Casanova's Big Night
Paul Jones for Paramount
directed by Norman Z. McLeod
starring Bob Hope, Joan Fontaine, Audrey Dalton, Basil Rathbone, Hugh Marlowe, Arnold Moss, John Carradine, John Hoyt, Hope Emerson, Robert Hutton, Vincent Price, Lon Chaney jr, Raymond Burr, Frieda Inescort, Primo Carnera, Frank Puglia, Paul Cavanagh, Romo Vincent, Henry Brandon, Natalie Schafer, Douglas Fowley, Nestor Paiva, Lucien Littlefield, Barbara Freking, Joan Shawlee, Oliver Blake, Skelton Knaggs, Paul Newlan
story by Aubrey Wisberg, screenplay by Hal Kanter, Edmund L. Hartmann, music by Lyn Murray
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Casanova (Vincent Price) is not only the biggest lover of his age, he
is also owing money to everyone in his vicinity - so much so that he
eventually makes a daring escape from his creditors, leaving Pippo (Bob
Hope), a tailor's assistant, to fill in for him and face his creditors. Of
course, the creditors are not convinced for one second, then though the
Duchess of Castelbello (Hope Emerson) shows up with her son (Robert
Hutton) and an offer for Casanova that could pay off all his debts - to
try and seduce Donna Elena (Audrey Dalton), the son's bride to be, as some
kind of test. With the real Casanova gone though, the creditors sell off
Pippo as the real McCoy, and off he is to Venice with Casanova's valet
Lucio (Basil Rathbone) and Francesca (Joan Fontaine), one of Casanova's
creditors he is madly in love with.
In Venice, Donna Elena's family does
everything to keep Pippo (as Casanova) from even so much as seeing her,
but the Doge himself (Arnold Moss) is actually interested in Casanova
seducing the girl before the marriage, which would give him an excuse to
start a war with Genua.
Donna Elena actually comes to like Pippo,
probably because in his heart he is nothing like Casanova, and he is
touched by her innocence and honesty - but still eventually steals her
embroidered pettycoat, which is supposed to serve as evidence that he has
seduced her. However, when he addresses his second thoughts about his
mission, the Doge thinks it best to throw him into the dungeon so he can't
endanger the mission now that the petticoat is in the Doge's hands, and
Lucio actively helps him by betraying Pippo - and then taking off with the
money promised for the job. Francesca on the other hand has fallen in love
with Pippo when she saw him stick his neck out for Elena, and she helps
him escape from the dungeon. Once out, Pippo uses his expertice in
embroidery (remember, he's a tailor's assistant) to make a second
embroidered petticoat that looks exactly like the real one, and in
disguise, he and Francesca enter the Doge's palacen at the day of the
wedding to give the petticoat to Elena, just before she can be properly
embarrassed. This part of the plan works rather beautifully, but then
Pippo is captured and beheaded ... at least, that's the way the studio
wanted to end the film, Bob Hope figures he should end up being the hero
of the picture defeating all of his adversaries single-handedly - and the
audience is left to decide which ending is the better one.
costume comedy that shows Bob Hope a bit past his prime: His gags don't
seem as fresh anymore than they were 10 or even five years ago, his
performance has lost quite a bit of the enthusiasm that made his early
films so good, and his comedy is not half as edgy and as biting as at the
beginning of his career. On top of that, the plot of the film as such is
somewhat over-complex without any real need to be and overly simplistic at
the same time.
That all said, Casanova's Big Night is not the
worst Bob hope film by far - but also not one of his better films.