What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… The Bells Of St. Mary’s (1945)

And now we’re coming back to that wonderful movie, The Bells Of St. Mary’s with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman!

Father O’Malley (Bing Crosby) is sent to be the pastor at a parochial school, and soon finds out what it means to be “up to his neck in nuns.” He and the head nun, Sister Mary Benedict (Ingrid Bergman), butt heads over how to run the school, and what they want to teach the students. Their most fervent disagreement is over Patsy Gallagher (Joan Carroll), who is in the school at Father O’Malley’s insistence, after her single mother asks him if Patsy could come there, since she was getting old enough to realize her mother was essentially a prostitute, which seemed to be one of the few ways she could pay the bills after her husband left her. Patsy isn’t as interested in school, hoping to get a job on her own, until Father O’Malley helps her build her confidence (at least, until she sees her father coming out of her mother’s apartment, mistaking him for somebody else). Father O’Malley and Sister Mary Benedict are also trying to figure out how to save the school, which is in bad shape and in danger of being condemned by the city council (with businessman Horace P. Bogardus, played by Henry Travers, building a new office building next door and hoping to use land from the school for parking space). Of course, the nuns are all praying that Mr. Bogardus will end up giving them his building for them to use for the school.

Well, since I already reviewed this movie and Going My Way previously, and I really don’t have anything new to add, then I’ll just make my comments on the new release. On November 26, 2019, Olive Films re-released the movie as part of their “Olive Signature Collection,” which features a new transfer of the movie (compared to their previous release) and a host of other extras. As far as the new transfer is concerned, it looks wonderful, better than I’ve ever seen the movie look! And, finally, one minor nuisance has been removed, the mask in the opening credits that had long covered up the fact that this movie was originally released by RKO Studios (since the movie is currently owned by Paramount through Republic Pictures)! Among the extras, there are two radio adaptations by the Screen Guild Theater, both featuring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman in their roles from the movie, along with a featurette on director Leo McCarey, one on the history of film franchises, and another discussing faith and how it worked within the movie, plus an essay written by Abbey Bender (which is both on the disc and in a written booklet that comes with the set). Overall, I would definitely say that this is the best way to view this movie! The movie is about two hours and six minutes long.

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Going My Way (1944) – Bing Crosby (original review of The Bells Of St. Mary’s) (here) – Road To Utopia (1946)

Gaslight (1944) – Ingrid Bergman (original review of The Bells Of St. Mary’s) (here) – Notorious (1946)

Coming Up Shorts! with… Klondike Casanova (1946)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

Welcome to my new feature on various theatrical shorts! Sometimes my comments will be on shorts included as extras on a disc set I am reviewing, and other times, they will be completely unrelated to the movie being reviewed (and I will try to indicate which). Hope you enjoy!

(Length: 8 minutes, 5 seconds)

Popeye and Olive run a saloon in the Klondike, when Dangerous Dan McBluto comes in and kidnaps Olive. Yet again, we have Popeye and Bluto fighting over Olive in a different setting. Still a lot of fun, with enough fun gags to keep me laughing throughout! From Olive performing on stage and holding her movements/notes when her piano player, Popeye has to double as the waiter for the all the customers, to the bears at McBluto’s place randomly going into a “radio”-type advertisement for McBluto’s furs, everything worked well for me! While it was still Harry Welch as Popeye, it still worked well enough for me to enjoy this one as I have the others!

And stay tuned for more of Coming Up Shorts! featuring more of Popeye (and the eventual post on the entire 1940s Volume 2 set), along with other shorts!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Stagecoach (1966)

Happy New Year, everyone! And what better way to start the new year than with a long-delayed review of the 1966 western Stagecoach, starring Ann-Margret, Red Buttons, Mike Connors, Alex Cord, Bing Crosby, Bob Cummings, Van Heflin, Slim Pickens, Stefanie Powers and Keenan Wynn!

As the movie starts, we find Crazy Horse and the Sioux attacking the cavalry. Meanwhile, in a local town, there is a fight between two Army men over dance hall girl Dallas (Ann-Margret), with the two men killing each other, while the boozy Doc Boone (Bing Crosby) looks on. Dallas and Doc Boone are both thrown out of town by Army Captain Mallory, and decide to leave on the stagecoach. They are joined by an embezzling banker (Bob Cummings), a whiskey salesman (Red Buttons), the pregnant wife of Captain Mallory (Stefanie Powers) and a gambler (Mike Connors), with the marshal (Van Heflin) joining the regular stagecoach driver (Slim Pickens) to go to Cheyenne. Due to the Sioux war party, they are accompanied on the first part of the trip by a troop of cavalrymen. They run into escaped convict Ringo Kid (Alex Cord), who joins them on their trip, under the watchful eye of the marshal. Along the way, the group constantly argues on whether to keep going, as they continue to hear about Crazy Horse’s war party.

