So last night, Dr. Sci-Fi and I utilized the magic of Netflix to watch an old Bob Hope comedy entitled My Favorite Spy (1951). It’s a mistaken-identity caper in which an entertainer (Hope) is asked by the president to impersonate an international spy whom he resembles.
If you know anything about classic Hollywood comedies, you can probably guess how the story turns out. Hope, who–let’s face it–is not as good-looking as he is funny, gets beautiful Hedy Lamarr in the end and the bad guys are foiled.
What Dr. Sci-Fi and I found interesting about My Favorite Spy is its conclusion. There is no dénouement (to use a fancy film school phrase). It just ends. The secret agents clap handcuffs on the portly mobster villain and Hope and Lamarr ride off into the sunset on a donkey cart. The End.
These days you usually see the hero return to his point of origin with his new love or perhaps starting a new life. Sometimes there’s a montage featuring all the major characters in their new circumstances. And sometimes this montage plays during the credits.
I don’t think one ending is better than another–it’s just interesting to see how different film eras handled these sorts of things. My guess would be that back in the studio system days (when My Favorite Spy was filmed) people cranked out movie after movie and once the story was over it was over. On to the next.