CMBA Movies of 1939 Blogathon -- Never Say Die

While John Wayne was learning to walk like a girl, while Jimmy Stewart prepared for his Oscar-nominated faint, and while Clark Gable was too angry to give a (cough),  Bob Hope and Martha Raye were gearing up for the premiere of another comedy together - Never Say Die.

Paramount was squeezing every ounce of profit out of this popular duo by putting them together in four movies in less than two years. It is a fruit-flavored licorice of a movie - not substantive, but it’s great to have around.

Hope is a wealthy hypochondriac who is vacationing at a nondescript health spa called Bad Gasswasser.

Here the spring water is as natural as this guy can manufacture it.

Right away, the plot shows up in the form of Gale Sondergaard as Mrs. Marco, a Roadster-driving, money-hungry woman  who is after Hope‘s millions.

We know that she’s a villain because she has a fabulous wardrobe and  enjoys telling cryptic stories about the deaths of her husbands.
This woman is creepy and dangerous! Even the flower brooch on her dress is spiky! I like her already.
 Hope tries to think of a way out of marrying the intemperate pistol champion.

  Meanwhile, a chemist mixes up his files which leads to Hope to think he will die within thirty days.

Since he's a dead man walking anyway, Hope agrees to marry the fortune-hunter. Mrs. Marco promptly hires a minister. I include this screenshot just to see her outfit.
 That’s what my wardrobe needs - a cupid’s arrow brooch and Cookie Monster oven mitts! But seriously, Ms. Sondergaard wears these ridiculous accessories with confidence. Yea for her!

 In a startling what-were-they-thinking moment, our leading lady, Martha Raye, is introduced wearing puffed sleeves and a curlicue collar. Her family has just fallen into money, so she went out and bought the tackiest dress that she can find. [Her dad’s suit looks good, though.] In the battle of outfits so far, it’s Raye 0, Sondergaard 2.
Not wanting to leave his assets to the black widow,  Hope decides to marry a random woman that he meets at a wet t-shirt contest - Martha.

Martha's men
Martha's dad is forcing her to marry a Prince (Alan Mowbray) when she really loves truck driver Henry Munch (Andy Devine).  Naturally,  she’s totally open to marrying Hope - a complete stranger who claims he’s going to die and leave her and Henry all his money. A win-win-win situation!

In a move that must have had the original audience a little shocked, our leads go back to his hotel room to dry off and talk strategy. Here Martha is in men’s pajamas. It’s not a great outfit, but it suits her no nonsense sensibilities better than the fluttery, over-layered dress.  Ms. Raye’s wardrobe moves up a half point.

The movie's best quip is given to the Prince, who is deeply in arrears,

“Gentlemen, you all know Kretsky. There he stands- an elegant picture of his mission. The bulge in his right pocket, my unpaid notes. In his left pocket, my bad checks. The hollow in the middle is Kretsky.”

Prince and Mrs. Marco prepare themselves for their respective matrimonial services, but Hope and Raye beat them to the altar disguised as servants.

I will strangle him with my pearls!
The married couple dashes off for a twenty-nine day honeymoon in the Paramount Backlot Alps. Discovering that they’ve been jilted, the His Haughtiness and Mrs. MurderPants [In high heels and pearls, so the fashion score is Raye 0, Sondergaard 3] seek revenge.  
Henry shows up to complicate the plot and chaperone the newlyweds. Marriage seems to agree with Martha since she’s finally wearing something flattering. Raye 1, Sondergaard 3.

The three take a walk in the woods, and Martha wears...What is this outfit? No! Just... no! I‘m taking Raye’s point and giving it to Mrs. Manslaughter. Raye 0, Sondergaard 4.

That night, hopped up on dairy products from a cheese festival,  Martha sings an upbeat, polka love song to Hope.  This makes Hope hot to trot and Henry just jealous. She’s wearing a lovely dropped-waist, floor-length gown. That deserves some points.

And, what’s this? She’s even brought her own heart-shaped brooch to the party, wearing it, not on her shoulder, but saucily at her waist! Take that, Sondergaard!  That totally cancels out the puffed sleeves and fluffy epaulets.  Raye 4, Sondergaard 4.
All the members of our love triangle (or love pentagon) finally meet up in one room to usher in the third act. Hope, still believing he’ll die soon, promises to take care of everyone’s financial problems in his will. Win-win-win-win-win!

