Well, it’s about time. I’ve been waiting for the DVD release of Bob Hope’s The Cat and the Canary for years and now, finally, it’s available as part of Universal’s “Bob Hope: Thanks for the Memories Collection.” The collection is a six-movie box set which includes 1938’s Thanks for the Memory, 1939’s The Cat and The Canary, 1940’s The Ghost Breakers, 1941’s Nothing but the Truth, 1942’s The Road to Morocco, and 1948’s The Paleface.
The Cat and the Canary is a landmark Hope picture because it is the first time that Bob plays his famous ”fraidy-cat” character on film. I’m not sure why it has taken so long to become available, but as a lifetime Bob Hope fan I’m thrilled to at last have an opportunity to see this picture. That’s the good news. The other good news about this set is that two other previously unavailable Hope films (Thanks for the Memory, Nothing but the Truth) are included as well.
I’m only sorry that Universal opted to include The Road to Morocco, The Ghost Breakers, and The Paleface in this set since those three pictures have been released alone and in other sets for years. It would have been great if they had included three other never-before-released Hope films in this set instead. But, hey, I’m not complaining too hard about it since I’m happy to have the other three rarities and the overall quality of the set is well worth the price. The following descriptions are for those who are not familiar with these six Bob Hope pictures.
Thanks for the Memory (1938): Based on a popular Broadway play, the film re-teams Bob with Shirley Ross, his co-star from The Big Broadcast of 1938. In this one, Bob and Shirley play a young married couple who are having more than their share of troubles. They have a bunch of crazy friends who zip in an out of their apartment. Bob is a novelist who can’t seem to finish his novel. Shirley was a model who was once engaged to a publisher who still carries a torch for her. Money is tight and when the publisher suggests that Shirley come back to work and Bob stay at home to finish his novel it sets their marriage on a downhill slope. Bob plays it pretty straight here. He hasn’t quite found his famous film persona yet.
The Cat and the Canary (1939): This is actually a remake of a silent picture that came out in 1927, and is the original “old dark house” spooky movie. This version teams Bob with Paulette Goddard and made Bob Hope a movie star. It’s a delight to see his screen personally taking shape here and the chemistry with Paulette is perfect. Supporting players Gale Sondergaard, George Zucco, and the rest are terrific. This picture was such a hit that they made a follow-up to it the following year.
The Ghost Breakers (1940): Not really a sequel, but a follow-up to The Cat and the Canary also co-starring Paulette Goddard. This time radio personality Lawrence Lawrence (Hope) is on the run from gangsters. Mary Carter (Goddard) has inherited a haunted Cuban castle. The film also features Willie Best who is nothing short of hilarious as Hope’s side kick.
Nothing but the Truth (1941): Bob plays a stockbroker who takes a bet that he can tell nothing but the truth for twenty four hours. This wager only gets him into trouble with all around him, including his girlfriend, Paulette Goddard. This would be Hope and Goddard’s third time together and it would be the charm. This film is a precursor to Jim Carrey’s Liar, Liar only much funnier.
Road to Morocco (1942): Of all the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope/ Dorothy Lamour road pictures, this is the one that is generally considered the best, and it probably is, although I love them all. On this road we find Bing, Bob, and Dotty in the desert sands. Bing sells Bob into slavery and they’re both after beautiful Lamour. Great songs, wonderful gags, hysterical one-liner jabs, this film has it all. “We’re off on the road to Morocco” and “Moonlight Becomes You” are the highlights among the tunes.
The Paleface (1948): Sharpshooter Calamity Jane (Jane Russell) hooks up with incompetent dentist “Painless” Potter (Bob Hope). Jane is a knockout, Bob is a cowardly schmo, and the picture is great fun. The song “Buttons and Bows” won an Oscar that year. Jane and Bob were perfect together and a sequel was made, Son of Paleface in 1952 with the addition of Roy Rogers and Trigger.
If you are over 50 years old and are not familiar with any of these films, shame on you! If you are under 40 you can be forgiven…maybe. In any case, this set is a must for anyone who enjoys laughing! Thanks for the memories, Bob!