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Comedian Bob Hope, in his first Technicolor performance, effortlessly portrays Jim Taylor, a political lackey of the Louisiana Purchasing Company who is unaware that he is being gulled, replacing William Gaxton who starred on Broadway in this long-running satirical comedy, featuring music and lyrics by irving Berlin. Although the original work by Morrie Ryskind, with its sardonic savaging of politicians and their methods, is carefully muted in this cinematic version, there remains much to enjoy as Taylor frantically struggles to avoid taking a rap for the misdealings of a coterie of his graftsodden superiors, played effectively by such as Donald MacBride and Frank Albertson. An opera bouffe opening serves to explain to the audience that in order to avoid onerous lawsuits, Louisiana must be accepted as a mythical location, with a bevy of comely singers offering the standard "no resemblance" disclaimer for the decoy State. Victor Moore, Vera Zorina and Irene Bordoni reprise their stage roles from a work sadly seldom performed since, with the veteran director of musicals Irving Cummings doing his best to retain some of its operetta nature and still permit Hope to gambol about as the target of a Congressional investigation headed by Senator Oliver P. Loganberry (Moore). The screen play generally fails to capture the essence of its source, and therefore much of Hope's timing is wasted upon poor material, while Moore is so torpid that he appears to be more sleep deprived than anything else. Raoul Pene Du Bois formulated the beautiful costumes and designed the splendid sets, including that for a traditional dream ballet sequence showcasing prima ballerina Zorina, and plot propelling and witty lyrics by Berlin, although too often cut, enhance the overall production, particularly the delightful title piece, sung and danced to by alluring Dona Drake. The opening scenes fare best, in particular that wherein Emory Parnell, a top studio lawyer, reads the script and then dictates a singspieled letter in rhymed couplets to advise executives against replicating the original show, a very clever and funny beginning to this lavish Paramount motion picture.
I think if more movie viewers knew the story behind Louisiana Purchase
the film might be better appreciated on some levels and downgraded on
Five years before Louisiana Purchase made it to Broadway, Huey P. Long was shot and killed in the State Capitol building in Baton Rouge. What Senator Long's intentions were for the future as far as national office was concerned is speculative fodder for historians. But he did leave behind a political machine that was the closest thing to a dictatorship we had in America's 20th Century.
Long gathered around him a gang of crooks that had few rivals among other political machines in skullduggery. Long was also smart in making very sure that very few of them were likely to be rivals. In fact some years earlier, Huey had some real problems with a Lieutenant Governor who started showing signs of independence. But that's another story.
When he died the sins of his henchmen couldn't be covered up for any length of time. Even while he was alive, FDR's Justice Department was digging into Louisiana for scandal. After Huey Long died it all came out. During the late thirties the newspapers were filled with stories of indictments and convictions coming out of Louisiana from the Governor on down. The title of the film comes from the popular name for the Long machine scandals, which were dubbed the Second Louisiana Purchase, like Watergate became the term for all the corruption stemming from the Nixon administration.
Maybe one day someone might do a serious expose of those scandals and they might make a great film. But this Louisiana Purchase isn't it.
Maybe because it was done too gently on Broadway to be real satire. The plot here and on Broadway is that the gang (who in real life would have had trouble tying their shoelaces without the Kingfish's brain behind them) frame a schnook of a State Representative as the fall guy for all the corruption. On Broadway it was William Gaxton, for the movies it was Bob Hope.
As written it's a typical Bob Hope role with a lot of topical humor that might be lost on today's audience. Irving Berlin did the songs for Louisiana Purchase. The show marked his return to Broadway, he was last there in 1933 for As Thousands Cheer. And it was his first book musical since The Cocoanuts. Berlin as a rule favored revue type shows. After Louisiana Purchase, Berlin did no other kind of show on Broadway or on film.
The other leads from Broadway, Victor Moore, Vera Zorina, and Irene Bordoni repeated their roles for the film and all did very well by them.
If this had been done as a serious drama, Hope's character would have been looking to cut a deal and turn state's witness on the others. He certainly wouldn't have gotten out of his troubles in quite the way he does in Louisiana Purchase.
Still fans of Bob Hope will appreciate the film and if people learn about the corruption in Louisiana in that period it might stimulate the more historically minded among viewers.
