Friday, June 22, 2012

Casanova's Big Night (1954)

“Women are like oranges- you squeeze one you’ve squeezed them all.”

            When I hear the phrase “world’s greatest lover” the first person I think of Rudolph Valentino just because that is what I have heard him described as. If a man is going to be called “the world’s greatest lover” he has so be ridiculously handsome and such a charmer that you will melt just looking at him. The world’s greatest literary lover of all time is Casanova. We have all heard a phrase that a man is like a Casanova, he is a man who has several women all over the place and can charm the pants right off of them. When I think of the character of Casanova the same way I think of the world’s greatest lover. So what if I were to tell you that Bob Hope is supposed to be Casanova in the 1954 film Casanova’s Big Night? Yeah, definitely not the first person you would think of for a great lover but if you know anything about Bob Hope’s films his characters are usually blundering fools who get into situations way over their heads and that is exactly what happens in this film.
            Pippo Popolino (Hope) is a tailor in 1750s Parma, Italy. He longs to be like the famed lover and swordsman Casanova. One night he dresses up like the great man and tries to get a kiss from the local grocer woman he has a crush on Francesca Bruni (Joan Fontaine). Francesca sees right through the disguise and literally tosses him out the window.
            Casanova is not in good standing with Francesca or anyone in the village because he has huge debts he owes to them. They all head to Casanova’s house one day because he said he is finally going to pay his debts. Pippo catches Casanova climbing out the window of his house. Casanova tells Pippo that he cannot pay his debts and is running away for a while and that Pippo needs to take his place. Casanova leaves all too soon, a duke and his duchess mother come to the famed lover to catch the duke’s fiancée with another man before he is married. The duke wants her petticoat for the insignia that she has stitched on it to see if she is truly loyal to him. The duke and duchess will pay him 10,000 ducats which is perfect because he owes everyone a combined 7,000 ducats. Everyone makes Pippo accept the offer so they can all finally get paid. Francesca and Casanova’s servant Lucio (Basil Rathbone) travel to Venice with Pippo to help him with the assignment.
            Well, since this is a Bob Hope film and he is always a blundering fool he blunders and hides his way through the whole film. He cannot hold a sword right and gets by on pure luck and a lot of help from Francesca. The end of the film is a very funny joke: the ending was going to have something bad to Pippo so the film stops and a voice says that Bob Hope was not happy with the ending so the person says that the new ending was “written, directed, and produced by Bob ‘Orson Welles’ Hope” haha.
            Bob Hope is hysterical. The more his situation snowballs out of control the funnier he and the film become. Joan Fontaine really makes the whole films for me. Whenever I write about Joan Fontaine I always have to mention her in Rebecca because that was the first film I ever saw her in. I mention the film because she was so young and the character she played was so scared and timid. But let me say she was anything but that small young girl character she played in Rebecca! Francesca was like one of the guys and Fontaine was excellent. She saved Pippo quite a few times in sword fights. At the beginning of the film she completely holds her own with a scene full of guys. Fontaine’s character was the kind that was badass for her time period and she just played the character perfectly. She was snarky and quick with her lines. Since my first impression of Joan Fontaine will always be her character from Rebecca I am always amazed when I see her in other films especially ones like this where she is bold and confident. I was dying when she had to put the moves on some soldiers by saying to get rid of the other and meet her at two o’clock so she could get into the prison to save Pippo. Basil Rathbone played a slimy character as usual but the man was such a good professional actor he was great. Vincent Price plays the real Casanova for only a few minutes in the beginning. Apparently he is not billed because he was blacklisted due to the McCarthy communist blacklist… seriously hat McCarthy all the more.
            To me the funniest scene of the whole film is near the end where Hope and Fontaine get to the girl they are supposed to get the petticoat from. Pippo was thrown in jail and escaped after Francesca saved him. They need a disguise and they find a foreign couple to take their clothes. Pippo comes out in the woman’s clothes because the woman was so big and Francesca comes out in the man’s clothes because he was so small! I think I liked it so much because Joan Fontaine was wearing men’s clothing. Nah, the scene was just hysterical; Hope was the best in this scene I was dying seeing him in the high dress and wig.
            Casanova’s Big Night is a great comedy film. The end is not very good at all considering the film was rolling smoothly along. But even with a bad ending Casanova’s Big Night is so much fun to watch. This is a classic film every film lover should see.