Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 5, 2021)
Bob Hope, romantic lead? That concept stretches credulity, but this becomes the notion behind 1961’s Bachelor in Paradise.
Adam J. Niles (Hope) writes successful books about sex and life from the bachelor’s point of view. However, he runs afoul of the IRS and needs to raise funds quickly, a fact that finds him at the mercy of his publisher.
Adam’s superior Austin Palfrey (John McGiver) wants a book about life in the suburbs and sends Adam to seemingly sedate Paradise Village, California. There he finds a lot of frustrated housewives, many of whom gravitate to the worldly newcomer, much to the chagrin of their husbands.
Again: Bob Hope, romantic lead? I can’t quite figure out who thought Hope made sense for this role, as on the surface, “Old Ski Nose” seems like a terrible mismatch for a character who needs to present immense appeal to a slew of females.
For people of my generation, we never saw Hope as a film actor. Hope’s film career essentially ended after the 1960s, so I knew him as a TV personality and comedian more than anything else.
Paradise does little to alter the standard Hope persona, though as I incredulously indicated, the film casts him as a romantic lead. I went into the film with a skeptical view of Hope’s ability to play that kind of role, and nothing I see in Paradise changes that opinion.
Not only does Hope seem wrong for Adam in theory, but also in reality he doesn’t work. Hope fails to manage any of the suaveness the part requires, and to be honest, he seems bored through the movie.
Hope appears to resist the aspects of Paradise that require him to crack wise, so he sleepwalks through these moments. Hope seems more eager to show his ability to play against type, but he doesn’t succeed, as Hope always feels wrong in the part.
Hope certainly seems too old for the role, as we need to accept the 58-year-old Bob while he attempts to woo 40-year-old Lana Turner, 39-year-old Janis Paige, and others much younger than he. Actually, this disconnect doesn’t become a big issue, partly because Hope still looked good as he pushed 60, and the women seem much older.
It’s nearly impossible to believe one-time sexpot Turner was only 40 at the time, as she looks a good 10 to 15 years older. Well, at least she beats Reta Shaw, who seemed 49 going on 75.
Not much else about Paradise works either, as director Jack Arnold finds nothing much to do with the material. Arnold first gained success with 1950s sci-fi/horror flicks like Creature from the Black Lagoon and It Came From Outer Space, and then in the 1960s, he moved to TV.
Paradise shows Arnold as a director of little obvious skill. While Arnold does nothing in particular to harm the project, he also can’t find much to add spark to the material.
And boy, could this movie use a shot in the arm! Paradise often feels like little more than 109 minutes of sassy innuendo and double entendres.
By the end of the 1960s, the old “Production Code” that put limits on sex in movies would be in tatters, and early 60s flicks like Paradise show movement in that direction. However, rather than embrace frank sexuality, films such as this toyed with “dirty talk” in a coy way that seems more like immature tease than clever repartee.
Because I didn’t expect greatness from Paradise, I can’t call it a real disappointment. Still, I hoped I would find something wittier and more dynamic than this stale comedy.
Footnote: Erich von Stroheim served as assistant director for Paradise - but not that Eric von Stroheim. Here we find the son of the famed filmmaker, not the man who made classics like The Grand Illusion.