The Bob Hope Collection from Shout Factory is a collection of 11 Bob Hope films in two volumes, at least two so far. I don’t know if any more are planned. Volume 1 has five films, and Volume 2 consists of six. I was trying to figure out how to review these, as doing eleven reviews was both time and sanity prohibitive, so I’ve decided that for each of these volumes, I’m going to list each of the films with its description, and then give my opinion of it.
So without further adieu, here we go. These are the films in order on Volume 1…
The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)
Description: Bob Hope is known as the Lemon Drop Kid in this film. While at the track one day, he unknowingly runs into the girlfriend of a local gangster called Moose Moran, and after steering her away from a sure bet, convincing her to bet on a different horse, she loses Moose’s money, and now he’s demanding that The Kid pay him $10,000, which is what he’d have won if she’d have bet on the horse he sent her there to bet on rather than the one The Kid convinced her to. Now The Kid has until Christmas to come up with $10,000 to pay back Moose, or he’s not going to see the new year. To this end, he comes up with a plan to become a street Santa to collect money, but when he’s busted for not having a license to collect for charity, he comes up with a scheme to turn Moose’s abandoned casino into a home for old dames, which he will then use to get a license to collect for charity, and in the process, he convinces many other of the seedier types in the neighborhood to help out in collecting money for the home, without telling them where the money is really going. Add into the mix a girlfriend who’s trying to get him to the altar, and an old lady that’s been there for all the seedy types in the neighborhood who he really doesn’t want to hurt, and it creates quite a sticky situation for The Kid.
My Opinion: Bob Hope plays a character in this one that’s not all that likeable. There’s also not a lot of humor in this one. It actually becomes more of a feel good film toward the end, but in the build up to that, he’s mostly just out to save his own skin. There are several familiar faces in this movie. People like William Frawley and Tor Johnson. I was particularly surprised to see Tor Johnson not only in this film, but in others as well. I had no idea he had been in any Bob Hope films, so it was rather fun to see him in there. He didn’t have a huge part, but it was nice seeing him. This isn’t a bad film, but it’s not one of my favorite Bob Hope films either.
Road to Bali (1952)
Description: George (Bing Crosby) and Harold (Bob Hope), two song and dance men, have to leave Melbourne in a hurry to avoid getting trapped into some marriage proposals they had made to some local girls. They managed to escape, but this also left them almost totally broke. When they end up at an employment office near the docks, they happened to be there at about the same time a man from a near by island was there looking for divers to bring up a chest of jewels that belonged to his family. Naturally, needing work, and always looking to screw one another over, our two heroes volunteered each other for the job. Once they get to the island however, they meet up with the man’s cousin, Princess Lala (Dorothy Lamour), and thus begins the rivaly for her affections. Who’ll win out in the end? You’ll have to watch the film to find out.
My Opinion: The "Road" movies are arguably the most famous of Bob Hope’s films, and the teaming of he and Bing Crosby was one of those golden pairings, much like the pairings of Laurel and Hardy, Keaton and Arbuckle and others, where the pair just work so well off of each other and match so beautifully that you can’t help but enjoy yourself watching them. The chemistry was just there, and when Dorothy Lamour was added into the mix, it really just made magic. As far as the Road movies go, this one is really good. They’re mostly all the same generic stories with different locations and circumstances, and you can always expect the two heroes to constantly being trying to screw each other over when it comes to pretty much anything. They’re just fun films, and any fan of Bob Hope will definitely want to see all of them.
Road to Rio (1947)
Description: Scat Sweeny (Bing Crosby) and Hot Lips Barton (Bob Hope) are two vaudevillians who get hooked up doing an act in a carnival. The first part of the act is a song and dance number, but what Scat didn’t tell Hot Lips, was that the second part of the bit was that he had to ride a bicycle on a tight rope, and the carnival’s strong man, played by Tor Johnson, was going to make sure he did it, or died trying. Well the act went bad, and when things came crashing down, it started a fire that destroyed the carnival. Scat and Hot Lips bailed out of there fast and ended up stowing away on a ship to Rio to get away from the carnival owner. It was there that they met Lucia Maria de Andrade (Dorothy Lamour), who was being hypnotized by her greedy aunt and taken to Rio to marry someone she didn’t love so that her aunt could cash in on the marriage. Now it’s up to Scat and Hot Lips to save her.
