The Road to Comedy: The Films of Bob Hope
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Although Bob Hope has been the subject of many biographies, no book yet has fully explored the comic persona he created in vaudeville and radio, brought to fruition in dozens of films from the 1930s through the 1960s, and made a lasting influence on comedians from Woody Allen to Conan O'Brien. Now, in The Road to Comedy: The Films of Bob Hope, noted film comedy authority Donald W. McCaffrey finally places Hope in his well-deserved position among the highest rank of film comedians of his era. Drawing on archival materials and interviews with collaborators, McCaffrey analyzes each major film in depth, with due attention to particular sequences that reveal how Hope created a unique comic personality that lasted over dozens of very popular films, from the Road movies with Bing Crosby through such underrated classics as Son of Paleface, Monsieur Beaucaire, and Casanova's Big Night.
In so doing, McCaffrey introduces readers to a Bob Hope now overshadowed by his own reputation. We see here that Hope's significance has been greater than any USO appearance or television special might suggest. Because many of these movies have recently been made available on DVD―the first time in decades that they've been easily available to the general public―the volume will also serve as an excellent introduction for those wanting to see these films for the first time.
have some of the characteristics of the silent screen and early sound THERE WAS HOPE AND HARTMANN 51 comedy shorts treatment of the visit to the dentist. It certainly seems odd that a visit to what some people might call an "office of pain" could be the subject of amusement. Nevertheless, it is. W. C. Fields, in his 1932 two-reel The Dentist, explored the laughter "comic pain" delivers. Fields enacted, as most know, a type of "off the wall" burlesque of oddball incidents in many of his films.
popular sitcom, The Life of Riley, formed the basic character to complement Hope's Valentine. The lumbering, easily confused character meets the lubricious, excitable one. Some of Bendix's best moments occur when he has trouble comprehending a complicated turn of events. Victor O'Brien, in Where There's Life says with disgruntlement, "What a revoltin' development." It is a stock comic utterance he used in many episodes of the radio and television series, The Life of Riley.3 Bob Hope has a much
life. It is an extremely busy movie, with more action than insight, and a method of exposition that seems to consist mainly of voice-over wisecracks.14 While there is a tendency to blame Hope for this last, 1972 movie that shows a decline in the quality of his films, some of the diminishing effectiveness comes from the writers of the script, Bob Fischer and Arthur Marx. The voice-over narration includes gags that do not give Hope as a TV celebrity enough jokes to sustain such an accounting of
given to him, or he did so if the material didn't work with the audience. This action doesn't respect the playwright and the screenwriter. However, m a n y comedians from vaudeville and the movies worked this way, even Arthur's father, Groucho. One criticism that could be valid from Lawrence Quirk states: Though neglecting his artistic potential, indeed thwarting it at times in favor of his popular persona, he nonetheless parlayed his chutzpah and strong, driving ego and genuine gifts (however,
revue or musical films. He thought his 1939 Some Like It Hot (renamed Rhythm Romance for television and video tape) was a failure. A revisionist view gives the film more credit than he did. He joked about his effort: Some Like It Hot was the rock-bottom point in my movie career. After that one, there was no place to go but up. For years afterward, Bing wouldn't let me forget it. Whenever I started to give him the needle about something, he came back with a rejoinder, something like, "By the way,