9/20/13

Retro Film Report #37: Boy, Did I Get A Wrong Number! (1966)



Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1966)
Starring: Bob Hope, Elke Sommer, and Phyllis Diller

Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! was almost universally panned by the critics who compared it to a 90 minute sitcom.  True enough, it's not particularly profound or innovative; however, it does entertain.

Bob Hope does what he does best, smacking one-liners out of the park in rapid succession.  And Elke Sommer does what she does best - looking foxy for the camera.  Spice it all up with a little Phyllis Diller and awesome 60's sets, and you've just made cinematic gold. If it weren't for the convoluted mess that is the last quarter of the film, this would be classic.



Hope and Diller play off each other incredibly well.  This is how it's done, folks.  The Masters at work.

Michael Medved called the film one of the 50 Worst Films of All Time..... but he's a complete idiot.  He also put The Omen (1976) on that list, so he's automatically discredited.

I'll walk you through 3/4 of the film, before things disintegrate into a confused mess.  Let's begin.


Cinema Siren, Didi (Elke Sommer), has made a name for herself taking baths on the big screen.  She's sick of being nothing more than a piece of meat.

Didi: I break my head to learn English, and for what? To take a bath?


The director, Pepe (Cesare Danova) has had enough of her antics and puts her in her place.

Pepe: What were you when I picked you up in Marseilles? A dirty little beggar chasing GI's in the streets for cigarettes!

He dumps her in the bubble bath and rips off her clothes.


The Divine Didi slips away clothed only in bubbles and goes into hiding.  Her mysterious disappearance becomes the talk of the whole country.


Tom Meade (Bob Hope) comes home after another unsuccessful day as a struggling Oregon real estate agent, only to be henpecked by his maid, Lily (Phyllis Diller).

Tom: Come to think of it, why did I hire you? Why didn't I just slash my wrists?
Lily: [hands him a knife]


Tom's wife is at the beauty parlor, so he has to chit-chat and wait on supper.

Tom: What are they doing to my wife that takes so long, teasing her follicles?
Lily: I don't know. Beauty parlors - yecch.  I do my own.
Tom: So that's why we couldn't find the egg beater.


Tired of waiting, Tom calls the beauty parlor, but is directed to the wrong number by a drunken switchboard operator (Joyce Jameson).


Tom quickly discovers that the wrong number happens to be the Divine Didi's secret abode.

Tom: You're her! You're that dame! The biggest thing in bathtubs since rings. It says you're kidnapped.
Didi: No. No monsieur.. . Please, monsieur, take pity on me.  You see, I ran away from Hollywood because they tried to make me do things in my new movie..... things at are just TERRIBLE
Tom: More than in your last picture?...... Oh, those beasts....... When's it opening?


Did convinces Tom that she needs food.  She's stuck in this hideaway and is afraid to be seen in public.

Didi: Please say 'yes', monsieur.  It's chilly and I'm all naked.
Lily: [eavesdropping - horrified face]


Tom abruptly ends the call as his wife Martha (Marjorie Lord) and daughter Doris (Terry Burnham) come home.  As luck would have it, the discussion heads toward the missing Didi.

Doris: Do you think she's dead?
Martha: No. Go call your brother for dinner......Hmmph! That one they'll find in a hotel room with somebody..... somebody's husband.
Tom: [chokes] I think I inhaled an olive.


At dinner, the conversation again tilts toward the missing Didi.  Now his son Larry (Kevin Burchett) gets on board.

Larry: It's important for me to see a Didi movie. I gotta know what's goin' on in the world for current events in school.
Tom: Who's your current events teacher, Lady Chatterley?....... Would everybody please change the subject? I don't want to hear another word about poor hungry Didi!

Did he just say "hungry"?  Better watch it, Tom.


Tom sneaks a sack lunch to Didi's secret hotel room.  Her flirtatious manner is a bit much for the family man.

