Bob Hope tries to capture the comic magic of his 1946 costume farce Monsieur Beaucaire with the splashy Technicolor romp Casanova's Big Night (filmed in 1952, released in 1954). Set in 18th century Venice, the film casts Hope as Pippo, the humble tailor of notorious ladies' man Casanova (an unbilled Vincent Price). When Casanova skips town without paying his debts, the local tradesman's guild, led by Casanova's butler Lucio (Basil Rathbone), conspire to pass off one of their number as the great lover and arrange a profitable marriage. Selected to impersonate Casanova is the hapless Pippo, who soon afterward is hired by the imperious Duchess of Castelbello (Hope Emerson) to test the fidelity of the duchess' future daughter-in-law Elena (Audrey Dalton). Along the way, Pippo is given lessons in etiquette and swordsmanship by both Lucio and tradeswoman Francesca (Joan Fontaine). Eventually, Pippo finds himself up to his neck in court intrigue, courtesy of the scheming Doge of Venice (Arnold Moss). Further complications include a couple of hilarious swashbuckling scenes, an interlude in a dungeon with addlepated prisoner Emo (Lon Chaney), and the obligatory disguise scene. The Pirandellian ending of Casanova's Big Night was later imitated by such films as The Maltese Bippy (1969) and Wayne's World (1992). Bob Hope is in fine form, the production is sumptuous and the supporting cast superb, but somehow there's a little something missing in Casanova's Big Night.
by Hal Erickson synopsis