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

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: