Paris Holiday (1958)
Filmed on location, this feature comes by way of an original story from Robert Hope. It was also the first credited film produced by Mr. Robert Hope. Perhaps you’ll know Robert better by his stage name. He’s known to audiences worldwide as Bob. Taking center stage as the star of the film opposite a French comedian I’m not overly familiar with, Fernandel, Bob Hope also enlisted shapely Anita Ekberg and lovely Martha Hyer to star as the leading ladies in this comical venture with a counterfeiting ring backdrop.
Essentially Bob is playing Bob and from what I gather Fernandel is playing Fernandel. Bob is a comedy star of the movies sailing to Paris who meets the other three star players on board. Fernandel and Bob instantly know each other through reputation while Martha is a single lass that works for the American Embassy in France. Most of her trip overseas will be fending off Bob’s cumbersome advances. This brings us to bombshell Ekberg. She’s following Bob in an attempt to locate a script he may be carrying which is based on truth and may have some incriminating information on the counterfeiting ring. This will of course lead to comical bit of Bob turning coward when sexual advances are forthcoming upon him.
That’s part of Bob’s charm for me. He never ceases to talk up women and chase after them with countless throw away lines but when the tables are turned and the ladies make themselves available to him, his bravado quickly disappears. A woman of Ekberg’s attributes are the perfect foil for the comedian with the famous ski sloped nose.
The balance of the film takes place in Paris where Bob will have attempts made on his life while Fernandel and his wide mouthed grin gets involved in saving his fellow comic from harm. Interestingly, the film plays to both English and French speaking audiences. By that I mean both actors speak their native language throughout with the odd word or phrase of the opposites thrown in for good measure. The film conveniently has fellow actors to play translator to both Bob, Ferny and us the viewing audiences. Among them the straight laced Andre Morell.
Now all Bob needs to do is meet up with the writer of the script played surprisingly by Preston Sturges where he will learn it’s not a comedy but a dangerous expose piece that is the reason for his troubles. Once again the figure of Miss Ekberg will enter Bob’s life when cowardice kicks into overdrive and he tries to exit the country. She’ll see to it that he’s placed in the care of an asylum for the mentally imbalanced. A perfect place for most any comedian. Bob seems to fit right in as does Ferny while trying various costume changes in an attempt to rescue Bob as the plot gets a bit zany in a madcap style.
During the final reel I couldn’t help but be reminded of a Jackie Chan film when Bob (in close up) or his stuntman dangle from a ladder being flown about Paris by a helicopter and Bob/stuntman are narrowly missing roofs, billboards and steam ships. Like most Hope crime capers, he’ll turn his cowardice to heroism by the fadeout and capture a leading lady. Ekberg or Hyer? You pick.
By no means a career highlight for the aging Bob Hope is of no difference to me. I for one can never get enough of Bob Hope tossing off self deprecating lines of comedy left right and center. I’ve always felt that Bob is the King of the one liners in movies and TV. Unless I missed it, I was surprised he never took a shot at buddy Bing this time out though he’s got a funny bit where he imagines himself winning an Oscar and giving Marlon Brando a few acting tips. This bit brought to mind the famous gag shot of Hope struggling to steal Marlon’s Oscar.
Miss Ekberg was one of a number of ladies that Bob would frequently turn to when doing his live shows for the thankful troops and also reteamed with her in 1963’s Call Me Bwana. Is Paris Holiday a forgotten film in the career of Bob Hope and by extension Fernandel?
Possibly but not without merit and some funny gags though admittedly as a whole, Bob’s done better and I’m sure Fernandel has too. I’ve had this one buried here in the movie room for sometime and dug it out since I’ve been reading a book of Bob’s from 1963 where he devotes a number of pages to this runaway production that went more than a bit over budget with Bob frantically producing and finding little time to hit the local golf courses.