agent she was supposed to meet was stabbed to death in his apartment but has managed to let her know who is the agent to contact in Los Angeles. The odd couple have the most confounded time getting out of the Windy City to reach Los Angeles. The highlight of the film being the raucous Teamsters’ picnic they crash, as the two steal a bus and then a plane as they are chased by the Nazis and the cops (the Nazis framed them for the Chicago murder).
George Zucco, Gale Sondergaard and Lionel Royce make for forbidding Nazi heavies. The low-grade humor in the form of one-liners is vintage Hope. It’s Hope’s pic but Carroll, who can really act, makes him look better than he usually does. Hope’s pal Bing shows up for a cameo as a truck driver giving direction and Carl ‘Alfalfa’ Switzer plays a problem kid seeking the advice of a doctor giving a lecture.
“Blonde” received both critical acclaim and a great box office, so Hope and Lanfield made five other films together even though the two control freaks weren’t overly fond of each other.
REVIEWED ON 6/27/2006 GRADE: B