Monday, November 23, 2020

NOIRVEMBER FUN: My Favorite Brunette, 1947


"When I came to I was playing post office with the floor. I had a lump on my head the size of my head. Inside, Toscanini was conducting The Anvil Chorus with real blacksmiths."
- Ronnie Jackson

Many great films-noir were released in 1947: Nightmare AlleyCrossfireBorn to KillKiss of DeathOut of the PastThe Lady from ShanghaiRailroaded, and Dark Passage. If ever a film style were ripe for spoofing, that time was 1947. 

Ronnie Jackson, a San Francisco baby photographer played by Bob Hope, narrates to the press the story of his life up to his imminent execution. Sob sister Ann Doran wants the "woman's angle" and the woman, in this case, has plenty of angles. (I couldn't help myself!)

Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour

"Nutty as a fruitcake, and with all that beautiful frosting."
- Ronnie Jackson

Dorothy Lamour, Bob's co-star in 11 movies, plus 3 cameos, plays Carlotta Montay, a mysterious woman who consults detective Sam McCloud about her kidnapped husband or uncle, who may or may not really be kidnapped. Only, as convoluted as is Carlotta's story, so is that of the detective.

Alan Ladd, Bob Hope

Sam McCloud, Private Eye has the office across from Ronnie Jackson, Baby Photographer and the proximity has filled Ronnie's head with the idea that he too can be a detective. After all, he has a trench coat and has invented a key-hole shaped lens which should and does come in handy. When McCloud played by Alan Ladd in a smart cameo leaves town for a few days, he gives Ronnie the key to his office to look after things. Enter Carlotta Montay and all "Hope" is lost. (I couldn't help myself.)

Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Charles Dingle

The next stop is one of those Spanish style mansions on the California coast where Ronnie is slow to take up Carlotta's cues to watch what he says around her "keepers." Charles Dingle (The Little Foxes) is Major Montague with a dripping southern accent and a sinister air. He runs the show. Peter Lorre (The Maltese Falcon) is Kismet, a sarcastic henchman disguised as a gardener. Kismet is an expert with knives and resents Ronnie giving him the nickname of "Cuddles." He resents it very much!

Bob Hope, Peter Lorre

"Easy, Cuddles. One move and you're a dead midget."
- Ronnie Jackson

John Hoyt (Brute Force) plays the taciturn Dr. Lundau. Every gang needs a taciturn doctor especially when you have replaced the femme fatale's uncle with a phony in a wheelchair. Both the genuine and phony uncles are played by Frank Puglia (Colorado Territory). Lon Chaney Jr. (Of Mice and Men) spoofs poor Lenny as Willy, the dumb muscle in the gang. Ronnie is Willy's pal. Someday Ronnie is going to buy Willy a rabbit. Jack La Rue (No Orchids for Miss Blanding) is the smart muscle in the gang.

The gang has spirited Carlotta and her uncle the Baron to a sanitarium with the bucolic name of Seacliffe Lodge. Ronnie is led there by the gang and before he can find Carlotta he finds Charles Arnt as an inmate playing a round of golf with an invisible golf ball. Bob Hope contributed this comic scene to the picture. 

"The MacGuffin is the thing that the spies are after but the audience doesn't care."
- Alfred Hitchcock

The MacGuffin in My Favorite Brunette is a map to a source of uranium that the bad guys want to keep from the State Department. Enter Reginald Denny (Skinner's Dress Suit) as an engineer hoping to collaborate with the real Baron Montay and present the information to the government. The bothersome engineer presents Kismet/Cuddles with the long-sought-for opportunity to use his knife and frame the hapless Ronnie Jackson for the murder!
 
Lon Chaney Jr., Bob Hope

Carlotta and Ronnie trail the gang to Washington where more gags abound in their effort to lay the murder where it belongs but as we recall from the opening, Carlotta seems to have left Ronnie hanging. (I couldn't help myself!)

All's well that ends well when Carlotta and one of Ronnie's baby photography clients, Mrs. Fong played by Jean Wong, come through with vital clues that free Ronnie. This turn of events is most annoying to the executioner "Harry." Cue Bing Crosby's cameo appearance!

