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American Heroes: 4 Movies [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

My Favorite Brunette
Just as Bob Hope's My Favorite Blonde (1942) was a takeoff on Alfred Hitchcock, Hope's My Favorite Brunette was a lampoon of the noirish "hard-boiled detective" school popularized by Raymond Chandler. Awaiting execution on death row, Hope tells the gathered reporters how he got into his present predicament. It seems that Hope was once a baby photographer, his office adjacent to the one leased by a private detective (played in an amusing unbilled cameo by Alan Ladd). While hanging around the p.i.'s office, Hope is mistaken for the detective by beautiful client Dorothy Lamour. She hires Hope to search for her missing uncle, and also entrusts him with a valuable map. Hope's diligent (if inept) sleuthing takes him to a shady rest sanitarium, where he runs afoul of lamebrained henchman Lon Chaney, Jr. and sinister, knife-throwing Peter Lorre. Both are in the employ of attorney Charles Dingle, who is responsible for the disappearance of Lamour's uncle. Escaping the sanitarium with Lamour in tow, Hope follows the trail of evidence to noted geologist Reginald Denny. The geologist is murdered, and Hope is accused of the crime. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe Trail, Errol Flynn's third western, has precisely nothing to do with the titular trail. Instead, the film is a simplistic retelling of the John Brown legend, with Raymond Massey playing the famed abolitionist. The events leading up to the bloody confrontation between Brown and the US Army at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, are treated in a painstakingly even-handed fashion: Brown's desire to free the slaves is "right" but his methods are "wrong." Whenever the leading characters are asked about their own feelings towards slavery, the response is along the noncommittal lines of "A lot of people are asking those questions," "I don't have the answer to that," and so forth. Before we get to the meat of the story, we are treated to a great deal of byplay between West Point graduates Jeb Stuart (Flynn) and George Armstrong Custer (Ronald Reagan), who carry on a friendly rivalry over the affections of one Kit Carson Halliday (Olivia DeHavilland). Just so we know that the picture is meant to be a follow-up to Warners' Dodge City and Virginia City, Flynn is saddled with Alan Hale and "Big Boy" Williams, his comic sidekicks from those earlier films. Despite its muddled point of view, Santa Fe Trail is often breathtaking entertainment, excitingly staged by director Michael Curtiz. The film's public domain status has made Santa Fe Trail one of the most easily accessible of Errol Flynn's Warner Bros. vehicles. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

This Is the Army
The splashy, star-studded This is the Army is based on the Irving Berlin Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn was a reworking of Berlin's WW1 "barracks musical" Yip Yip Yaphank. In both instances, the cast was largely comprised of genuine servicemen, many of them either recently returned from fighting or on the verge of heading off to war. The Hollywood-imposed storyline concerns Jerry Jones (George Murphy), a member of the original 1918 Yip Yip Yaphank cast. His showbiz career curtailed by a leg injury, Jerry becomes a producer during the postwar era. When the US enters WW2, Jerry gathers together several other cast members from the 1918 Berlin musical to help him stage a new all-serviceman show, titled (what else?) This is the Army. The show-within-a-show framework is able to accommodate a romantic subplot, involving Jerry's son Johnny (Ronald Reagan, later a political comrade-in-arms of George Murphy) and Eileen Dibble (Joan Leslie), the daughter of Yip Yip Yaphank alumnus Eddie Dibble (Charles Butterworth). Some of the best moments in This is the Army are from the Broadway production itself, though the lengthy Alfred Lunt-Lynn Fontanne imitation and incessant "gay" jokes may have been too smart for the room in 1943. Guest stars include boxer Joe Louis, Kate Smith (singing "God Bless America", naturally) and Irving Berlin himself, who steals the show with his plaintive rendition of "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning". All profits for the stage and film version of This is the Army went to the Army Emergency Relief Fund, which also controlled the rights to the film. Long withheld from TV distribution, the film finally hit the small screen when it lapsed into Public Domain in the mid-1970s. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Road to Bali
This sixth entry in the Crosby-Hope-Lamour "Road" series was the first (and last) in Technicolor. This time, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope play George Cochran and Harold Gridley, American vaudevillians stranded in Australia. To avoid a dual shotgun wedding, George and Harold sign on as deep-sea divers for sinister South-Sea-island prince Ken Arok (Murvyn Vye). After a contretemps with an octopus (courtesy of stock footage from Reap the Wild Wind), our heroes sail to the prince's Balinese homeland, where they meet and fall in love with gorgeous Princess Lalah (Dorothy Lamour). Though Lalah favors George, she feels obligated to Harold, because he resembles her childhood best friend -- a chimpanzee (this must be seen to be believed). When Ken Arok attempts to usurp Lalah's throne, she and the boys escape to a tropical island, where they meet the inevitable slapstick-comedy gorilla. More adventures await the intrepid trio on another island, this one dominated by an active volcano. Who gets the girl in this one? A hint: the loser tries to physically prevent the "The End" title from flashing on the screen during the final fadeout. Though not as fresh and spontaneous as earlier "Road" endeavors, Road to Bali has its fair share of non sequitur gags, inside jokes and unbilled guest appearances (including Martin and Lewis, Bing's brother Bob Crosby, Humphrey Bogart and Jane Russell). Best bit: when Crosby feels a song coming on, Hope turns to the camera and hisses "He's gonna sing, folks. Now's the time to go and get your popcorn." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Bob Hope
    Bob Hope - Ronnie Jackson
  • Dorothy Lamour
    Dorothy Lamour - Carlotta Montay
  • Peter Lorre
    Peter Lorre - Kismet
  • Lon Chaney, Jr.
    Lon Chaney, Jr. - Willie
  • Image coming soon
    John Hoyt - Dr.Lundau
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