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One of Bob Hope's funnier comedies was Casanova's Big Night which finds
tailor's apprentice Hope exchanging places with the great Casanova who
is played by Vincent Price in an unbilled cameo.
Casanova's been down on his luck lately and he's beating it out of town owing the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker as well as his valet, Basil Rathbone. But after Dutchess Hope Emerson and her son Robert Hutton catch Hope in Casanova's outfit, Rathbone and the creditors decide to let the ruse continue.
Emerson wants to hire the world's greatest lover to seduce her son's intended, Audrey Dalton, because she feels she's a titled goldigger. True, but that's beside the point. The proof will be if the great lover can steal a certain petticoat with a crest embroidered on it.
The Doge of Venice Arnold Moss and his two scheming aides Raymond Burr and John Carradine also have their doubts that Hope might not be the great Casanova. What could ever give them that idea?
By the way Cassanova's Big Night was unusual for Hope in that he went the entire film without one Crosby joke.
The palace intrigue is as thick as a cement pudding, but Hope manages to bumble through it with the help of Joan Fontaine who is one of the creditors. As is the case in all his films, she develops as a soft spot for old ski nose.
Paramount gave Hope an unusually good supporting cast here and they all perform well. Of course fans of the classics might well recognize that the plot was lifted from The Three Musketeers.
But can you imagine the havoc that three Bob Hopes would have caused Venice?
Hope was at his peak when this film was made. It has many of the same elements as his Monsieur Baucaire, a costume drama about a person above his station carrying out an impersonation, getting involved with good looking chicks, fighting comic duels, etc. Hollywood back in the late 40s and early 50s was not above recycling a hit. I love seeing these old films again with the great comedians of those times, Danny Kaye, Red Skelton and, of course, Hope. Their timing and ability to make the corniest gags work still amazes me. Also, this film has so many of the wonderful character actors that made the old studio productions such a treat. These are faces that only the most serious of trivia buffs will recognize and put the names on, but here we have Arnold Moss, Frank Puglia, John Carridine, Lon Chaney Jr., John Hoyt, Primo Carnera, Hugh Marlowe and a very young Raymond Burr. The comparisons by another reviewer with Woody Allen are interesting but, hey! Hope was first.
What a treat to see Bob impersonate the greatest of all lovers-Casanova. This is a wonderfully entertaining movie which keeps you amused throughout the entire film.Basil Rathbone as usual up to top form. Did he ever play anything but a scoundrel in all his movies? There are so many highlights it is difficult to choose any favorites,but the best would be at the end of the movie when Hope as Casanova is to be executed and appeals to the movie audience to spare him ,is one of the funniest scenes ever done.Next time you go to the movies take some popcorn with you and we may be able to save Bob from a fate worse than death.
Haven't seen it in awhile, but recall it as being very quotable in a Monty
Python sort of way...
(scene: prison cell) Bob Hope: "What time is it?" Prisoner: "Oh, around 1758."
This is a great film for all Bob Hope fans and lovers of vintage comedy
everywhere. The colour, as in a lot of these old movies, is very rich and
a real treat for the eyes. As pointed out by other reviewers, the theme
quite similar to that of Bob's earlier black and white film "Monsieur
Beaucaire", but none the worse for it.
In order to save a group of merchants from bankruptcy, Bob, as Pippo Popolino, a miserable tailor's apprentice, agrees to impersonate the great lover "Casanova". As Casanova, he is engaged by a Duchess to test the love of her son's future bride and is promised a large sum of money if succeeding in the seduction. The jokes arrive thick and fast and as usual, Bob's delivery is masterful. Ironically though, for me, one of the funniest lines comes from Basil Rathbone who, playing Lucio, the former servant of Casanova sharing in the deception of the impersonation of his former master, declares to the hapless Pippo at a particularly frustrating moment "You'll never be anyone other than Pippo Popolino and I can't think of anything more insulting!". There are excellent supporting roles from the aforementioned Rathbone and Arnold Moss as the Doge, who our hero refers to as "a snake with a beard". There are some great visual jokes too with Bob remarking while dancing with his intended victim "I have a big following in Venice" at which point his sword drags a tablecloth loaded with crockery from a table, which he then trails behind him in the dance and tries to kick away nonchalantly. What really makes the film though is the pace and delivery of Bob's stream of one-liners.
