The hijinks (our April theme of the month) continue with My Favorite Spy!
PAUSE IT: What do you see? Behold the man, the myth, the legend: Bob Hope in My Favorite Spy (1951). Standing in front of a life-size pull-down painting of a well dressed man, he appears just as miffed at what he sees as we are. Provoking our laughter is Hope’s realization that the image before him is of himself (or rather, his better self).
Since we haven’t gotten the opportunity to discuss the craft of screen acting yet, allow us here to discuss one of Hollywood’s true legends. What do you think of when you hear the name Bob Hope? Is it his comic timing? His voice? His profile? Taken altogether, the elements that make up a movie star’s image, what we firstly and lastly recall about them — their look, their manner, and the types of roles they tend to play — make up what is called their screen persona. A persona differs from a personality in that it is a more exaggerated, more affected, and more constructed presentation of character. While a personality is often thought of as being somewhat innate to a person, or even immovable, a persona is what an actor chooses to emphasize about themselves and then project out into the world.
In the case of Bob Hope, we know him best as the hammy song and dance man, the self-deprecating Oscars host, and the clumsy but ultimately charming all-american hero. Hope’s sly wit and undeserved bravado let audiences know he was in on the joke. In the face of danger or in the arms of a beautiful co-star, it was exactly the fact that Hope wasn’t (and could never be) Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, or William Powell that made him so relatable. It was exactly this that made the gags funny and kept us laughing for nearly 80 years and over 70 films. Thanks for the memories, Bob.
My Favorite Spy (1951)
Director: Norman Z. McLeod
Cast: Bob Hope, Hedy Lamarr, Francis L. Sullivan
Cinematography by: Victor Milner
Available From Olive Films on DVD and Blu-ray.
April 6, 2017