This is a movie that I enjoyed very much. I saw it originally, for one reason, and one reason only: Bing Crosby. As a fan of his films, this was one that I wanted to see. For him alone, this movie is worth viewing, as he provides a lot of the humor, and does pretty well with the role (although it saddens me that this ended up being his last theatrical movie, as he pretty much made a complete switch to television after this, mainly doing his various TV specials).

I would say that my feelings towards the rest of the cast are mixed (although they do well enough to make the movie enjoyable). Bob Cummings does great as the thieving banker, who proves himself a jerk as he continues to insist on pushing forward in spite of the danger (even when the doctor says they shouldn’t move on after Mrs. Mallory gives birth). In spite of his brief appearance at the end, Keenan Wynn makes for a very despicable Luke Plummer, making it easy for the audience to cheer for the Ringo Kid. Mike Connors as the gambler and Stefanie Powers as Mrs. Mallory really don’t make much of an impact in their roles, but I feel they fare better than Alex Cord as the Ringo Kid. He does decently, BUT he is taking over the iconic role from John Wayne, who became a big star after appearing in the 1939 film, and Alex Cord just doesn’t compare to him.

What this movie does have in its favor is the improvements that came with time. This movie is in color, and widescreen, allowing us to see some wonderful scenery from the Colorado location shooting. This movie came out around the time that things were changing with the Production Code (whether you like that or not is up to you), so they were able to show a little more, as evidenced by attacks by Crazy Horse and the Sioux (although the blood more or less looks quite fake, which is fine by me). I have seen all three versions of Stagecoach, and this is the film I prefer. Is it perfect? No, but it is a fun ride just the same, and one I would recommend seeing.

Getting back to why this review has been long-delayed, I originally had planned to post it on March 3, 2019, after watching my copy of the out-of-print DVD from Twilight Time. However, before it could be published, Twilight Time announced an upgrade to Blu-ray and I pulled the review until I could see the new Blu-ray and see how it looked. I have seen it now, and I can say that it is a definite improvement over their earlier DVD release. The picture shines in high definition, allowing the beauty of the different locations to really shine. And of course, the color is great, too, showing off the different costumes for the main cast. An easily recommended way to see this movie! The movie is one hour, fifty-four minutes in length.

The movie is available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time as a limited edition with 3000 total copies available through either www.screenarchives.com or www.twilighttimemovies.com

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Robin And The 7 Hoods (1964) – Bing Crosby

Black Widow (1954) – Van Heflin

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2019) with… Holiday Inn (1942)

It’s certainly time for a holiday celebration, and what better movie than the classic Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire!

Bing Crosby plays Jim Hardy and Fred Astaire plays Ted Hanover, two men working together onstage with Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale), with whom they are both in love. Jim decides to leave the act and live on a farm, believing it to be an easier life (and oh, how wrong he was). After a year, he decides to turn the farm into an inn that is “open holidays only.” Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), who wants to break into show business, is sent there to audition, and she gets the job. When the inn opens New Year’s Eve, Ted comes in, drunk, after Lila left him for a millionaire. He ends up dancing with Linda, but then passes out. In the morning, he remembers dancing with a new partner, but can’t remember what she looked like (although he believes he is in love with her). He figures she will be back at the inn, and on Valentine’s Day, is proven right. She wants to be his partner, but doesn’t want to leave the inn. She ends up leaving the inn when Jim tries to prevent her having the choice to go to Hollywood. The question remains: where will she stay? Hollywood or Holiday Inn?

Yep, I would definitely say that this movie classifies as a Christmas movie. And New Year’s. And Valentine’s, Easter, 4th of July and Thanksgiving (even making a reference to the then-recently changing time of November when the holiday was actually supposed to be celebrated). Composer Irving Berlin originally had been trying to put together a Broadway revue with music inspired by various holidays, but it was after meeting with director Mark Sandrich that the decision was made to do it as a movie instead (utilizing Irving Berlin’s music, of course). And with this movie, the world was introduced to the classic song “White Christmas,” which would go on to win the “Best Song” Oscar (Irving Berlin’s only Oscar win).

