Fancy Pants An American actor (Arthur Tyler) impersonating an English butler is hired by a nouveau riche woman (Effie Floud) from New Mexico to refine her husband and headstrong daughter (Aggie). The complications increase when the town believes Arthur to be an Earl, and President Roosevelt decides to pay a visit.
Fancy Pants is a musical comedy remake of Ruggles of Red Gap in which Charles Laughton had one of his best roles in the 1935 version that was directed by Leo McCarey. To say that Bob Hope’s interpretation of the English butler who went west is different from Laughton’s is the difference from porterhouse steak to hog’s livers to use one of old Ski nose’s favorite expressions.
Not that Fancy Pants is bad, in fact it’s very funny and definitely the best of the four films that Bob Hope made with Lucille Ball. Ruggles of Red Gap was funny, but it was also whimsical and dramatic in spots and it was about a shy and proper English butler who adjusts to the new environment in America he finds himself and in the process makes some real friends.
To begin with Hope isn’t a butler, he’s an actor and a clod of an actor who has the knack for spilling all kinds of liquid on fellow player Norma Varden. The whole company is hired by a guy who was posing as titled nobility to woo wealthy American Lucille Ball.
Unlike a lot of Hope’s leading ladies, Lucy gets her innings, especially playing this Calamity Jane type. She and mother Lea Penman are touring the continent and Penman decides Hope is just the guy to put a little refinement into their home and incidentally make them the envy of their small New Mexico town.
One thing leads to another and Hope winds up having to pose as nobility himself when the townspeople are misinformed and President Theodore Roosevelt comes to town for a visit. That doesn’t sit well with Bruce Cabot who has designs on Lucy.
John Alexander who was ‘Theodore Roosevelt’ in Arsenic and Old Lace gets a chance to play him for real in Fancy Pants. His scenes with ‘Earl’ Hope are classic. I also liked Eric Blore who played the unintelligible ‘Earl’ in Hope’s repertoire company.
Though director George Marshall and stars Hope and Ball go for belly laughs rather than some wry chuckles, Fancy Pants holds up very well after almost 60 years. But if you are looking for Hope to try and out do Mr. Laughton, than don’t bother with it.