Movie: Sorrowful Jones (1949)

There’s nothing I like better in a film than snappy dialog.  I have found Bob Hope to be an excellent actor for delivering such repartee.  So I was surprised by how little I laughed when watching 1949’s Sorrowful Jones

One of the first problems is the dialog scans as smart and snappy, but it isn’t so much on closer inspection.  Maybe that’s why a line like this from Lucille Ball to Hope falls flat: “Steve doesn’t like me to have other boyfriends, but I could tell him you’re my aunt.”  You see, that should be funny, but it really isn’t.  And that is the trouble with most of the dialog.

Another problem is an adorable little moppet played by Mary Jane Saunders.  Hope and Ball should have heeded the famous axiom of W.C. Fields’s about working with children and animals—namely, don’t.  Saunders isn’t bad, per se, but viewers should probably have a blood glucose screen afterwards, what with all the cutesy-wutesiness they’ll be exposed to.

Hope and Ball end up stuck with the kid after she was left behind by her father at Hope’s betting parlor.  Dad actually left her behind as collateral, which means this guy is not going to be getting a “World’s Greatest Dad” mug.  Not that he’ll need it, because gangsters will permanently remove the guy from the movie shortly thereafter.

The plot surrounds a horse, Dreamy Joe, that the murderous gangsters have setup to win a couple of races, with a planned permanent fall in a later race.  Through deeply stupid contrivances, Saunders ends up owning the horse.  That’s right, a four-year-old girl owns a race horse, which is complete, well, horseshit.

And that’s not even among the least believable of the developments here.  Sorry to give away the ending (but you know exactly how it will end), Hope convinces Ball to marry him, so they can adopt Saunders.  His logic is they can’t let the girl potentially fall into the hands of reckless morons.  Oh, you mean like reckless morons that barge into an operating room mid-surgery?  Or do you mean ones that bring a horse into a hospital, and all the way up to the fifth floor?  Or do you mean ones that would let a little girl fall several stories from a fire escape? Because Hope does all those things here.

Some of this material could have worked, but only in an either a world that follows some of the rules of our own or as a wacky farce where no rules apply.  This picture walks a weird line where there’s a constant threat of violent death from gangsters, but there’s also no questions from a doctor and nurse when Hope brings a horse into a hospital room.  If you have insane people in your movie, any sane people they encounter must react appropriately to their actions.

By far, the worst scene is where Hope teaches Saunders how to pray.  She asks him if there’s a praying commission, like how there’s a gambling commission.  As an atheist, I sometimes I wish I believed there was a God, just so it could respond to scenes like this with a booming, “THESE PEOPLE DO NOT REPRESENT ME”.

It has only in the past few years that I have discovered Hope’s movies and I am surprised by how many of them I have come to enjoy.  So then I was even more surprised by how little I liked Sorrowful Jones.  I guess that title, at least, is truth in advertising—this is one sorry picture.

Dir: Sidney Lanfield

Starring Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, William Demarest

Watched on Kino Lorber blu-ray