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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As an entertaining comedy for Bob Hope, MY FAVORITE SPY is one of the
best films in his career. It is typical for his normal plot line - a
glib, slightly sleazy coward is forced into some job in which he
conflicts with dangerous types. He manages to bungle his way to
victory. It was the plot line for MY FAVORITE BLONDE, MY FAVORITE
BRUNETTE, THE PRINCESS AND THE PIRATE, MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE. THE LEMON
DROP KID, PALEFACE, SON OF PALEFACE, SORROWFUL JONES, even FANCY PANTS.
In each film he'd be assisted by the heroine (Jane Russell, Dorothy
Lamour, Lucille Ball, or whoever), and would confront serious villains
like Bruce Cabot, Lloyd Nolan, Charles Dingle, Walter Slezak, Joseph
Schildcraut, Otto Preminger, and Peter Lorre. In each of these films
the villain is interested in money, stolen secrets, the chance at
marrying the heroine, or power. The comedy would center on Hope's
behavior and antics, sometimes pulling in the heroine and the villains
as accidental recipients of Hope's blunders (like his attempt to give
Lucille Ball a special hairdo in FANCY PANTS). If he confronts the
villain the villain might be temporarily discomforted (like Schildkraut
is momentarily in the duel sequence in BEAUCAIRE). But the villain is
normally captured by outside forces running to Hope's rescue - he is
incapable of beating the villains by himself (in FANCY PANTS he just
barely beats Bruce Cabot with an assist by Teddy Roosevelt - John
Alexander). It is all familiar, but Hope is still in top form.
It was in MY FAVORITE SPY (1951) that Hope finally got a glimmer of trouble in his paradise. The trouble was from his co-star: Hedy Lamarr.
Hedy Lamarr's movie career, unfortunately, is considered something of a joke today. From the start of it, her classic pornographic masterpiece ECSTASY, her critics considered her solely as a beautiful woman with little talent - a wooden actress. This is very unfair, because when given good direction and a top script (H.M. PULHAM, ESQ., THE STRANGE WOMAN, SAMSON AND DELILAH) she proved a first rate actress. Maybe she was not "Oscar" caliber, but she was close to it on these occasions. Moreover, Lamarr had brains. She actually is one of the few actresses who holds a patent. She was determined to show her best acting if she could.
When Hope made a comedy he chose actresses who were perfectly willing to be second bananas to him. Even long time "Road Film" partner Dorothy Lamour reacted to his comedy in their movies (in her case she usually could also depend on co-star Bing Crosby in those films; but she made MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE with Hope alone). It was rare for any of these actresses to act zany in his films. Hope liked it that way. He appreciated being at the center of attention in his films.
But with MY FAVORITE SPY he discovered that the formula would not totally work. Lamarr rarely had a chance to play pure comedy (HEAVENLY BODY with William Powell was more typical of the quiet comedies that she got cast in). She was determined to really be Hope's equal in this film - and Hope had problems with that.
In the plot of MY FAVORITE SPY, Lamarr was an adventuress named Lily Dalbray who had formerly been romanced by spy and thug Eric Augustine (Hope - playing a rather unscrupulous villain for a change). Augustine is injured while going to retrieve valuable microfilm, and the government find that he resembles a burlesque comic named Peanuts White (Hope again). They force White to go in place of Augustine. Lily has been hired by Eric's old rival and enemy Karl Brubaker (Francis Sullivan) to romance and stop or thwart Augustine. The film follows the mix-up, with Hope assisted by a government agent Tasso (Arnold Moss).
As I mentioned before the film is very entertaining, but Hope had problems he never experienced before. Lamarr insisted on equal comic time to Hope, especially in the conclusion - a slapstick chase involving a fire and a fire engine. Her performance in the film actually shows that she was enjoying slapstick. But most of her performance actually ended on the cutting room floor. Hope had control of the production, and saw to it. Lamarr protested but Hope had legal right to it. Lamarr never forgave Hope, and never appeared opposite him again in film (unlike other leading ladies) or on his television specials.
The film showed Francis Sullivan to good form as the forbidding Brubaker - who actually so hates Augustine that he tries to shoot him at the conclusion of the film. Although made by Paramount, one wonders if Sullivan was the original choice for the role. One can imagine Sidney Greenstreet playing Brubaker as well. Possibly Greenstreet was thought of for the film, but either was in poor health or had other commitments. Arnold Moss also does well as Tasso, having to deal with that hopeless simpleton Peanuts White. As I said Hope's film is entertaining, but he was put on notice that his formula could not last if he had problems with his cast. The next time it happened he was unable to control the filmed appearance of his co-star. It was Katherine Hepburn in THE IRON PETTICOAT.
One of Hope's best efforts. Hedy Lamar plays the perfect foil to Bob as
he plays two very different characters.
Contains one of the funniest sight-gag sequences in modern cinema and allows Hedy to show off the depth of her acting ability. It couldn't have been easy playing opposite Bob Hope anyway, but when she's not quite sure who is showing up had to make it even tougher.
This is a film I can watch over and over again. In fact, I've just about worn out my copy, yet I laugh out loud every time.