Besides “White Christmas,” I can definitely say that there are a few songs and dances that I enjoy in this movie. One of them is the song “You’re Easy To Dance With,” sung and danced by Fred Astaire and Virginia Dale. Amongst Fred’s early Irving Berlin film musicals, it continues the trend of him doing a dancing-related song. He reprised it with Marjorie Reynolds at the New Year’s Eve party, except this time he was drunk (and I do mean drunk, as Fred had two drinks of bourbon before the first take, and one more between each take, with the seventh and final take being what we see in the movie).

Then, of course, there is the more patriotic song “Let’s Say It With Firecrackers” to go along with July 4. This is Fred’s big tap solo in the movie, and he worked with actual firecrackers for it! Apparently, it took about 38 attempts before Fred was satisfied with it, but it is very impressive to watch him do, just the same! Apparently, a little bit of animation was used to further emphasize some of the blasts, but I still have to give Fred credit for trying to pull this one off (and doing pretty well, at that)!

I will admit, this movie is certainly not a perfect one. I personally think that the lyrics for the song “I Can’t Tell A Lie” are rather cringeworthy, and the music itself is rather forgettable. The only redeeming quality is the fun of watching the music changing styles and “throwing off” Fred and Marjorie’s characters in their dance (since Bing’s character was trying to stop them from kissing in their dance). Then there’s the song “Abraham.” The use of blackface really drags it down (and I have a really hard time understanding why Bing did it, especially since he had been so instrumental a few years earlier in getting Louis Armstrong cast in Pennies From Heaven). The lyrics don’t help, either, and I certainly appreciate them not being used when the song was brought back for the “not-quite-a-remake” film White Christmas when Vera-Ellen and John Brascia danced to it. Still, in spite of those flaws, I do like this movie and would definitely recommend trying it out (for any holiday associated with this movie)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios and is one hour, forty minutes in length.

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Road To Zanzibar (1941) – Bing Crosby – Road To Morocco (1942)

Broadway Melody Of 1940 (1940) – Fred Astaire – The Sky’s The Limit (1943)

Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire (screen team) – Blue Skies (1946)

Marjorie Reynolds – The Time Of Their Lives (1946)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Robin And The 7 Hoods (1964)

“Oh gee, I’m a hood! I’m a hood! Ho!” – Allen A. Dale (Bing Crosby)

“That’s a hood?” – Six Seconds (Hank Henry)

We now have another take on the Robin Hood legend. This time, the story has been transplanted to late 1920s/1930s Chicago in musical form (with music provided by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen), and features Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Bing Crosby in Robin And The 7 Hoods.

When gangster Big Jim (an uncredited Edward G. Robinson) is gunned down by all the gangsters in town, Guy Gisborne (Peter Falk) takes over, charging everyone for “protection” provided by the sheriff. Robbo (Frank Sinatra) and his men don’t want to go along with that. In their feud, the two groups end up destroying each other’s nightclubs. Meanwhile, a young lady named Marian (Barbara Rush) (who turns out to be Big Jim’s daughter) wants Big Jim’s murder avenged by Robbo (who doesn’t want to do it). When Guy offs the sheriff for not preventing the destruction of his own nightclub, Marian tries to pay Robbo. Wanting nothing to do with the money, he orders it to be given away. It ends up going to an orphanage, and the resulting publicity, started by Allen A. Dale (Bing Crosby), who worked at the orphanage, turns Robbo into a popular celebrity in Chicago. This makes Guy mad, and he tries (and fails) to take Robbo down.

For me personally, this movie has always felt like it had two halves. The first half mainly features the feud between Robbo and Guy. While it certainly has comedic elements to it, they mostly take a back seat to the action. Then, a little before the halfway point, Bing Crosby shows up as Allen A. Dale and the comedy aspects come to the forefront. Personally, I have always enjoyed the second half more because of Bing Crosby, as I think he got some of the movie’s better songs (even if Frank did come out of this movie with the song “My Kind Of Town,” which seems to be the film’s big hit).

One of those songs that I like is the song “Style.” Apparently, Bing Crosby was colorblind, and was generally known for wearing some loud outfits because of that. With this song (or rather, the stuff they are doing while singing it), it seems like they are poking a little fun at Bing for that. But the real fun here is getting to hear Bing, Frank and Dean Martin singing together (and, of course, the song itself is fun and catchy, too)!

Next up is the song “Mr. Booze.” For one scene, Guy, out of frustration, wants to destroy Robbo’s newly rebuilt club, this time through an official police raid. However, Robbo made sure the new architect made preparations for such an event, and they turn the club into a room for a “revival” meeting. With Bing’s Allen A. Dale “acting” as the reverend leading the meeting, they end up going into the song “Mr. Booze.” It’s just a hilarious song (and I can’t help but laugh when they show some of the raiding policemen really getting into the meeting)!

