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Give Me a Sailor

Give Me a Sailor(1938)

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teaser Give Me a Sailor (1938)

Give Me a Sailor (1938), starring Bob Hope, Martha Raye, Betty Grable and Jack Whiting, was directed by Elliott Nugent and had a screenplay by Doris Anderson and Frank Butler, based on a stage play by Anne Nichols. It was the third film co-starring Martha Raye and Bob Hope and the first time that Paramount would allow them to be the leading players in a film, but it was definitely a "B" picture (a low-budget film that played in theaters on a bill with a more important "A" picture). It was also an attempt to give Raye the glamour treatment with high-fashion dresses and hairstyles, as evidenced in the trailer, which billed her as "Masked Marvel Martha putting on glamour for Bob Hope and the crews of every battle-wagon in the United States Navy!" Although Hope and Grable would ultimately be bigger stars, in 1938, it was Raye who received top billing in the film.

Bob Hope was becoming frustrated with the state of his career while making Give Me a Sailor. He felt that he had hit a wall and was pressuring his agent to get him starring roles in "A" pictures. He wasn't enthusiastic about Give Me a Sailor, but was unable to refuse the film because he had not yet achieved true star status and didn't have the power necessary to go up against Paramount. To refuse a role in the Golden Age of Hollywood could mean suspension, in which Hope would not be paid for the time it took for the film to be made, plus that time was tacked on to the duration of his contract. Hope may have felt trapped, but he was smart enough to know that being openly hostile or complaining wouldn't help the situation, and so he kept quiet.

Give Me a Sailor was a romantic comedy about childhood friends Letty Larkin (Raye) and Jim Brewster (Hope). Letty has always been in love with Jim's brother, Walter (Whiting), now a naval lieutenant, and Jim, an ensign, has been in love with Letty's beautiful sister, Nancy (Grable). The problem is, Walter and Nancy have fallen in love. It may have been a fluffy little "B" film, but it made a favorable impression on critics when it was released on August 19, 1938. The Prescott Evening Courier called Give Me a Sailor "a light-hearted plot based upon the high jinx of seamen on shore leave, a number of lilting new songs and a cast headed by such top-notchers as Martha Raye, Bob Hope and Betty Grable." The plot may not have been new, but as Maurice Moran wrote for The Pittsburgh Press, "the fun served before the climax is a sure-fire cure for the blues."


Butler, Jeremy G. Star Texts: Image and Performance in Film and Television
Faith, William Robert Bob Hope: A Life in Comedy
The Internet Movie Database
Moran, Maurice E. "Martha Raye Emerges as Glamour Girl with Uncle Sam's Navy as Background" The Pittsburgh Press 24 Oct 38
Neibaur, James L. The Bob Hope Films
"Give Me a Sailor is a Hilarious Film" Prescott-Evening Courier 5 Sep 38
Quirk, Lawrence J. Bob Hope: The Road Well Traveled

By Lorraine LoBianco

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