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Rhythm Romance
Remind Me

Rhythm Romance aka Some Like It Hot

Until the Marilyn Monroe film of the same name had extensive play on television, Rhythm Romance (1939) was known by its original title Some Like It Hot. Both films deal with jazz bands but that is where the resemblance ends. Billy Wilder's film with Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, is a classic. Rhythm Romance was considered by its star Bob Hope as the worst film he ever made from a period in his career that he preferred not to discuss.

Rhythm Romance was a remake of 1934's Shoot the Works which had been a vehicle for Paramount's comic actor Jack Oakie. Both films were based on The Great Magoo, a 1932 stage play by Ben Hecht and Gene Fowler. The film follows carnival barker Nicky Nelson (Hope) who wants to capitalize on the popularity of swing music so he hires a band (led by legendary jazz drummer Gene Krupa) and tries to book them into an upscale dance hall, much to the displeasure of the hall's owners.

At this point in his career, Hope had not yet become a star, though he had played second fiddle in films with Burns and Allen and W.C. Fields. It was in the Fields' film The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938) that Hope introduced what would become his lifelong theme song Thanks for the Memories. The woman who sang that duet with Hope was Shirley Ross. The song's popularity and the Hope/Ross chemistry made Paramount want to capitalize on the pairing and they were rushed into Thanks for the Memory (1938) soon after. Rhythm Romance was the third and last film they would make together. Desperate to be on top, Hope, who had his own radio show, had hired, according to author Lawrence J. Quirk in his book Bob Hope – The Road Well Traveled, "his chief radio gag writer Wilkie Mahoney to punch up Lewis Foster's screenplay (reportedly much to Foster's resentment). Hope also added many lines for himself, courtesy of Mahoney, which didn't sit well with the other cast members. This time around, however Hope was the undoubted star of the shenanigans. No Martha Raye or Burns and Allen to steal the spotlight, only obliging and friendly Shirley Ross and witty Una Merkel, both of whose styles meshed with his own while allowing him the edge. Hope, already bossing his sets, and with director George Archainbaud sympathetic to his aims, maintained later that it was time to protect his interest and stake out his gains."

Co-starring with Hope and Ross was Gene Krupa, who had shot to fame as Benny Goodman's drummer, but had recently left Goodman to strike out on his own. His highly unique playing style was a direct influence on The Who's Keith Moon among countless other drummers and his own experiences with drug and alcohol excess were a precursor to the rock-n-roll lifestyle. This would be his third film appearance and to watch Krupa play in his prime (and to hear a score written by Burton Lane and Frank Loesser) is more than enough justification for seeing Rhythm Romance.

Shot in a mere three weeks between February 2nd and February 25th, 1939 with retakes on April 5th, it was exactly what it was meant to be – a quickie comedy like the countless others Paramount and the other major studios cranked out every week.

Hope wouldn't have long to wait until he reached star status. While Rhythm Romance was no more than a blip on his career radar, Bob Hope finally hit the big time with his next film, shot later that year called The Cat and the Canary (1939) co-starring Paulette Goddard, and the rest is history.

Director: George Archainbaud
Screenplay: Lewis R. Foster, Wilkie C. Mahoney; Gene Fowler (play), Ben Hecht (play "The Great Magoo")
Cinematography: Karl Struss
Art Direction: Hans Dreier, Earl Hedrick
Music: Arthur Franklin
Film Editing: Edward Dmytryk
Cast: Bob Hope (Nicky Nelson), Shirley Ross (Lily Racquet), Una Merkel (Flo Saunders), Gene Krupa (himself), Rufe Davis (Stoney), Bernard Nedell (Stephen Hanratty), Frank Sully (Sailor Burke).

by Lorraine LoBianco

Bob Hope – The Road Well Traveled by Lawrence J. Quirk