On radio and television, Bob Hope was apt to make jokes about his writers, but he certainly knew a good thing when he had it. The writers of My Favorite Brunette, Jack Rose and Edmund Beloin got their start on the radio before moving to screenplays. Rose had three Oscar nominations for The Seven Little Foys, 1955, Houseboat, 1958, and A Touch of Class, 1973. Edmund Beloin had a Writers Guild of America nomination for G.I. Blues, 1960, and wrote and produced classic TV including My Three Sons and Family Affair. Rose and Beloin combined on 13 of Bob Hope's popular movies of the 1940s and 1950s.

Elliott Nugent, the actor turned stage and film producer/director directed My Favorite Brunette, the last of 5 movie collaborations between Nugent and Hope beginning in 1938 with Give Me a Sailor through Never Say Die, The Cat and the Canary, and Nothing But the Truth.

Giving My Favorite Brunette the film noir aura was cinematographer Lionel Linden (I Want to Live!, Quicksand, The Manchurian Candidate). Linden filmed nine of Hope's comedies including Casanova's Big Night and Alias Jesse James

Edith Head, the femme fatale's best friend, with Dorothy Lamour

Dorothy Lamour and Bob Hope are always a wonderful team and particularly so in My Favorite Brunette. Bob's cowardly-custard characterization adapts to many situations but a film noir where our lead is continually off-balance is comedy gold.

Dorothy Lamour was born to be a femme fatale which she often played in the "Road" pictures. However, Johnny Apollo, 1940 and Manhandled, 1949 were her only chances at an actual noir.


Bob Hope

"You see, I wanted to be a detective too. It only took brains, courage, and a gun...and I had the gun."
- Ronnie Jackson

My Favorite Brunette was one of Paramount's top-grossing pictures of 1947 and deservedly so. The noir crowd is sure to enjoy its many allusions to the works of Raymond Chandler, particularly Murder, My Sweet, 1944. Hope's narration throughout provides many giggles and guffaws.















30 comments:

  1. Some of the movies I know BOB HOPE from are HOW TO COMMIT MARRIAGE, I'LL TAKE SWEDEN and two with LUCILLE BALL-SORROWFUL JONES and FANCY PANTS. I also saw OFF LIMITS which is one of the few movies that I know MARILYN MAXWELL from. Before MARILYN MONROE there was MARILYN MAXWELL!

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    1. A fun movie with Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell for the Christmas season is The Lemon Drop Kid, 1951. They introduce the song Silver Bells by Livingston and Evans.

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  2. There were quite a few actresses named DOROTHY. Besides DOROTHY LAMOUR there was DOROTHY MCGUIRE that we both admire her talent. DOROTHY MALONE known as CONSTANCE on the prime-time soap PEYTON PLACE. As you know, MISS MALONE was an ACADEMY AWARD winner and MISS MCGUIRE was a nominee. There is DOROTHY LOUDON who did a comedy DOROTHY on CBS. It only had four episodes. There is also DOROTHY LYMAN that I really like as NAOMI HARPER on MAMA'S FAMILY. Naomi was married to VINTON(played by KEN BERRY). Earlier Miss Lyman was on ALL MY CHILDREN as OPAL GARDNER. You probably know her from some of her other soap opera work.

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    1. Dorothy was once a very popular name. Perhaps it is due for a revival.

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  3. One of Bob Hope's best comedies. It's funny from start to finish. I love the keyhole camera, the villainous Peter Lorre, and--most of all--Lon Chaney, Jr., who is simply hilarious. He should have appeared in more comedies!

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    1. Of course Lon should have been cast in more comedies. If we can see it, why couldn't the powers that be at the time? (Shakes head at the folly.)

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  4. I'm not a big Bob Hope fan--in fact, I'm pretty hopeless when it comes to his films (I couldn't help myself), but My Favorite Brunette is one I like. I enjoy all the injokes throughout, and I get a special kick out of both Bing Crosby's and Alan Ladd's cameos -- in fact, Ladd is quite the good-looking lad in this! (I couldn't help myself!). Thanks for a great post.

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    1. Hee-hee-hee. Sometimes we just can't help ourselves.

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  5. ALAN LADD! I'm always glad to see a picture of him turn up! I remember that I mentioned his movie ONE FOOT IN HELL once. It was a western with DON MURRAY. I think you mentioned that it had been a long time since you had seen it. (I saw the movie in 1987.) Alan was one of the most underrated actors. He was a natural actor like JOHN WAYNE and AUDIE MURPHY.

