It must have been tricky business to be the leading lady in a Bob Hope movie.
We can assume there were Rules: You must be glamorous. Bob gets the funny lines. Keep eye-rolling to a minimum.
Hope starred with some beautiful and talented actresses, such as Virginia Mayo, Paulette Goddard, and Hedy Lamarr. But his most frequent co-star was Dorothy Lamour, who appeared in several movies with Hope, including all seven Road to… movies.
“I was the happiest and highest-paid straight woman in the business,” said Lamour and, in our opinion, she was worth almost every cent.
We say “almost” because we suspect that underneath her cool, coiffed exterior lurked a Grade-A Smart Alec who deserved more screen time.
Look at her performance in They Got Me Covered (1943), a WWII espionage movie, set in Washington, DC. It has a premise that would make a great thriller: A group of Axis saboteurs are hunting a man (Otto Preminger), who’s giving their secrets to the U.S.
As a comedy, it’s an entertaining flick with some genuinely funny scenes. Hope plays a (surprise!) bumbling reporter, freshly fired from his newspaper because he overlooked the biggest story of the year: the German invasion of Russia. However, his friendship with Preminger’s hunted character draws him into wartime intrigue which – let’s face it – he’s ill-equipped to handle.
Fortunately, he has a smart and capable girlfriend (Lamour), who Takes Charge and Figures Things Out.
Lamour is the ultimate supportive girlfriend. She gets exasperated, but never too exasperated, and always insists Hope is Her Man. Her character is wild about him, although sometimes it’s puzzling to see why.
We’re assuming the Number 1 Rule about being in a movie with Bob Hope is to never upstage him. Lamour seems pretty good about following this rule, except when she doesn’t. This is when she lets her Smart Alec flag fly, and it’s fabulous.
In one glorious scene, Dorothy Lamour shows us how it’s done. She and Hope have gone to a café to ask about Preminger’s whereabouts. When a woman approaches Hope and says she wishes to speak to him, um, alone, Hope rudely declares he doesn’t know Lamour – even though she’s sitting Right There.
Lamour decides to publicly humiliate Hope for this slight. As she pushes her chair back, she smirks a little, in a way we don’t see usually see her smirk. When she stands up, she’s morphed into a gangster’s moll, complete with accent and In-Your-Face! attitude.
“OK, you third-rate palooka*,” she sneers at Hope. “So you’re gonna do a fade, huh? Do a walk-out part, are ya? G’wan! Waltz, waltz, waltz. See if I care!”
It makes us wish the movie had been about this sharp, mouthy character instead of Hope’s chronic ineptness.
In another scene, Lamour is sitting at the bar, downing a hard-liquor drink, when she sees Hope with Another Woman. Hope looks completely smitten, while Lamour looks utterly crushed. Just then a musician interrupts Lamour and asks if she has any musical requests. Her reply is tart: “Yes. Do you have a tune to fit a murder?”
You won’t find They Got Me Covered in any Top Film Lists of 1943, and that may be for good reason. While it is worth a watch, it leaves you wanting more of the Smart Alec Dorothy Lamour.
*Palooka: [puh–loo-kuh] , slang
They Got Me Covered: starring Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Otto Preminger. Directed by David Butler. Written by Harry Kurnitz. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1943, B&W, 94 mins.
This post is part of The Dot Blogathon hosted by yours truly and Font and Frock. Click HERE to see all the fab entries.