“I wanted to become a detective, too. It only took brains, courage, and a gun — and I had a gun.”
A baby photographer (Bob Hope) mistaken for a private eye is hired by a desperate young woman (Dorothy Lamour) to help her track down her missing uncle (Frank Puglia), who has been kidnapped by a gang of criminals.
I was pleasantly surprised to revisit this private-eye spoof, which remains my favorite iteration of this unique comedic genre. Hope and Lamour are in fine form, with Hope flinging his characteristically deadpan one-liners (“Nutty as a fruitcake, and with all that beautiful frosting”) left and right, and Lamour remaining appropriately dark and mysterious throughout. It’s especially fun to see iconic character actors such as Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney, Jr. in respectful, meaty supporting roles — ones which pay fitting homage to their on-screen personae. Interestingly, part of what makes this film so successful (as pointed out by one contributor on IMDb) is that the storyline (minus Hope’s one-liners) would probably work just as well if played straight — a sign of its intelligence and ultimate staying power. Excellent use is made of real-life locales in Monterey, California; apparently the mansion where the criminals reside still exists on the town’s touristy 17-mile drive. Watch for the refreshing presence of an Asian-American actress (Jean Fong) in a small but pivotal role as a mother in Chinatown who brings her young son to be photographed by Hope; it’s truly criminal that she wasn’t given any official credit. Available for free viewing on the Internet Archive.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Bob Hope as Ronnie Jackson
- Dorothy Lamour as Carlotta Montay
- Fun supporting performances
- A consistently clever satire of private eye flicks
- Fine use of location shooting (in Monterey, California)
- Refreshing inclusion of an Asian-American woman (Jean Fong) in a non-stereotypical role
- Plenty of humorous dialogue: “I don’t know how much more of this I can take – you’ve had me in hot water so long I feel like a tea bag.”
Yes, as an all-around good show.