“I gotta tell ya!” Paulie’s back. Did you miss me, readers ? You all know how much I love classic movies, but did you know that “all my life I wanted to be a hardboiled detective like Humphrey Bogart or Dick Powell or even Alan Ladd?” Yeah, well, it’s true. And that’s why I decided to Blog Elliot Nugent’s 1947 comedy, My Favorite Brunette.
It stars Bob Hope as Ronnie Jackson, a former San Francisco-based children’s photographer on Death Row in San Quentin. He’s telling the story of his downfall to the press just before he heads to the gas chamber. Ronnie longs to be a private-eye like his friend Sam McCloud, played in a cameo by Alan Ladd, whose office is across the hall from his studio. One day, Ronnie goes to Sam’s office & asks him to take him on but McCloud knows he doesn’t have the stomach to be a detective and refuses. Sam, a take off on Bogart’s Sam Spade in John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon, annoys the nerdy Ronnie when he tells him to “watch the phones” while he goes to Chicago for a few days. Moments later, a beautiful brunette, Baroness Carlotta Montay (Dorothy Lamour [imagine Hopes’ tongue rolling noise when he sees a sexy woman]), comes into the office to hire McCloud to find her kidnapped husband, and mistakes Ronnie for Sam. When Ronnie allows her mistaken identity and takes the case for his femme fatale, this hilarious parody of film noir begins. Watch for great performances by Peter Lorre as the evil Kismet and Lon Chaney Jr. as Willie spoofing himself as Lennie in Lewis Milestones’ Of Mice and Men.
As you watch the embedded film below, take notice of the influence that Hopes’ character had on Woody Allen, whose on-screen persona is so often modeled after Ronnie. And remember: ‘Play It Again, Sam’, which Woody penned premiered on Broadway in 1969 and was released in 1972 as a film in which he starred & for which he wrote the screenplay, was about an insecure film critic who seeks life advice from Bogart as Sam Spade. And note the similarity in one scene to the conclusion, or as we call it in theater, denouement of 1975’s Best Picture and 4 additional Oscar Winner at the 48th Academy Awards, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
My Favorite Brunette was not nominated for any Oscars. Under the current rules, to be eligible for nomination, a film or & short (defined as less than 40 minutes long) must be released for purchased admission in L.A. County sometime during the preceding calendar year and submitted by its producers for Oscar consideration to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Bob Hope was never nominated for an Oscar but was given an unprecedented 4 different Honorary Oscars (in ’41, ’45, ’53 & ’66) plus a Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Academy Award (’60). He also hosted or co-hosted by far the most Oscar ceremonies at 18 between 1939 & ‘78. The next closest is Billy Crystal at 9. Last year’s host was Seth MacFarlane, the creator & main voice of the animated TV show Family Guy. Rumor has it that Justin Timberlake, the actor/singer whose most famous song SexyBack, will host next year. The Academy must want to bring sexy back to the Oscars just like my Blog does for you.
So take 90 minutes to relax and watch Bob Hope & Dorothy Lamour [ tongue roll please] in Elliot Nugent’s My Favorite Brunette (following the ad you can skip after 5 seconds). 3 Stars!