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    1. Alan Ladd deserved the success that came his way. He was an actor who really knew how to use the screen.

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  6. Speaking of MY THREE SONS today is STANLEY LIVINGSTON's birthday. He is 70! He played CHIP DOUGLAS. I remember that you are a big fan of the show(as I am). Besides FRED MACMURRAY, Stanley is the only one that was on the show the entire run(12 seasons). When the show came on in 1960 Stan was still 9(being his birthday is in November) and he was 21 when it ended. Talk about growing up on TV!



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    1. CHIP Douglas! I remember an episode where a girl had a crush on Robbie and was shocked when her date turned out to be Chip.

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  7. STANLEY LIVINGSTON was in the movie PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES(60) with DORIS DAY and DAVID NIVEN. He played one of their sons. (I believe there were four sons.) Doris was in CAPRICE which was a spy spoof. I thought it was boring and really don't remember the story. So Stan played the son to Doris Day and on MY THREE SONS BEVERLY GARLAND played his stepmother, TINA COLE played his sister-in-law and RONNE TROUP played his wife(much later in the show). Lovely and talented actresses! P.S. Do you know the movie CAPRICE?

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    1. Please Don't Eat the Daisies is a favourite here but, like you, I didn't think much of Caprice.

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  8. I love My Favourite Brunette. I really think Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour had real chemistry, and it shows in this movie. And it always cracks me up that Alan Ladd's character shares his name with one of my favourite deputy marshals from an old NBC Sunday Mystery Movie series!

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    1. Truly, the stars were aligned for this perfect noir spoof.

      It is an extra chuckle for those of us who grew with Sam McCloud being a totally different fellow.

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  9. My favorite scene here - especially in recent weeks - is the one in which Peter Lorre explains separation of powers under the Constitution to Lon Chaney ... while throwing knives at the wall.
    I believe that we might all benefit from studying this scene ...

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    1. They never could have imagined the audiences of 2020 relating so strongly to that scene. And, yes, my knife throwing skills do need improvement (wink).

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  10. To me(and probably a lot of people) ALAN LADD is the most famous ALAN. Then I would say ALAN ALDA and ALAN JACKSON(a country singer). Other famous "ALAN's" include ALAN RACHINS(LA LAW), ALAN ARKIN, ALAN YOUNG and ALAN RICKMAN.

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    1. A.A. Milne's initials stood for Alan Alexander Milne.

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  11. ALAN ALDA and his wife ARLENE have been married for 57 years! They have three daughters. ALAN JACKSON and his wife DENISE have been married for 41 years! They also have three daughters.

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    1. Apparently, "Alan" is from the Celt for "handsome." We should add steadfast if those marriages are any indication.

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  12. I mentioned the movie CAPRICE earlier. TINA LOUISE(GILLIGAN'S ISLAND) has a daughter named CAPRICE CRANE. Caprice turned 50 earlier this month. According to wiki she is a novelist, screenwriter and producer. Tina has only been married one time-to LES CRANE from 1966 until their divorce in 1971.

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  13. TINA LOUISE was in HOW TO COMMIT MARRIAGE. So she was in a movie with...BOB HOPE. She played the girlfriend to JACKIE GLEASON. JANE WYMAN was also in it.

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  14. Caftan Woman, you could ask people this trivia question-what do TINA LOUISE and LANA TURNER have in common? The answer has to do with their personal life. They each have one daughter with the last name CRANE. As I stated, TINA's daughter is CAPRICE. Lana's daughter is CHERYL. Do you think any of your friends or relatives would know that about Tina and Lana?

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    1. The next time I am speaking with my mom, I'll ask her. I think maybe she would remember that bit of trivia.

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  15. Time to see this one again. It's been too long since I've seen it. I love Dorothy Lamour (and her wardrobe) in this film.

    Also, I LOVED this: "cowardly-custard characterization".

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    1. Thanks. I think I almost had as much fun writing about the movie as watching it.

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  16. I feel like adding this film to my to-watch list for next Noirvember. It sounds good1 Thanks for this great review!

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    1. I know you will get a great kick out of the movie. It is a loving spoof made with our sort of audience in mind.

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