Mr Hope at his very best!
Wow, what a cast! This Bob Hope film sure sported a long list of
wonderful supporting actors, such as Joan Fontaine, Vincent Price,
Basil Rathbone, Raymond Burr, John Carradine, John Hoyt, Lon Chaney,
Jr.and even the ex-boxing champ, Primo Carnera! It's really amazing to
see so many familiar faces in a rather ordinary sort of film.
Hope plays a tailor's apprentice who is roped into impersonating the famous lover, Casanova. It seems the real Casanova is a deadbeat and his many creditors have devised a plan to use Hope in his place. All Hope needs to do is try to seduce a young lady (Hope Emerson) to see if she is or is not virtuous--as her prospective mother-in-law wants to test her. He is assisted by Rathbone and Fontaine (who is WAAAY to old for this role). Naturally, things don't go as they all planned and soon Hope is running for his life.
As for the film, it's pretty much a typical 1940s-50s Bob Hope film--very pleasant and fun, but not particularly outstanding--even with the excellent supporting cast. High points would include a cute prison cell scene and a cute ending. And, among the lamest moments was Hope in drag. While cross-dressing is usually a sure laugh-getter, Hope's routine is pretty poor and this good idea falters.
Although I haven't seen the film since the first run showing, I'll never forget the scene where Bob Hope (as Pippo Popolino aka Casanova) was in a gondola in Venice. He dips his finger in the water, sniffs it, and says "Canal Number 5."
The "words" in the "summary line" were possibly the funniest line in
the Bob Hope movie CASANOVA'S BIG NIGHT. That really does not say much
- but then CASANOVA'S BIG NIGHT doesn't say much either. In 1954 it was
becoming more and more difficult to find any project that showed Hope
to advantage. His insistence on having a quip to end his every scene,
although pleasing to his fans, ruined his film scripts. He had
demonstrated in "My Favorite Spy" an unwelcome jealousy towards
co-worker Hedy Lamarr regarding her own scenes of comic business.
Although his two best "dramatic" roles (Eddie Foy Sr. in "The Seven
Little Foys" and Mayor Jimmy Walker in "Beau James") and his best comic
performance ("That Certain Feeling") were still to come, he was
beginning to make blunders - his co-starring turn with Katherine
Hepburn in "The Iron Petticoat" and his below-par "French" comedy with
Fernandel "Paris Holiday". In 1954 he decided to do a type of remake of
one of his best 1940s comedies, "Monsieur Beaucaire". It would not
prove to be a good choice.
It is is not a total loss - Hope in costume pictures is as amusing to view as other comics (W.C.Fields in "My Little Chickadee" or Laurel & Hardy in "The Bohemian Girl") were. But they had funnier material in those films. It is not a total remake of "Beaucaire". First it has nothing to do with the plot of that film, dealing with thwarting the schemes of a military adventurer to start a Franco - Spanish War to seize the Spanish throne. Instead it deals with a plot seemingly lifted (for want of a better term) from Maurice Chevalier's "Love Me Tonight". Casanova (Vincent Price - reduced to a cameo, sadly enough), owes plenty of money as usual. He is taking a fast leave, avoiding his creditors (mostly tailors and small time merchants), and they include the hapless Hope. But Casanova has been offered a lucrative business deal in Venice, and Hope is forced to go in his place. It is the only way to get the money owed by the lover-adventurer to these businessmen. In "Love Me Tonight" Chevalier is sent by his fellow merchants to force Charlie Ruggles into paying his debts for clothing he bought, and ends up impersonating royalty at C. Aubrey Smith's château. But Chevalier plays the role winningly, and only reveals his real occupation by sheer accident (he repairs Jeanette MacDonald's dress too well).
This was Hope's third costume film, after "Beaucaire" and "The Princess And The Pirate". But those had a younger Hope to play with, who looked like he could be a lover of age 35 - 40 (Hope was in his 40s at the time. Here he is in his 50s (Price was younger looking!). He just does not have the pass-ability as a lover he had a decade earlier.
