Although Bob Hope was one of the most popular American (though English-born) entertainers of the 20th century, I’ve always found him hard to swallow. So, why am I so disappointed that I won’t be in New York City this fall (Oct. 7–Nov. 25) to check out the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts’ free screenings of the series “Bob Hope: Thanks for the Memories”?
Well, how about the fact that the series, arranged by Joseph Yranski of the New York Library for the Performing Arts’ Reserve Film & Video Collection, will be screening the little-seen, British-made The Iron Petticoat (1956), which, however poorly received at the time, paired Hope with none other than Katharine Hepburn in this Ninotchka remake. The Iron Petticoat may be out on commercial DVD in Europe, but it’s all but unavailable in the US. Hepburn, for her part, hated the film and apparently didn’t have very fond memories of working with Hope, either. Neither did screenwriter Ben Hecht.
“There were rumors that some of Miss Hepburn’s stuff was cut out,” wrote Hollis Alpert in The Saturday Review. “And there were reports of feuding between Hope and Hecht, who was originally engaged for the screenplay. At any rate, the screenplay credit on the picture goes begging. [Hecht requested that his name be removed from the credits.] Everyone else is on hand to face the music.”
Another hard-to-find Bob Hope vehicle to be screened in the series is the 1939 version of The Cat and the Canary. I saw it in Europe a while back, but rights issues have apparently kept this horror-house spoof from popping up on television or DVD this side of the Atlantic. The film isn’t great, but how can one resist a creepy-comic tale featuring the likes of Paulette Goddard, Gale Sondergaard, George Zucco, and John Beal? (Admittedly, I’ve always had a soft spot for the very much forgotten Beal.)
Never Say Die (1939) is a somewhat obscure comedy – from an original screenplay by Preston Sturges (originally intended for Jack Benny) – pairing Hope with top-billed Martha Raye. Though hardly a laugh-out-loud riot, Raye makes Never Say Die very much worth watching. Monsieur Beaucaire (1946), directed by the competent George Marshall, is probably worth a look as well – it happens to be, as per the NYPL program notes, Hope’s favorite film. (And to think that Rudolph Valentino starred in the – straight – 1924 version of the story. Can’t think of two more disparate performers playing the same role.)
Also, the NYPL series will feature several super-rare Bob Hope television appearances of the 1950s and 1960s. Whether or not you care for Hope, those are definitely worth checking out. For instance, among the 1966 show’s guests are a number of Hope’s former leading ladies, including Lucille Ball, Hedy Lamarr, Joan Caulfield, Signe Hasso, Vera Miles , and Joan Fontaine. (Too bad Casanova’s Big Night won’t be a part of the series. It’s a much maligned – and hard to find – film that I thoroughly enjoyed, chiefly because of Joan Fontaine’s hilarious swashbuckling.)
Photos: Hope Enterprises Inc. (top image of Bob Hope), Joseph Yranski Collection (all other images)
Schedule and synopses from the New York Public Library program. Programs are subject to last-minute change or cancellation.
BOB HOPE: THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES
Tuesday, October 7, 2008 at 2:30 pm
NEVER SAY DIE, DVD, b&w, 82 minutes
Directed by Elliott Nugent, 1939.
Starring: Bob Hope, Martha Raye, Andy Devine, Alan Mowbray, Gale Sondergaard, Sig Ruman, Ernest Cossart, Monty Wooley, Gustav von Seyffertitz
In NEVER SAY DIE a hypochondriac millionaire is convinced he is about to die, when his doctor mixes up his tests with those of a dog. To assist a young Texas girl being forced into a loveless marriage, he marries her and complications arise.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 2:30 pm
Excerpt from THE CAT AND THE CANARY, DVD, color, 98 minutes, Directed by Radley Metzger, 1979.