The last song I want to mention is “Don’t Be A Do-Badder.” This song seems to be the theme for the character Allen A. Dale, as it seems to accompany him in the background for some of his appearances. When it is done as a full musical number, it is done with him and all the kids in the orphanage. Apparently, they were going for a similar staging to the Oscar-winning song “Swingin’ On A Star” from the Bing Crosby movie Going My Way. While it wasn’t quite that effective, I still think it was fun!

These were the three main songs that I enjoyed in this movie (although I believe it has many more wonderful moments)! I think one half is better than the other, but I like the whole movie and would easily recommend it!This movie is available individually on Blu-ray and DVD, and as part of the five film Frank Sinatra Collection from Warner Home Video, and is two hours, three minutes in length.

“Take it from me, don’t be a do-badder…”

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Road To Hong Kong (1962) – Frank Sinatra – None But The Brave (1965)

The Road To Hong Kong (1962) – Dean Martin

The Road To Hong Kong (1962) – Bing Crosby – Stagecoach (1966)

Screen Team VS: Bing & Fred vs. Frank & Gene

In 1941, a chance meeting between director Mark Sandrich and composer Irving Berlin resulted in them planning on a musical inspired by various holidays. It was planned as a vehicle for Bing Crosby, and they also decided that it would be right up Fred Astaire’s alley, too. And so we had those two friends paired together for the classic 1942 Paramount movie Holiday Inn. A few years later, MGM responded with their own song-and-dance team of Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh. While I haven’t seen anything that makes them out to be rival teams, considering the individual members were indeed rivals, one can’t help but want to compare them. While I certainly have my preference as to which I enjoy watching more (and so, like on the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway, the points don’t matter), I still feel like talking about the two teams, mainly sticking to the movies they made together.

Holiday Inn (1942) – My Rating: 8/10

Blue Skies (1946) – My Rating: 10/10

Anchors Aweigh (1945) – My Rating: 5/10

Take Me Out To The Ball Game (1949) – My Rating: 9/10

On The Town (1949) – My Rating: 8/10

Screen Team Edition: Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire

Screen Team Edition: Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly

So let’s start with some of the more obvious differences. Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire made two movies together, while Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly made three. Between their two films, Bing and Fred have two songs that they work together directly and two more that they are both involved together (just not as much). Frank and Gene can claim about twelve songs that they work together in pretty solidly through their three movies. Irving Berlin provides all the music for Bing and Fred, while Frank and Gene are served by the likes of Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn, Roger Edens, Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein.

To get a little deeper into the elements of that differentiate the two, I would say at least two come to mind: how their friendships are portrayed on screen, and how their offscreen careers may have affected the films. On screen, Bing and Fred were similar to Bing and Bob. They were both romantic rivals, and they had no troubles double-crossing each other when it came to romance in Holiday Inn. While Blue Skies started out with a similar relationship, partway through, Fred’s character started to soften, and care enough for the film’s leading lady that he wasn’t as willing to come between them. Meanwhile, Frank and Gene portrayed their characters as good buddies. Admittedly, Gene mainly tried to help Frank to get him off his back in his own attempts at romance, but he still felt like he was betraying a good friend when he fell for the same girl that Frank first fell for. Admittedly, some of that might be different just purely from occupations, as Bing and Fred portrayed characters in show business, and in two of their three movies, Frank and Gene were sailors who no doubt had gone through a lot together.

I also believe their movie careers affected these movies. When Bing and Fred were teamed up, they had both been in the movies for nearly a decade, and were some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. When Frank and Gene were paired together, neither of them had been in the movies for very long (in fact, I get the impression Anchors Aweigh was Frank’s first starring role). Consequently, that affected the various situations. I get the impression from what I have read that both Bing and Frank weren’t big into rehearsing, while Fred and Gene were both perfectionists who put a lot of work into what they did. With Bing as a more established star, he apparently didn’t feel the need to rehearse as much (and I can only imagine that must have driven Fred nuts), thus his dancing comes off poorly. With Frank not as established, he had to put in more rehearsal time with Gene, and so we see them looking at least decent together (and who knows how much natural talent Frank might have had as a dancer compared to Bing). Of course, age might also come into play, too, and Frank and Gene were both in their late 20s/early thirties when first paired together, while Bing was in his late 30s and Fred already in his forties.

