Critic's Choice [1963]

With a light touch of New York sophistication, Critic's Choice is a smartly grown-up vehicle for Bob Hope and Lucille Ball, making their fourth appearance as an on-screen duo. Adapted from the Broadway play by Ira Levin, it's a fitting follow-up to the pair's previous comedy (1960's The Facts of Life), with its upscale story about top-ranking theater critic Parker Ballantine (Hope) and the trouble he gets into when his second wife Angela (Ball) decides to write a play. Given Parker's snobbishly influential reputation for writing scathingly negative reviews, it's only a matter of time before he's forced to confront the issue of reviewing "Sisters Three," the comedy that Angela has written, rewritten and polished with the help (and romantic advances) of Dion Kapakos (Rip Torn), one of Broadway's hottest young playwrights. Complicating matters even further is Parker's touch-and-go friendship with his ex-wife (Marilyn Maxwell) and the disapproval of his young, intelligent son John (Ricky Kelman), who serves as his father's much-needed voice of conscience. Add it all up and Critic's Choice is an easygoing comedy that occasionally falls flat (veteran TV director Don Weis can't decide if he's directing an all-out comedy or a marital melodrama), but Bob & Lucy make it surprisingly enjoyable, and Levin's source material has a lot to say about marriage, divorce, and the foibles of playwrights and critics in the high-pressure world of New York theater. It's also interesting to see Rip Torn so early in his long-running career, and the fine supporting cast includes such '60s stalwarts as Jim Backus, Richard Deacon, and John Dehner. Also available in The Lucille Ball Film Collection, this DVD includes two noteworthy short subjects from the Warner Bros. archives: "Calling All Tars" is a 19-minute Vitaphone comedy short from 1936, starring Bob Hope in one of his earliest screen appearances, and "Now Hear This" is an Oscar-nominated "Looney Tunes" cartoon from 1962, directed by the great Chuck Jones in the kind of innovative, abstract design style that was in vogue among animators in the early 1960s. --Jeff Shannon

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