Bob Hope would have turned 106 this week, and his birthday and the upcoming Father’s Day reminded me of one of my favorite of his films. It’s also one of the least characteristic because he is playing a real-life character (as he would again two years later in “Beau James”) and even though the character was a performer and he does manage to get off some wisecracks, it is as close to a dramatic performance as he ever gave. He also said that the dance number was the hardest work he ever did, because he had to keep up with James Cagney reprising his portrayal of George M. Cohan of “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
Hope plays Eddie Foy, Sr., a vaudevillian whose only way to care for his seven children is to put them into his act and take them on the road. The fact that he barely knew the kids was of no more relevance than the fact that they had no talent.
Foy, as played by Hope, was not a great father. But he was devoted to his children in his own way, and I have special affection for this film. A couple of other points worth noting: fans of the old “Father Knows Best” series will recognize Billy Gray as one of the kids. And take a look at “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” too — you will see the real-life Eddie Foy, Jr. appearing as his father opposite James Cagney as his long-time friendly rival Cohan, and as the bookie in “Bells are Ringing.”