In My Favorite Blonde, Paramount threw comedian Bob Hope in the middle of a spy-on-the-run thriller akin to The 39 Steps. What makes the film stand out from countless other Hope vehicles is Paramount’s casting of The 39 Steps star Madeleine Carroll as the British agent who enlists the help of Hope’s bumbling comedian. Carroll, and some of the other cast members, give their abysmally written characters an air of credibility that makes Hope’s blunders funnier, and elevates the movie as a whole.
Hope plays Larry, whose stage act with a penguin is going well. Too well, in fact—Percy the penguin is becoming more famous than Larry. On his way to Los Angeles to coast on Percy’s fame, Larry gets tangled up with Karen (Carroll), who’s headed the same way to deliver top-secret flight plans. She uses him as part of her cover from enemy agents tailing her (led by the intimidating Gale Sondergaard), but they strike up an expected romance as well. Most of the decisions made by Karen and the other agents are mostly or completely nonsensical; all writers Don Hartman and Frank Butler seemed to care about is getting us from one gag to the next.
Still, the gags are funny, and Hope is at his best here, terrified and confused throughout. He fits less into the characterization of romantic leading man, but thankfully My Favorite Blonde doesn’t have much of that. Carroll doesn’t get to be particularly funny—she’s the straight (wo)man for Hope to bounce off of, but fulfills that requirement diligently. After completing the film, the actress took a break from the screen to work as a nurse for the Red Cross during the war—likely motivated in part by the death of her only sister during an air raid in London. After the war, she returned briefly to acting, only for three features and some television work.
Despite the lazy spy plot, Hope is funnier here than in plenty of other films, and that’s enough for the breezy seventy-eight minutes. If all his movies had played to his strengths as much as My Favorite Blonde does, his film career might have been better remembered today.