Bob Hope, Andy Devine, and Martha Raye in Never Say Die (1939)


(director: Elliott Nugent; screenwriters: from a play by William Post/Preston Sturges/Don Hartman/Frank Butler; cinematographer: Leo Tovar; editor: James Smith; music: Charles Bradshaw; cast: Bob Hope (John Kidley), Martha Raye (Mickey Hawkins), Frances Arms (Momma Ingleborg), Paul Harvey (Jasper Hawkins), Sig Ruman (Poppa Ingleborg), Ernest Cossart (Jeepers), Andy Devine (Henry Munch), Gale Sondergaard (Juno Markoff), Alan Mowbray (Prince Smirnov), Monty Woolley (Dr. Schmidtt), Christian Rub (The Mayor); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paul Jones; Paramount; 1939)

“Has a few sweet spots.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A frothy rom/com about a hypochondriac tycoon who thinks he will die in a month. It’s mostly a miss, but it has a few sweet spots. Writers Preston Sturges, Don Hartman and Frank Butler adapt it from a play by William Post. Director Elliott Nugent (“The Great Gatsby”/”My Outlaw Brother”/”My Favorite Brunette”) adequately directs. The farce catches future mega-star Bob Hope on the brink of stardom and it’s the first-time his character plays a full-fledged coward.

The millionaire John Kidley (Bob Hope) vacations at the health spa at Bad Gaswasse, Switzerland, to spend what he believes will be his last days on Earth. What he is unaware of, is a chemist mistook a dog’s stomach acid report for his. Barely getting out of a marriage to the murderous adventurous, the widow stalker of eligible bachelors, Juno Markoff (Gale Sondergaard), he meets at the spa and befriends Texas heiress Mickey Hawkins (Martha Raye). She’s in the dumps because her dad (Paul Harvey) has promised her to the gold digger Prince Smirnow (Alan Mowbray). Unfortunately she’s in love with the hometown bus driver Henry Munch (Andy Devine). Hope suggest that she can solve her problem by marrying him. It will also help him get rid of the pursuing widow. On their honeymoon, Henry tags along and the jilted fortune hunters, the Prince and Juno, blame Hope for cheating them out of their expected riches and they band together to attack him.

The cast seems to be having more fun than the viewer.