The plot line also creaks along. For some reason that is never explained, the Doge of Venice (Arnold Moss) is conspiring to assassinate or imprison Casanova. We never fully understand why. Presumably it has to do with some act of seduction that annoyed the Doge. Compare this with the scheming of Joseph Schildcraut's Don Francisco in the earlier "Beaucaire", with and without the assistance of Joan Caulfield. In the end of "Beaucaire", Don Francisco is somehow still around with Beaucaire and his girl Mimi, but reduced to a bootblack in Beaucaire's barber shop in America. There seems a good comeuppance there (though how the would-be dictator of Spain and destroyer of Beaucaire is willing to be a bootblack is never explained). Moss's antagonism never gets beyond tiresome plotting (with Raymond Burr as his assistant) and amazement at Casanova's escaping one plot after another.
Joan Fontaine is wasted. She is in the Caulfield role - Hope really likes her but she is less than charmed by him, because she figures she can do better (ironically she thinks Basil Rathbone - Price's valet - is a better catch, only to find him far more materialistic and selfish). Fontaine's best moment is a throwaway. She has to get to palace guards out of the way. She vamps both, so they knock each other out. That is the best moment she had. But Ms Fontaine made many far better films.
And "Farfel, Farfel, Pippick!"? Hope in desperation tries to get through the Doge's palace in Venice disguised as a diplomat (Fritz Feld's) tall, ugly wife. He keeps using the phrase "Farfel, Farfel, Pippick!" whenever he is asked a question by anyone (sort of like William Shatner's character Denny Crane on BOSTON LEGAL muttering his name whenever surrounded by reporters entering or leaving a courtroom). Finally, at the end of the scene, Feld trying to get the dress back for his real wife, kicks Hope and says "Farfel, Farfel, Pippick" to him as he does it. That particular joke was well developed and completed properly.
This film did something unique. It offered two endings. One was Moss and his friends pulling Hope to be executed publicly. The other was him triumphing over them. Hope is somewhat disappointed at the result of his audience support on the two different endings. He shouldn't have been so surprised.
One of Bob Hope's last big-budget studio productions is an elaborate
yet rather patchy costumer in Technicolor, with the star only
impersonating the famed Venetian lothario (he's played, briefly, by an
uncredited Vincent Price!). The film, in fact, has a truly imposing
supporting cast (Joan Fontaine, Basil Rathbone, Hugh Marlowe, John
Carradine, John Hoyt, Lon Chaney Jr., Raymond Burr and Paul Cavanaugh
among others) which, however, doesn't really allow any of them to shine
while embarrassing somewhat Fontaine (an unlikely comedienne) and
Rathbone (in the equally undignified role of Casanova's long-suffering
valet); for the record, horror icon Chaney appears in a bit as a crazed
The plot has tailor's assistant Hope offering to replace the fleeing and debt-ridden Casanova; he's subsequently involved in a scheme wherein a lady is to be compromised and in which the warmongering Doge of Venice (with the aid of advisers Carradine and Burr, who are naturally just as unscrupulous) sees an opportunity to start a war with a neighboring state. The film offers typical routines and lines for the star (he even gets to appear in drag) which, ultimately, may be its problem as this is clearly a case of 'we've been here once too often' (even if his most obvious earlier title in this vein, MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE , I've yet to catch in its entirety); having said that, Hope did previously star in a film called THE GREAT LOVER (1949) which I've haven't seen either but in it he played a private eye.
Incidentally, the character of Casanova is certainly among the more popular in cinema a subject attracting to it all kinds of stars (not to mention a bevy of beauties) and film-makers: from Riccardo Freda and Vittorio Gassman to Luigi Comencini and Leonard Whiting, from Federico Fellini and Donald Sutherland to Ettore Scola and Marcello Mastroianni not to mention Michael Sarrazin (under the direction of "Euro-Cult" stalwart Enzo G. Castellari), Tony Curtis, Richard Chamberlain and all the way down to the recent Lasse Hallstrom-Heath Ledger outing.
The jokes may be old, but the great timing of Bob Hope will keep you laughing throughout this comedy about the great romancer. Keep an eye out for Raymond Burr, who has a small role in the film.
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