Bob Hope: Legends of Hollywood – DVD Review

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Have you ever come down with a bad case of Bob Hope fever? That feeling that you need to see a movie with lots of quips and hammy content? In the glory days of independent TV stations, Bob Hope movies were a staple of afternoons and night owl theaters. No matter what time, there was a chance you’d see Bob swapping corny lines with Bing Crosby or Phyllis Diller. But now where does one go to get their fix of Old Ski Nose? Bob Hope: Legends of Hollywood packages together 10 of Bob’s films at a low price.

My Favorite Brunette (1947 – 87 minutes) plays off Bob’s My Favorite Blonde, but this is not a sequel to the comic spy thriller. Brunette opens with Bob on San Quentin’s death row. How did a baby photographer get into such trouble? He was watching a private detective’s office when a mysterious woman (Dorothy Lamour) arrived with an offer he can’t refuse. Hope must tackle Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney Jr to solve the case.

The Great Lover (1949 – 80 minutes) gives us Hope as a scoutmaster who isn’t a great role model to the boys. He lies about being a millionaire to get into a Poker game on an ocean liner. What he doesn’t know is that one of the players is a murderer.

The Lemon Drop Kid (1951 – 91 minutes) is one of Hope’s best films. The story is from Damon Runyon so it already has a foot up on the material Bob usually used for his scripts. Bob gives a horse tip to a mobster’s girlfriend that goes bad. The mobster wants Bob to fork up the money that would have been won. Can Bob come up with a scheme to collect the fat cash or will he be buried under the track?

Son of Paleface (1952) is the sequel to Paleface. Bob returns to a small western town to claim his father’s legacy. What he doesn’t realize is that dad owed debts to most of the town. The Harvard graduate son uses his brain to out scheme the locals and keep his neck out of a noose. Jane Russell leads a double life as Bob attempts to impress her with his red “H.” Roy Rogers and Trigger play undercover agents out to bust an outlaw gang.

Road to Rio (1947 – 110 minutes) and Road to Bali (1952 – 91 minutes) are part of Bob and Bing Crosby’s classic series of traveling comedies.

Here is my review these two films when they were released on HD-DVD. Both are great fun.

The Seven Little Foyss (1955 -93 minutes) is a bio-pic of vaudevillian Eddie Foy and his family. James Cagney revives his role of George M. Cohan from Yankee Doodle Dandy. It almost seems like Hope was thinking this might finally be his Oscar bait. But it’s nomination was for Best script. As Bob Hope would say,

Paris Holiday (1958) has two major reasons to watch: Anita Ekberg. Vavoom! The movie has Bob marked for death by a European counterfeiting operation. But who cares about that? It’s all about watching Anita (star of La Dolce Vita) in her prime.

Private Navy of Sgt. O Farrell (1968 – 92 minutes) gets my attention since it was directed by Frank Tashlin. However this isn’t quite up to his usual comic standards. Bob is completely miscast in this film that plays like a lost episode of McHale’s Navy. He’s just too damn old to be in the military without being a senior officer. Not even Phyllis Diller as a nurse can save it. This is the only pure clunker in the boxset.

How to Commit Marriage (1969) is a brilliant cinematic mess as it tries to be a hip and now comedy. The film opens with Bob and Jane Wyman getting a divorce, but they keep it quiet since their daughter’s engaged. They don’t want to bust her illusions about marriage being forever. Her fiancĂ©’s dad is Jackie Gleason, a big time music producer of noisy teen bands. The kids join one of Jackie’s bands, the Comfortable Chair, and fall under the teachings of Indian mystic Baba Ziba (Professor Irwin Corey). The weirdness takes over fast. The comedy hits its high point when Gleason golfs with a chimp. Those offended by the trailer to Mike Myers’ Love Guru will be horrified by the Indian impersonations in Commit. Bob hijacks the Baba’s personal appearance to reach his daughter. The Comfortable Chairs were a real band from the California music scene. They were discovered by the Doors. Unfortunately their music career didn’t survive this film. How to Commit Marriage is pure cheese that shouldn’t be watched sober.

Bob Hope: Legends of Hollywood is enough of the comic icon for the average rabid movie fan. This boxset has quite a few of his best films (The Lemon Drop Kid, My Favorite Brunette) along with a stinker (Private Navy of Sgt. O Farrell). If you have a strange craving for Bob, you’ll be quite pleased with this mix.

Most of the films are 1.33:1. The transfers vary in quality. The Road films, My Favorite Brunette and Son of Pale Face look the best since they are from HD transfers. Paris Holiday is a pan and scan transfer that appears to be from a redshifted print. How to Commit Marriage is pan and scanned off a 1.85:1 print. The pan and scans don’t seem to matter too much. Who watches a Bob Hope film for frame composition? The audio is mono with good levels.

Bob Hope Biography is a short text essay about him.

Bob Hope: Legends of Hollywood reminds us that his career was more than lame TV specials and hosting the Oscars. There are enough of his better films to make this a perfect set for the casual fan.

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BCI presents Bob Hope: Legends of Hollywood. Starring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Jackie Gleason. Ten films on five DVDs. Not Rated Released on DVD: April 8, 2008.

Available at Amazon.com.