Great family viewing with the typical Hope silliness tempered by the very seductive Hedy Lamar.
1951's "My Favorite Spy" stars Bob Hope, Hedy Lamarr, Francis L.
Sulllivan and Mike Mazurki. Hope plays Peanuts White, a burlesque
comedian, who bears a strong resemblance to a spy, Eric Augustine. When
Augustine is injured, the government gets Peanuts to go in his place to
Tangier with $1 million to collect some microfilm. Peanuts, like Hope's
other characters, is a bona fide coward, but he goes after Harry Truman
talks with him on the phone. ("Oh, she's out on tour?" Hope asks,
referring to Truman's daughter Margaret, who at that time was pursuing
a singing career.) When Peanuts arrives in Tangier, he meets the woman
with whom Eric was previously involved, the beautiful nightclub singer
Lily Dalbray. She's under orders from the other side to get the
microfilm, so she acts as if she's ready to resume things with Eric.
Unfortunately, the real Eric escapes from the hospital and makes his
way to Tangier, causing the situation to become even more confusing as
everyone chases everyone else.
Hope is very funny in this and does indeed create a second role in Eric Augustine, who has a much darker persona than Peanuts. There are some great laughs, my favorite scene being Hedy and Peanuts dancing in the hotel while his contact tries to get his attention. The part where Lamarr drives a fire engine while Hope hangs onto the ladder is funny as well.
Hedy Lamarr was 36 or so at the time of the filming and looks glorious, particularly in the form-fitting white sequined gown she wears during her nightclub act. It's so unfortunate that in Hollywood, once a woman turned 30, lead roles became so difficult to get. Lamarr was one of the most beautiful and glamorous women in film - at any age. She's basically straight man to Hope here and holds her own in what is a Dorothy Lamour part, right down to the nightclub act. She contributes to the foreign flavor of the film.
This isn't Hope's best film, but it's still very good with some great bits and laughs.
I read somewhere here in this forum a readers take on the Bob-Hedy friction. Let me settle this once and for all. Hedy was always Bob favorite...look at some of the old war newsreels with the stars getting involved in the war, in their own way. There's a clip where Bob is surprisingly sharing a bed with his crony, Bing Crosby and in his dreams, he keeps calling out for Hedy. Hedy was an MGM player, so odds were against them making a movie together, each under contract to different studios. It turned out that some of Hedy's best funny scenes were cut, because the studio head at Paramount, didn't want anyone to be more funnier than their bread and butter comedian. She resented it, after all she was in the midst of making a comeback, as they called it in those days, after her terrific success in Samson and Delilah for that same studio a year before. Its odd that in 1951, Bob and Hedy made a comedy radio stint on top of a U.S.Navy flattop, in front of the sailors, in San Diego port. They even made jokes about appearing together in that movie. So, if there was friction, it was short lived. As far as her role, she was suppose to be playing it straight to Bob's antics. To me,the funniest scenes involved Hedy, mainly because I was surprised at how well she did handle comedy. Her hitting Bob like a wildcat, after he 'punched' her. Her double take upon seeing "both" Bob's was priceless...and that ending, with her driving the fire truck.
Haven't movie fans wondered how Bob Hope has managed to have so many
glamorous leading ladies fall for the schnooky characters he played in
his career? It's a source of amazement and amusement too. But I've
always thought that was part of the secret of Hope's appeal, that if he
could get the glamor girl, anyone could.
They don't get much more glamorous than Hedy Lamarr who was in the midst of a mini-comeback because of Samson and Delilah. Unfortunately the roles she got post DeMille didn't sustain her career.
When one works on a Bob Hope film as a leading lady you will definitely be second banana. Hedy Lamarr was not second banana material and that was a source of some friction between her and Hope. But being second banana was something she should have known walking in.
In My Favorite Spy, Hope was spoofing all those espionage/adventure films set in various exotic places like Casablanca. He gets to play a dual role here. First as Eric Augustine, Bogart like adventurer, and secondly as Peanuts White burlesque comic who is a dead ringer the U.S. government drafts into getting some secret microfilm before Sidney Greenstreet stand-in Francis L. Sullivan does. Of course Hope has a Peter Lorre type factotum in Arnold Moss.
Though uneven in spots, mainly because Hope doesn't have the chemistry between him and Lamarr the way he did with Jane Russell or Madeleine Carroll, or Dorothy Lamour, My Favorite Spy does have some good moments. My favorite moment is when the truth serum is administered to Peanuts White and he starts doing his burlesque shtick for Sullivan.
It's not the best of Hope's Paramount films, but it does have some good moments.
And besides only Bing Crosby could ever really expect to not be a second banana.
