Comedy

Dorothy Lamour: Closet Smart Alec

Dorothy Lamour does all the grunt work for Bob Hope. Image: eBay
Dorothy Lamour works so Bob Hope can get the credit. Image: eBay

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.

Dorothy Lamour They Got Me Covered
Hope knows Lamour is the smartest person around. Image: demonoid

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.

Lamour, in her Adrian wardrobe and take-charge demeanour. Image:
Lamour, in her Adrian wardrobe and take-charge demeanour. Image: Old Hollywood (tumblr)

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: [puhloo-kuh]  noun, slang
1. an athlete, especially a boxer, lacking in ability, experience, or competitive spirit
2. a stupid, clumsy person

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.

Dorothy Blogathon

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25 thoughts on “Dorothy Lamour: Closet Smart Alec

  1. I saw this last year and I think you summed it up best. Usually Bob Hope is the whole show and this one really would have benefited from a more equal sharing between him and Lamour. She was definitely the best thing in this film!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! You’re spot on about Dot; even in the Road To movies, I’m waiting to see her and not the guys.

    Not to get off-topic, but as for upstaging Bob Hope, have you ever seen his Command Performance skit with Lana Turner? (In the You Tube link below; the skit starts at 5:30 and her zinger is at 6:10)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As much as I love Bob Hope, I always like him better when he has a good leading lady to bounce off of. Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, and Lamour were all top-notch partners, and the movies improved because of it. I’ll keep an eye out for They Got Me Covered.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Hope definitely needs a strong leading lady because he has such a big screen personality. Yes, keep an eye out for this film, but I wouldn’t expect too much from it… It really makes you want to see more of Lamour’s character.

      Like

  4. “G’wan! Waltz, waltz, waltz. See if I care!” I’ve got to see this one! Otto Preminger!!! It sounds like a great jaunt with Lamour showing brains behind that incredible beauty. Hope got to star with Hedy who was also quite a little smarty pants too! Thanks for the suggestions, They Got Me Covered sounds fab. Great Blogathon… Cheers! Joey

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Must confess I’d seen almost nothing starring Lamour until you came up with this blogathon, but am enjoying learning more about her. I’d like to see this one but maybe won’t put it top of my list!;)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve not see this movie, Ruth (What a surprise, eh?) but I have seen enough of her to be able to picture her in the scenes that you’ve highlighted. SHe’s one acress form that time that I would have given anything to meet. Given the mercurial nature of show business, I certainly don’t fault her for hitching her wagon to the “Road to …” series. Still, I wonder what kind of career she might have had if she had gotten off that train at Singapore, the first stop. For that matter, I wonder how successful the rest of the series would have been without her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed. I don’t blame her for embracing the “Road to…” series, and I think that series’ success is as much her doing as it is Hope & Crosby’s.

      Judging by some of the reviews in this blogathon, she might have had a career in film noir, which surprised me.

      Liked by 1 person

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