The Cat & The Canary, the words of that great philosopher Daffy Duck leap to mind: “If they like that mess, they’re starvin’ for some real hoofin’!” Well, if Paramount’s 1940 tweaking of The Ghost Breakers (TGB) isn’t the real hoofin’, I don’t know what is! It’s a premium blend of snappy comedy, playful romance, and genuine spooky suspense. Producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr. (Witness for the Prosecution; The Asphalt Jungle; Oklahoma!) reunites The Cat & The Canary co-stars Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, as well as director George Marshall (The Gazebo; It Started with a Kiss). Their funny, sparkling chemistry together is better than ever, blending warmth, romance, and comedy as deliciously as a daiquiri. Hope and Goddard are so darling together, I want to hug them and bring them home for the holidays! (But a DVD will do!) I like the cheeky references to Paulette Goddard’s Cecil B. DeMille movies, too (Unconquered; Reap the Wild Wind, etc.).
|Be very, very quiet; we're hunting ghosts!|
"Johnny Ola told me about her! They call her 'Superman'!"
Meanwhile, meet our hero, radio star Larry Lawrence (Hope) and his valet Alex (Willie Best of High Sierra; Cabin in the Sky; and Hope and Goddard’s third film together, Nothing But the Truth). Larry’s full name is in fact Lawrence Lawrence Lawrence, a name so nice they named him thrice! “My parents had no imagination,” Larry explains. He and Alex are packing for a fishing trip, but will they end up sleeping with the fishes instead? You see, as if the storm and the hotel’s resulting blackout weren’t already agita-inducing, Larry’s radio show focuses on dishing the dirt on notorious criminal underworld types. Wouldn’t you know Larry has run afoul of gangster Frenchy Duvall (Paul Fix of After the Thin Man; Dr. Cyclops; and ironically, TV’s The Rifleman, as Marshal Micah Torrence!)? Now Duvall is out for blood. Sheesh, underworld types can be so sensitive! As more gunplay ensues, Larry fears he’s the one who accidentally killed Medeiros, and he and Alex end up unwittingly joining Mary on a slow boat to Cuba!
|Young Richard Carlson as The Man in the White Suit!|
Geoff: “A zombie has no will of his own. You see them sometimes walking around blindly with dead eyes, following orders, not knowing what they do, not caring.”
Larry: “You mean like Democrats?”
|They won't hear nothin' more |
from The Mighty Quinn....
|...Or will they? He resurrects real good!|
Willie Best was highly praised by none other than his co-star Bob Hope, who said Best was one of the best actors he ever knew—and yet so many people have criticized him, or more specifically, the African-American stereotypes he was called upon to portray. I say you can’t fault a performer (or anyone else) for NOT being ahead of his time! My dear friend and fellow blogger Becky Barnes of ClassicBecky’s Brain Food renown agrees: “Willie Best was one of the best comedians of the era. It's such a shame things were the way they were then. I think he just about carried The Ghost Breakers, and he deserves acclaim for his work.” Amen to that, sister!
|Bob Hope and Willie Best agree: no comedy-thriller holds a candle to The Ghost Breakers!|
Just as zombies never die, neither do remakes: The Ghost Breakers was successfully remade in 1953 for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis as Scared Stiff, with Lizabeth Scott as the heiress-in-distress, including voiceover cameos by Bob Hope and Bing Crosby!
|I think Mary would prefer a free drink or a mint on her pillow!|
|Ooh, The Zombies! I loved that band!|
|Laura, er, Mary is the face in the misty light....|
|Aha, we've solved the mystery! Mary's ancestor was Dr. Phibes!|
|Don't you just love a happy ending on the high seas?|