Personally, I can’t help but wish the four had made a movie together (and no, I’m not including the first That’s Entertainment movie that they all co-hosted, since they never actually share the screen at any time). Of course, I do know that they had some team up here and there. Rivals Bing and Frank worked together in High Society, Robin And The 7 Hoods, The Road To Hong Kong (Frank makes a cameo appearance), and several TV specials. Fred and Gene worked together for one song in Ziegfeld Follies and again as co-hosts of That’s Entertainment Part 2. Not to mention Bing and Gene making cameo appearances in the Marilyn Monroe movie Let’s Make Love (although they don’t appear together). I think both teams were truly wonderful to watch, but I will always pick Bing and Fred as the more fun team to watch together.

Holiday Inn

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

Blue Skies

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

Anchors Aweigh

My Rating: 5/10

Audience Rating:

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

On The Town

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

Winner: Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire (again, just my opinion)

TFTMM on… The “Road To…” Series (1940-1962)

Just for fun, now I would like to talk about the seven film Road series with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and their frequent co-star Dorothy Lamour. I do admit, I could easily do a post on them as a screen team (whether it be all three of them together, Bing & Bob or Bob & Dottie), but most of their other appearances together are minor (mostly cameos that might spoil some movies), so I’ll just stick to this series. Of course, with that many movies in the series, I’ll link to the individual reviews for each of them.

The first film in the series, Road To Singapore, was almost a different beast entirely. Originally, the script went by the title The Road To Mandalay, and it was planned for different stars, including George Burns and Gracie Allen, and possibly a few others, all of whom turned it down. How it came to Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, who knows, as there have been many different stories of how that came to be. However, what is known is that Bing and Bob had worked together previously, on stage and at a racetrack opening, so they had established some kind of relationship, that eventually resulted in them being paired together for Road To Singapore, where they mostly “ad-libbed” their way through (much to the dismay of the film’s writers but the enjoyment of the film’s director, Victor Schertzinger).

Road To Singapore (1940)

My Rating: 9/10

Few at Paramount had any idea how big Road To Singapore would turn out to be. The movie’s success prompted them to look at another property for them to do. What would become Road To Zanzibar came from a script called “Find Colonel Fawcett” that they had turned down before due to its similarity to another movie. Reworked, it became the next film in the Road series. With Victor Schertzinger returning as director, the boys were given the same freedom they had enjoyed before, with “ad-libs” thrown around, and an increase in breaking the fourth wall, with many winks to the audience. Of course, their characters and their relationship onscreen became more defined, and less dramatic than the movie before.

Road To Zanzibar (1941)

My Rating: 8/10

Coming off the success of the first two movies, they were finally given a script written specifically for them. Victor Schertzinger was slated to be the film’s director, but his sudden passing left the film’s reins being passed to David Butler. With a script written for them, even more hilarity was allowed, whether it be talking camels (with animated lips and eyes but otherwise realistic bodies) or songs that fit their style of comedy, like the title song. And then there’s the start of a trend for the remaining films, in which stuff happens that, in other films, would be considered goofs or plot holes in other movies, but are done on purpose. For example, in Morocco, the boys are tied up and left behind stuck in nets in the desert, trying to hop their way after the villains in one shot, and in the next are completely free, and they openly state they won’t tell the audience how they got out).

Road To Morocco (1942)

My Rating: 8/10

With Road To Morocco proving to be a big success, the fact that another movie would come was inevitable. However, Road To Utopia went through a number of delays. The writers had a hard time coming up with a script that all three of the leads would agree to. Consequently, it is the odd duck in the series, with us being introduced to Dorothy Lamour’s character as soon as the boys (the only time in the series that she was introduced that soon instead of making her first appearance nearly twenty minutes into the movie like in the other five she starred in). Once finished, the movie would still be delayed, partly due to the success of Road To Morocco (since movies stayed in theatres longer then), as well as giving Bing room for success with his Academy Award winning role in Going My Way.

Road To Utopia (1945)

My Rating: 7/10

Road To Rio (1947)

My Rating: 9/10

With Road To Rio, the series began bringing in celebrities for various cameo appearances. The Andrews Sisters joined Bing for the song “You Don’t Have To Know The Language,” and Jerry Colonna was the leader of the cavalry trying to come to the rescue at the end of the movie. Road To Bali brought in a few more celebrities (borrowing footage from The African Queen for Humphrey Bogart’s appearance). Another change for Bali was the change to color, as the previous entries had all been filmed in black-and-white. However, this would also be the last movie in the series done at Paramount Studios.

