Sorrowful Jones is a classic comedy film that was released in 1949. The film was directed by Sidney Lanfield and wriiten by Melville Shavelson, Jack Rose and Edmund Hartmann. The film runs for 88 minutes. In many respects, Sorrowful Jones is a remake of Shirley Temple’s 1934 film, Little Miss Marker. As a comedy this movie is known for living up to its billing and provides a large number of laughs, particularly since the stars are Bob Hope and Lucille Ball. In retrospect it was a precursor of some of the legendary body of work Bob Hope was to compile and go on to complete.
The Simple Story Line
Sorrowful Jones is a sly and cheap bookie played by Bob Hope. A 5 year old girl is left with him, as security on a horserace wager. Her father is then murdered by the gangsters he hangs out with, and the youngster is left orphaned, and with Sorrowful Jones. This situation obviously does not suit his lifestyle very well and places the bookie in some ridiculous situations such as errant gangsters try to find her, plus there is a case of horse-napping that ends in complete hilarity. In addition, Sorrowful Jones and his ex-girlfriend Gladys O’Neill, played by Lucille Ball, need to work together and fight to keep the child out of an orphanage.
Sorrowful Jones provides Bob Hope with a real-life character to play, and his slightly more subdued portrayal is even funnier when the one-liners do appear. The role is slightly different to most of the ‘standard’ role that Bob Hope would go on to play, which were more of a copy of the Bob Hope character, effectively making this a film with Bob Hope more than a Bob Hope film.
Sorrowful Jones benefits from some quality performances from the co-stars. Mary Jane Saunders manages to cute without irritating, Lucille Ball is fortunately less off-the-wall than her TV character and her performance is warm and empathetic despite the antagonistic role in the film. William Demarest and Ben Welden are both workmanlike and deliver convincing performances.
Characters in the Film
The mobsters in Sorrowful Jones are quite convincing, and contribute significantly to the comedic aspect of the film. William Demarest, in particular, as Sorrowful Jones’ grumpy partner is some moments of comic genius, and in running a bookkeepers joint is in a position to deliver numerous spiky one-liners. There are a multitude of gambling online NZ influences in the film, not least of all where Sorrowful tries to get a race horse admitted to the hospital under Saunders’ name.
Summary of Sorrowful Jones
Fundamentally, and key to the film’s success, is that Sorrowful Jones is genuinely funny. Bob Hope gets to deliver some simply brilliant lines that add to his comic status, but maintains a semi-serious attitude that off-sets the humour, making it much more poignant. The strange situations that arise during the course of events are obviously set up to promote this environment.
The direction is one of the strong points of the film, and Sidney Lanfield certainly evokes the best from his cast and the storyline. The final result may not be a remarkable film, but certainly provides decently adequate entertainment.