Caught in the Draft Reunites Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour

Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour in Caught in the Draft. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Caught in the Draft is a 1941 war comedy that reunites legendary comedian Bob Hope with his Road to co-star, Dorothy Lamour.

The war comedy was Paramount’s second biggest film of the year next to Louisiana Purchase. Interestingly enough, both films happened to star Hope, He starred in four features in 1941. The box office earnings certainly speak to Hope’s talents not as a comic performer but the king of one-liners is also working once again with Lamour. The two stars worked together quite a bit outside of their films with Bing Crosby. Regardless, their previous chemistry works to the film’s advantage. A piece of context about the film: the Selective Service Act had been signed into law in 1940. Not surprisingly, Paramount Pictures put a comedy into production and place both Hope and Lamour into the outrageous situation.

Hope’s line when he first sees Lamour’s character reminds me of Cary Grant in His Girl Friday: “Mmmm, that’s a bundle! She looks like Dorothy Lamour with clothes on.”

Don Bolton (Bob Hope) is an actor and doesn’t like loud noises. Whether the Hollywood star likes it or not, he is at the age where Uncle Sam could draft him. His plans are to avoid service by getting married or claiming he has flat feet. As in any comedy film: man plans, G-d laughs. While filming his newest war comedy, Don confuses Colonel Peter Fairbanks (Clarence Kolb)–serving as a technical consultant–for being an actor on the set. Despite that mishap, Don falls for the colonel’s daughter, Tony (Dorothy Lamour), and is successful in asking her out. Thinking that marriage will get him out of the draft, Don proposes. He withdraws the proposal as soon as he realizes he is too old at 32 years old but he upsets her in the process.

A few weeks later, Don makes a plan to win her back by hiring an actor at a recruitment office but this becomes an epic failure. It would probably be good to make sure everything is in working order. But again, Don does not quite double check his fool-proof plan. The man afraid of loud noises is all of a sudden in a position where he is working for Uncle Sam. Both manager Steve Riggs (Lynne Overman) and assistant Bert Sparks (Eddie Bracken) end up enlisting in the Army with him. They all end up at the same base as Col. Fairbanks, where Don learns that he can marry Tony if he is promoted to corporal. Not surprisingly, the colonel has no faith in him. Nobody in the right mind would. The trio spend too much time on KP!

Fate eventually delivers the upper hand when Bert pulls a cruel stunt, forcing Don to save the day. Well, that’s after Tony tries to warn the troops that they are marching directly into an artillery field. Don earns his promotion and the right to marry Tony.

The film is a briskly paced 82 minutes with Sunrise‘s Oscar-winning cinematographer Karl Struss lensing the film. Struss also lensed Charlie Chaplin’s satire, The Great Dictator. Anyway, he does a solid job with capturing the comedy and action. Maybe it is because I associate him with the artistic Sunrise but I don’t think of Struss as a DP of comedy movies.

In real life, Hope was nothing like Don Bolton. Well, other than the two being movie stars. No, Hope did attempt to enlist and fight in the war after Pearl Harbor. Uncle Sam had other plans for Hope: perform for the troops. He did this throughout the war. While many actors and filmmakers did enlist and serve, others would do their part by performing for the troops or raising money for war bonds. Following WW2, Hope would tour with the USO until 1990, passing away in 2003. I’d assume that many troops are grateful for his entertainment.

Kino Lorber Studio Classics released the film with a brand new 4K master on Blu-ray nearly three years ago. I missed the window on requesting a review copy–no idea how that happened because we’re talking about Bob Hope. It’s been in my collection for almost a year now but I finally made some time to watch the classic comedy. I’ve been on something of a WW2 kick of late but you can never go wrong with watching a Bob Hope comedy on any given night so it was worth the wait! In any event, something had to go right because Hope and Lamour would work with David Butler again on Road to Morocco.

For a 1941 war comedy, Caught in the Draft is laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Bonus Features

  • NEW Audio Commentary by Filmmaker/Historian Michael Schlesinger and Film Archivist Stan Taffel
  • Entertaining the Troops
  • Command Performance 1944
  • Command Performance 1945
  • Hollywood Victory Caravan
  • Theatrical Trailer

DIRECTOR: David Butler
CAST: Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour, with Lynne Overman, Eddie Bracken, Clarence Kolb, Paul Hurst

Paramount Pictures released Caught in the Draft in theaters on July 4, 1941. Grade: 4/5

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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.