Fourth and last of the Big Broadcast films; these all-star revues had run out of steam sometime before this one was made, but it's of interest for the cast and some high-energy hi-jinx.
Two giant steamships are racing across the Atlantic, but don't let that interest you. W.C. Fields and his twin brother (Fields again) own one of the ships, and the brother has sent Bill to sabotage the race. Or something like that. Fields (absent from the screen for two years due to illness) does his golf routine AND his pool routine in what was to be his last starring Paramount feature.
In his FIRST Paramount feature (and his feature debut, in fact) is Bob Hope, who got the part when Jack Benny turned it down. That gave Bob the chance to do the film's signature tune, Thanks for the Memory. Bob is trying to make up with his ex-wife Shirley Ross, but for heaven's sake, he should be chasing beautiful young Dorothy Lamour, it seems to me.
The film closes with a long musical number about a waltz that features dancers doing the Charleston. There's a cartoon musical sequence (thanks, Leon Schlesinger), a strange woman who wants to sing "Way Down South in Dixie" (Bob: "What time does your bus leave?"), a lady in a Viking get up singing opera, and Martha Raye doing her shtick. I kinda liked the Viking lady.
An okay movie, but not if you compare it with most other films Fields or Hope did.
The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938) Dir. Mitchell Leisen
I've been reading Richard Zoglin's much-lauded (and rightly so) warts-and-all bio of Bob Hope, and got to his first film, so thought, why the heck not?
Here's what's new I can bring to the table:
- The "strange lady" who wanted to sing was Honey Chile, one of Bob's radio sidekicks.
- Bob also performed on radio with Shep Fields and his Rippling Rhythm Orchestra, who appear in the cartoon segment here. Apparently, Paramount was trying to make Leslie T. Hope comfy in his first feature.
- Mr. Fields was not interested in being directed by Mr. Leisen, nor in sticking to any script written by anybody. Leisen gave up, didn't direct the Fields sequences, and had a heart attack that he blamed on Bill shortly after filming.
- The "Memory" song was performed live, with an orchestra off-camera, to make it warmer and more spontaneous, and is one of the great moments in movie romance, I should think.
- It's a very good book.
- Fields, off-screen for a long time, trotted out a golf routine and a pool scene, and who can blame him? And with his patter, both are hilarious.
- 'Dead End' Kid alert: Dr. Bernard Punsly is one of the caddies.
- Mr. Hope would, of course, go on to make one or two more films with Miss Lamour and Miss Raye. By the way, I like Martha, she's funny and pretty and brash. She plays Fields' daughter, and he mistakes a wide-mouth bass for her at one point in the proceedings.
Told that the first tee is 420 yards: "Hand me my putter."
After teeing off and then zipping down the fairway in his rocket-powered golf cart: "Where's the ball?"
Caddy: "It hasn't gotten here yet."
Fields, bragging of his prowess: "I can lick my weight in wildflowers."
Guess who: "Meet me down at the bar. We'll drink breakfast together."
Not a great movie (hardly) but the song (an Oscar winner) and Uncle Bill make it well worth watching.