A new Bob Hope box set from Universal packages the long unavailable 1939 version of “The Cat and the Canary,” directed by Elliott Nugent, along with two other early Hope comedies not previously released on DVD: George Archainbaud’s 1938 “Thanks for the Memory,” a follow-up to Hope’s star-making turn in Mitchell Leisen’s “Big Broadcast of 1938″ that reunites him with Shirley Ross, and Nugent’s “Nothing But the Truth” (1941), which pairs Hope with Paulette Goddard for the third and final time.
The set, titled the “Thanks for the Memories Collection,” includes three re-issues: George Marshall’s 1940 sort-of-sequel to the hugely successful “Cat,” “The Ghost Breakers” (it’s the same old transfer, unfortunately, for a film that could have used a new one); David Butler’s “The Road to Morocco” (1942), probably the best sustained of the often bumpy “Road” pictures; and Norman Z. McLeod’s “The Paleface” (1948), a western burlesque that occasionally reveals the hand of co-screenwriter Frank Tashlin (who would direct the far superior sequel, “Son of Paleface,” in 1951).
Hope doesn’t get much love these days, perhaps because his removed, wisecracking style — he’s always slightly distanced from the material, and even from the characters he’s supposed to be playing — has been so widely influential that it’s difficult to appreciate his originality. But the man was a star for 50 years — in a career that parallels John Wayne’s, in its length and evolutionary stages — and there must have been a reason for that. Further thoughts here in the New York Times.