Tom: Maybe you'd like to see a picture of my wife (reaching into his blazer pocket)
Didi: Oh, yes.
Tom: I'll go home and get it.


Tom finally hits on a great idea: he can put Didi in one of his pieces of real estate - a cabin by Crystal Lake.  She gets a hiding spot, and his money pit can now be famous for being the house where Didi stayed (and the tub where Didi bathed).

Unfortunately, Didi's European temperament gets the best of her.  She mistakenly thinks Tom is defending the dreaded Pepe, and demands he leave, throwing a vase at him.


Lily is, of course, wise to Tom's late night shenanigans.  She notices lipstick on his cheek.

Lily: What's this?
Tom: I hope it's blood.
Lily: If your wife sees it, it will be.


The Meade's breakfast is interrupted by two detectives.  It seems Tom's address was found in Didi's empty hotel room.

Tom: You two come barging into my house making insinuations in front of my wife and casting doubts on my unblemished character before the hired help
Lily: [rolls eyes]
Tom: I happen to be a law abiding upstanding member of this community, and I consider you coming here an unjustified invasion of my secrecy - er, privacy.


All this excitement is starting to awaken Tom's vigor. He wants to take his wife up to the cabin on Crystal Lake for a little romantic getaway.

Martha: But we've got so many things to do, and the children -
Tom: Lily will feed them and they'll have all of next week to recover.


Tom receives a phone call from Didi - she's at the cabin!  He's got to think fast.  He convinces Martha to come up tomorrow instead - it'll give him time to clean up the place.

He enlists the help of Lily, who actually has money sunk into the unwanted house up on Crystal Lake.  Both Tom and Lily stand to make big bucks by selling a house "where Didi slept."

Lily: The whole thing sounds underhanded, disgraceful and messy.  You can count on me.


In Hollywood, the producer D.G. (Barry Kelley) has had enough with waiting around for Didi to come back.  They need her for this picture, and it's costing him money to wait.  He demands Pepe track her down and bring her back.

D.G.: All I ask is that some day they invent a way to make pictures without actors.

Seeing the latest headlines about Didi's last whereabouts, Pepe books a flight to Oregon.


Things get even dicier for Tom:  Martha calls Lily to tell her to make supper for the kids - she won't be coming home.  She's decided to surprise Tom up at the cabin.


Tom arrives at the cabin to find Didi in a tub heavily sedated by sleeping pills.  He frantically makes her some coffee.


Meanwhile, Lily is hauling ass on a motorcycle to warn Tom that Martha's coming.


Like Winston Wolf, Lily springs into action and forces some "pep pills" down her throat.  But still no response.


As they hear Martha's car pull into the drive way, they realize they're going to have to carry Didi.

Lily: You take the safe half.
Tom: I don't think she has a safe half.


Lily dresses her and stuffs her under the bed just as Martha rolls up to the door.

Things start to get even more stressful for Tom as Martha cavorts around the house while Didi lays almost in plain sight.  The next 20 minutes is pure physical comedy as Didi is transported from one spot to another, always within a hair's breadth of becoming discovered by Martha.



Things rapidly escalate as Didi awakens, and Tom must resort to drastic measures to keep her out of sight.  Unfortunately for Tom, the gig is eventually up.

The last thirty minutes of the film devolves into a lot of manic behavior, and things get seriously fast paced. Lily is back on her motorcycle, there's a car chase, police interrogation, and "communist" boy scouts.  Pepe is in town and the detectives are really applying the heat to Tom.


As movies from this time period (i.e. Peter Sellers' The Party) were prone to do - a perfectly fine film suddenly goes apeshit.  Suffice it to say, everything is neatly wrapped up in the climactic ending where we get to see Phyllis Diller clothed only in bubbles.  Ye Gods!


THE END

END NOTES:

I mentioned that critics compared this film to a sitcom.  I have to admit, it would fit perfectly as a two part episode of The Jeffersons.  George Jefferson = Tom, Florence = Lily, and Weezie = Martha.

