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Nothing But the Truth

Nothing But the Truth(1941)

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teaser Nothing But the Truth (1941)

After the success of Bob Hope's first full-length film appearance, The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938), in which he introduced his signature song, "Thanks for the Memory," Paramount Pictures set about finding starring comedy vehicles for the former vaudevillian and radio star. They also needed a leading lady who could exude the requisite star quality and sex appeal while holding her own comedically with her co-star. They found her in Paulette Goddard and teamed her with Hope in The Cat and the Canary (1939) and The Ghost Breakers (1940). Goddard proved to be the perfect romantic foil for Hope's by-now trademark character of the vain, wisecracking coward. They were teamed for the third and final time in Nothing But the Truth (1941), a tale of mayhem that ensues when a young stockbroker makes a $10,000 bet that he can tell no lies for 24 hours. The story was adapted from a 1916 stage farce by James Montgomery, which was taken from a 1914 novel by Frederic S. Isham.

In the interest of telling the whole truth, it must be noted that although Goddard spoke politely about her co-star in public, by the time they made Nothing But the Truth, she no longer cared much for Hope, according to some sources, and was sick of the pushy, egomaniacal off-screen behavior he was already famous for in Hollywood.

On-screen, however, she gladly played the ditzy heiress to his hapless schnook. The dastardly deeds were put into the hands of three other supporting players. Edward Arnold, the best known of the trio, was a reliable supporting actor (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939; Meet John Doe, 1941) and occasional lead player (Meet Nero Wolfe and Come and Get It, both 1936), who had a successful career playing portly gentlemen of frequently ulterior motives and underhanded tactics. He was ably assisted in that here by Leif Erickson, who had a successful supporting career, often as a heavy, through the 1950s, followed by numerous television appearances into the 1980s, and Glenn Anders, perhaps best known as the sleazy George Grisby, who tries to fake his own death in Orson Welles's film noir The Lady from Shanghai (1947).

The setting for the story was shifted from the original Wall Street of its source materials to a yacht moored off Palm Beach, Florida, allowing for the addition of one sequence that proved particularly thorny to film. Thanks to one of the farce's many odd plot twists, Hope finds himself hiding in an empty bait tank, clad in a woman's negligee. The tank gets unexpectedly lowered into the water, and when it resurfaces, Hope's character is found covered in anchovies. Prop man Royce Findley secured thousands of the aquatic actors off Catalina Channel using chopped meat for bait. But the animals were far from cooperative. The water had to be kept very frigid for the fish to survive, a condition that didn't please Hope at all. On the first few takes, half the anchovies died and the rest fled to the bottom of the tank. Director Elliott Nugent then devised a plan whereby Hope would get in the tank and the anchovies were poured into the water over his head.

The anchovies weren't the only cast members to give Nugent a hard time. Years later, he said Hope was one of the most difficult performers it was his misfortune to direct because he always insisted on his own ideas, and he had suggestions about virtually every scene and shot. "Some of his ideas were good and others not so good, but he was such a fathead that you couldn't tell him anything," Nugent told Hope biographer Lawrence J. Quirk. "Looking back, I could kick myself for deferring to his approach most of the time, just to have quiet and peace."

The story was filmed twice before under the same title, in 1920 starring Taylor Holmes and Elsie Mackaye and by Paramount in 1929 with Richard Dix and Dorothy Hall. In both the earlier versions, the main character's name was Robert Bennett, but for this production it was changed to Steve Bennett, perhaps to keep the character and the performer from having the same first name.

Director: Elliott Nugent
Producer: B. G. DeSylva
Screenplay: Ken Englund, Don Hartman, based on the play by James Montgomery and the novel by Frederic S. Isham
Cinematography: Charles Lang, Jr.
Editing: Alma Macrorie
Art Director: Hans Dreier, Robert Usher
Cast: Bob Hope (Steve Bennett), Paulette Goddard (Gwen Saunders), Edward Arnold (T. T. Ralston), Leif Erickson (Tom Van Dusen), Helen Vinson (Linda Graham), Willie Best (Samuel).
BW-90m.

by Rob Nixon

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