Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bob Hope Double Feature

The common complaint from moviegoers these days is that Hollywood is a sequel machine.  Everything is a sequel to something else or a remake or a remake of a remake.  You can hardly go to the multiplex these days without seeing a 2 or 3 or even a 6 after the movie title.  It's much more noticeable these days, but it's been around since the early days of movies.  In the 1930's and 1940's, when movies or the pairing of stars worked, a direct sequel wasn't made.  Instead, another movie was written with the same general formula.  Take the two movies I watched this weekend:  The Cat and the Canary (1939) and The Ghost Breakers (1940).  Both movies star Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard.and both have the same general plot outline.

In The Cat and the Canary, Hope plays radio actor Wally Campbell and Goddard plays young socialite named Joyce Norman.  Joyce's uncle instructed his lawyer to assemble all the Norman heirs at his home in the Louisiana bayou on the tenth anniversary of his death.  The entirety of the uncle's estate is left to Joyce with the caveat if she dies or goes crazy within 30 days, the estate goes to a second heir in a second envelope.  All six of the assembled Normans (and Hope) must spend the night in the creepy mansion.  Of course there are secret passages, things that go bump in the night, and hidden treasure.

In The Ghost Breakers, Hope plays radio actor Lawrence Lawrence and Goddard plays a young socialite named Mary Carter. Mary is the sole heiress of a wealthy family and has just taken possession of her family's castle in Cuba. The castle is supposedly haunted, but Mary wants to spend the nigh there.  Again, things that go bump and hidden treasures.  One interesting thing about this movie is Hope's character is not as cowardly as he usually is.  Very funny and there are some impressive special effects.  Unfortunately, Hope's manservant is a very broad, very bad racial stereotype.

Of the two, I think The Ghost Breakers is the better (and funnier) movie.  Any Hope fan is sure to enjoy them.

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