Tuesday, July 29, 2003


First Katharine Hepburn, now Bob Hope. The great icons of classic movies have pretty much all left us. Aside from the Christmas-themed THE LEMON DROP KID, I'm not really a fan of Hope's later movies, but I have recently discovered the pleasures of his early comedies, and not just the ROAD films. I've already reviewed his "revues" COLLEGE SWING and STAR SPANGLED RHYTHM, and one of the best of the ROAD films, ROAD TO MOROCCO. Thanks to an e-mail friend, I was finally able to see THE CAT AND THE CANARY, a remake of the silent film that was in all likelihood the model (along with Mary Roberts Rinehart's THE BAT) for all those thrillers set in old dark houses with secret passages and suspicious guests, right up to and including the Scooby Doo TV show of the 70's. In this one, a group of relatives gather at the aformentioned house (on the edge of the Bayou) for the reading of the will of a man who has been dead for ten years. His faithful housekeeper (Gale Sondergaard) still lives in the house. There are some simmering jealousies and resentments among the group which includes Bob Hope as a radio comic, Elizabeth Patterson and Nydia Westman as ditzy aunts, two young men (Douglass Montgomery and John Beal) with ill feelings for each other, and Paulette Goddard as the lovely daughter, who winds up the sole beneficiary of the old man's estate. However, if she dies or goes insane, someone else, whose identity is secret, will be made heir. Naturally, it develops that Goddard is in danger and Hope comes stumbling to the rescue. Hope and Goddard essentially did an uncredited remake of this in THE GHOST BREAKERS, which is a more atmospheric movie, but this one is fun and has some chilling moments. The escape of a mental patient called The Cat feels like a red herring, but it's not. George Zucco is surprisingly good in the role of the lawyer, who seems like the chief suspect until he winds up dead... or is he? For some reason, Universal has not issued this on DVD as they have with most of Hope's other Paramount comedies of the time, but it's worth a viewing if you run across it.