Starring: Carol Lynley, Daniel Massey, Honor Blackman, Edward Fox, Wendy Hiller, Michael Callan, Wilfred Hyde-White, Beatrix Lehmann
Director, Radley Metzger will speak on Bob Hope, Nydia Westman and the various screen versions of the 1922 John Willard play THE CAT AND THE CANARY.
THE CAT AND THE CANARY, DVD, b&w, 72 minutes.
Directed by Elliott Nugent, 1939.
Starring: Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Douglass Montgomery, Gale Sondergaard, Nydia Westman, John Beal, George Zucco, John Wray
In THE CAT AND THE CANARY relatives gather for the “reading of the will” of an eccentric millionaire. This haunted house mystery, utilizes Bob Hope’s radio persona, a coward, who thinks he is a ladies’ man, and is very funny with his quick delivery of one line jokes, to enliven this comedy.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 2:30 pm
MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE, DVD, b&w, 93 minutes
Directed by George Marshall, 1946.
Starring: Bob Hope, Joan Caulfield, Marjorie Reynolds, Patric Knowles, Joseph Schildkraut, Constance Collier, Reginald Owen, Hillary Brooke
MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE, the barber to King Louis XV of France almost bumbles his way to the guillotine. His life is spared, as he is forced to impersonate a Duke, en route to his marriage at the Court of Spain. A true comedic gem, it remained Bob Hope’s personal favorite of all of his motion pictures.
Note: This was Bob Hope’s personal favorite of all of his motion pictures.
THE BOB HOPE SHOW, DVD, color, 60 minutes, 1966.
Starring: Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Joan Caulfield, Joan Collins, Arlene Dahl, Phyllis Diller, Rhonda Fleming, Joan Fontaine, Signe Hasso, Hedy Lamarr, Dorothy Lamour, Marilyn Maxwell, Virginia Mayo, Dina Merrill, Vera Miles, Janis Paige, Jerry Colonna, Paul Lynde, Ken Murray
Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 2:30 pm
THE IRON PETTICOAT, DVD, color, 87 minutes
Directed by Ralph Thomas, 1956.
Starring: Bob Hope, Katharine Hepburn, Noelle Middleton, James Robertson Justice, Robert Helpmann, David Kossoff, Alan Gifford, Nicholas Phipps, Paul Carpenter, Sid James, Alexander Gauge, Sandra Dorne, Richard Wattis
A “Cold War” comedy THE IRON PETTICOAT, concerns a Russian aviatrix who lands in West Germany and the American captain ordered to show her the bright side of capitalism, as she espouses the superiority of communism.
Recreated Vaudeville Show, 1969. Starring: Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Martha Raye, George Burns & Lisa Miller, Diana Ross & The Supremes
THE BOB HOPE SHOW, color, 60 minutes.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008 at 2:30 pm
Bob Hope’s Overseas Christmas Tour, DVD, color, 90 minutes, 1966. Starring: Bob Hope, Joey Heatherton, Phyllis Diller, Dolores Hope, Carroll Baker, Anita Bryant, Jack Jones, Kaye Stevens, The Nicholas Brothers, Jerry Colonna
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
CLOSED FOR VETERANS’ DAY
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 at 2:30 pm
BEAU JAMES, DVD, color, 105 minutes
Directed by Melville Shavelson, 1957.
Starring: Bob Hope, Vera Miles, Paul Douglas, Alexis Smith, Darren McGavin, Joe Mantell, Sid Melton, George Jessel, Jack Benny, Jimmy Durante
BEAU JAMES is a biopic about the colorful and controversial Mayor of New York City, Jimmy Walker (1926-1932). Walter Winchell’s narration adds a period flair, and represents Bob Hope in his most important straight-acting assignment.
THE BOB HOPE SHOW, DVD, color, 60 minutes, 1973.
Starring: Bob Hope, Ann-Margret, John Denver, The Jackson Five, Bobby Riggs
Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at 2:30 pm
Bob Hope: America’s Entertainer, DVD color, 90 minutes.
Written and produced by his daughter Linda Hope, 1998
Linda Hope will be present at this event.