Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Boiled Owl

And now I would like to say a few feverishly anticipated words about THE IRON PETTICOAT. Aw, it wasn't so bad! Or maybe that's the whiskey talking. Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn started drinking whiskey early in the movie and I am highly suggestible. First Robert Osborne came on and introduced it. He said that nobody has seen this movie in 40 years, because when the rights reverted to Bob Hope, he locked it up tight. I guess Bob was ashamed of it! Ben Hecht wrote the screenplay, but Bob decided to have his gag writers punch it up Bob Hope style, which made Ben Hecht furious. There was lots of trouble. But I must say that anything I laughed at in the movie bore the distinct mark of having been added by Bob Hope's gag writers. The movie starts with a score that indicates we are about to watch the curtain rise on a turbulent opera. It's heavy! Like Wagner trying to evoke a stormy seascape or something. Katharine Hepburn's Russian accent is somewhere between German and Dracula, with some French thrown in and something else... Spanish? She rolls her r's really expansively. But the minute Bob comes onscreen the energy and pep are palpable. He just breezes in and starts tossing off one-liners, walking in that supremely graceful way of his. He's so relaxed that during a scene with his commanding officer he just swivels back and forth on a chair casually, like a little kid, like he's thinking of something else. I was proud to notice an actual Russian (I think), a guy I recognized - decades younger here! - from Woody Allen's own Russian epic, LOVE AND DEATH. He plays a martial arts expert in THE IRON PETTICOAT. This Russian (I guess) and Bob have a funny fight scene, during which Bob unforgivably breaks character to make a Bing Crosby joke. So that's another Woody Allen/Bob Hope connection, which we collect here. The politics of the film is standard Cold War stuff, except that a porcine anti-communist senator from Alabama is portrayed as a dumb boob. Very early in the movie, Katharine Hepburn is said to be "as sore as a boiled owl," an expression I have heard before, maybe in other old movies, but I still don't get it, not really, a boiled owl, sore, why? What's that? In conclusion, what's the big deal? Who cares? Who cares about anything? Goodbye forever.