Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Sequel to Danny Kaye's "Knock on Wood"... Starring Bob Hope

While Sam Goldwyn always wanted to make a sequel to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, it was Kaye's first film for Paramount, Knock on Wood, that came closer to inspiring a follow-up picture.

Knock on Wood was intended to be Danny Kaye’s first of two movies with Paramount, but the spy comedy was so well received, it led to a series of other pictures, nearly including a sequel.

As shooting for the film was wrapping in late summer 1953, Paramount was desperate to find a co-star for Bing Crosby in White Christmas and, impressed by how well Knock on Wood was coming along, bribed Kaye to handsomely to step in—and even paid Knock on Wood writer/directors Norman Panama and Mel Frank to rewrite the White Christmas script to make it more suitable for Danny’s talents and personality.

When the two movies were released in 1954, White Christmas became the biggest grossing film of the year, taking in $12 million. But it cost nearly $4 million to produce and market, and Paramount had to give away two-thirds of the profits to Crosby, Irving Berlin, and Kaye.

What really impressed the studio was the surprise smash showing of Knock on Wood. It cost $1.2 million and earned $4 million. Paramount quickly negotiated with Kaye for a second two-picture deal, even though it still hadn’t decided what it was going to do as the second picture of the first two-picture deal. Panama and Frank, as it turned out, wanted to do an epic swashbuckling comedy, The Court Jester. Paramount okayed the big-budget epic, but as part of the second deal, they wanted a sequel to Knock on Wood.

After finishing up with The Court Jester in 1956, Panama and Frank started work on a script for a sequel that incorporated Danny’s same ventriloquist character, running into more international spies, but this time in Japan. The title: Knock on Silk.

But as the disappointing returns on The Court Jester trickled in—and Danny devoted huge swaths of his downtime to traveling the globe for UNICEF—Paramount began to question the wisdom of a sequel. Kaye wasn’t happy with the script, so he decided to do two movies for other studios first. When he found their rewrite still too outlandish, he committed to The Five Pennies as his next Paramount picture, figuring he’d conclude his Paramount contract with Knock on Silk.

So Panama and Frank gave it one more stab, removing the Knock on Wood sequel elements and renaming it The Bamboo Kid. It would be shot in Japan, with Danny playing a temperamental movie star who criticizes the script he’s given, saying that it’s too unbelievable—until such adventures really start happening.

Panama and Frank submitted their revised script to Danny in February 1959. He still didn’t like it and tabled the project indefinitely. He ended up selling it to Bob Hope, who had Panama and Frank rewrite it again as The Road to Hong Kong.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes, classics are not immediately appreciated for their brilliance and high-quality. I've always thought "Court Jester" is a much better film
    than "Knock on Wood". Just because "Knock on Wood" made a profit and "Court Jester" didn't is irrelevant. That's just what audiences were into at the time. Court Jester has since been recognized as an American classic, has it not? Its quality has stood the test of time.