15 August 2010 | jackbuckley278
Comic Farce Through a Sixties' Switchboard
I just watched this film after taping it among several others from TCM's recent Bob Hope movie marathon. I saw it originally in a downtown theater here as a kid with my parents and sisters in the summer of 1966. I didn't see it again until about 20 years later, upon renting a copy of it from a local video store. My viewing of it the other night made it almost another 20 years since I'd last seen it. I'm a huge Bob Hope fan, so in my eyes he can do no wrong. Although it has its critics, one must realize the context of the times in which "Number" was made. Sex farces were all the rage in the 60's, especially smack-dab in the middle of the decade, when this film was released. Bob appeared regularly throughout each TV season on his NBC specials, and they always got huge ratings, especially his annual Christmas shows from Vietnam. The release of a new Bob Hope movie was a cause for celebration, especially in the long, hot summers of those days. Yes, "Number" essentially is an elongated TV sketch, but it presented a mildly risqué plot in which Bob had to deal with a world-famous sex kitten who suddenly disrupts his life as a married-with-2-children, middle-class realtor, who's experiencing a sales slump. He decides to use runaway movie star Didi as a promotional point for selling an undesirable lakefront cabin he can't sell. His plan backfires, though, but not before he fends off each crisis with his usual breezy one-liners and humorous repartee. Bob's character certainly appreciates Didi's seductive charms, but he's not lecherous. Although he has to control himself at times, the male viewer can really sympathize and identify with his plight. Just when we think he's going to give in and become unfaithful to his marriage vows, his comical responses pull him back from the brink, the viewers laughing at his self-imposed reprieves. I think female viewers enjoy watching these kinds of situations, too. In short, I still like the film. Bob had both discovered and made Phyllis Diller's career, frequently having her on his TV specials in those years. To today's audiences, she may be unrecognizable or of no special consequence in this movie, but to audiences of 1966, she was a household name, her pairing with Bob in "Number" being a big draw. I think the movie was meant primarily as a breezy summer sex comedy, not to be taken seriously. Many of the lines are quite funny, although a few are obvious and uninspired. Still, though, it remains amusing throughout, but it's more in the vein of Bob's TV presence--a huge star who just wanted to stay in touch with the modern film audiences of the mid-1960's, and be seen in the type of sex farce that Americans of that generation enjoyed. One must also realize that Bob had been promoting Elke Sommer on his TV specials at this time, too, so this movie had a lot of built-in publicity and interest surrounding it. True, it's a forgettable film, and hardly one of Bob's classics, but it showcases him as a modern suburban husband and father, and a very witty and likable one at that, thus keeping him in step with how most Americans viewed themselves at the time, or would like to. P.S.: One of my favorite lines in the movie comes during the car chase near the end, where Bob's escaping in a police car while being followed by about 4 other police cars. He looks in his rearview mirror and says, "I've got more fuzz on my tail than a French poodle!" Great stuff!