If you're inexplicably reminded of sixties sci-fi while watching this film, I'm happy to inform you that you're not going crazy.  John Williams' musical cues for Lost in Space were used throughout Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! 


Although, Elke Sommer is in a constant state of undress throughout the film (bubbles, toweled, a sheer nightie), you never actually see any Rated R parts.  I'm sure this film, before editing, was nearly X-rated.

In August 2011, I did a post on potentially great films that blew it in the end.  The post itself isn't too hot, but there's some interesting comments.  I think Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! would qualify.

This isn't the only movie you find Elke Sommer being manhandled while incapacitated.  Lisa and the Devil features Telly Savalas getting it on with an unconscious Elke.  Doesn't that paint a pretty picture? I talk about it briefly in Movie Review #28.

This is from the scene where Tom is talking to Didi on the phone; haunted by her framed picture
Perhaps the film's greatest accomplishment is Marjorie's titanic bouffant.  It was so unreasonably big, I couldn't quite figure out if it was supposed to be funny.  Yes, I know the Polly Holiday "Flo" style was big back in the sixties - but this is bouffant Xtreme.  

14 comments:

  1. "...you never actually see any Rated R parts." Are you kidding? This was 1966. In the USA. If you know what I mean.
    Compare it to the British "Georgie Girl" ,also 1966 and with Charlotte Rampling in a minisk--oops better not say it.
    Congratulations on keeping this site active despite your sad prediction Monday.

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  2. I'm sure Bob Hope said a few lines that were cut. I knew a guy that saw him in Vietnam and said he was a dirty old man. Besides, she's probably wearing a nude-colored bathing suit under all that. You can see it in a few of the caps you have here.

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    1. Ha! I saw Bob Hope at the Orange County Fair in 1975. He was 2 hours late and drunk. Still one of the best things I ever saw.

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  3. I'm definitely going to have to watch that one! I just review psych out (1968) on my blog.

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  4. I don't care what anyone says, I love all those old Hope movies from this period. Sure they tended to be strained affairs (see Cancel My Reservation, Eight on the Lam, etc.!)but Hope was always Hope, and the supporting casts were full of seasoned Hollywood character actors. Today we have the Big Bang Theory. Hooray?

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    Replies
    1. You're a fan and yet even so you're comparing the later Hope movies to a sitcom.

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  5. I was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special read. I definitely savored every little bit of it and I have bookmarked you to check out new stuff you post.

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  7. How did Nina get past the robot test? I fail at it many times, probably due to old age. These sexy super cyborgs will devour us all!

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  8. Observations: Hope looks like William Holden in that cartoony title credit. Love those painted backdrops--just like a sitcom! Every set looks lit with one big light bulb.

    THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT with Doris Day the same year was funnier. I saw it in a theater in '66 and still remember the laughter!

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  9. The drawing of Bob Hope makes him look like Jack Parr. I always associate this movie as being at the very end of Hope's, for the most part, successful movie career. After this, and including this, he didn't do anything particularly memorable on the big screen.

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  10. A shining moment on 'SCTV' was their 'Play it Again, Bob', showing Woody Allen (Rick Moranis) attempting a film project with his idol Bob Hope (Dave Thomas). It opens with an awestruck Allen at a theater silently mouthing along with the dialog in 'I'll Take Sweden' - when he meets Hope he fawns over him, saying "I must have seen 'Boy, Did I Get A Wrong Number!' a hundred times!" The sketch gets kicked up a notch further when Allen gets advice from the ghost of Bing Crosby (Joe Flaherty). The impersonations are dead-on, especially Thomas's Hope!

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    1. On your advice I just watched 'Play it Again, Bob', on You Tube and I got to say it was as funny as advertised. Thanks for the heads up.

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  11. This was Bob Hope's last big grossing film...and another blog postulates this turned him into Bob, the kiddies' pal--making films that, by being "sitcom" like, had kid appeal at the box office.

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