Fancy Pants (1950) Poster


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Belly Laughs
bkoganbing10 February 2008
Fancy Pants is a musical comedy remake of Ruggles of Red Gap in which Charles Laughton had one of his best roles in the 1935 version that was directed by Leo McCarey. To say that Bob Hope's interpretation of the English butler who went west is different from Laughton's is the difference from porterhouse steak to hog's livers to use one of old Ski nose's favorite expressions.

Not that Fancy Pants is bad, in fact it's very funny and definitely the best of the four films that Bob Hope made with Lucille Ball. Ruggles of Red Gap was funny, but it was also whimsical and dramatic in spots and it was about a shy and proper English butler who adjusts to the new environment in America he finds himself and in the process makes some real friends.

To begin with Hope isn't a butler, he's an actor and a clod of an actor who has the knack for spilling all kinds of liquid on fellow player Norma Varden. The whole company is hired by a guy who was posing as titled nobility to woo wealthy American Lucille Ball.

Unlike a lot of Hope's leading ladies, Lucy gets her innings, especially playing this Calamity Jane type. She and mother Lea Penman are touring the continent and Penman decides Hope is just the guy to put a little refinement into their home and incidentally make them the envy of their small New Mexico town.

One thing leads to another and Hope winds up having to pose as nobility himself when the townspeople are misinformed and President Theodore Roosevelt comes to town for a visit. That doesn't sit well with Bruce Cabot who has designs on Lucy.

John Alexander who was 'Theodore Roosevelt' in Arsenic and Old Lace gets a chance to play him for real in Fancy Pants. His scenes with 'Earl' Hope are classic. I also liked Eric Blore who played the unintelligible 'Earl' in Hope's repertoire company.

Though director George Marshall and stars Hope and Ball go for belly laughs rather than some wry chuckles, Fancy Pants holds up very well after almost 60 years. But if you are looking for Hope to try and out do Mr. Laughton, than don't bother with it.
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An improved version of RUGGLES OF RED GAP?
theowinthrop20 May 2006
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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Hope and Ball show how to make an entertaining movie
lonniebealeusa16 May 2002
Made over fifty years ago and still a treat to watch. A wonderful campy performance by Bob Hope,posing an an english Lord and Lucille Ball as a real tough western cowgirl really make this movie a lot of fun. Not to be missed is Bob as the english Lord describing his army exploits at a party.Bruce Cabot playing his usual bad tough guy keeps the movie on an even keel,but the laughs still come thick and fast mainly through Hope's attempt at an english accent. The one disappointing aspect was the finale,which seemed flat and made me wonder if the writers just couldn't be bothered with coming up with any more good lines. The late'40's and '50's were good film years for Hope and this movie shows why audiences kept coming back for more.
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Good news / bad news
vincentlynch-moonoi9 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The good news is that this is the type of role that Bob Hope usually excelled in playing. It's not exactly his "coward" role, with which he could run away with a picture. But it's close -- in this case a British actor portraying a British servant, playing a British earl...this time a somewhat cowardly braggart. There's nothing wrong with Hope's performance here.

And then there's Lucy, playing an American Western woman looking for a husband. As with Hope, it's a good performance.

And, Bob and Lucy always were good together...and were here.

So what's the problem? Well, many stories need a set up to get going. But the set up for this story lasts about 40 minutes, and that set up is only moderately entertaining. Once the Westerners mistake Hope's character for an earl, things pick up and the film gets relatively entertaining.

It's also a rather lush production with high production values.

The supporting cast here does okay...with the emphasis on "okay". Bruce Cabot wants to be Lucy's love interest, but of course Hope is in the way; Cabot was, in my view, a marginal supporting actor, although he often looked right for his parts. Jack Kirkwood plays Lucy's father; again, he does "okay". Lea Penman does fairly well as Lucy's overbearing mother. Clearly the studio wanted to save money here -- the supporting actors are largely unknown to the American audience.

What I find interesting here is the wide division between reviews here. People either love this film or hate it. I'm more in the middle.

BTW, this is somewhat of a musical. The songs sorta work, but it's pretty clear that Lucy is lip-syncing (to Annette Warren singing).

Chase scenes can be funny...but 3 chase scenes in a row is a bit much.

I'll give this film a weak "7"
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Greatest comedy ever!
Kittiana13 August 2004
This has to be one of the most memorable and funny movies I've ever seen! (and I have seen many many movies) I wasn't sure if Lucille Ball would be as hilarious as she was in "I Love Lucy" but I was wrong. She had the same sense of humor all the way through as she did in her hit TV show. She is a remarkable actress and never fails to be funny as you'll see in this movie! Bob Hope & Lucille Ball work wonderfully together, most entertaining pair ever. It is a shame they weren't in much movies together. Anyways, hurry up & see this. I swear you'll love it to bits and pieces, and you might even end up falling out of your seat laughing. (like me!)
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Bob Hope and Lucille Ball romp in the West
SimonJack16 July 2016
Bob Hope and Lucille Ball were at the top of their careers when they made "Fancy Pants" in 1950. Both would stay at the top for three more decades. In this film, the two are joined by a supporting cast of several long-time performers for what appears to be a rollicking fun time with the process.

