In the middle of the Road series, Lamour teamed with Hope for one of another series of films, Hope's "Favorite" trilogy. The first one, My Favorite Blonde (1942), teamed Hope with Madeleine Carroll in a zany yet suspenseful adventure reminiscent of her Alfred Hitchcock thrillers The 39 Steps (1935) and Secret Agent (1936). The last of the trilogy was My Favorite Spy (1951), in which Hope teamed up for similarly funny, frantic shenanigans with the beautiful and brainy Hedy Lamarr. Although I enjoyed all three “Favorites,” I was drawn most strongly to MFB because it affectionately spoofs one of my favorite genres, the private eye mystery.
|"I must remember this address!"|
In flashback (this is a film noir spoof, after all, and a darn nifty one!), we find out that before Ronnie found himself embroiled in suspense, romance, and zany shenanigans, he was a successful baby photographer in San Francisco’s Trafalgar Building. The tenant across the hall is cool, tough private detective Sam McCloud (played in cameo by Alan Ladd, a moment made all the funnier by the fact that he's not seen until Ronnie comments that he could be as tough as those movie detectives, "even Alan Ladd!")
|Carlotta Montay has a hush-hush case for our hero!|
Soon Ronnie is up to his ski-nose in trouble as he and the comely Carlotta are chased by a gang of cutthroats with designs on Baron Montay’s uranium. That's right, uranium—the MacGuffin of Hitchcock’s thriller Notorious from the previous year! When things go from bad to worse, will our hero sit down to “the worst last meal I ever ate,” or can he clear himself as he ducks flying bullets and one-liners between make-out sessions with Carlotta? One of Hope's best comedies, MFB deftly spoofs hard-boiled private eye thrillers of the era with a barrage of uproarious quips and set pieces in a private sanatorium and an atmospheric mansion (Ronnie: “Nice cheerful place. What time do they bring the mummies out?”). It’s like The Big Sleep on laughing gas, and makes about the same amount of sense. I’m tempted to quote more of Hope and Lamour’s witty quips, but I’d probably end up typing almost the entire zingy script verbatim.
|Time to open the mailman? |
Whew, it's just the bad guys
messing with us!
Hope and Lamour's usual comic/romantic chemistry is at its finest. I especially enjoyed the fact that more often than not, Carlotta was able to think on her feet and get the bumbling Ronnie out of one jam after another while he either went to pieces or let his little bouts of success go to his head. You go, girl! The nifty supporting cast includes Peter Lorre as a knife-throwing henchman and assassin studying to pass his U.S. citizenship exam (he makes the phrase “What does the executive branch of our government do? It carries OUT the laws!” sound sinister and hilarious at the same time); the unfairly uncredited Jean Wong, endearing as Mrs. Fong, mother of a tot so loathe to smile that Ronnie quips, "This kid's gonna grow up to be a sponsor!"; Jack La Rue, the lone American in 1948’s Brits-trying-to-sound-like-New-Yorkers adaptation of the notorious oddball crime drama No Orchids for Miss Blandish; and a couple of delightful star cameos sure to bring a smile to any classic movie fan’s face.
|OUCH! Ronnie gets knocked down, |
but gets back up again...and again!
Somewhere along the way, MFB slipped out of Paramount Pictures’ hands and wound up in Public Domain Hell! The Madacy DVD currently available doesn't have the most pristine print; it’s got more scratches than a nudist who stumbled into poison ivy. Nevertheless, my scratchy copy of MFB is still a far better copy than the one that Turner Classic Movies periodically runs! Heck, the TCM print is actually missing a few minutes in the scene taking place just after the rained-upon Ronnie and Carlotta return to McCloud’s office. I noticed the Columbia Pictures Television logo at the end of TCM’s recent MFB broadcast. Right now the best copy available is part of a three disc set, The Bob Hope Collection, which also features two of the Road pictures (Rio and Bali), and The Lemon Drop Kid.