My Favorite Brunette (1947)

Bob Hope was 44 when he made My Favorite Brunette (1947). He lived to be 100, which gave him plenty of time to get old and then older and then move into “Wow. Is he still alive?” territory. Sort of like Woody Allen, only worse. Bob Hope, money-making canny real estate investor. Bob Hope, going blind, blinder, blindest. Bob Hope in Southern California and Bing Crosby in Northern California, both growing increasingly crusty, crabby, inveigled in family feuds. So forth. I lived in the same area as Bing and the celebrity chatter was a pain in the ass. Crosby was born the same year as Hope but died at 74, so the aggravation didn’t last as long.  And ditto for Dorthy Lamour, sitting in cocktail lounges and grousing over her drink about getting old and how Hope and Crosby dropped her like a hot potato when the first wrinkle creased her brow.

But now all three have moved along to that big movie studio in the sky and we can sit back and enjoy their movies without feathers. Although come to think of it, those of us who put up with their travails in later life are now ourselves beginning to follow the three of them, heading as we are one-by-one for that celestial loge seating – with  The Sound of Music (1965) being the only movie playing up there, as Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman point out in their novel  Good Omens. And speaking of The Sound of Music, huzzahs to Julie Andrews for playing Queen of the Fairies in Tooth Fairy (2010), wherein she sets Dwayne Johnson straight in that regal way of hers, even if the movie wasn’t as funny as it could have been, according to Mayo and Kermode  (hello to Jason Isaacs). Hey, Mark, most comedies aren’t as funny as they could have been,  so does your range of consideration encompass the complete distance between Not Funny At All and As Funny As It Could Have Been? Because that range includes everything from One Chuckle to That Was Just About Perfect But Not Quite.

So, My Favorite Brunette. Not as funny as it could have been, but had some chuckles in it. A clever bit of slapstick between Hope and Peter Lorre.  Hope’s timing and comic turns kept reminding me strongly of someone but I couldn’t quite put my finger on who till 3/4 through, at which point Hope’s timing, moves, and self-deprecating patter seemed pure Woody Allen. Allen was 14 when this movie came out. Allen says that Hope was a big influence on him until he (Hope) moved to TV and got lazy; Allen sold his first joke to Hope when he (Allen) was a teenager; he could have used the quips in My Favorite Brunette as models later on, and probably did. (Hope ended up with 89,000 pages of jokes – a million punch lines. Is that weird? A giraffe walks into a bar – the punch line is something about high balls.)

On a personal note, the movie includes a shot of California near Stockton in San Francisco. I would have been 3 and my older sister 5 at the time. I scanned the pedestrians on the sidewalk for signs of us with our mom and dad. We were living in the Outer Sunset on 46th at the time. No luck.

Movie moments:

– Hope and Lamour are shown flying relaxedly from S.F. to Washington on a DC-3.  The last trip I took on a DC-3 was like going through a car wash in an oil drum.

– Hope breaks the 4th wall twice.

– Whenever a closeup of Lamour would come on, I’d try to remember what the closeup situation is in movies today.

– Hope secretly records a conversation using a modern (for ’47) device, which recorded onto a blank 78 record.

– Multiple use of peering through keyholes, including a hotel-room keyhole.

– Hotel windows that open. I dropped a thing or two out of those back in the day.

– Hope discovers an empty whiskey bottle in a chandelier and says, “Hmm. Ray Milland was here.”

This was the first movie made by Hope’s own production company. Hope was  a Top Ten star into the ’50s. He gave Peter Lorre a role in this one because the man needed money. I just noticed that Lorre appeared in a five-part episode of 77 Sunset Strip, one of my faves in the late 50s.