It was a producer’s hunch and more than a little bit of luck that set Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour off “on the road” to a series of seven popular comedies.
The genesis of the road movies lay on the golf course (where else for such addicts as Hope and Crosby) when the boys made up a foursome with producer Harlan Thompson and director Victor Schertzinger. Such fun was had (Crosby and Hope were long time friends and loved to poke fun at each other on their long running radio shows) that Thompson and Schertzinger realised what a great on-screen team Crosby and Hope would make – even better both were under contract to Paramount. Quickly bringing Dorothy Lamour on board for a spot of glamour the quartet started work on Road to Singapore. The script that had been around the blocks twice already, once as an intended vehicle for George Burns and Gracie Allen and then for Jack Oakie and Fred MacMurray.
Thank to great camaraderie and wise-cracking between the boys and the added frisson of them both desperate to get with Lamour and Road to Singapore was a massive hit, which of course left Paramount wanting more.
The next in the sequence was Road to Zanzibar (1941) which thankfully had it’s original title of Find Colonel Fawcett changed. In this extremely funny movie Hope is stuntman Fearless Frazier, the living bullet and Crosby is his conniving manager Chuck. Lamour is the girl they rescue from slave traders. Zanzibar is also the one in which Hope wrestles a gorilla.
Like Webster’s dictionary we’re Morocco
1942 saw the arrival of very possibly the best movie of the series, Road to Morocco, with the zaniness really cranked up a notch – something Mabel the talking camel could readily identify with remarking at one point “this is the screwiest picture I ever was in.”
In 1944 the trio returned for Road to Utopia set during the days of the Alaskan Gold Rush. Crosby and Hope played washed up vaudevillians. Robert Benchley also had a prominent role wandering in and out of scenes as himself and trying to remember just what was going on with the plot.
The last Road film to appear in the forties was 1947’s Road to Rio and it was another winner. Bob and Bing played Scat Sweeney and Hot-Lips Barton and there were also appearances from singing trio The Andrew Sisters and the crazy acrobatic troupe Three Weire Brothers.
It looked like that was it for the Road films and then somewhat surprisingly Paramount announced that 1952 would see the arrival of an all new and all colour Road movie. Road to Bali was once again right up there at times especially with scene stealing cameos from Jane Russell and Humphrey Bogart (looking for his boat The African Queen!)
One for the road
That was definitely it until in the late 1950’s Paramount announced that the gang would be making Road to the Moon – this ended up not being made but Paramount (as well as Bing and Bob) were evidently committed to one more for the road as it were and in 1962 Road to Hong Kong was released. Sadly the times had changed and this was just not up to the par of the other road movies – worse still glamour girl Lamour was barely in it – the young Joan Collins had the female lead. The movie was filmed in the UK and the most notable thing about it was the number of guest stars who popped up including Peter Sellers in full Indian Doctor mode, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, comedian Dave King and Zza Zza Gabor.
Although still part of the canon most fans prefer to give this final film a miss, concentrating instead on the not to be missed quintet of the 1940’s.