In thinking about Bob Hope’s film career it occurred to us that the comedian, unlike almost all film comics, starred opposite some of the most alluring women of his day.
Hello Everybody, Joe Morella and Frank Segers here again beginning of new week of classic movie chat. Today we were discussing Joe’s book on Bob Hope which he co-authored with Ed Epstein and Eleanor Clark.
In his early films Hope seemed to be following the usual pattern– cast opposite another comic, such as Martha Raye, but after 1942’s “My Favorite Blonde” all of Hope’s leading ladies were stars with sex appeal, sometimes sizzling sex appeal. We wonder: how exactly did that happen?
Even before “Blonde” the comedian had been paired with beauties such as Paulette Goddard and Vera Zorina (and of course Dorothy Lamour). Not to mention that “Blonde” — which had Hope and a trained penguin caught up in an espionage ring –featured the woman pictured above , certainly a beauty in her own right.
After “Blonde” Hope insisted that he continue to be be cast opposite top notch romantic leading ladies. His home studio, Paramount Pictures, obliged. No wonder his films continued to be big hits.
OK, today’s photo shows Hope with his favorite blonde. (There’s a hint you could drive a truck through.) Can you identify her?
Each Monday for the next few weeks we’ll discuss Bob Hope’s on-screen lovers. And along with you we shall try to figure out how and why the comedian was able to lure such beautiful females into his comedic lair.
Was it Hope’s sex appeal? We don’t think so. Was it because so many movie sexpots secretly longed to do lighter movie fare with the reigning comedian of his time? Perhaps? Or, was it purely a matter of studio commercial mandate — that is, Hope’s movies made money?
We’d welcome your thoughts, of course. In the meantime here are some hints we collected from the writings and great thoughts of two of Hope’s sexiest costars — Jane Russell and Hedy Lamarr.
In Lamarr’s case, some explaining is in order.
Her ticket to stardom was, of course, her beauty and her exotic European background (she was born in Vienna). Probably her most remembered picture is 1949’s “Samson and Delilah,” director Cecille B. DeMille’s Old Testament extravaganza costarring Victor Mature, George Sanders and Angela Lansbury (as Hedy’s older sister, no less).
The picture was a big hit for Paramount — Hope’s home base — but the studio was more than a little miffed when Hedy declined for financial reasons to go on a tour to promote the Biblical epic.
Cut to a chance meeting a while later between Hope and Lamarr outside her dressing room, as recounted by author Stephen Michael Shearer in his 2010 biography, “Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr:”
Hope to Lamarr: “Say, Hedy, are you available for a picture?”
Lamarr to Hope: “Not here (at Paramount). They hate me here because I wouldn’t do a personal appearance tour for them.”
Hope to Lamarr: “That’s crazy. No red blooded American male could hate you….Do you mind if I talk to (the Paramount brass)?”
A few days later, another meeting:
Hope to Lamarr: “You were right…they hate you. But I’ll fix that.”
And fix it Hope did since he and Lamarr went on to costar in 1951’s espionage spoof, “My Favorite Spy.” In fact, Hedy off camera had a keen sense of humor, loved jokes and very much enjoyed listening to Hope on the radio. He was, you could say, her favorite comedian.
For Russell, working with Hope in 1948’s “The Paleface” was a step up for her. “Paramount was the first ‘family’ lot I’d worked on,” Jane recalled in her autobiography. “It was a big studio with all the executive building and stars dressing rooms circling a little park. My dressing room was next to Bob Hope’s.
“Bob Hope was a ball, another Gemini,” Jane continued. “He’s even funnier off screen than on, and everything’s relaxed except his chocolate eyes, which never stop darting, never missing a thing.” (Hope would later introduce the fully developed Russell as “the two and only.”)
Obviously, beautiful women enjoyed being around Bob Hope. More on this next Monday.