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My Favorite Blonde (1942) is a breezy Bob Hope comedy which satirizes Hitchcock-type thrillers of its era. Hope plays a burlesque player with a penguin act who gets embroiled with Nazi agents and beautiful blonde spy Madeleine Carroll, who previously appeared in Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935).
This is a typical Hope role in that his character is a funny man who gets into dangerous scrapes - a formula that never changed too much over his career. In My Favorite Blonde, however, there was at least a small degree of seriousness to the story, a quality which would vanish from his later comedies. In fact, Hope himself complained at the time that he had been getting too many "slapstick and double-take" roles and would appreciate something with more substance and range. According to film historian Lawrence Quirk, the role of Larry Haines in My Favorite Blonde would wind up as one of Hope's all-time favorites for that very reason.
Director Sidney Lanfield and Hope didn't get along too well at first. Both were egotistical control freaks who had different ways of working, but My Favorite Blonde turned out so well (and, more to the point, did so well at the box office) that Hope worked with Lanfield five more times in the years ahead, including The Princess and the Pirate (1944) and The Lemon Drop Kid (1951).
Hope and Carroll are backed up by a wonderful supporting cast that includes horror film veteran George Zucco (The Monster and the Girl, 1941), beautiful Gale Sondergaard, and a pre-Casablanca (1942) Dooley Wilson. Sondergaard had already appeared with Hope in two films, including The Cat and the Canary (1939), and would be back in Road to Rio (1947). Zucco, too, had played in The Cat and the Canary, but director Lanfield remembered Zucco as not having the best feelings toward Bob Hope. Apparently Zucco felt he was being "upstaged" by Hope and derided him as "a clown but not an actor."
As for Madeleine Carroll, Hope was obviously enamoured with her. For months he talked about her constantly on his radio show, with such fervor that finally Carroll herself realized that she could parlay the free publicity into a career-booster. She asked if she could appear on the show. Hope of course agreed, and then took it a step further by asking her to co-star in My Favorite Blonde, which was in pre-production. Now that would be a career booster, for Hope was one of the most popular and powerful stars in town, and Carroll quickly said yes.
The only problem was that Hope, despite being married, really did lust after Carroll. The actress admired Hope as a professional but no more. Worried that her role might be in jeopardy if she rejected him outright, Carroll played it cool and tried to keep her romance with Sterling Hayden quiet. As Lawrence Quirk later wrote, "Carroll tried to handle Hope's bumbling, schoolboy-ish advances as tactfully as possible. Hayden's attitude was more direct: he wanted to show up on set and rearrange the famed ski-nose." Finally, Carroll and Hayden married in a secret ceremony. Hope found out and was privately angry, but Lanfield placated him by reminding him of the great prestige that Carroll's involvement was adding to the production.
Bing Crosby made his first cameo in a Bob Hope movie here, walking on as a truck driver who offers directions. "No, it can't be" mutters Hope after Crosby walks away. These cameos in each other's movies, in between all the Road pictures which they had already begun co-starring in, would become a long-running joke in their careers.
Producer: Paul Jones
Director: Sidney Lanfield
Screenplay: Frank Butler, Melvin Frank, Don Hartman, Norman Panama
Cinematography: William C. Mellor
Film Editing: William Shea
Art Direction: Hans Dreier, Robert Usher
Music: David Buttolph
Cast: Bob Hope (Larry Haines), Madeleine Carroll (Karen Bentley), Gale Sondergaard (Madame Stephanie Runick), George Zucco (Dr. Hugo Streger), Lionel Royce (Karl), Walter Kingsford (Dr. Wallace Faber).
BW-79m. Closed captioning.
by Jeremy Arnold