The Bob Hope “Thanks for the Memories” collection features six Hope films made in the 1930s and 1940s. Three of the films, Thanks for the Memory, The Cat and the Canary, and Nothing but the Truth are making their DVD debuts. While the six films are not Hope’s BEST six films, they all are very good and the set features a nice array of extras. My full reviews after the jump:
“Thanks for the Memory” (1938) is titled after what would soon become Hope’s well-known theme song. He plays novelist Steve Merrick who is struggling to complete his book. His wife Anne (Shirley Ross) decides to take a job to help pay the bills. She goes to work for Steve’s publisher who also happens to be her former fiancée who still has a thing for her and wants to get her out of the house. This is the weakest film in the set. It’s a romantic comedy that might have been better suited for William Powell and Myrna Loy. Eddie Anderson, better known as Rochester on the Jack Benny show has a bit part as a janitor.
“The Can and the Canary” (1939) this was a comedy/horror remake of the 1927 silent film of the same name that virtually invented the ‘old dark house’ genre. Ten years after his death, the relatives of Cyrus Norman gather at his estate in the Louisiana Bayou for the reading of his well. These include Hope as Wally Campbell and his frequent co-star Paulette Goddard as Joyce Norman. The will stipulates that if the heir goes insane or dies in the first thirty days, the estate goes to the next person, whose name remains a mystery, setting up the perfect scenario for murder. Rounding out the cast is veteran horror film star George Zucco as Norman ’s lawyer and Gale Sondergaard as the sinister housekeeper.
This is Hope’s first truly great film. He is at his best with the wisecracks and protecting Joyce (in his cowardly way) when she is named the heir. The film works equally well as both a comedy and horror. The old estate is filled with spook-house trappings like painting with the eyes cut out, secret panels, sliding bookcases, etc…It’s also a well done mystery as you try to figure out who is trying to kill Joyce.
“The Ghost Breakers” (1940). Hope and Goddard are back again but playing different characters. Goddard is Mary Carter who inherits an old castle on an island off Cuba . She gets mixed up with Hope who plays crime reporter Lawrence Lawrence who flees Manhattan when he mistakenly thinks he killed a man. Several menacing men, including a young Anthony Quinn, are trying to convince Mary to sell the castle by telling her the place is haunted and that zombies roam the island. Lawrence is determined to find out why they are trying to make her give up the place.
Another fine horror/comedy, Ghost Breakers features a scary (for the time) zombie who tries to kill Lawrence . The only problem with the film is that it’s a long set-up. We don’t actually even get to the castle until the last 25 minutes or so of the film. Willie Best steals almost every scene he is in playing Lawrence ’s valet, Alex, in the typical black stereotype role.
“Nothing but the Truth” (1941) Once again we’ve got Hope, Goddard, and Willie Best back for this comedic farce that served as the inspiration for the Jim Carry film, “Liar, Liar”. Hope is Steve Bennett, a new partner in an investment firm. After a discussion about honesty in business, Hope makes a bet with his partners that he can go 24 hours without telling a lie. He bets the $10,000 given to him by Gwen Saunders (Goddard) who wanted him to invest it to raise more money for a charity. His partners refuse to let Steve out of their site for the day, throwing every sensitive question at him to try and force him to tell a lie. Steve does his best to stick to the truth, no matter how much it hurts. This was Hope and Goddard’s last film together.
“The Road to Morocco” (1942) This was the third in the ‘road film’ series starring Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour and one of the best. Jeff Peters (Crosby) and Orville ‘ Turkey ’ Jackson are a couple of castaways who was ashore in Morocco . Broke, Jeff sells Orville to a rich Arab sheik. Feeling guilty he tries to find Orville only to find him living in the lap of luxury in the palace of Princess Shalmar (Lamour). Orville marries the princess but later tries to get out of the marriage when a seer tells him the prophecy that the Princess’s first husband will die. Once again Anthony Quinn is on hand as the villain Mullay Kasim who wants the Princess for his own.
This film featured everything that made the Road pictures so enjoyable…hysterical performances by Hope and Crosby, the beautiful Dorothy Lamour and wonderful songs like “The Road to Morocco ” which was parodied on an episode of Family Guy.
“The Paleface” (1948) This is generally regarded as one of Hope’s funniest solo films. The timing of his one-liners is spot on throughout. 1940s sex symbol Jane Russell plays Calamity Jane, who is released from prison in exchange for her helping the government find out who is selling guns to the Indians. Hope is “painless” Peter Potter, a correspondence school dentist who poses as Jane’s husband. Potter gains a reputation as a gunslinger when he displays some fancy shooting (courtesy of Jane) which gets him into trouble with the outlaws. The film featured the song “Buttons and Bows” sung by Hope which one an Academy Award for best song.
There are a number of short extras in the set including highlights from the Command Performance Radio show that was broadcast over the Armed Forces Radio to troops in World War II. There’s a short, nineteen-minute film called “Hollywood Victory Caravan” that features Hope and Crosby helping a young lady get to Washington to see his brother who is on leave. There’s also sing-along, trailers, and photo galleries.
Early Hope films like “Caught in the Draft” or “Never Say Die” are better than “Thanks for the Memory” but all in all it’s a great set of Hope comedies.