I was never a big Bob Hope fan growing up; I think it was the fact that when I was young he was mostly known for playing golf and promoting Conservative politics. But I’ve found myself coming round to him quite a bit over the last couple of years and although I still can’t stand golf or Conservative politics I can’t deny the guy’s skill and ability. I think it’s because he does the whole fish-out-of-water, person-out-of-time thing really well and possibly better than anyone else (watch a Bob Hope movie and you can’t help but see how much of a debt Woody Allen owes the guy). That’s the case with ‘The Princess and the Pirate’ (1944) where he plays the anachronistic, fast-talking comedian Hope amongst everyone else playing it straight in a swashbuckling pirate movie.
And it works really well with nearly all the best jokes being the ‘meta’ ones, the self references and the fourth wall breaks — it’s about the fun of breaking illusions rather than building them. It’s also got a few gags and digs at the various movie studios and Hollywood rivalries, mainly at the expense of Paramount where Bing Crosby worked.
The film looks lovely too with gorgeous costumes, great set design and all shot in Technicolor… something the film smugly points out to us itself at one point.
‘The Princess and The Pirate’ is a very enjoyable, easy watch although you can also see just how hard Hope is working throughout, his brain seemingly going at 100 miles an hour in every scene or in pulling off every piece of precise physical comedy. The result is skillful self-deprecation undercutting any apparent skill. As Hope himself says at one point — “My act is known all over Europe; that’s why I’m going to America.”