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The Princess and the Pirate

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The Princess and the Pirate, starring Bob Hope, Virginia Mayo, Walter Brennan, Walter Slezak
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Movie review of The Princess and the Pirate, one of Bob Hope’s funniest and most popular movies. The cowardly, inept Sylvester the Great (Bob Hope) gets embroiled in rescuing the beautiful Princess in disguise (Virginia Mayo). It’s hilariously funny!

The Princess and the Pirate (1944) starring Bob Hope, Virginia Mayo, Walter Slezak, Walter Brennan, Victor McLaglen

Bob Hope is at his best in The Princess and the Pirate. He plays the part of Sylvester the Great, an inept performer who’s on his way to his next disastrous performance.   One of my favorite memories of the movie occurs early in the movie where Sylvester is showing some of his press clippings to the Princess Margaret (Virginia Mayo) who’s traveling in disguise.   She reads them and quotes from one, “Stinko?” Bob Hope quickly snatches the clippings back and retorts, “That means ‘great’ in Russian!”

The basic story …

The Princess and the Pirate, starring Bob Hope, Virginia Mayo, Walter Brennan, Walter Slezak

The basic plot has Princess Margaret running away from her forced marriage, traveling in disguise, where she runs into Sylvester.   Pirates attack, and the head of the pirates knows who the Princess is. He plans to ransom her for a fortune.   Her only hope is the inept Sylvester, giving Bob Hope plenty of opportunities to show off his comic abilities. And, he doesn’t disappoint.

Cowardly Bob Hope at his best

He pretends to be a gypsy soothsayer (since the pirates are killing all of the men on board the ship). He has a treasure map tattooed on his chest by the nearly-mad Walter Brennan. And he gets into and out of hot water on a regular basis.   For instance, at one point Bob Hope and Virginia Mayo make it to an inhabited island. Only to have Bob Hope witness a murder within moments of being on the island.   He quickly finds a lawman, and reports what he’s seen. To have the man tell him, “That’s all right, citizen, he has a permit.” Bob Hope then does a wonderful take, “He has a permit?” Bob Hope excels here at his trademark cowardly everyman character, and the movie is a delight from beginning to end. I highly recommend it.

Editorial review of The Princess and the Pirate, starring Bob Hope and Virginia Mayo, courtesy of

Bob Hope is in top form in this Technicolor parody of pirate pictures, doing his best vaudeville shtick as an inept performer trying to save princess Virginia Mayo from the evil clutches of governor Walter Slezak and pirate Victor McLaglen. It’s all ridiculous fun, of course, but if you’re a fan of Hope, you never tire of his self-effacing gags and double-entendres. His out-of-place show biz jabs were always clever, and they’re all the funnier in this period setting–particularly the Bing Crosby jokes. But Walter Brennan nearly steals the film as a wacky pirate scheming to steal buried treasure, and tattooing the map on Hope’s chest. Yet the two best routines are when Hope tries to conceal his chest while taking a bath with Slezak, and when he tries to impersonate McLaglen as “the Hook.” —Bill Desowitz

Product Description of The Princess and the Pirate starring Bob Hope, Virginia Mayo

The legendary Bob Hope takes to the high seas in this hilarious, Oscar (r)-nominated* romantic comedy co-starring Virginia Mayo, Walter Slezak, Walter Brennan and Victor McLaglen! Sylvester the Great (Hope) is a 17th-century entertainer with an act so atrocious, he’s exiled from England. Aboard a ship bound for America, he finds himself falling for the beautiful Princess Margaret(Mayo), a woman uninterested in love not to mention his lousy one-liners. But when an evil band of pirates attacks the ship and captures the princess, her only hope is the cowardly comedian. Can Sylvester stop cracking jokes and muster the courage to rescue his royal love? In other words, will he and Margaret end up walking down the aisle or walking the plank? *1944

Cast of characters

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