Created by Edmund Beloin and Jack Rose
“You see, I wanted to be a detective, too. It only took brains, courage, and a gun…and I had the gun.”
— Ronnie Jackson
For any baby boomers or gen Xers out there who grew up in the sixties and seventies, Bob Hope is mostly remembered as a smarmy “insert name of current president in this joke” but safe kinda comedian, touring some war zone or another to “entertain” the troops (golf clubs and obligatory bimbo props in tow), or schmoozing on some TV special with similar relics from our parents’ generation. Which is why My Favorite Brunette, made way back in 1947, before most of us were even born, is such a revelation. And a treat!
Who would think Bob Hope could ever star in something this cutting and funny? Or even… hip?
Right in the middle of all those classic hard-boiled private eye films and dark and nasty B-flick noirs, this must have come as some sort of cool breeze. This highly-entertain spoof, in true noir fashion, is all told in a flashback, as bumbling and disillusioned baby photographer and P.I. wannabe RONNIE JACKSON, facing a murder rap, biding his time on San Quentin’s Death Row, is interviewed by reporters.
Bored with snapping photos of crying kids, Ronnie confesses that “All my life, I’ve wanted to be a hard-boiled detective like Humphrey Bogart or Dick Powell — or even Alan Ladd.”
He gets his chance (and more than he bargained for) when the private investigator in the office next to his, Sam McCloud (played by Alan Ladd himself), is called out of town, and asks Ronnie to watch the office. He’s only supposed to answer the phone, but it doesn’t take long for Ronnie to step into Sam’s gumshoes, taking on a case for the mysterious femme fatale Baroness Montay (Dorothy Lamour), who wants Jackson to find her missing husband. There ensues a confusing, cockeyed caper full of double and triple crosses, gloomy mansions, evil doctors, deadly villians, hulking thugs, and more double crosses, with every plot twist skewering thriller clichés.
Smart gags and dead-on performances make this one of the all-time great parodies of the hard-boiled detective film. It’s full of wisecracks, wink-wink in-jokes and screwball spoofs. The cast is first-rate, top-loaded with Peter Lorre, Lon Chaney Jr., and Charles Dingle as the bad guys, Lamour as the babe, and Ladd and Bing Crosby (“He’ll take any kind of part!”) making small but hilarious appearances.
Highly recommended, and a revelation to those who grew up in the sixties and seventies and Hope was past his prime, and coasting through endless talk show appearances and “specials,” featuring guests and jokes all apparently aimed at our parents.
- “Huh! Gas! You don’t even have electricity!”
— Ronnie complains, after glimpsing San Quentin’s death chamber.
- “Uh oh, her schizo’s about to phrenia!”
- Carlotta Montay: I’m at my wit’s end!
Ronnie: I passed there an hour ago.
- “A devastating parody of the hard-boiled detective, neatly puncturing every tried-and-true aspect of the genre before the corpse is even cold”
— Ken Hanke, Scarlet Street
- MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE | Buy this video | Buy this DVD | Buy the Blu-Ray | Watch it now!
87 minutes, black and white
Written by Edmund Beloin and Jack Rose
Directed by Elliott Nugent
Produced by Daniel Dare
Costumes by Edith Head
Starring Bob Hope as RONNIE JACKSON
Also starring Dorothy Lamour, Peter Lorre, Lon Chaney Jr., John Hoyt, Charles Dingle, Reginald Denny, Frank Puglia, Ann Doran, Willard Robertson, Jack La Rue, Charles Arnt
THE DICK OF THE DAY
- April 22, 2023
The Bottom Line: Baby photographer Bob Hope as a private eye by accident in a 1947 comedy that’s still one of the funniest, most spot-on spoofs of the Shamus Game ever.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.