I've read that this Irving Berlin musical was based on the dealings of Huey Long and his cronies. Long was the governor of my state, Louisiana, and later the state senator and he did much that was good for it but also had some crooked deals with like-minded people who got exposed after Long's assassination in the mid-'30s. So it was that this film began with a lawyer singing of dictating a letter to the studio that the only way this story depicted here can be presented is to treat it as fiction. I'll stop there and just say that I found this Bob Hope vehicle funny and entertaining with good support from Vera Zorina, Irene Bordoni, and especially Victor Moore, all reprising their roles from the Broadway version. The Irving Berlin songs retained for this production are fine as well. Oh, and I loved the sight of the state capital from my state's capital city of Baton Rouge inserted here! Nothing more to say except I highly recommend Louisiana Purchase.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a musical from the folks at Paramount, drenched in Technicolor
and bolstered by elaborate song-and-dance routines. The vibrant color
schemes reveal that Paramount spared no expense to up the glamour
While the film does benefit from its more spectacular, flashier production values, the acting adds to its charm, too. In the lead role, Bob Hope is likable, if not given totally to restraint. His costar is European dancer Vera Zorina, reprising the role she played in the successful Broadway show upon which this film is based.
The other major performer is Victor Moore, also transferring his Broadway work to the screen for this project. Moore is a great supporting actor and shines as a crooked southern politician. Sometimes it appears as if he may have a bit more screen time than Hope does in this picture.
One sequence has Hope in a phony mustache and Zorina building up to a scandalous embrace with Moore as picture takers hide just out of sight. A good ten minutes of screen time must have been devoted to catching them in the act, and even then, when the picture snatchers have done their thing, Hope brings them back to take more incriminating photos, in case the first ones do not turn out. It seems more than a bit overplayed and belabored.
Louisiana Purchase does not contain the world's most original plot, but it suffices for nice entertainment. Although there is a disclaimer at the beginning that this is a work of fiction, one can see parallels to political leaders of the day. Though to my knowledge, Louisiana's Huey Long never had the benefit of appearing in Technicolor.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you're looking for a mish-mosh you came to the right place. When this was released in 1941 - one year after the Broadway show opened - perhaps a couple of hundred people in England would have heard of Huey Pierce Long, the door-to-door pedlar who rose to become firstly the Governor of Louisiana and secondly State Senator - and was thought to be a serious contender for President when he was assassinated in 1935. When he became Governor Louisiana was the poorest State in the Union with virtually no decent highways, schools or hospitals. Long turned it around, provided all three but also made it one of the most graft-ridden States in the Union. The Broadway show satirized Long and Irving Berlin provided some tasty songs - Fools Fall In Love, It's A Lovely Day Tomorrow, Sex Marches On - none of which are sung in the movie though four other songs are. What remains is a bland toothless satire but in its favor it does give British show buffs a chance to see both Vera Zorina and Irene Bordoni.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the 1990's, a concert recording of "Louisiana Purchase" was recorded
for posterity. The CD is superb, filled with such forgotten delights as
"It's a Lovely Day Tomorrow", "The Lord Done Lift Up My Soul", and
"Wild About You". Every number is a showstopper. But in this
semi-musical version of the hit 1940 Broadway show, only four songs are
used, and in spite of the presence of much of the original cast, it
comes off no funnier than any other Bob Hope movie of the early 40's.
Like the extremely funny Gershwin musical "Of Thee I Sing" a decade before, "Louisiana Purchase" was a political spoof that starred the popular team of Victor Moore and William Gaxton on Broadway. Moore was retained for the movie version of "LP", and is extremely lovable and funny as the blackmailed Oliver Loganberry who arrives in New Orleans during Mardi Gras to investigate corruption in the Louisiana Purchase lumber company. With his basset hound eyes, large physique and seemingly gullible personality, Moore was a comic genius. Hope, officially a star after his first two "Road" pictures, was obviously the popular choice for the Gaxton role, but it's sad that Moore and Gaxton were never paired on screen. (Two years later, he did get chosen by MGM to play Lucy's agent in the film version of "Best Foot Forward".)
Also from the Broadway version are Vera Zorina and Irene Bordini who don't get to shine as they did on stage. I was glad to see that they included the opening from the show where a studio attorney dictates a letter (set to music) indicating how to present the story without getting sued, and a mini-production number that follows. However, other than the title song, most of the music used is either cut songs (including "Sex Marches On", which I knew they'd cut) used over the action or edited versions of "It's a Lovely Day Tomorrow" and "You're Lonely and I'm Lonely". Fortunately, the title song is a big Mardi Gras number that is extremely lavish and well filmed. The color photography, sets, and costumes are all superb, but it doesn't cut the fact that the missing music is much missed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Bob Hope is the main star in a movie that blends music, comedy, and a Cajun flavored atmosphere involving political corruption in Louisiana. Bob is the scapegoat when crooked politicians are investigated by a Northern Congressman. Bob tries to deflect the investigation by having the Congressman be photographed in compromising situations. Vera Zorina plays the woman who he hires to trap the Congressman. There is a musical opening number involving lovely ladies (like the MGM musicals made during that period) and a Mardi Gras parade. However, the blending of the music with the storyline was a bit uneven. The movie was made in 1941 as World War II was raging in Europe and there are several allusions to this time period (Vera who plays an Austrian refugee makes known her resentment about the Anschluss imposed by Nazi Germany on her country) and Bob's reference to the Democrats controlling the White House (Franklin Roosevelt was elected to three consecutive terms). Bob does his usual wisecrack routines in the movie. The two funnier moments are near the end when Bob goes through a pantomime routine of how a woman would put on a girdle and a spoof of the James Stewart role in "Mr. Smith goes to Washington" where he performs a filibuster in the state legislature to avoid being convicted. This movie is missing a signature piece of many of Hope's movie, that is a jab at Bing Crosby, his partner in many of the well known "Road" series movies. When this movie was made, the pair had only made two of the "Road" series movies, so their rivalry had not developed to yet a high level.
