One of the true curiosities of the cinema, Gerd Oswald’s 1958 “Paris Holiday” has finally turned up in an acceptable widescreen transfer as part of Shout! Factory’s hit-or-miss set “The Bob Hope Collection, Vol. 2.”
Oswald, the elegant, German-trained director of such thrillers as “A Kiss before Dying” (1956) and westerns like “Fury at Sundown” (1957), seems like an odd choice to direct this functionally bilingual comedy starring Bob Hope and Fernandel, both playing slightly abstracted versions of themselves in a trumped up chase comedy — maybe it was because he got a coherent performance out of Anita Ekberg, appearing here as the femme fatale counterpart to Martha Hyer’s good girl, in the noirish western “Valerie.”
But Oswald negotiates the minimal plot with his usual care and concision, and creates an appropriately hushed, respectful atmosphere around an unexpected bit player — Preston Sturges, then dangling from the end of his rope as an exile in Paris, after his Hollywood career had evaporated. This would be Sturges’ last contact with the cinema, and in his brief appearance he projects a wonderfully dignified, amused presence — a sly old lion in winter.
Also in this week’s New York Times column, a quick look at William Dieterle’s 1949 “Rope of Sand,” one of the latest Paramount titles from Olive Films.