In return, Mrs. Marco (in gorgeous widow‘s weeds) promises to put flowers on his grave every  year.  “She probably gets  them wholesale, ”Martha quips.
Martha’s sleepwear has had a serious upgrade, so  the score is Raye 5, Sondergaard 5.

The perpetual widow then makes a play for the soon-to-be-wealthy-and-still-unattached Henry.

Hope and Raye decide they enjoy each others’ company, which is sweet. Raye is still concealing flotation devices on her neck, which is not so sweet.
Hope discovers he’s not really going to die so the Prince challenges our leading man to a duel to the death (which Hope accepts because the movie needs a fun finale.)

Taking a cue from her nemesis, Martha wears a fabulous set of widow’s weeds to the duel [Raye 6, Sondergaard 5].

She has the pistols marked and tells Hope, 
“There's a cross on the muzzle of the pistol with the bullet and a nick on the handle of the pistol with the blank. ” 
Prince forks over a few bucks to the gun handler for the same information and gets to the gun with the bullet.
Meanwhile, in a whirlwind of lilies and leopard [Raye 6, Sondergaard 6], Mrs. Marco shows up engaged to her new prey, Henry.  In a moment that defies logic, the gold-digging pistol champion shoots the gun out of the Prince’s hand, and cuts off her own inheritance as the soon-to-be-widowed Mrs. Munch, since Henry will now have nothing, as long as Hope remains alive.



  1. Your first sentence is gold.:)

  2. I have not seen this light-hearted film.. Loved your review. I hope to see it on TCM soon.

  3. Like Audrey, I love that opening line! I have not seen this early Hope film but coincidently wrote about another Hope work, THE CAT AND THE CANARY, for the blogathon which also happens to have Gale Sondergaard in a supporting role. What are the odds? Our CMBA co-member, Ivan has also given good word of mouth on this film.

  4. This was a fantastic write-up. The costumes don't win, but you do.

  5. Java, I'm a big Bob Hope fan, but I've never caught up with NEVER SAY DIE. After reading your great review with those hilarious photos and captions, I'm eager to get ahold of both NEVER SAY DIE and THE CAT AND THE CANARY for a double-feature. "There's a cross on the muzzle of the pistol with the bullet and a nick on the handle of the pistol with the blank" brings to mind Danny Kaye in THE COURT JESTER -- okay, I'll make that a triple feature! :-) Terrific blog post!

  6. Your post is hilarious! - I love the mano-a-mano with the costumes. I agree w/DorianTB, the pistol mix-up made me think of the vessel-with-the-poison routine from Court Jester. I've seen 2 or 3 other Hope-Raye pictures, but not this one, but I will certainly look for it - thanks for such a witty article!

  7. I agree and I agree! Your first sentence is hilarious (Blogging 101: Get your readers' sure did that). Secondly, this sounds like a delightful Bob Hope comedy and somehow I've never seen it. Dorian referenced my all-time favorite comedy routine from THE COURT that's just one more reason to see NEVER SAY DIE. Thanks, Java, for selecting a movie that I'm looking forward to watching.

  8. Here's one that I haven't seen and didn't know about but will be looking for. I need to catch up on my Bob Hope, it seems.
    Your first line is a killer, alright...great post, too...

  9. Terrific post about a movie I had never heard of! However, I like the cast, and I like early Hope films, so now I need to see this and "Cat and the Canary." Well-done!

  10. Java,
    Thanks for taking this stink fest on! I appreciate your screen grabs on this one and for bringing out it's best features.

    Java, you are a class act for not ripping this a new one..excuse me while I go hide my face while cheering you on for your bravado.

  11. Really delightful run-through pictorial, Java! Somehow I missed this one, me, a Bob Hope fanatic! That man was just comic genius in his delivery and timing. I hate to say that I never liked Martha Raye much -- too much Martha is like one martini too many -- I get dizzy and my head hurts!

    Loved the picture of the guy at the water taps and your funny caption. That's probably the same water we are buying bottled for big money today! And your comments about Gale's and Martha's outfits were laugh-out-loud.

    Great contribution to the blogathon, Java. thanks for all the hard work capturing the pictures to use for your funny spoof!


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