MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE
(director: Elliott Nugent; screenwriters: Edmund Beloin/Jack Rose; cinematographer: Lionel Lindon; editor: Ellsworth Hoagland; music: Robert Emmett Dolan; cast: Bob Hope (Ronnie Jackson), Dorothy Lamour (Carlotta Montay), Peter Lorre (Kismet), Lon Chaney, Jr. (Willie), John Hoyt (Dr. Lundau), Charles Dingle (Major Simon Montague), Reginald Denny (James Collins), Frank Puglia (Baron Montay), Ann Doran (Miss Rogers), Jack La Rue (Tony), Alan Ladd (Sam McCloud), Bing Crosby (cameo appearance as himself), Willard Robertson (Prison warden), Jean Wong (Mrs. Fong), Roland Soo Hoo (Baby Fong), Boyd Davis (Mr. Dawson); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Daniel Dare; Paramount Pictures; 1947)
“Bob Hope comedy of errors with the one-liners a bit on the thin side, but Lon Chaney Jr. adds a little nutty fun and Peter Lorre some sinister noir atmosphere.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Bob Hope comedy of errors with the one-liners a bit on the thin side, but Lon Chaney Jr. adds a little nutty fun and Peter Lorre some sinister noir atmosphere. This one is a tepid parody of the Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett pulp detective stories. At best, it’s tolerably entertaining. It’s directed without any particular flare by Elliott Nugent (“The Cat and the Canary”/”Up in Arms”) and written by Edmund Beloin and Jack Rose.
Hope stars as Ronnie Jackson, a tremulous San Francisco baby portrait photographer, who is now in San Quentin’s death row about to be executed for a murder he didn’t commit, all because he yearned to be a private detective. The warden allows him to tell his story to reporters and the film goes into flashback. Ronnie tells of taking the picture of Mrs. Fong’s difficult to get a smile from baby and promises to have the rare pic of the baby smiling ready for tomorrow. He then visits the adjacent San Francisco Chinatown office of private detective Sam McCloud (Alan Ladd), and tells him he purchased a gun and invented a keyhole camera lens in the hopes McCloud hires him as a partner. But McCloud turns him down and heads for Chicago on business, and asks only that Ronnie answer any calls to the unlocked office. While waiting in the detective’s office and imagining himself as a slick P.I., a beautiful brunette named Carlotta Montay (Dorothy Lamour) rushes in trying to make sure no one sees her and mistakenly takes him for McCloud. She hires the flattered to be taken for a detective Ronnie to find her missing invalid baron husband, who it will later be learned is her uncle Baron Montay(Frank Puglia), and also lays on him a valuable encoded map. The inept detective goes to the address Carlotta gives him, which turns out to be the mansion of someone away on a vacation that the gang headed by the oily attorney Major Simon Montague (Charles Dingle) and his knife throwing assassin Kismet (Peter Lorre) are using as a temporary headquarters. While there Ronnie takes a picture through the keyhole of someone pretending to be the Baron, but the gang retrieves the photo in his studio and burns the negative not realizing they took the one of the Fong baby instead. It soon becomes almost clear that the gang is trying to steal the mineral rights to Montay’s California uranium mine. Ronnie’s sleuthing woes will have him get trapped by the gang in a rich man’s private sanitarium as a patient, where the goofy orderly Willie (Lon Chaney Jr.) takes charge of him. Also prisoners are the real Baron and Carlotta. Ronnie and Carlotta escape while the gang is distracted looking for the map and follow the tip the Baron gave them that James Collins (Reginald Denny), the engineer, who encoded the map will know what to do with the map when they give it to him. When Ronnie and Collins go to the police station to report the gang, Kismet sneaks up behind the engineer and kills him with gun he stole from Ronnie. To clear his name and stop the gang from carrying out the fraud, wanted criminal Ronnie in a bearded disguise flies with Carlotta to Washington, D.C. where Montague is to meet with State Department representative Dawson (Boyd Davis) about the mineral rights. The hijinks in the hotel the gang is staying at lead to Ronnie’s arrest for the murder of Collins when the gang outwits the amateur sleuth.
Things conclude with a return from the flashback and Ronnie is saved from execution at the last minute due to Carlotta getting the real Sam McCloud to have Mrs. Fong give him the keyhole photo of the gang. The last bit of comedy has Bing Crosby as the would-be executioner disappointed he lost this customer.
REVIEWED ON 6/28/2006 GRADE: C https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/