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 2…
The Great Lover (1949)
Description: Freddie Hunter (Bob Hope) is a reporter who thought it sounded great when his paper was giving away a free trip to Paris. What he didn’t know was that the trip included being a scout master for a group of scout kids, led by the son of the owner of the paper. Not only that, but these scouts are all about being on the straight and narrow, which means no smoking, no drinking, and most of all, no women. That doesn’t sit too well with Freddie, and he’s always butting heads with the kids, especially when, on the cruise back home, he falls head over heals for a Dutchess (Rhonda Flemming) who’s travelling with her father to the US to try to rebuild their fortune that he lost playing poker. There’s also a con man on board the ship. He uses dupes in poker games to win all the money, and then playing the good looser, offers to cut them for high card for the money afterward. What they don’t know is, he’s a flawless card shark, and the ones that figure it out, he strangles to death with a napkin. The police have been after this guy for ages, and all they need is evidence. Now Freddie is his new dupe, and the Duke (Roland Culver) is the new target, even though all they have left that’s of any value is the necklace they’re transporting with them that they intend to sell when they get to America so they’ll have some stake money to rebuild their fortune.
My Opinion: These are the kinds of Bob Hope movies I absolutely love. It’s in black and white, he was young, and there’s fun to be had at every turn. The story, and the characters, are all great fun, and the performances are flawless. This film is really the shining star of this volume and is a must see for all Bob Hope fans. The interactions between him and the kids are particularly amusing. I honestly was thinking to myself the whole time, why doesn’t he just throw the head scout kid overboard and claim it was an accident. That little jerk spent almost the entire movie threatening to have him fired for infractions against the scout code. Seriously, what a brat!
Cancel My Reservation (1972)
Description: Bob Hope plays Dan Bartlett, a stressed out television talk show host whose marriage isn’t going all that well ever since he called his wife Shiela (Eva Marie Saint) out to take a bow at the end of a show one night and they decided to make her his co-host, which she gladly accepted because she wanted her own carreer and a life outside of just being a housewife. Between the stress and his rocky marriage, his doctor told him he should take a vacation alone and relax. It just so happens that they own a ranch house in Arizona that they used for vacations, so that’s exactly where he went. When he got there however, he was mobbed at the airport by reporters who were expecting a senator, and met by an Indian girl who wanted his help, but she didn’t tell him why. Later, when he gets to the house, he finds that the place hasn’t been cleaned, and the Indian girl is laying dead on his floor. From this point on, he’s actually framed for multiple murders, and the sheriff really wants to lock him up, but the town’s mayor, John Ed (Ralph Bellamy), keeps him out of jail and encourages him to just leave town. He can’t do that though. The television show doesn’t want him back because of the charges, so it’s up to both he and his wife to clear his name and to find out why the Indian girl was murdered, and to repair their broken marriage along the way.
My Opinion: I’m not a big fan of Bob Hope’s later films, though this one wasn’t bad. It actually becme rather amusing how he kept getting framed every time someone was murdered. The cast was full of great actors as well, including the afore mentioned Eva Marie Saint, Ralph Bellamy, Forrest Tucker, Anne Archer, Keenan Wynn, Henry Darrow and many others. They really did a great job making the story entertaining. Of Bob Hope’s later films, this was probably one of his better ones.
Paris Holiday (1958)
Description: In this film, Bob Hope plays the greatest American comedian, Bob Hunter. While on a cruise over to Paris to buy the rights to a new play. Along the way, he meets up and becomes friends with his French counterpart, the greatest French comedian, Ferneydel (Fernandel), a beautiful diplomat from the American embassy named Martha (Ann McCall) and a mysterious blonde who believes he has a copy of the play and is desperately trying to find it for her boss. The play, as it turns out, isn’t just a play. It’s a true story that exposes the underworld of Paris and those involved in the mob and various forms of corruption. It was the author’s way of exposing the truth, but those in power don’t want the truth exposed, and when Bob is tricked by Zara into committing himself to a mental institution, it’s up to Ann and Fernydel to help him escape and to catch the bad guys who were willing to do anything to stop the truth in that play from being exposed.
My Opinion: At this point in his career, Bob Hope was starting to get a little old to be playing the ladies man, but he still hadn’t crossed that threshold of the point where it became ridiculous. He didn’t cross that line until years later. This film is part comedy, part mystery and it actually turned out to be a lot of fun. His interactions with the French comedian Fernydel (who only spoke French) were very fun, and the whole mystery and intrigue aspect of the film worked really well, except for one thing. The whole part about this playwright exposing all these criminals in a play. That didn’t make much sense. If he really had all this evidence, he should have just gone to the police. Other than that, it was a fun story and very well acted by the entire cast.
