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
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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:

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:

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:

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Road To Zanzibar (1941)

Time to hit the road again! This time we’re on the Road To Zanzibar, again with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour!

Carnival performers Chuck Reardon (Bing Crosby) and “Fearless” (Hubert) Frazier (Bob Hope) have to go on the run after they accidentally burn down a carnival. Instead of buying tickets to go back home, Chuck Reardon buys what turned out to be a phony diamond mine.  When Fearless sells it to a dangerous man, they end up on the run again. They run into Donna Latour (Dorothy Lamour) and Julia Quimby (Una Merkel), a pair of con artists who persuade Chuck and Fearless to take them on a safari to find Donna’s “father” (who is in reality a millionaire that Donna wants to marry). Thing is, while on safari, both Chuck and Fearless fall in love with Donna, and she starts to develop feelings for one of them (and if you know the series, you can guess which one).

For the second film in the Road series, more of the series’ trademarks are falling into place. Bing and Bob bring back their “patty-cake” routine from Road To Singapore, acknowledging that film when, in the first of the two times they use it in this movie, the guy they try to use it on gets them first. Then, of course, there are those marvelous quips by both Bing and Bob, not to mention we see their type of relationship more solidified. Admittedly, this is probably the most politically incorrect movie in the series, in between the background images for the opening credits and the cannibalistic African tribe that they have to deal with.

Personally, I really enjoy this movie and all its wonderful comedic moments. One moment would definitely have to be when Fearless Frazier has to fight a gorilla (ok, so it’s just a person in a gorilla suit). It’s an amusing fight, with Chuck periodically lighting matches from outside the cage to distract the gorilla (although he distracts Fearless at least once). Then, of course, there’s the song “It’s Always You,” which mocks the moments in musicals where the background music just comes out of nowhere. I could easily list quite a few more, but I do like this movie and would easily recommend it (at least, if you can get past the politically incorrect stuff).

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 only a few scratches here and there, and is the way I would certainly recommend seeing the movie. The movie is one hour, thirty-two minutes in length.

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2018) on… Road To Rio (1947)

Back on the road again! Here we are, off on the Road To Rio, with Bing Crosby as Scat Sweeney, Bob Hope as Hot Lips Barton, and Dorothy Lamour as Lucia Maria de Andrade!

Scat Sweeney and Hot Lips Barton, both musicians, are both on the run after Hot Lips accidentally burns down a carnival that Scat had conned him into doing a high-wire act for. Stowing a way on a ship to Brazil, they meet Lucia, who is threatening to jump off the ship. She is facing a marriage to her “Aunt’s” (her guardian) brother, whom she doesn’t seem to love. We later find out her aunt has been hypnotizing her. Once they get to Brazil, Scat Sweeney gets them together as a band, along with three others from the area. Scat and Hot Lips are also hypnotized into almost killing each other, before they come to and realize what has been happening to Lucia. Then then go off to try and save her.

This movie is just full of wonderful comedic moments. Some of the best center around the three Wiere brothers. For the most part, they are silent, except for their laugh or whenever they speak Portuguese (I think?). In the movie, they are three local musicians in Brazil whom Bing’s character convinces to join him and Bob’s characters as a band. The catch? They are all supposed to be American musicians! So Bing and Bob teach each member one single phrase to help keep their cover. The result is similar to the “two-line vocabulary” game done on the U.S. TV series Whose Line Is It Anyway? (except of course, they all only have one line).

Of course, we have all the trademarks of Bing and Bob, too.  They do their patty-cake routine.  We have all the quips and the insults that they are known for, and the asides to the audience.  And then there’s… “the papers.”  Of course, we also have a cameo from the Andrews Sisters, joining Bing for the song “You Don’t Have To Know The Language.”

For me, this is one of the best films in the “Road” series, right alongside Road to Singapore.  I recommend it this movie very much, if you need a good comedy!  The movie is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Kino Lorber, and runs about one hour, forty-one minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

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TFTMM 2018 & WOIANRA 2019 on… Road To Singapore (1940) (Updated)

Ok, let’s get this show on the road! The Road to Singapore, that is, the first in a series of seven films, starring Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour, and Bob Hope!

At first, we find Josh Mallon (Bing Crosby) and Ace Lannigan (Bob Hope) making fun of married men, and then we find out their problems: Ace is facing a shotgun wedding since he kept a girl out half the night (double-feature movie, according to him), and Josh is engaged to socialite Gloria Wycott. They both make a run for it, heading towards Singapore, and swearing off women in the process. In Kaigoon, they find a place of their own to stay. Making a stop at a local bar, they end up helping local dancer Mima (Dorothy Lamour) get away from her abusive partner. They both end up falling for her, and try to put each other in a bad light as they try to win her heart, before Josh’s father and fiancé arrive to bring him back.

This is the first of the seven Road movies, and while it is a slightly different beast than the films that would follow it, it does set several precedents for the series. First and foremost, we have Bing and Bob doing their patty-cake routine, which became their go-to method for starting fights in the series to get away. We also find them breaking the fourth wall, with references to Paramount (the studio making this movie, and who had them under contract), and making fun of the pre-recorded tracks, amongst other things. Of course, we also have Bing and Bob trying to win Dorothy’s affections, as well, with the same result as most of the series that would follow! One thing, though, is that, this movie, like the rest of the series, is not very politically correct, since part of the allure of the series was the exotic nature of different cultures (and not necessarily all accurate, either).

Of course, most of the fun with this movie is Bing and Bob, with most of their quips and insults. I’d say they were ad-libbed, but most of what I know indicates they both had their writers from their radio shows on set, who generally came up with most of their lines. So, who knows just how much of what happened was the original script, and how much their writers came up with. Of course, to that end, we definitely need to give Dorothy Lamour a lot of credit, because she was there, on her own, with no writers to back her up, and she still managed to help make things work (unlike her “replacement” in the final film of the series).

Of course, one of my favorite moments in the movie is the native feast near the end. When all three are suffering from hunger (since the two men are loathe to work), they hear about a feast that is only for natives, and therefore go native themselves (again, I said this is not exactly PC). After the feast, unknown to Bob and Bing, is a wedding ceremony for the natives, which is mostly a dance, where the ladies are able to pick their husbands by dancing with them (if they like each other). Personally, I like the idea as a fun wedding ceremony, but then again, I’d rather not hear the sound of every gal I dance with running away in the other direction to avoid that, either.

I really enjoy this movie, and recommend it very much. The movie is available on DVD from Universal, and is about an hour, twenty-five minutes in length.

Update: On March 26, 2019, “Road To Singapore” was released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. Personally, I think the new transfer for the Blu-ray is the best the movie has looked that I have seen. Sure, there are a few scratches here and there, but I don’t know how much more, if anything, could be done about that from available elements. But it looks great to me, and for those interested in this movie, the recent Blu-ray release is certainly the way to go!

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating: