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Fine Damon Runyon remake but not up to the original. 3.5 Stars

Bob Hope put on his acting clothes for a change in Sidney Lanfield’s Sorrowful Jones, the first of three movie remakes of Damon Runyon’s venerable tale Little Miss Marker.

Sorrowful Jones (1949)
Released: 04 Jul 1949
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 88 min
Director: Sidney Lanfield
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Cast: Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, William Demarest
Writer(s): Melville Shavelson, Edmund L. Hartmann, Jack Rose
Plot: A young girl is left with the notoriously cheap Sorrowful Jones as a marker for a bet. Her father disappears and he learns that taking care of her cramps his free-wheeling life. Sorrowful must evade gangsters and do some horse-thi...
IMDB rating: 6.9
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Paramount
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 28 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 02/07/2023
MSRP: $24.95

The Production: 3.5/5

Bob Hope put on his acting clothes for a change in Sidney Lanfield’s Sorrowful Jones, the first of three movie remakes of Damon Runyon’s venerable tale Little Miss Marker. Played for drama as well as for laughs, Sorrowful Jones finds Hope paired for the first time with a comic acting talent his equal: Lucille Ball. The pair trade quips while staying in character as the familiar story plays out, the film lessened only by its lack of witty direction and a full immersion into the particular New York City that Damon Runyon made his specialty.

Youngster Martha Jane Smith (Mary Jane Saunders) is left as collateral on a twenty-dollar bet placed with Broadway bookie Sorrowful Jones (Bob Hope) by her father (Paul Lees) on a sure thing horse race. But the father runs into trouble with gangster Big Steve Holloway (Bruce Cabot) and turns up dead, so Sorrowful finds himself as a nursemaid for the tiny tot. Aided by his understanding ex-girlfriend/songbird Gladys O’Neill (Lucille Ball) and Jones’ business partner Regret (William Demarest), Sorrowful tries to make the best of the situation while carrying on with his touting, but Big Steve and his burly associates aren’t about to let the daughter of the man he killed get out from under their control.

The Melville Shavelson-Jack Rose-Edmund L. Hartmann script is based on Damon Runyon’s story and the screenplay of the 1934 adaptation by William Lipman, Sam Hellman, and Gladys Lehman. With the new writers well versed in penning quips and ad-libs for Bob Hope, they’ve worked their witticisms smoothly into the narrative allowing Hope to play a real character and not his usual cowardly cad, and Lucy’s likewise separated from her farcical slapstick and acting as the story’s necessary mother figure. There’s drama here and real sentiment at play mixed with the guys and dolls running rampant along the Broadway of Runyonland though the writers and director Sidney Lanfield might have added even more local color to give Paramount’s backlot Broadway a more pronounced Tinsel Town allure. Lanfield does best in scenes with Sorrowful and his youthful charge at bedtime and at breakfast trying to find appropriate sleepwear and comfortable accommodations in his dingy one-room apartment. Later sequences at the paddock and with a late story accident seem a bit underdeveloped and might have been fleshed out to milk the story’s emotional heft a bit more fully (running only 88 minutes with main and end titles, the film seems a trifle brief).

The film was a very big hit for Bob Hope allowing him at the end of 1949 to leapfrog over Bing Crosby and become the most popular star at the movie box-office in America. He was also so successful an inhabitant of Damon Runyon’s world that he gleefully embraced it again two years later in The Lemon Drop Kid. Lucille Ball plays nightclub songbird Gladys O’Neill straightforwardly and without exaggerated mannerisms or mugging. She’s dubbed in the singing sequences by Annette Warren (a better choice than Gloria Grafton or Martha Mears whom MGM used to dub her but still not quite catching the unique timbre of her voice) but really stresses quite comfortingly the more maternal side of her nature in dealing with the orphaned girl. William Demarest does his reliably cranky sidekick to perfection, and Bruce Cabot makes a threatening enough mobster for a comedy. More amusing is his deadpan Man Friday, however: Tom Pedi as Once Over Sam snatched directly from Damon Runyonland and the most authentic of the film’s cast in capturing the dem’s and dose’s of the unique world of the movie. Trying to fill moppet Shirley Temple’s Buster Browns as the little miss marker in question, Mary Jane Saunders has loads of charm and sweetness but not that irresistible screen charisma that makes a star. Also adding importantly to the tale is Thomas Gomez’s tight-lipped detective and Houseley Stevenson’s kindly Doc Chesley.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s 1.37:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully executed in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Though the liner notes tout a new 2K master, there are some small scratches along the way that haven’t been digitally dealt with, and there’s some noticeable flickering at certain moments. Grayscale is solid, however, with good black levels and crisp whites and excellent sharpness. The movie has been divided into 8 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is just what one would expect from a film of this era. Engineers have removed any distracting anomalies from the soundtrack such as hiss and crackle, and have provided the dialogue, background music, and sound effects an easy professional blend and solid fidelity.

Special Features: 1/5

Theatrical Trailer (2:19, SD)

Kino Trailers: Fancy Pants, Never Say Die, The Cat and the Canary, Road to Singapore, The Ghost Breakers, Road to Zanzibar, Caught in the Draft, Nothing but the Truth, My Favorite Blonde, Road to Morocco, Road to Utopia, Where There’s Hope, The Paleface, Alias Jesse James, and a special Hope compilation from some of his more familiar movies.

Overall: 3.5/5

Sidney Lanfield’s Sorrowful Jones is a more than enjoyable remake of Damon Runyon’s Little Miss Marker featuring star Bob Hope doing a most agreeable acting turn and enjoying a solid throng of support from a handful of talented actors, foremost among them Lucille Ball and William Demarest.

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Published by

Matt Hough


View thread (3 replies)


Jan 11, 2012
Real Name
Baby Schnook
An OK Hope movie from the period, but his hook up with Lucy was much funnier in Fancy Pants. Much better Damon Runyon is The Lemon Drop Kid, which has become one of our go to Christmas movies. Silver Bells plus the hilarious department store window scene.

Will Krupp

Senior HTF Member
Oct 2, 2003
Real Name
his hook up with Lucy was much funnier in Fancy Pants.

It goes to show you how different opinions can often be. I used to love Fancy Pants when I was younger but I just watched it recently and, for me, it hasn't aged as well as this one has. I found it silly rather than funny and didn't think it showed either of them at their best. I had a hard time getting all the way through it, to be honest.