My Opinion: Another excellent Road movie. Bob Hope was far less eager to help out in this one, as they had made a pact to swear off of girls, but naturally Bing Crosby just couldn’t help himself and got them into trouble once again. The story was great in this one and of the two Road films that are in this release, I actually enjoyed this one more, though both were excellent. You really can’t go wrong with the Road movies. The chemistry is just there, and it’s always awesome to see the combination of Hope, Crosby and Lamour. I do have to say though that it’s always bothered me a little that Bob Hope’s characters always seem to come up with the crap end of the stick. It’d be nice if there was some back and forth with who came out on top between these films, so you’d at least be left guessing until the end.
My Favorite Brunette (1947)
Description: Baby photographer Ronnie Jackson is on death row in San Quentin, and because he’s well liked, he’s being given a chance to tell his side of the story to some reporters before he’s executed. See, he really wanted to be a private investigator. He had gotten himself a gun and a private investigator license, but the private investigator who worked across the hall wouldn’t take him on as a partner. He did ask him to watch his office however while he was out, and this gave him the opportunity to take on his first case when Carlotta Montay (Dorothy Lamour) walked into his office with a problem. Her wheelchair bound husband, Baron Montay, had been kidnapped, only, when Ronnie goes out to investigate, he finds the Baron at home and looking fine. Is it the real Baron though, and why are they trying to make Ronnie think that Carlotta is schitzophrenic? What are these evil doers really after? Ahh, therein lies the mystery.
My Opinion: This was a great film. Any time you get the pairing of Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour, you know you’re in for something special. Throw Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney Jr. into the mix, and an already great film becomes REALLY great! I particularly loved Peter Lorre as the gardener / chauffeur Kismet. He always seemed to be one step ahead, and was a totally evil little turd. Lon Chaney Jr. played Willie, who was far more brawn than brains, and his character talked in a voice that I’m sure fans of classic cartoons will recognize. There’s lots of intrigue and mystery to be had in this one, and some laughs as well. All around it’s just a great story with a phenomenal cast.
The Seven Little Foys (1955)
Description: Eddie Foy (Bob Hope) was a vaudevillian and a confirmed bachelor. That is, until he met Madeleine Morando (Milly Vitale) at a show one night. She was a ballerina who performed while her aunt Clara (Angela Clarke) played the piano. When their show ran long, Eddie got tired of waiting, so he went out and incorporated himself into their act. A big time producer loved the show and offered them all a contract. Eddie got more than a contract out of it though. He got a wife. He and Madeline were married, and ended up having seven children together. Unfortunately, Eddie wasn’t much of a father or a husband, and was always off doing shows and sending money back home for the family rather than being there with them. When his wife dies of an illness while he’s on the road, he realizes what a crappy husband he’s been, so he stays around home to raise his kids, only he’s totally not up to the task. Madeleine’s aunt stays on to help, but whe his producer and friend pushes him to get back out there performing, Eddie comes up with an idea. He takes what little talent his kids have, turns them into a family act, and takes them on the road with him. They’re a huge hit, but the kids are miserable, and when the aunt causes legal touble for them and the kids are almost taken away, they finally find it in themselves to express their true feelings for one another, and come together as a family.
My Opinion: This one, I didn’t care for so much. It’s more of a drama with a little humor thrown in here and there. Bob Hope’s character Eddie isn’t very likeable either. I don’t know, I mean, I like to feel good and have fun when I watch Bob Hope films, and this one just didn’t do it for me on either front. It’s not a bad film from a story or production standpoint, and the acting was fine, but it just didn’t grab me like many of his other films do.
Conclusion: This is a great collection of Bob Hope films. Road to Bali, Road to Rio and My Favorite Brunette are the three standouts though, and for those films alone it’s worth buying this for your collection. All three are excellent films and really very entertaining. Of the other two, The Lemon Drop Kid isn’t that bad. I just wished his character was more likeable through most of it, and The Seven Little Foys just didn’t do it for me. Definitely grab yourself a copy of this release though. The visual quality is great, and the only complaint I really have about it is that I wish that it had English subtitles on the films. Other than that, I’m really impressed with the quality.
If you’d like to find out more about this release, or to pick a copy up for yourself, you can check out its page on the Shout Factory website here.