This is a typical Bob Hope movie in which "ole ski nose" delivers a lot
of one- liners and plays his usual coward-turned-hero. (In this story,
a burlesque comic turned spy.) The leading lady for this one was Hedy
Lamarr. By 1951, the famous glamor girl of the Golden Age looked like
she was a few years past her prime. She had very little sex appeal
Hope plays a dual role: "Peanuts White" and "Eric Augustine." He does a fine job with both, although in one of those roles he said very little. In all, not one of his more memorable movies, or funnier films, but it has enough decent laughs to somewhat entertain....but mainly, if you are a die-hard Bob Hope fan; otherwise, skip it. Bob did a lot of other films that were much better.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Review contains SPOILERS:
In 1951, Bob Hope made the 3rd and final entry in his "My Favorite_____" series which reteamed him with director Norman Z. McLeod("Road to Rio", arguably the best of the "Road" pictures). Fresh from her success in Cecil B. DeMille's classic Biblical epic "Samson and Delilah", the beautiful Hedy Lamarr(perhaps Hope's most glamourously exotic leading lady up to that point in his career) was cast to play the comedian's favorite spy. The result was a workmanlike but enjoyable comedy/spy thriller which seemed to satirize not only exotic international intrigue films like "Casablanca" but if it weren't for the fact that it was released 11 years before the first 007 film, a viewer might think it was also a James Bond spoof. The fire truck chase where the hero hangs on a ladder while the heroine drives the vehicle was recycled years later in the Bond film "A View To A Kill."
Essentially, "My Favorite Spy"'s plot follows a typical Hope film formula: our hero is an everyman, in this case a burlesque comic, who is forced into dangerous situation(the reason being in this case, the old Hollywood movie rule that someone can pass for an identical twin of someone to whom he has no biological relation to! Alright, I know it's a cliche but it's a good cliche later reused in another comedy classic called "On The Double" with Danny Kaye). Anyway, because of and often in spite of his attempts to conquer his enemies, he outwits the bad guys and wins the affections of the knockout lead female character. It was a formula that worked for several Hope films of his prime era(1940s-early 1950s). "Spy" is typical of Hope's entries of this time. If there's any flaw to the film it's that it's never anything great. However, it makes no pretense of being a masterpiece. The filmmakers never promise the viewer anything more than an entertaining 93 minutes of fun and they completely succeed in delivering what they promise. If only more films could make that achievement.
Bottom line: "My Favorite Spy" resoundingly earns a respectable *** out of **** and makes for an amusing comedy adventure well worth watching if you're a fan of either Hope or Miss Lamarr. Why it has never been released on home video is a mystery. Favorite line-"Why don't you go? If you hurry, you can catch the nine o'clock broom."
For more fun with Bob in the world of espionage, I also recommend "They Got Me Covered", "My Favorite Blonde", "Call Me Bwana" and "Road To Hong Kong". For more comedy fun with Hedy, check out her underrated "Ninotchka" take-off, "Comrade X". Any of those titles would make for a good double feature with "My Favorite Spy."
Typical enjoyable Bob Hope movie, enhanced by the lovely shimmering beauty of Hedy Lamarr that makes it all worthwhile. You might notice at the start of the night club scene before Lily (Hedy) sings, they play music from "Samson and Delilah" which had been a big hit for Hedy two years earlier. I agree that at times the plot seems rather thin but if you're a regular fan and hooked on Hope's films you'll like it and not worry about wondering why. Just enjoy!
In this remake of the 1942 film of the same name, Bob Hope is Peanuts White, a hack Vaudevillian looks just like the thug Eric Augustine, who is wanted by the police. They ask White to help them by impersonating the crook to fool a gang of spies into turning over the microfilm. The nightclub scene is kind of fun, as he tries to pass for the crook with Lily (Hedy Lamarr) and Augustine's friends and enemies. Arnold Moss is Tasso, a non-singing Bing Crosby- type straight-gag-guy who doesn't take any jabs at Hope. Tasso one of the good guys, trying to keep White out of trouble in Tangiers. Not a lot for Lily (Hedy ) to do in this film...she's kind of along for the ride. Lamarr only made a few more films after this. It would have been interesting to have the actual locations listed; appears to be mostly the backlot and PCH. Like most of the "Road" movies, this one goes all over the map, in the casino, riding on a firetruck, thru the bazaar. Not the funniest Bob Hope movie caper, although it DOES have its laughs. Not bad.
Hope fans should enjoy this showcase. The comedian's in about every
scene where the one-liners, throw-aways, and snappy retorts fly faster
than a machine-gun on rapid fire. After all, there were seven writers,
yes, seven! And I expect each wanted his or her work accommodated. So,
it's a loaded script. Bob plays a baggy-pants comedian (Peanuts)
pressed into government service in order to catch a dangerous
look-alike who's on the run. Along the way he gets "help" from the
gorgeous Hedy LaMarr.
Plots are secondary for Hope vehicles, mainly furnishing set-ups for the gag-lines. Here, the setting for international intrigue is Tangier. Thus there's a hint of he Hope-Crosby Road pictures, while La Marr provides the eye candy, in spades. But, I gather from other reviewers that her best scenes ended on the cutting room floor courtesy Hope's desire to dominate. Then too, don't expect much continuity given the generally ragged editing process.
Anyhow, I love that line where a ringing sound comes from Lilly (LaMarr) and Peanuts observes that she always makes him tinklesnuck by the censors, I guess. And, if you don't like this gag, hold on because more will soon fly by. All in all, it's a Hope showcase during his most productive movie period.
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