The Ghost Breakers (1940), starring Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Willie Best
The Ghost Breakers is a very funny comedy with Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. Mary Carter (Paulette Goddard, The Great Dictator) inherits her family’s ancestral home, located on a small island off Cuba. And, despite warnings and death threats, decides to take possession of the ‘haunted’ castle. Radio broadcaster Larry Lawrence (Bob Hope) joins her. He’s fleeing New York with his butler, Alex (Willie Best). Once on the island the threesome enter the eerie castle …
In short, The Ghost Breakers is a fast-paced, funny horror comedy – one of the best of the genre. It’s funny, takes the time to introduce us to the central characters — and care about them. If you like Bob Hope’s comedy, you’ll enjoy The Ghost Breakers. Be forewarned: it’s a 1940 comedy, so there’s some racial insensitivity on occasion with Willie Best (Hope’s employee & comedy relief). But, I have to say, I enjoyed his performance as much as Hope’s & Goddard’s.
Cast of characters
- Bob Hope (The Facts of Life) as Larry Lawrence. The radio crime reporter, who wrongly thinks that he’s shot a crime boss/informant. This leads to him following Mary to her inheritance, to hide out while he thinks.
- Paulette Goddard (Modern Times) as Mary Carter. She unexpectedly inherited a plantation and mansion on a small island off the coast of Cuba. Despite being warned away by two sinister gents, she goes there anyway. Since Larry’s hiding in her trunk, she unwittingly takes him along.
- Richard Carlson (The Young in Heart) as Geoff Montgomery. An old acquaintance of Mary’s, who tells the trio stories of ghosts, zombies, and voodoo.
- Paul Lukas (Watch on the Rhine) as Parada. The sinister attorney who informs Mary of her inheritance. And, tries to warn her away from it.
- Willie Best (Kentucky Kernels) as Alex. Larry’s valet, and comedy relief. A very funny, very good performance. Yes, he’s a scaredy cat that runs from trouble … but all of the protagonists are. Some unfortunate racial stereotyping, however.
- Virginia Brissac (Executive Suite) as Mother Zombie.
- Noble Johnson (The Mummy 1932) as The Zombie. Yes, there’s a zombie for all three protagonists to run away from.
- Anthony Quinn (Requiem for a Heavyweight) as Ramon Mederos / Francisco Mederos. Yes, that Anthony Quinn. Here, he’s a sinister gent who warns Mary not to sell the newly inherited property to Parada.
- Paul Fix (To Kill a Mockingbird) as Frenchy Duval. The crime boss, who invites Larry to his hotel to discuss the latest broadcast so he can “correct” Larry’s report. This leads to Larry wrongly thinking he’s shot a henchman.
Screen greats Bob Hope (My Favorite Blonde, Road to Utopia) and Paulette Goddard (Nothing But the Truth, Reap the Wild Wind) co-star in another comedy-thriller, a year after their smash hit The Cat and the Canary. Ghosts and gags collide in this witches’ brew of laughs, with Bob Hope as a Manhattan radio commentator who finds himself marooned on an island of the walking dead! Larry Lawrence (Hope), sought in connection with a murder he did not commit, eludes New York police by hiding in a steamer trunk. Soon the trunk (and Larry) are aboard a ship bound for Cuba, where the trunk’s owner, pretty Mary Carter (Goddard), is sailing to take possession of a recent inheritance: a “haunted” castle.
Sensing that Mary is in danger, Larry and his valet Alex (Willie Best, Whispering Ghosts) precede her to the island, which is inhabited by a ghost, a zombie and perhaps even a flesh-and-blood fiend. There’s romance, comedy and chills as Hope and Goddard contend with earthly and un-earthly foes—and try to keep from ending up as ghosts themselves. Director George Marshall (Murder, He Says) also directed the 1953 remake, Scared Stiff, starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. The stellar cast includes Paul Lukas (The Lady Vanishes), Anthony Quinn (Zorba the Greek) and Paul Fix (El Dorado).