An American actor (Arthur Tyler) impersonating an English butler is hired by a nouveau riche woman (Effie Floud) from New Mexico to refine her husband and headstrong daughter (Aggie). The ...
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An American actor (Arthur Tyler) impersonating an English butler is hired by a nouveau riche woman (Effie Floud) from New Mexico to refine her husband and headstrong daughter (Aggie). The complications increase when the town believes Arthur to be an Earl, and President Roosevelt decides to pay a visit.Written by
Erica Schulman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Bob Hope was at the height of his comedy career and reputation when he did FANCY PANTS. Unlike some of the other movies he made in the forties and fifties he actually had a female partner here who matched him as a comedian. Here it was Lucille Ball. Ball and Hope actually proved to be a good pairing.
FANCY PANTS is based on RUGGLES OF RED GAP. Instead of Hope being a genuine butler/valet he is an actor who is playing a butler/valet. Renamed "Humphrey" or Arthur Tyler, Hope is a dreadful actor. His company is performing a ramshackle mystery where he is the villain. The best part of this is Eric Blore as the head of the family, critically wounded in an assassination attempt by "Humphrey" the butler, who shouts out an incomprehensible and accusingly nasty string of words at "Humphrey" ending with the words "DEMNED LYING SCOUNDREL!!" Hope, frightened at being exposed, looks at the other angry cast members and says "He's lying!!".
The cast is hired by a fortune hunter using them to pretend to be his aristocratic family to impress the Flouds and marry their daughter. But the Flouds are not impressed except with "Humphrey" because he tried to overcompensate with his work as a butler when he kept stepping on the "performances" of the others. As a result, Mrs. Floud (Lea Penman) purposely trips him so that he is fired by the fortune hunter (and so Mrs. Floud can hire him).
Despite the suspicions of Mr. Floud (Jack Kirkwood) and daughter Agatha (Ball), Humphrey accompanies the family back to their western estate in the Arizona territory. The territory is looking forward to becoming a new state. Anything that would speed this is encouraged.
It turns out that President Theodore Roosevelt is visiting the territory. The townspeople are excited as it might assist them in pushing for statehood. But there is a misunderstanding: word that Agatha had been pursued by an English lord spread around, and when Humphrey showed up it was assumed he was the Earl of Burnley. The Flouds find they can't disavow this mistake and are forced to treat Humphrey as a potential son-in-law. To add to the natural anger of the Flouds at this error and it's attending problems of stomaching a now arrogant Humphrey, there is the danger from Cart Belknap (Bruce Cabot) a neighbor who has had a kind of understanding with Agatha about eventually marrying her. Everything comes to a head when the President (John Alexander) shows up. For a change Humphrey manages to portray his role perfectly - too perfectly. He boasts too much about his riding abilities, and ends up involved in a fox hunt with the President and the townspeople. To complicate matters, Belknap is double checking "the Earl" and is physically threatening him.
The changes in the script improve it, as the original movie had tedious stretches when nothing was happening to Ruggles and the other characters. There is more unity of actions and Hope's cowardly conniver is quite funny. For example, when he arrives in the west he gets lost and separated from his stagecoach. Suddenly Humphrey refuses to be realistic. Walking through several full puddles and ponds, he convinces himself they are all mirages. There is also a moment when, still believing Humphrey is the perfect butler, Agatha insists he help her fix her hair. Not knowing what to do Humphrey teases her hair upward into a "hive" style, and puts a bird in a cage into the center of it.
The film's structure is smoother even though it does not include the "Gettysburg Address" speech. The cast is quite good especially Hope and Ball, Blore (briefly), Cabot, and John Alexander reprising (this time "legitimately") his "Teddy Roosevelt" from ARSENIC AND OLD LACE.
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