Hope plays an actor (Arthur Tyler) who plays a butler (Humphrey) who plays an English nobleman (the Earl of Brinstead). Ball plays Agie Floud, a wealthy young American Westerner. Joining the fun are Bruce Cabot as Cart Belknap, Jack Kirkwood as Mike Floud, Lea Penman as Effie Floud, Eric Blore as Sir Wimbley, and John Alexander as Teddy Roosevelt.

The movie is a hoot as the plot moves from a theater stage in London, to a train across America, to the Floud's hometown in the American Southwest. This comedy has a nice mix of funny lines, slapstick accidents, and silly to hilarious situations. It's a light piece of entertainment that the whole family should enjoy.
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Doesn't hold til the end.
Spuzzlightyear13 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Fairly tame Bob Hope and Lucille Ball vehicle here which starts out strongly then sort of arfs to a conclusion. Bob Hope is an actor who makes a living doing gawdawful English plays. When a young English man is trying to woo a American girl (played by Lucille Ball) he tricks her and her mother to come to his house for tea and meet his family, but it's not really his family you see, he has hired the actors of the English play to be his relatives! (Watch for the old guy playing the Father, he gives one hilarious unintelligible Cockney rant). The girl and Mother aren't impressed by the suitor, but they ARE impressed by Hope's Butlering, so he joins them in their homestead in America. But Ball's problems aren't over! There's another suitor, so Ball makes Hope a Duke from England who is another suitor.. Soon, all heck breaks out with fights, horse races, and uh, Teddy Roosevelt mixed up in there. While this movie DOES have a lot of heart, and is sure fun to watch Hope and Ball in action, the film sort of loses it in the final act, which is a shame, because I found myself laughing quite a bit during this movie (Hope's "3 against a 1000" story is classic), it's stupid ending doesn't really help much either, what was that all about?
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It's okay.
MartinHafer24 April 2017
"Fancy Pants" is a reworking of the story from "Ruggles of Red Gap", though I strongly advise you to try to find this film (particularly the version starring Charles Laughton) instead. In no way is this film the equal to "Ruggles".

When the film begins, Bob Hope is an American actor who specialized in playing Butlers in British plays. Well, some Americans from the west convince him to return with them to Wyoming and be their classy Gentleman's Gentleman. Not wanting to disappoint the nouveaux rich (after all, they do have money), the follows. However, later the locals think that he's an Earl and suddenly he's no longer the hired help but the special house guest of this family. Soon, the President himself is traveling their way...and he, too, would love to meet the Earl.

The film is just okay...and in every way the earlier films are better. Instead of being sweet, this Hope film is kooky and a bit silly...but nothing more.

By the way, this film represents the biggest waste of Eric Blore in film history. See the'll see what I mean.
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"How often do you have to wind him up?"
classicsoncall11 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
By the time this film came out, Bob Hope's name would have been a household word, which along with the plot device, might have been the reason he was introduced in the opening credits as Mr. Robert Hope (formerly Bob). Lucy's household name status was still a few years off even though she had a considerable resume by this time with over eighty movie appearances, though many of them bit parts and uncredited. The only time I ever saw them work together would have been on one of the old Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, so catching them in this sixty five year old film was something of a treat. They actually had a decent chemistry here amid the myriad of jokes and pratfalls.

Based on the earlier "Ruggles of Red Gap" series of films, it's pretty safe to say that Hope is no Charles Laughton, who lent an air of wit and sophistication to his version of the character in the 1935 movie. In this picture, Hope's character is an actor named Arthur Tyler, transplanted to the New Mexico territory of 1905 by a would be socialite in order to impress her neighbors. Effie Floud's (Lea Penman) daughter is Aggie, portrayed by Lucille Ball, in a characterization that comes fairly close to her zany Lucy Ricardo of 'I Love Lucy' fame.

The picture routinely uses the names from the Laughton movie, the Flouds are still the Flouds, but variations like Brinstead replace Burnstead, and of course there was no Humphrey in the earlier picture, the first name we come to associate with Hope in the picture. Here he has a nemesis in the way of Cart Belknap (Bruce Cabot), Aggie's fiancé and a major thorn in Humphrey/Tyler's side. During an era when political correctness was all but unheard of, the appearance of characters like Wampum the kitchen hand and Wong the cook often tend to embarrass, but more so for their acting then their actual roles.

