Bob Hope brings his milquetoast alter ego to the hard boiled world of private detection in Elliott Nugent’s My Favorite Brunette.
The Production: 4/5
Bob Hope brings his milquetoast alter ego to the hard boiled world of private detection in Elliott Nugent’s My Favorite Brunette. With the ever-lovely Dorothy Lamour as a stalwart sidekick and a top notch crew of character actors playing the bad guys, Hope earns lots of laughs in this noir farce fighting for his life against a quartet of evildoers.
Tiring of his profession taking baby pictures, photographer Ronnie Jackson (Bob Hope) longs to be like his next door neighbor private eye Sam McCloud (Alan Ladd in a marvelous cameo). When he agrees to look after Sam’s office while he’s gone away on a case, he’s mistaken for Sam by woman-in-jeopardy Carlotta Montay (Dorothy Lamour). It seems her uncle (Frank Puglia) has been kidnapped by a group of spies trying to force him to turn over a map showing the location of a valuable uranium mine. Carlotta gives Ronnie the map to hide and also hires him to find her uncle. But doing that becomes a perilous job indeed as the crooks, headed by the drawling Major Simon Montague (Charles Dingle), have employed a hit man Kismet (Peter Lorre) to do anything it takes to get the map from Ronnie and then kill him.
The Edmund Beloin-Jack Rose screenplay employs the flashback technique in telling this tale: Ronnie is on death row mere hours before his execution as he explains how he came to be there (the death row setting provides one of the movie’s most hilarious ending gags, among the best in any of the Hope comedies). The plot jumps from one near calamity after another as the would-be gumshoe realizes quickly how over his head he is in the world of thieves and murderers. Hope gets in his usual quota of wisecracks, and there’s a delightful scene as the hapless Ronnie tries searching a room for a valuable ring while Kismet in hiding tries planting it in plain sight several times but to no avail. Dorothy Lamour gets one song sequence, “For More” written by Livingston and Evans, but disappears for a lengthy stretch in the middle of the movie. There is some rather tired silliness as Ronnie plays golf with a sanitarium patient who uses an invisible ball, but director Elliott Nugent keeps things moving (helped immeasurably by undercranking the camera and thereby speeding up the action in some chase scenes), and the film emerges as a more than decent satire of the Chandler/Hammet school of hardboiled detectives (with occasional mentions of the movie’s depictions of said private eyes by Humphrey Bogart and Dick Powell).
Bob Hope is in his element as the coward trying to play tough in order to impress a girl even if the noir ambiance might have been laid on a bit thicker than it is here (Carl Reiner had the right idea decades later in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid). Dorothy Lamour is never anything less than stunning to look at in a succession of Edith Head gowns. Peter Lorre gets to play evil for fun in a delightful burlesque of his usual maniacal killers, and Lon Chaney also supports amusingly as the simple-minded walnut-loving thug who takes a shine to Hope’s Ronnie. John Hoyt as Dr. Lundau and Reginald Denny as the murder victim James Collins are mostly wasted in nothing roles, in Denny’s case a role over in a matter of seconds. Charles Dingle, Jack LaRue, and Anthony Caruso are also around to intimidate the befuddled, cowardly Ronnie.
3D Rating: NA
The film’s original 1.37:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Apart from a slight scratch or two and a few random specks, this is a sterling and very film-like transfer. Sharpness is very good throughout, and the grayscale boasts really deep black levels (with just a bit of crush in the shadows) and clear, clean whites. Contrast has been consistently applied making for a first-rate picture. The movie has been divided into 8 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is exactly what one would expect from a movie of the 1940s. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been blended skillfully with the background score of Robert Emmett Dolan and the atmospheric effects. While the high end of the recording is a bit thin, the track is otherwise a fine listen, unencumbered by any age-related artifacts like hiss or crackle.
Special Features: 0.5/5
Preview Montage (4:17, HD): snippets from Kino Lorber’s upcoming Bob Hope Blu-ray releases are offered in a montage: My Favorite Brunette, The Lemon Drop Kid, The Road to Rio, The Road to Bali, and Son of Paleface.
One of Bob Hope’s most successful comedies of the 1940s, My Favorite Brunette along with The Road to Rio helped Bob rank at number six at the box office for 1947. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray even without substantial bonus materials or subtitles is certainly a fine high definition rendition of a Hope evergreen and comes with a firm recommendation for his fans.