Road To Bali (1952)

My Rating: 7/10

After a decade (and the ends of their contracts with Paramount), Bing and Bob came back for The Road To Hong Kong. This time, the movie was back to being black-and-white, but now was in widescreen for the first time. At Bing’s insistence, they brought in a new, younger female co-star. Dorothy Lamour wanted in, and Bob Hope tried to make a push for her to be, so as a compromise, she was given a cameo and a song of her own. However, the series and its stars was showing its age, even if they did try to make it more modern by parodying spy movies and the space race, and it ended up being the final movie in the series (although there were plans for another that were squashed partly by Bing’s death).

The Road To Hong Kong (1962)

My Rating: 4/10

I would have to say, these are the movies that helped start my fondness for classic movies. Prior to watching these, I mainly had seen the animated Disney movies and maybe one or two of the really big classics, but I really wasn’t interested, otherwise. When my family first upgraded to a DVD player and subscribed to Netflix, these were some of the movies my parents tried to rent. We didn’t see them in the order they were made, but they ended up being an enjoyable treat, and one I have enjoyed ever since. If possible, I know I would recommend seeing the series in the right order, as some jokes about the series work better if the series is viewed from the start. My own opinion is that the first six films are the ones most worth seeing, and The Road To Hong Kong can more or less be ignored. While I have grown older and started to see how politically incorrect some of these movies can be, they are still always worth a good laugh for me, and I have no trouble whatsoever recommending this wonderful series!

And click on any of the following images to go to Amazon and buy any of these movies (or anything, for that matter), and help support this blog!

Road To Singapore
Road To Zanzibar
Road To Morocco

Road To Utopia
Road To Rio
Road To Bali

The Road To Hong Kong

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… The Road To Hong Kong (1962)

Here we are for the seventh and final movie in the Road series, the 1962 movie The Road To Hong Kong, with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope returning, and joined this time by Joan Collins.

This time, Bing is Harry Turner and Bob is Chester Babcock, a pair of con men. When Chester ends up in an accident during one of their cons that causes him to lose his memory, they go to a lamasery that holds the potential to restore his memory. While at the airport on their way there, Chester is mistaken for an agent of the Third Echelon, and is given a secret rocket formula by Diane (Joan Collins). After Chester regains his memory at the lamasery, he is also given an herb that would allow him to remember word for word anything that he reads after being shown it. When they return, Harry unknowingly has Chester memorize the formula, and burns the paper they were on. Harry makes a deal with Diane, and they go to Hong Kong to meet the leader of the Third Echelon. They have no luck, and they get sent up on a rocket. I could easily keep going, but I need to stop at some point!

Since I should discuss movies I DON’T have as high an opinion of (or otherwise, I may run out of movies eventually), we’ll discuss what I think of this movie. As the seventh and final movie in the Road series, this one shows indeed that the series was running out of steam. The story is somewhat convoluted, and seems at times like the movie is trying to be a “greatest hits” of their material. That would be fine, except Bing and Bob were both nearly sixty at the time they made this movie, and their timing (and physical abilities) show it. I don’t know what the problem is (possibly just the material they were given), as I have seen them together in one of Bing’s TV specials made about the same time to promote the movie, where I thought they were far funnier together.

It hurts even more that they have a much younger female co-star, Joan Collins, instead of Dorothy Lamour, their co-star in the previous six movies (reduced to a cameo here as a compromise, since Bing and a number of others apparently thought she was getting too old, even though she was about ten years younger than Bob and Bing, and wanted somebody much younger, but Bob wanted her in the movie). However you look at it, though, the lack of chemistry shows, and the brief few minutes with Dorothy Lamour are far better than the rest of the movie with Joan Collins.

Now, in spite of what I have said, I do enjoy this movie. I admit, I am only really likely to watch it when I am either watching through the filmographies of Bing or Bob (at least, those I have on disc), or when I am watching the Road series. It is worth a few laughs, but sometimes it depends upon my mood when I watch it. I can’t quite recommend it to anybody else, though, hence my more negative review (if you have read this review and still want to try it, I am still providing Amazon links as usual).

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Olive Films, and is about one hour, thirty-two minutes in length.

My Rating: 4/10

Audience Rating:  

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

High Time (1960) – Bing Crosby – Robin And The 7 Hoods (1964)

Road To Bali (1952) – Bob Hope

The Opposite Sex (1956) – Joan Collins

Road To Bali (1952) – Dorothy Lamour

Ocean’s 11 (1960) – Frank Sinatra – Robin And The 7 Hoods (1964)

Ocean’s 11 (1960) – Dean Martin – Robin And The 7 Hoods (1964)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Road To Bali (1952)

We’re hitting the Road again, this time with the sixth film Road To Bali, once again starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour!

