Hope on the Ball

Bob Hope in Fancy Pants (1950)

American actor, Arthur Tyler (Bob Hope), is currently playing a butler by the name of Humphrey in a theatre production in England, but he and his colleagues find themselves hired by a fortune hunter looking to impress the nouveau riche Effie Floud (Lea Penman) and her brassy daughter Agatha (Lucille Ball). Impressed by Humphrey, under then impressions he is a butler, Mrs. Floud arranges for him to be sacked so that he can follow them back to Arizona where she hopes he will be able to turn Agatha into a lady. But things don't go well back home when thanks to a misunderstanding the locals believe Humphrey is the Earl of Burnley and hope he will be able to impress President Theodore Roosevelt (John Alexander) when he visits the territory as they are pushing for statehood. To make matters even more confusing as Cart Belknap (Bruce Cabot) plans to marry Agatha and no Earl is going to get in his way.

"Fancy Pants" is a perfect example of why having two strong comedians in one movie doesn't always work. In this case it feels like this should be just a Bob Hope movie with a decent but not great comedy actress in a supporting role. But with Lucille Ball in the supporting role she is demoted to basically acting brassy and rolling her eyes which is simply disappointment. There are some scenes where they both click at the same time but a lot of the time it actually feels like they fighting each other for attention.

Lucille Ball in Fancy Pants (1950)

The knock on effects of this is that at times "Fancy Pants" feels like a storm of quick fire humour as Bob Hope fires off one funny after another. Unfortunately it starts to become too much as the gags are just not that funny with some of them being repeated. To put this into context, whilst "Fancy Pants" should be a comedy of confusion born out of mistaken identity it ends up more like a Bob Hope gag reel with very little humour actually born out of the mistaken identity. It may sound like I am being harsh but compared to other Bob Hope movies this one lacks the strong storyline to drive it forwards even though it is entertaining enough with a few musical numbers.

What this all boils down to is that "Fancy Points" is one of the movies where whilst entertaining if you are a fan of Bob Hope it is a movie which too me not only feels unbalanced but a waster of Lucille Ball's talents. Let me put it this way, watching Bob Hope dominate the majority of scenes with his rapid joke telling ends up exhausting.

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