My Favorite Brunette is a spoof of the hard-boiled private eye movie and it’s a spoof that actually works. Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour and Peter Lorre all contribute to the success of this thoroughly enjoyable picture.
Ronnie Jackson (Bob Hope) is a baby photographer awaiting execution in San Quentin. He tells his story in flashback with voiceover narration in approved private eye movie style.
Ronnie Jackson didn’t want to be a baby photographer. He wanted to be a hard-boiled private eye. His office is on the same floor as that of private eye Sam McCloud and Jackson is constantly trying to persuade McCloud to take him on as his partner. He tells McCloud that he could be a tough guy PI just like Humphrey Bogart or Dick Powell. Or even Alan Ladd. The joke here being that Sam McCloud is played by Alan Ladd!
Carlotta’s husband has disappeared. Or it may be her uncle. Her story keeps changing. Her story changes so much that Ronnie is inclined to believe that she’s crazy, and that’s what everyone seems to be trying to persuade him really is the case. But what if she’s not crazy? What if her story about a secret map, and a kidnapped uncle (or husband) and a nefarious plot to gain control of valuable mineral rights is true?
The reason this movie works so well is that the screenwriters (Edmund Beloin and Jack Rose) and the director (Elliott Nugent) really do understand the private eye genre. The actors understand the genre as well. Even Bob Hope understands how to deliver hard-boiled dialogue. It’s a movie that respects the genre it is spoofing and that’s why the spoof works.
Hope is a delight as the hapless Ronnie Jackson, desperately trying to pretend to be the tough guy that he isn’t. Dorothy Lamour has great fun vamping it up as Carlotta. Peter Lorre of course was equally adept at both comedic and sinister villainous henchmen roles and in this movie he gets to do both, with his usual effortless style. Lon Chaney Jr adds to the fun as the simple-minded sanitarium orderly Willie (clearly spoofing his own most famous role in Of Mice and Men).
There are plenty of movie in-jokes and you won’t be surprised when Bing Crosby turns up in a brief but amusing cameo.
My Favorite Brunette has had numerous DVD releases. The Region 4 release from Passport offers a passably acceptable transfer but there are undoubtedly better versions available.
My Favorite Brunette is a delight from start to finish. Highly recommended.