While in Australia, vaudevillians George Cochran (Bing Crosby) and Harold Gridley (Bob Hope) find themselves on the run to avoid a pair of shotgun weddings. They hire out to Prince Ken Arok (Murvyn Vye) of Batou as deep sea divers to go after sunken treasure. When they get to the island of Batou, they meet Princess Lalah (it’s Dorothy Lamour, so you know the boys will fall for her). Lalah is against them going diving for the treasure, because she knows about the killer squid living down there, and she tells George about it. So of course he cons Harold into going after it. Harold manages to survive the squid and get the treasure up, and so George, Harold and Lalah try to flee to Bali. While there’s a lot more that happens after that, it’s as good a place as any for me to stop.

I do have to say, with this movie, the series (and its stars) was starting to show its age. There is a slight “been there, done that” quality to the movie, with stuff like them avoiding a shotgun wedding (for the third time), them trying to swear off women (for however long that lasts), etc. Of course, as with most of the series, they do struggle with stereotypes of the various native people. Where some modern audiences might also object is the “wedding of the two grooms and no bride” (which was supposed to be Dottie’s Lalah marrying the two guys until the native chief decided to take her as his own wife), since their “volcano god” objects to it.

Don’t let my complaints fool you. I do like this movie, and think it does have many wonderful moments! The movie has a great many celebrity cameos, including Humphrey Bogart (although technically it’s borrowed footage from The African Queen), Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Bob’s Son Of Paleface co-star Jane Russell (wearing one of her costumes from that movie) and a couple others. There are also a few fun tunes, including “The Merry-Go-Run-Around,” which, to me, perfectly exemplifies the rivalry that Bing and Bob’s characters had shared for Dorothy Lamour’s characters throughout the series. And while it kind of veers into recognizing that “been there, done that” quality, Bob’s aside to the audience when the music begins for Bing’s big romantic song is certainly worth a good laugh. There are a few other wonderful moments in the movie, but, suffice to say, I enjoy this movie and would definitely suggest giving it a try!

The movie has fallen into the public domain, but for the best quality transfer, I would suggest either the Blu-ray or DVD from Kino Lorber. The movie is one hour, thirty-one minutes in length.

My Rating: 7/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Son Of Paleface (1952) – Bing Crosby – White Christmas (1954)

Son Of Paleface (1952) – Bob Hope – The Road To Hong Kong (1962)

Road To Rio (1947) – Dorothy Lamour – The Road To Hong Kong (1962)

Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) – Humphrey Bogart

Dean Martin – Ocean’s 11 (1960)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Road To Utopia (1946)

We’re back for the fourth road trip with Road To Utopia with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour!

In flashback, we are told of how Sal’s (Dorothy Lamour) lawyer is murdered by two criminals, Sperry and McGurk, who steal a map to an Alaskan gold mine, and Sal gets on the first ship to Alaska to try to head them off. Meanwhile, a pair of song-and-dance con men, Duke Johnson (Bing Crosby) and Chester Hooton (Bob Hope), end up on a later ship to Alaska (after Duke cons Chester into going along). However, Chester shoves their money out a porthole (mistaking it for a safe), and they have to work their way over.  While cleaning the room occupied by Sperry and McGurk, they find the map.  Subduing the two criminals, they assume their identities to get off the boat. Sal, having already made it to the town of Skagway, has turned to her father’s friend Ace Larson (Douglas Dumbrille) for help (although he secretly wants the mine for himself). Duke and Chester also come to Skagway, where, as Sperry and McGurk, they are big men in town and gain Sal’s attention as she tries to get the map from them. However, Duke and Chester quickly find themselves on the run when the real Sperry and McGurk come gunning for them (not to mention some of Ace Larson’s goons, too).

While this may be the fourth movie in the series, the laughs are still coming hard and fast!  We get a second go-round of “talking” animals (achieved by mainly animating the lips).  Then we have the guys defining their relationship even further, with Bing’s Duke now even more willing to con Bob’s Chester (as exemplified by Chester feeling the need to count his fingers after shaking hands with Duke, or watching them pickpocket the same wallet from each other).  Then, of course, there are their quips, lampooning each other and a lot of other things, including the censors!  And who could forget Bob literally getting steamed up when Dottie is singing to him? Of course, these are just a handful of wonderful moments in a movie full of them.

