Sunday, August 03, 2003


The last of my recent Bob Hope viewings is also the least of them. This is a particularly dippy musical variety movie; the genre seemed to be dying out at the time and this film is evidence of why. The threadbare plot centers around the race of two ocean liners from America to Europe. One of the ships has an experimental supplementary power source known as "radio power," an invention of hunky Leif Erickson. W. C. Fields plays the nutty twin brother of the head of one of the ocean liner companies; because he is such a klutz, he is sent to travel on the rival ship (arriving from the air in a bizarre winged scooter) in hopes that he will hinder its voyage, but he mistakenly winds up on his own company's liner. The only other narrative thread involves Bob Hope as a radio MC who is running from a gaggle of ex-wives who want him to pay up on his alimony. His current suitor, Dorothy Lamour, winds up attracted to Erickson, and one of Hope's exes, Shirley Ross, falls back in love with him, largely via their rendition of Hope's signature song, "Thanks for the Memory." Martha Raye is along for the ride, shattering mirrors just by looking at them--it actually is one of the funnier gags in the film. The rest of the cast consists of mostly forgettable musical specialty acts. The last number is a long history of the waltz that is suitably spectacular in looks but does drag on. There is a silly cartoon sequence set to music by Shep Fields and his Rippling Rhythm Orchestra, and W. C. Fields (I assume no relation to Shep) gets off a few good lines like this one: Fields: "I feel like a June bride!" Straight man: "How does a June bride feel?" Fields: "I wonder, I wonder..." The movie is not especially memorable--if you want a more consistenly funny variety film, check out STAR SPANGLED RHYTHM--but "Thanks for the Memory" really is, with Hope even seeming to get in an improvised chuckle or two.

No comments: