Ronnie Jackson (Bob Hope) has been tossed in the clink, and not just any prison — he’s at San Quentin and is expecting to soon be executed for murder. A grim outcome for a cheerful man once known for his art as “Ronnie: Baby Photographer.”
Ronnie was a picture-snapper by trade, but he always had an interest in detective work, too. He went so far as to invent a keyhole camera lens for use as a detective spy tool, and to buy a gun. He hoped to get a job with private eye Sam McCloud (Alan Ladd), whose an office was directly across from the photography studio.
Sam wasn’t too enthusiastic about taking on a new partner, but agreed to let Ronnie work the phones while he went off to Chicago on business. Unable to resist the lure of a good mystery, Ronnie decided to take on the case of Carlotta Montay (Dorothy Lamour) without Sam’s approval. Clearly, this led to trouble, since he’s now stuck in San Quentin. But what exactly happened?
To find out, you’ll have to watch My Favorite Brunette, a tale of lies, crime, and uranium mines. The film was directed by Elliot Nugent, written for the screen by Edmund Beloin and Jack Rose.
My Favorite Brunette is a film that’s a ton of fun to watch, with a sleuthy-but-humorous tone and an unusual collection of cast members. Our leads are Dorothy Lamour, glamorous as ever, and jokester Bob Hope. They starred together in quite a large number of pictures, and I’d consider this a win for the two as a screen pair. The film also features supporting performances by a bevy of great actors, Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney, Jr. among them. They’re a delightful bunch to spend an hour and a half with.
Dorothy Lamour’s performance in particular is great — and I’m not just saying that because this film was reviewed for a blogathon honoring the actress! Yes, she gets to sing and wear a few gorgeous costumes, but she’s also the driving force of the film’s central mystery. She adds both tension and humor to the film as Carlotta. Dot’s portrayal is suspicious and frightened, but also witty.
The character is a clear parody of the femme fatale, which Lamour pulls off perfectly. She has a put-on, very serious tone which makes the film funnier, offering an on-the-nose laugh at the expense of a character trope.
There’s mystery-comedy, often blending mystery and screwball in the vein of The Thin Man series, and then there’s mystery-parody, which I would consider this film to be a great example of. Beyond Lamour’s performance alone, it exaggerates all that is familiar about the mystery and noir genres, from the flashback structure to Bob Hope’s constant narration. There is some slapstick humor incorporated, too — a bit on the silly side, but very typical of Bob Hope films, and more fun than usual when he’s working opposite Peter Lorre and Chaney, Jr.
My Favorite Brunette is a very enjoyable film — perhaps not Lamour’s most memorable, but a great watch for fans of the actress!