A belated entry for…

Initiated by Shadowplay

“This war’s gonna have a head on it”

Frank Tashlin’s final film as director is a Bob Hope picture, appropriate since Hope gave Tashlin his big break into live-action directing in the first place with Son of Paleface. Tashlin was only 59 when this came out, younger than Hope, but would only live a few more years. It’s a shame to have lost him so young, since his style kept changing with the times – would’ve been a trip to see a Tashlin picture in the 1980’s. From The Girl Can’t Help It to Caprice, Tash’s films have seemed very of-their-time – until this one, which feels stodgy and old-fashioned.

Why is this? My guess is old buddy Bob Hope. The credited writers are responsible for some TV episodes and the goofy crystalline sci-fi flick The Monolith Monsters but this has Hope written all over it. It wants to be a comedy, but it can’t make any jokes at the military’s expense – not in ’68 with Hope a political right-winger who probably spent more time than any other entertainer performing for U.S. troops. It’s more consistent a story than most Tashlin movies but it lacks all the good gags – the best jokes are the couple that Hope makes at the expense of his beloved partner Bing Crosby – and any comic momentum is killed at the end with a dry ten minutes of flag waving. So you could say it fails as a comedy since it pulls so many punches, or more generously, that it’s a light military drama with a bit of humor.

Hope’s buddy Calvin Coolidge Ishamura, played by Mako of Conan the Destroyer and Pacific Heights – the movie is very tolerant of Japanese-Americans, if not Japanese-Japanese.

Makeshift beer fridge:

The premise is simple: the Japs sunk a boat delivering beer to the army/navy base and Hope schemes to recover it, following the tides to find drifts of beer cars which he passes out to friends and hides from others. Not caring much about military matters, I didn’t realize until late that there’s a whole army vs. navy rivalry on the base (or is it two bases?) which would’ve cleared up some mysteries – like friendly, clean-looking (but with spooky eyes) lieutenant Jeffrey Hunter (below with Hope), don’t know if he’s a rival, a superior, or just a buddy. This turned out to be a late film for Jeffrey Hunter (also Jesus in King of Kings) as well – his career was cut short by a fatal stroke the following year.

The other allowable topic for comedy besides beer is girls. The group sends for nurses, imagining a team of sexy young girls arriving on the island, but all they get is a wild-haired Phyllis Diller, my favorite person in the movie. Hope gets a flashback-provoking love interest in the form of Gina Lollobrigida (of Dassin’s The Law), and I already can’t remember what Mylène Demongeot (of those 1960’s Fantomas movies) was doing there.

The new nurses: imagined

The new nurses: actual

Tashlin has to sneak in one line about television – something about reruns, I forget the context, and he manages to close the picture on a Tashlinesque piece of live-action cartoonery, Hope pulling a captured submarine with his rowboat. I assume there’s a metaphor there.

An early blast against the Vietnam war. Well, not TOO early – made at a time when the war had dragged on and people were already enraged about it, but when the mass media hadn’t yet jumped on the anti-war bandwagon. Uses all the stock footage we’ve been seeing for years – guy shot in the head, napalm-burned children running down the street, aerial footage of beautifully-colored bombs destroying the lives of people below – and adds incriminating interviews with soldiers (inside a brothel!), politicians (a general is quoted as saying that “orientals” value human life less than we do) and disillusioned veterans, many of whom are gradually revealed to be amputees.

My favorite bit is when a government source (I can’t remember who, actually) speaks about the origin of the war. North Vietnam was being occupied by France, and shortly after WWII, Ho Chi Minh wrote letters to the U.S. asking for its support in his fight against the evil colonialist French, little guessing that we’d replace the French as his country’s main oppressor twenty years later. Not that I’m taking his side – he sounds like a really crappy guy. Movie won the oscar for best documentary, but the golden globe went to the far safer choice Animals Are Beautiful People.

RK Brigham:

When the film first appeared in 1974, its sympathetic and complicated treatment of average Vietnamese created a sensation. For years, the news media and policymakers had given Americans their only view into the lives of Vietnamese peasants, and that presentation was crude. … Few stories of the war had included such moral statements about the impact of high altitude bombing on civilians. Fewer still had shown that U.S. aerial assaults targeted both North and South Vietnam, that all Vietnamese citizens lived in fear of attacks.

The energy crisis, inflation, rising unemployment, and Watergate led to an almost narcissistic obsession with what the war had done to us. Hearts and Minds challenged that predilection by forcing viewers to consider what the war had done to the Vietnamese. As uncomfortable as it may have been for many Americans, it now seems clear that Hearts and Minds was the first step in coming to terms with a conflict that threatened to destroy the social fabric of the country.

“Let’s see ’em top this on television.”


Sequel to a flick where clueless Bob Hope goes west to make his fortune, kills some Indians and causes some chaos. Now Hope plays his own son, a Harvard-obsessed goofball out to claim his dead dad’s missing wealth and escape town without being scalped by vengeful Indians or the townsfolk, their hands full of I.O.U.s from Hope’s father. More importantly, Frank Tashlin is in charge of his first live-action pic, which he treats like one of his cartoons, paying no respect to laws of reality.



Jane Russell is gold-robbing outlaw Torch by day, nightclub owner and star Mike (?) by night. Straight-arrow do-gooder undercover-lawman Roy Rogers either knows or does not know that they’re the same person. Hope wants nothing to do with Roy, but plots to marry Jane (once he realizes his inheritance amounts to an empty chest) in order to be rich enough to pay his debtors and leave town alive. Torch kidnaps him to get at his loot, his dad’s ol’ prospector friend finds where the actual Paleface loot is hidden (then gets hisself killed by Torch’s badman sidekick), Roy and Trigger do some stunts and sing a song, Jane agrees to marry Bob, and it ends with plenty of unashamed injun-killin’. Who would ask for more?


“That cowboy has no eyelashes”

Just as much cartoon-anarchy as I was promised from the Tashlin book, so I was pleased. Katy found out she doesn’t much care for Bob Hope, and we agreed the story was full of holes, but to please me she said she also liked the cartoony bits and she thinks Roy Rogers is neat but wishes he had eyelashes.


Joke cameo by Cecil DeMille, who was making The Greatest Show on Earth at the time. Looks like the cast of each movie played extras in the other. Jane Russell, returning from the original Paleface, starred in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes the next year. Hawks must’ve seen her in this – she was awesome. This was one of the few times Roy didn’t play “Roy Rogers.” He’d been starring in films for fifteen years, and this was his last (along with horse Trigger, who deservedly won an award for his performance) before moving on to television. Paul Burns (the ol’ prospector) had been in movies since the tender age of 58, appearing in Renoir’s Swamp Water along the way, living just long enough to portray “bum in park (uncredited) in Barefoot in the Park. And handsome baddy Lloyd Corrigan would appear in Tashlin’s followup Marry Me Again before following Roy to TV Land.