“Casanova’s Big Night”

Happy early Friday! I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a very long week, so it’s time to kick off your shoes order some takeout, pour yourself a glass of your beverage of choice, and get set for my weekly classic movie pick.

A promotional poster from the film.
This has been a long week for so many of us, so let’s start the weekend outright with a comedy so we can laugh our troubles away. And a Bob Hope movie is perfect for that, right? “Casanova’s Big Night,” made in 1954, stars not only Bob Hope, but Joan Fontaine, Raymond Burr, and Basil Rathbone, and we even have Vincent Price in a cameo role as the great lover himself. This film is a spoof of the historic costume dramas of the day, so also expect a lot of dress porn.
Pippo Poplino (Hope) is an awkward tailor’s apprentice who has the hots for local widow and grocer Francesca Bruni (Fontaine). One night, he decides to disguise himself in the clothes of his patron, the infamous Casanova, to try and win his way into Francesca’s heart. But he’s too late: Francesca already has a date for the night, and who is it but the charming Casanova himself? Casanova unceremoniously boots Pippo from the house, and Pippo’s plan is thwarted.
L to R: Bob Hope as Pippo, Basil Rathbone as Lucio, and Joan Fontaine as Francesca
The following morning, Pippo accompanies the tailor and the other merchants in the town to Casanova’s house. It seems that Casanova has run up some major debts and has made no arrangements to pay, and now the local merchants want their money. Desperate to flee, Casanova enlists Pippo”˜s help. The two end up exchanging clothes, and Casanova makes a run for it. Now here’s where the fun begins!
Bob Hope as Pippo
Vincent Price as Casanova
The Duchess of Castelbello and her son come to Casanova’s house, and they have a business proposition for Casanova, who is really Pippo in disguise. They hire Casanova to try and seduce her son’s fiancee, Elena DiGambetta, to test her faithfulness as a wife and to see whether or not the match is a good one. In exchange for 10,000 ducats, Casanova – or Pippo – must bring Elena’s embroidered petticoat to the Duchess as proof of his success. Pippo is reluctant to do this, but the local merchants and Casanova’s servant (Lucio) persuade him to go through with it so that they can get the money that Casanova owes them. So, still in the guise of Casanova, Pippo travels to Venice with Lucio and Francesca to follow through with his part of the plan.
There are plenty of laughs in this movie, and much of it comes from the absurdity of the situation itself. The bumbling Pippo is a sharp contrast to the allegedly charming Casanova, and the bumbling attempts Pippo makes to convince the Venetians that he is Casanova make it even funnier. Pippo is typical of Hope’s comedic heroes: there are certain things that the hero would like to be, but really has no way of doing so,

A very convincing disguise

until happenstance or a case of mistaken identity open up a window of opportunity. Unfortunately, that window of opportunity puts the hero in danger, and he must do what he can to get out of it, often making up the plan as he goes along and using dry wit to cope with his fear. Add to this the growing attraction between Pippo and Francesca as the two of them swashbuckle their way through the salons and inns of Venice. Fontaine’s heroine is no shrinking violet but an equal player in the game. While she might not be able to wield a sword as well as Casanova or Lucio, she is quick-witted and knows how to think on her feet. Rathbone plays a far less villainous role in this movie than he did in others of the historical-swashbuckler drama, yet his character proves to be no less cunning and ruthless.

And yes – because we all know this is the best part – we need to talk about the dress porn. The costumes are gorgeous and stand out brilliantly in this film. And why shouldn’t they? It was the 1940s, it was a Technicolor film, and the whole point of the costumes was to dazzle and please the eye. The film takes place in 1757, so we get all the glory of 18th-century costumes, the intricate detail of the embroidery, the textures of the fabrics, and how the costumes and set design contribute to the spectacle of the film itself. Hey, everyone loves a little 18th-century-era dress and furniture porn, right?
So make your beverage choice vino, and be careful not to spill it as you’re laughing. Because as great as Technicolor is, who really wants to see it in the form of wine on their carpet or couch?

13 replies on ““Casanova’s Big Night””

…and we’re adding it to Netflix. :)

Sidestory: Cali Friend was driving me to the airport after a weekend visit and I realized the airport is called the Bob Hope Airport! I got all excited about going to an airport named after Bob Hope! (I love the guy). Friend asks, I kid you not, “Who is Bob Hope?” I died.

YES. Now, how does one explain Bob Hope? I was dumbfounded. I mean, clearly she’s never seen any of his movies – or she’d Remember him. Telling her about his USO shows? Not gonna work.

Ultimately, I just said to look up his movies on imdb and then Watch Them.

…I’m not sure if she’s done that yet…

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