Where There’s Life: A Bob Hope Comedy Thriller

William Bendix, Vera Marshe, and Bob Hope in Where There's Life. Courtesy of Universal.

An American radio announcer finds out that they are the new king of Barovia in Where There’s Life but a secret society has other ideas.

It’s hard to watch this film and not think about a similar film, The Princess Diaries. Unlike Where There’s Life, the Julie Andrews/Anne Hathaway vehicle doesn’t feature any assassination attacks on the Queen of Genovia or her newly identified heir. They do feature people that want a change in the royal line but that’s it for the major drama. The stakes are very different here.

Some time following WWII, King Hubertus II (William Edmunds) announces that Bavoria will hold a democratic election in the country. Unfortunately, someone from Mordia assassinates him. Before making his final breaths, he breaks news to his ministers that he is not the last in the Banocheks line of succession. It turns out that he met a woman in 1915 while in New York and they had a son together. General Katrina Grimovitch (Signe Hasso), Prime Minister Krivoc (George Coulouris), and Finance Minister Zavitch (Victor Varconi) all fly to New York in Secret.

In New York, we meet radio announcer Michael Valentine (Bob Hope). Oh yeah, he is marrying his girlfriend, Hazel O’Brien (Vera Marshe), in a matter of days. This poses a problem for bringing him back. Meanwhile, Hazel’s brother, Victor (William Bendix), works for the police but doesn’t believe much of what he’s saying. Michael spends much of the film doing his best to hide from Mordia, the society responsible for killing the king. In any event, it becomes a while comedy of errors to to speak. Between the kidnapping and double-crossing, one has no idea what is going to come next. Will there be a wedding? It’s been over 75 years since the film’s release–do you really think I’m going to let you know if it happens or not?!? This is where I suggest watching the film for yourselves!

Next to Hope himself, William Bendix comes quite close to stealing the show. Listen, it’s a tough thing to go up against Hope. Hope is very good at his job and his one-liners have the potential to elevate anything to the next level. I mean, you have Lucille Ball doing it in a pair of films (that I’ve seen) but it honestly takes a master of comedy. Bendix’s Victor wants to see Valentine marry Hazel but once the Barovian ministers get involve, it becomes a different story altogether. The fact that none of Valentine’s American friends really know what is happening leads to a comedy of errors.

The film is rather short at 75 minutes in length. I mean, it does the trick but one would think it would at least be the standard 90 minute comedy. Allen Boretz and Melville Shavelson’s script is mostly comedic but finds a way to insert a thrilling moments here and there. It is a Bob Hope vehicle after all. I love how the set design gets creative with placing a Bing Crosby easter egg into the film. Hope and Crosby were a comedy duo on screen for so many years so that’s something to appreciate about it,

Where There’s Life features plenty of laughs in the post-WWII Bob Hope vehicle.

DIRECTOR: Sidney Lanfield
SCREENWRITERS: Allen Boretz and Melville Shavelson
CAST: Bob Hope, Signe Hasso, William Bendix, with George Coulouris, Vera Marshe, George Zucco, Dennis Hoey, John Alexander, Victor Varconi, Joseph Vitale, Harry Von Zell

Paramount released Where There’s Life in theaters on November 21, 1947. Grade: 3.5/5

Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.