The Private Navy of Sgt. O’Farrell (1968)
Description: Bob Hope plays Sgt. O’Farrell in this one. He’s an army sargeant who’s stationed on an island in the south pacific during World War II. When a convoy of supply ships, is attacked, and the only one sank was the one containing the beer, Sgt. O’Farrell makes it his personal mission to recover the lost beer, and to requesition some pretty nurses to help take care of them on the island so as to keep up the morale of the men. While managing to recover most of the beer, the "pretty nurses" ended up being Phyllis Diller and a bunch of male nurses. Oh well, you win some and you lose some. Throw into the mix a Japanese refugee who was an American trapped in Japan when the war started and drafted into the Japanese army, two beautiful Italian girls who had been on the island doing some social research and a Japanese sub that Sgt. O’Farrell has to deal with single handed, and you have…well, I don’t know, but I’m sure Sgt. O’Farrell will be able to deal with it, whatever it is.
My Opinion: By this point in his career, Bob Hope was way to old to be playing the ladies man, and they hooked him up with one of the most beautiful women in the world, Gina Lollobrigida. Aside from that though, this was a fun film that just felt really nice. Phyllis Diller was awesome as the wacky nurse that gave everyone the boo boo geebies, and the rest of the cast had a lot of really great and recognizable faces, including Jeffrey Hunter (Star Trek), Mako (Conan the Barbarian, The Big Brawl), Dick Sargent (Bewitched), William Christopher (M*A*S*H*), and more. This film is just what it’s supposed to be. Simple and fun. You don’t have to think too much about it, the characters and the cast that play them are all great and you feel good when it’s over. All in all, it’s a very enjoyable film.
Son of Paleface (1952)
Description: Bob Hope plays Junior Potter in this one. He’s a Harvard graduate who goes back to a town in the old west to claim the inheritance left to him by his father, the famous Indian killer, Paleface Potter. Unfortunately, when he gets there, there’s no gold in the chest, and apparently his pappy kicked the bucket owing everyone in town money. Fortunately, he meets up with his father’s old mining partner, and together they try to solve the mystery of what happened to the gold. Throw into the mix a female outlaw named Mike (Jane Russell) and a marshall played by Roy Rogers who’s out to get her, and things get pretty exciting.
My Opinion: This is the sequel to "The Paleface" in which Bob Hope and Jane Russell return as the lead characters. I’ve never seen the first film, nor was I aware there even was one, which should tell you how much of a standalone film this one is. The cast was mostly quite good, but the story was pretty lame, and there are parts that will probably cause you to lose focus on what’s going on just because it gets rather boring. Roy Rogers plays a marshall who’s trying to catch Mike and her gang, and to be honest, I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen Roy Rogers in a film, and it’ll probably be the last. I don’t know if it’s just comedies he’s not good at or what, but he put in a terrible performance. His horse Trigger was better in this film than he was. The rest of the cast was quite good though, and it was only that fact that kept this film from becoming horrible. The end especially kind of fell apart. I just didn’t really enjoy this one all that much, but it was ok.
How to Commit Marriage (1969)
Description: Frank Benson (Bob Hope) and his wife Elaine (Jane Wyman) have been married for a long time. Too long apparently, as they’ve grown tired of each other. When Elaine decides they should get a divorce, the whole thing is amicable, but then their daughter Nancy (JoAnna Cameron) comes home from college with her music major fiance David Poe (Tim Matheson). Unable to find the right way to tell her they’re getting divorced, and not wanting to spoil their wedding, Frank and Elaine keep the divorce a secret, and that would have worked out ok, except that David’s father Oliver (Jackie Gleason), a big time music producer who hates marriage and doesn’t want his son to get married, finds out and exposes their secret. The couple is so shocked that they decide to skip marriage and just live together, and Oliver gets them hooked up with a musical group called The Comfortable Chair. Soon enough though, Nancy is pregnant, and their guru, The Baba Ziba (Irwin Corey) is paid by Oliver to convince them to give up the baby for adoption, because he doesn’t want anything to interfere with their being in the musical group. Frank and Elaine find out about it and secretly adopt the child themselves, only to be discovered, and once again exposed by Oliver.
My Opinion: This movie is actually more fun than it sounds from the description. Jackie Gleason is such a jerk that you want to reach through the screen and pop him a good one right in the nose. Like many of Hope’s films, this one had a cast full of recognizable names and faces, including Jackie Gleason, Jane Wyman, Leslie Nielsen, Tina Louise, Tim Matheson, Maueen Arthur and many others. All in all it really wasn’t a bad film, and it was nice to see Hope not shoved awkwardly into the role of "ladies man" once again. While the film can feel a bit predictable at times, while at other times feeling rather silly, overall it’s enjoyable, and one of the better examples of his later work from this era.
Conclusion: While overall the films on Volume 1 are considerably better, there are a few gems in this volume as well. The Great Lover and Paris Holiday are both excellent films, and The Private Navy of Sgt. O’Farrell is quite fun and has a great cast. The transfers, just as on the first volume, all look amazing, and the only thing I can really ding it for is not having English subtitles, which are always helpful in picking out the quiet bits of dialogue in films that you may not otherwise catch. In any case, Shout Factory has delivered yet another excellent release, and just like Volume 1, you’ll want to add this one to your collection.
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.