Monday, July 15, 2013

McNeil's Movie Korner

Welcome once again to "McNeil's Movie Korner," the only place on the "internet" to read about movies you don't care anything about. NEWS FLASH! I emailed McNeil after his recent visit to say we should watch CANCEL MY RESERVATION - Bob Hope's final role as a leading man - next time we get together. McNeil replied: "I don't think I've seen it since it was on the NBC movie of the week way back in the 70s. I can still see Bob holding up a jungle-print bra (a la Mrs. Robinson). I think he's climbing out of a cave? And then it burns? Am I dreaming? Am I having an astral projection?" Friends, I went ahead and watched CANCEL MY RESERVATION, and I can tell you that McNeil was only partially dreaming. Eva Marie Saint and Bob Hope are trapped in a cave, and Bob uses Eva Marie Saint's animal-print bra to fashion a makeshift bow, which he uses to shoot a makeshift flaming arrow out of a hole, attracting the attention of Keenan Wynn and Ralph Bellamy, who are flying over in a helicopter... but WHY, you ask, did I watch CANCEL MY RESERVATION without McNeil? Because McNeil went on: "Maybe it's best to save it up until just before I die, that way I have something to look forward to... like, 'Oh boy, I can't wait til I'm almost dead so I can watch CANCEL MY RESERVATION.' A movie which is appropriate for 'deathbed viewing,' and probably not only because of the title. Is deathbed one word? Why did I put that phrase in quotes? I can't believe I'm still typing..." (A sentiment I have often expressed on the "blog" - a sensation, in fact, that I am experiencing RIGHT NOW. And yet there is no end in sight.) NEWS FLASH! The opening credits of CANCEL MY RESERVATION include "With Anne Archer as Crazy." That's right! Anne Archer's character's name is "Crazy." She's a free-spirited young woman of today! (And only a year later Clint Eastwood directed a movie about a free-spirited young woman named... BREEZY.) As "Crazy" explains her name to Eva Marie Saint, "I pinned it on myself. Until we come together inside, we're all a little crazy." Wise words, "Crazy"! I believe Eva Marie Saint even remarks as much, as she and "Crazy" have some real talk about "women's lib" over coffee and toast. A lot of the movie is played really straight... the talks about "women's lib" and relationships, the murder plot... I noticed in the credits that CANCEL MY RESERVATION is based on a novel by Louis L'Amour - which probably doesn't deserve one of these (!) but there it is anyway. In one of my many books by Bob Hope, I read, "I had planned to produce it with another actor as star, but the deal didn't go through. Then Tom Sarnoff of NBC said, 'Why don't you do BROKEN GUN yourself?' Why not? The script was rewritten, and we shot most of the picture in Carefree, Arizona." That (the rewrite) explains a lot. As straight as it's played, you can feel the anxious presence of Bob Hope's gag writers like invisible creatures from another world, occasionally breaking through the membrane of existence Lovecraft style. In one distasteful instance, Bob obviously took the fellas aside and said, "Hey, there should be a gag where I try to give this kid mouth-to-mouth" (talking about Anne Archer) and they gritted their teeth and buckled down and put it in there, though it's absolutely unnecessary, which made me think of of what McNeil said about Hope's love interest in EIGHT ON THE LAM, and the general information about Hope's "love life" that has been funneled to me over the years by Megan Abbott. Another intrusion into the "reality" of CANCEL MY RESERVATION occurs when Bob imagines being hung in front of a jeering mob that includes Bing Crosby, Johnny Carson, John Wayne and Flip Wilson in cameo appearances. Immediately I thought of two other Hope movies that revolve around Hope being executed or nearly executed: by electric chair in MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE and guillotine in CASANOVA'S BIG NIGHT. And there must be more. Is there a scholarly paper to written about Bob Hope's recurring nightmare of public execution? No. Though it occurs to me this may be another motif that Woody Allen picked up from Hope... God help me, I just keep typing, don't I? CANCEL MY RESERVATION is one of those late films of which Dave Kehr remarked, "There’s none of the fearful, anti-hippie humor that had come to dominate his television specials; instead, he seems to be doing his best to keep up, adapting the point of view of a concerned, confused but not wholly unsympathetic parent." From the same article: "Funny they are not, but these last efforts are unexpectedly moving. Hope does his unflappably professional best to pick his way through a cultural landscape that had irreversibly shifted beneath his feet." And that's the word I kept thinking, too, as I watched Hope work here: "professional." NEWS FLASH! McNeil watched GIDGET GOES HAWAIIAN on TCM yesterday. He reports: "The director of GIDGET GOES HAWAIIAN does the same thing Jerry Lewis does in THE LADIES MAN! Gidget tells a woman on a plane a story that happened only 12 minutes earlier in the movie, and the director replays the scene for the audience to relive (with Gidget providing v/o) - just in case we forgot." I recall that Kent Osborne and I once watched the beginning of THE LADIES MAN together, and the odd editorial choice described by McNeil marked a point of no return for Kent. Here's how Chris Fujiwara puts it in his great Jerry monograph: "Lewis unfolds redundancy for its own sake, as redundancy... The repetition discloses nothing new but only confirms the obsessive nature of Herbert's relation to the scene (and, in a wider sense, the obsessional character that all narrative possesses for Lewis)." Okay! (See also. "See also"? Ha ha ha! Pendarvis, you're a riot! I know nobody's reading this. See also.)