Casanova's Big Night [1954]

Bob "Orson Welles" Hope is at the top of his game in this 1954 Technicolor laugh-fest co-starring Joan Fontaine and Basil Rathbone. Hope plays Pippo Popolino, Casanova's tailor, who finds himself standing in for the great lover after the real Casanova (played by Vincent Price) leaves town to avoid paying his debts. Enlisted by an overzealous mother-in-law to test the true love of her daughter-in-law-to-be, Hope must capture the prized petticoat and help avert a civil war to boot. Years before he wore out his welcome in countless TV specials, Hope is a marvel here, perfecting his neurotic and vain coward persona while enganging in some pretty inspired slapstick. It's easy to forget that in 1954 this was pretty edgy stuff. It's no wonder a young Woody Allen idolized him. --Kristian St. Clair

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