Aside from some terrible films Bob Hope made in the 1960s (and there
were quite a few), "Louisiana Purchase" may be among his worst for two
major reasons. The biggest problem is that the film simply is not
funnya serious problem since it's a comedy! The other problem is that
Hope plays a very unsympathetic characterand it's hard to root for him
throughout this film that seems, at times, like a misguided rip-off of
"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington".
The film begins with a very unusual and rather cute disclaimer about the film being fictionalyou have to see this to understand what I mean, but it's obvious that the film makers chose to lampoon Louisiana since the state has a very, very long history of political corruption.
Hope plays a state senator with very unsavory friends. While he's serving in the senate, they are involving him in all kinds of illegal dealscompletely unbeknownst to him. However, and this is odd, when he discovers what they've done, he does NOT come clean about the illegal activity but spends almost all the film trying to blackmail or corrupt an honest(!) politician who is investigating the activities of Hope's organization. While I liked Victor Moore as the sweet and daffy crusading US senator, everything about Hope seemed self-centered and sleazy. And, inexplicably, a lady who somehow has come to instantly love him has agreed to try to destroy Moore! This made little senseas did her weird reversal after they were able to set him up. The final portion of the film is right out of "Mr. Smith" and ends with an ending that just seems too pat and hard to believe.
As I said, nothing about this is funny nor is the leading man (Hope) likableand without these elements the film cannot help but be a failure. Watchable but only of interest to very rabid Hope fansones who are willing to look past the film's many, many deficits.
By the way, this is on a DVD with another Hope film"Never Say Die". This second film IS very good and makes the disk worth obtaining.
This one's a real oddity: a semi-musical satire of a period of
corruption that will mean nothing to anybody who is either not a
resident of the United States or under eighty-ish years of age. Bob
Hope stars as a naive hero who finds himself set up to take the rap
when a corrupt cadre find themselves on the brink of discovery and
hatches one of those ridiculous Hollywood musical plots to get himself
out of trouble. Somehow, I don't think this is too closely based on
The film opens with a quirky number in which a colourful group of girls sing about how the characters are fictitious and not based on any persons living or dead, and include lyrics stating they are singing this to save the producers from being sued. Bizarre. When Hope is on screen the film is a typical Hope vehicle - which isn't necessarily a good thing - and when he's not the pace slows to a crawl. Despite this it is Victor Moore as the ageing virginal investigator on the trail of the corrupt politicos who steals the movie. Vera Zorina as Hope's love interest is an actress of extremely limited talent and best forgotten to save her descendant's embarrassment. The storyline is littered with references to contemporary matters that mean nothing today, meaning most of them flew way over the top of my head, making it somewhat flawed as a political satire - and fairly insipid as a musical
Dreadful, stupidly inane film dealing with corruption at the Louisiana
Purchase Lumber Company.
Everyone in the state of Louisiana seems to be corrupt and inept. A member of the college's English Department can only sign his name with an X.
When it appears that a straight laced Senator (Victor Moore) is coming to the state to investigate, everyone there tries to blame the innocent but foolish Bob Hope character.
Is it any wonder that Vera Zorina did not get the part of Maria in 1943's "For Whom the Bell Tolls?"
Naturally, the corrupt officials along with Hope try to show pictures of Zorina with Moore so as to ruin him politically. Moore marries the head of the restaurant who he had insulted when he asked for a ham sandwich. He thought the reason that she was upset was because it was a kosher restaurant. This is the extent of humor is this absolute mess of a film.
When Hope tries to defend himself in Congress, he does a take-off of James Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." By then the film is too far gone for any good response.
The music and lyrics are both absolutely terrible. That song praising Louisiana, sung in various ways, is absolutely terrible. Irving Berlin had something to do with the music of this utterly terrible film?
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