Fans of Hope and Ms. Ball will certainly want to catch their camaraderie here. It's an entertaining picture with a fair share of laughs, and if nothing else, you'll wonder how they ever came up with that bird cage hair-do for Lucy, I mean Aggie.
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tedg20 May 2005
Lucy was one of the most gifted comedians to live: her gift was physical skits that ridiculed herself. Bob was similarly gifted, but his gift was the spoken joke. Neither was particularly well suited for the long form farce, which is what this is.

It is part western, part musical (three numbers) and part romantic comedy. No element of it works. In its day, it was considered a stinker and it still is. Hope's one enjoyable bit was a hide and seek dance with someone who is chasing him. They are back to back but no matter where they look, it is not the right place. I first saw Hope do this in "Star Spangled Rhythm," and I suppose it became something of a trademark over the years.

Lucy at this time was in negotiations for her TeeVee show, which WAS well suited for her talents — and became the most popular show in history.

I'll advise you to stay away from this if you are a Lucy fan. I knew it would be bad, but it is on my list to watch because of the plot device. Bob, an actor, plays a guy who is an actor playing a butler who pretends to be an English lord. All this playing is set in a clearly faux western, and needs to be seen in the context of "Annie Get your Gun" of the same year, which is a western show about a western show.

Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
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Hey fancy pants-you're a pussyfooting critter.
Spikeopath9 May 2011
Fancy Pants is directed by George Marshall and adapted from the Harry Leon Wilson story by Edmund L. Hartmann & Robert O'Brien. It stars Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Bruce Cabot, Jack Kirkwood and Lea Penman. A Technicolor production, it's scored by Van Cleave and cinematography is by Charles Lang. Plot is a reworking of Ruggles of Red Gap, which was made into a successful film in 1935, directed by Leo McCarey and starring Charles Laughton. This take finds Bob Hope as a low grade American stage actor who gets hired by a Western family in the hope that his refined manner will rub off on the more rough and tumble members of the family. Finds start to spiral out of control when the town mistake him for a noble lord, bringing the attention of one president Teddy Roosevelt, who plans a visit to the family home. Not only that, but Hope has to contend with town bully Bruce Cabot, who is convinced that Hope is trying to steal his girl, Lucille Ball.

Bright and bubbly comedy musical fare, played purely for laughs and given a good quality production. Hope and Ball featured together in a total of five film's, their chemistry a winning formula, even if the material wasn't always that beneficial to their respective comedy leanings. Fancy Pants is one of the better ones, but it's bookended by indifference. The start is laborious, and not really setting the standard for what is to come, but once we land in the Wild West it not only lets Hope shine, but also it brings into play Kirkwood and Cabot (excellent). Then it's a case of letting Hope ponce about as a noble butler/Lord, while Ball and Kirkwood plot to have his nuisance self sent packing back to England. It's during this meaty middle section that we get some genuine laugh out loud moments, briskly constructed by Marshall and scripted as sharp as a razor. We even have time for a couple of tunes, with the quite wonderful "Home Cookin" the stand out. Sadly the ending lacks impact and comes all too quickly, which is doubly disappointing since the big build up was great fun.

A good but not great Bob Hope film as a whole, but when it's good it's very good and therefore easily recommended to the comedy classic fan. 6.5/10
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One of the Very Best Comedies Ever Made!
shominy-491-65235520 August 2016
We have been enjoying this classic movie, "Fancy Pants," for years and never tire of it! Bob Hope is an absolute riot! Almost every single line by Bob Hope (the fake Humphrey the butler) is quotable and hilarious! We would love to list our favorite "Humphrey"/Bob lines here but there are too many to list! This is our favorite Lucille Ball movie (besides "The Long, Long Trailer") and one of our very, very favorite Bob Hope movies (besides "The Lemon Drop Kid" and "The Princess and The Pirate"). Many movies have forgettable soundtracks but the three songs in this movie are memorable, clever, fun, get your feet tapping and put a smile on your face! We cannot find one fault in this entire movie (except we sincerely hope all the animals were treated humanely during filming). If you've had a bad day, this movie will definitely put a smile on your face and give you plenty of belly laughs! This film deserves 20 stars!
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Lame Comedy
kenjha3 September 2008
A rich American woman hires a British butler and brings him to New Mexico unaware that he's an American actor. A disappointing remake of "Ruggles of Red Gap," given the potentially potent teaming of Hope and Ball. The first segment of the film that takes place in Britain is so lame that it doesn't even elicit a chuckle. Once the action moves to New Mexico, there are a few laughs but the comedy is still labored. The funniest bit has to do with dogs chasing Hope instead of the fox during a fox hunt. Hope and Ball seem to be trying but the script is a dud. Alexander, who imagined he was Teddy Roosevelt in "Arsenic and Old Lace," plays the president here.
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