The Road Movies (series)
Synopsis of Movie
In 1940, three of the biggest stars at Paramount Pictures—Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour—were teamed up for a modest little film that mixed music, laughs and thrills into a story that had a little something for everyone. The result was The Road To Singapore, the first in what would come to be known as the Road series. Over the next three decades, Bob, Bing and Ms. Lamour went on six more wildly popular movie road trips, turning that first little flick into the start of one of the most film series of all time.
The Road To Singapore featured Bing and Bob as Josh and Ace, a pair of pals who run off to Singapore to escape forced marriages. The boys are determined never to bother with women again until they run into Lamour’s Mima, a sarong-wearing dancer suffering through a relationship with a bullying musical partner. Josh and Ace rescue her and fight with each other for her hand as they try to elude a wacky variety of pursuers: Mima’s ex-partner, local cops who want to deport the boys, and the relatives and former brides-to-be from back home. In between the laughs, the group breaks for catchy songs like “Too Romantic” and “Sweet Potato Piper.”
The Road To Singapore was a smash, thanks to the film’s deft blend of comedy, action and music. The film also benefited in a major way from the unique chemistry of Crosby and Hope, who played off each other well and ad-libbed much of their side-splitting dialogue. Meanwhile, Lamour added considerable eye-candy appeal as Mima, as well as her formidable singing skills. Executives at Paramount Pictures were pleasantly surprised by the film’s unexpected success and quickly ordered up a sequel.
The next year, Crosby, Hope and Lamour returned for The Road To Zanzibar. This time, Crosby and Hope played Chuck and Frazier, a pair of carnival workers who swindle a mobster by selling him a fake diamond. When he finds outs he has been duped, Chuck and Frazier go on the run. They end up in Africa, where they meet their match in a pair of gorgeous con-women played by Lamour and Una Merkel. Adventures and silliness ensue as the quartet searches for a diamond mine. This entry also included songs like “You’re Dangerous” and “You Lucky People, You.”
In 1942, the third Road movie was released, this time placing our starring threesome on The Road To Morocco. Bing’s Jeff and Bob’s Turkey are a pair of carefree drifters who take a raft ride down the Mediterranean after accidentally blowing up the cruise ship they had stowed away on. They end up on a desert island and soon find an Arabian-styled city, where Jeff sells Turkey into slavery. He later feels guilty and tracks him down, only to discover Turkey has gotten a good gig: he is the slave to the lovely Princess Shalmar (played by Lamour, naturally). No surprise, Jeff and Turkey end up in competition with each other for the Princess. Things get complicated when Arabian tough guy Mullay Kassim (an early role for future leading man Anthony Quinn) gets his heart set on the Princess.
The gags this time included a Road series classic, a spontaneous moment in which a camel spits in Hope’s face and Crosby compliments the animal on its good taste. There were also plenty of soon-to-be classic tunes like “Moonlight Becomes You.” These many strengths made Road To Morocco a big hit that was nominated for two Oscars.
After The Road To Morocco, the Road team took a break to pursue other interests. In 1946, they reunited once again for The Road To Utopia. Vaudevillian showmen Duke (Crosby) and Chester (Hope) sail off to Alaska. On the ship, they stumble across a map to a gold mine owned by two ruffians named McGurk and Sperry. Duke and Chester take the map and impersonate McGurk and Sperry to get off the ship. They soon find themselves being chased by Ace Larson, a sneaky prospector who wants the mine for himself, and by Sal Van Hoyden (Lamour), the lovely lady to whom the map really belongs.
By this time, Crosby and Hope had their comedic styles down pat. In one of the funniest scenes, Duke and Chester walk into a bar full of roughnecks. When Chester asks for a lemonade, he gets funny looks from the clientele and an elbow in the ribs from Duke. Trying to look tough, he orders the bartender to put it in a dirty glass. The Road To Utopia also featured some of the best music in the series, including classics like “Good Time Charlie” and the big hit “Personality.”
In 1947, the series went south of the border for The Road To Rio. This time, Lamour plays Lucia, a woman who has been hypnotized by her sinister Aunt Catherine to enter into an unwanted marriage. Crosby and Hope are Scat and Hot Lips, a pair of musicians who try to help Lucia get un-hypnotized when they aren’t busy fighting for her attention. Further entertainment is provided by musical guests the Andrews Sisters. Another highlight of the film is the Wiere Brothers, a vaudeville trio who do strange acrobatic feats and say zany catchphrases like “You’re in the groove, Jackson!”
The Road To Rio was another surefire hit. It was also the last Road movie for a while, due to the fact that Lamour decided to quit show business altogether in 1949. But after the leading lady successfully returned to the big screen in 1952 with The Greatest Show On Earth, she re-teamed with Crosby and Hope for another go-round in the Road series. The result was 1952’s The Road To Bali, the only entry in the series filmed in color.
In Bali, Bing and Bob are George and Harold, two performers who run away from Melbourne to escape unwanted marriage proposals. They end up on an island, where they take work as treasure divers. They soon cross paths with Lamour’s lovely Princess Lala and save her from the clutches of an evil prince. After the boys uncover a treasure chest full of jewels during a dive, they find themselves receiving unwanted attention from the local thugs. The gags and action were balanced out with a lovely slate of songs like “Moonflowers” and “To See You.” The film also benefited from a ton of cameos, including everyone from Humphrey Bogart to Jane Russell.
After The Road To Bali, there were no more Road films for another decade. Just the same, the series loomed large in the collective memory of the public, who anxiously awaited another outing for this musical comedy dream team. In 1962, they got their wish. The Road To Hong Kong, the final entry in the series, featured an impressive cast of guest stars like Frank Sinatra, David Niven and Peter Sellers. This time out, Lamour took an extended cameo role and handed over the lead femme duties to future Dynasty vixen Joan Collins.
The plot of The Road To Hong Kong focused on Harry and Chester, a pair of con artists out to sell space suits to the Asians. When Chester suffers a bump on the head and gets amnesia, Harry takes him to Tibet to be cured. The cure is a success, but Russian agent Diane mistakes Chester for her contact and gives him the formula for a top-secret rocket fuel. When she realizes her mistake, Harry and Chester are forced to go on the run. Dorothy Lamour performed the one song in this film, a lovely tune called “Warmer Than A Whisper.”
After Hong Kong, the Road series was put to rest for good. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby continued on with successful show business careers, both becoming television institutions during the 1960’s and 1970’s with their many variety specials. Meanwhile, Lamour became a prominent figure on the nightclub scene and in musical theater. Today, their work in the Road movies continues to be treasured by film fans around the world, inspiring tributes like the 1985 Chevy Chase/Dan Aykroyd film Spies Like Us, the 1987 Dustin Hoffman/Warren Beatty spoof Ishtar, and the 2000 animated feature The Road To El Dorado.
Movie Release History1940 - The Road To Singapore
1941 - The Road To Zanzibar
1941 - The Road To Morocco
1946 - The Road To Utopia
1947 - The Road To Rio
1952 - The Road To Bali
1962 - The Road To Hong Kong
Movie Sub Categorieslive-action
Movie StudioParamount, United Artists
CastVarious Bing Crosby Various Bob Hope
Various Dorothy Lamour