Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tonight's Movie: My Favorite Blonde (1942)

Over the past year I've enjoyed becoming more familiar with the work of actress Madeleine Carroll. Tonight I added another title to the list of Carroll films I've seen with MY FAVORITE BLONDE, a very well-done wartime comedy also starring Bob Hope.

The movie mixes a genuine sense of menace and drama with comedy. Carroll plays Karen Bentley, a British spy who must elude murderous German agents in order to deliver crucial information to the military in Los Angeles. Along the way she hooks up with Larry Haines (Bob Hope), an actor, and they race to stay one step ahead of the Germans. Traveling by plane, train, automobile, and bus, Karen and Larry make their way to California, in what amounts to a different kind of "road" movie for Hope.

The earnest Carroll is the half of the team that keeps the film grounded in reality, while Hope's Larry is funny but relatively restrained. I liked the fact that his performance was fairly low-key and that it was a balanced onscreen relationship. One didn't have the sense Hope was trying to dominate the screen, which I sometimes feel when watching his films. Carroll and Hope worked well together as a screen team.

Two of the funniest moments "break the wall" and remind the viewer of the real world; one such scene, which is extremely amusing, involves Larry hearing Bob Hope on the radio, and the other scene involves a cameo by a...well-known associate of Hope's. But for the most part the humor is grounded in the story.

In some shots the lovely Carroll looks a bit worn compared to her exquisite beauty of just five years before in THE PRISONER OF ZENDA (1937) and ON THE AVENUE (1937). It's speculation on my part, but I wonder if she was drained by loss and wartime concerns. Carroll's sister, Marguerite, was killed in the London Blitz. MY FAVORITE BLONDE would be Carroll's last screen appearance for half a decade. During the war she worked as a Red Cross nurse in field hospitals and donated her home outside Paris to provide shelter for French war orphans. She also coordinated groups in the United States to provide the children with clothing.

Early in 1942 Carroll married Sterling Hayden, whose only pre-war work was in two films starring Carroll, VIRGINIA (1941) and BAHAMA PASSAGE (1941). Hayden served in the OSS during the war. The marriage didn't last much longer than the war, and they divorced in 1946.

The supporting cast includes Gale Sondergaard, George Zucco, Edward Gargan, Walter Kingsford, and Dooley Wilson.

The film has some stylish set designs which give the film a nice look. I particularly liked the train club car, with its sleek chairs and radio set, and there is also an attractive diner. Edith Head's costume designs included a very clever reversible fur coat worn by Carroll.

MY FAVORITE BLONDE was directed by Sidney Lanfield. It runs 78 minutes.

This film is available in a beautiful print on DVD as part of a two-film set along with STAR SPANGLED RHYTHM, released the same year.

This movie has also had a release on VHS.

Additional reviews of films starring Madeleine Carroll: THE 39 STEPS (1935) and HONEYMOON IN BALI (1939).

This is a fun movie which can be enjoyed by the whole family. My 12-year-old laughed out loud several times...he loved the penguin in pajamas and slippers!

January 2021 Update: MY FAVORITE BLONDE will be released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber in March 2021.

March 2021 Update: My review of the new Kino Lorber Blu-ray is here.


Blogger monty said...

Good choice Laura. I have this movie and I love it. It's nice seeing a star doing something out her particular element. Carroll did a great job I thought. In fact I may have to watch it this afternoon, since it has been years when I last saw it. I would love if they would bring out Nothing But The Truth, with Bob and Paulette Goddard on DVD. It's a very funny movie.

5:03 AM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

You've been really popular on Twitter lately...

6:07 AM  
Blogger Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

One of my favorite Hope comedies. (And with an appearance by Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer!)

7:59 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Wow, thanks for that, Raquelle! I noticed I had some referrals from Twitter on my Sitemeter but didn't know how to find the original sources since I'm not on Twitter. I'm going to bookmark those sites.

Glad I was able to check out one of your favorites, Monty and Ivan! Hope you enjoy taking a new look at it, Monty. :)

Best wishes,

11:48 AM  

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