A lot of what I’ve read seems to indicate that most feel that this movie is right up there with Road To Morocco as one of the best, if not the best, movies in the Road series. Personally, I disagree with that. I do like this movie, that I will admit. But at the same time, I do miss them doing their “patty-cake” routine (since this is the ONLY film in the series that they don’t do it at least once), and their reliance on the old “literally pull the rug out from under the bad guys” schtick instead of it just doesn’t work for me. That, and, to a degree, some of the movie’s suspense is removed just by the fact that the movie starts with the three leads (in old age makeup) as they tell the story of how they came to be separated for many years.  To be fair, these are minor quibbles, as I do still enjoy this movie.  This is the one in the series that modern viewers might have the easiest time with as it has the fewest issues with being politically correct (since it only takes place in Noth America, starting in San Francisco and moving to Alaska). So, yes, I would recommend this one for a good laugh!

The movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber (and has been available on DVD from Universal for a number of years). As to the Blu-ray, I think it looks very good, possibly the best-looking transfer of the first four movies with few, if any, defects. Certainly the method of viewing I would recommend! The movie is one hour, thirty minutes in length.

My Rating: 7/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Bells Of St. Mary’s (1944) (original review of The Bells Of St. Mary’s) (update) – Bing Crosby – Blue Skies (1946)

Road To Morocco (1942) – Bob Hope – Road To Rio (1947)

Road To Morocco (1942) – Dorothy Lamour – Road To Rio (1947)

The Sky’s The Limit (1943) – Robert Benchley

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Road To Morocco (1942)

We’re back for the third film in the Road series, Road To Morocco, again with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour!

When the ship that Jeff Peters (Bing Crosby) and Orville “Turkey” Jackson (Bob Hope) are stowed away on explodes, they manage to get to the shores of North Africa on a raft. Once there, they make their way on camel to Morocco. In the first town they come to, Jeff sells Orville as a slave to help pay for some food. However, after Orville is taken away, Jeff can’t find him to rescue him, until the ghostly form of Orville’s Aunt Lucy (also Bob Hope) appears to him in a dream and points him in the right direction. Jeff is able to locate him, and discovers that, instead of being a slave, Orville is engaged to Princess Shalmar (Dorothy Lamour)! When Jeff bursts in on them, Shalmar takes a liking to him, but still insists on marrying Orville (for reasons I refuse to spoil). Meanwhile, they also have to deal with the desert sheik Mullay Kassim (Anthony Quinn), who is determined to marry Shalmar himself.

Some consider this movie to be the best of the Road series. Personally, I like a couple of the others better, but I won’t deny that this movie probably has the best music of the series, provided by composers James Van Heusen and Johnny Burke. The title song definitely feels like it was written for Bing and Bob, allowing them to break the fourth wall with knowing winks to the audience. “Moonlight Becomes You,” Bing’s big romantic song in this movie, was the biggest hit in the series. “Ain’t Got A Dime To My Name” is also kind of fun and catchy (made a little more amusing by the presence of Bob Hope’s Aunt Lucy).

You sure can say one thing about this movie: it’s not short on comedy! While the boys continued to “ad-lib” most of their lines (as provided by their gag writers), one genuine ad-lib made it in, when, in one of the early scenes in the movie, the camel they were working with spit on Bob Hope, and the director kept the camera going long enough to get Bing’s reaction. Then, of course, there is the film’s reprise of “Moonlight Becomes You” later in the movie, with Bing and Bob joined by a mirage of Dorothy, and their voices all switching around. Dottie plays it straight, with Bing reacting a little to the voice switching and Bob just having fun with it. Now that I’ve had a chance to see the movie Here Comes Mr. Jordan, I do think that the references to that movie play a little better (but, since there is no real “world-building” here, you can get away with not watching that movie). There are certainly a lot of other wonderful bits of comedy (including a pair of “talking” camels), but I should mention that at least one moment early on might sour modern audiences, a moment where they observe a mentally challenged man able to get free food from the market vendors because they consider them sacred, and so Bob’s Orville tries to act mentally challenged to get some food (and fails). Otherwise, though, I do consider this to be a fun movie, and would easily recommend it (of course, I do suggest seeing the earlier movies in the series first).

This movie has been made available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber (and has been available on DVD for years from Universal Studios). The transfer on the new Blu-ray looks about as good as I’ve ever seen the movie, with maybe a few scratches here and there. It’s certainly the way I would recommend seeing the movie. The movie is one hour, twenty-two minutes in length.

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Holiday Inn (1942) – Bing Crosby – Going My Way (1944)

Road To Zanzibar (1941) – Bob Hope – Road To Utopia (1946)

Road To Zanzibar (1941) – Dorothy Lamour – Road To Utopia (1946)