The May spotlight is doing double duty as my annual birthday salute to Bing Crosby.
What is better than a "Road to" movie? How about a "Road to" movie in Technicolor. 1953s Road to Bali is the only "Road to" movie filmed in colour and is the last of what I would call the official "Road to" pictures. The code I live by does not accept 1960s The Road to Hong Kong as Dorothy Lamour is not the leading lady.
The first of the Crosby - Hope - Lamour comedies, 1940s Road to Singapore had a checkered history having been conceived as a vehicle for George Burns and Gracie Allen then refashioned into a buddy picture for Fred MacMurray and Jack Oakie. The timing didn't work out for that duo to play the playboy and his pal who stir up comic misadventures in the south seas. Bing Crosby and Bob Hope ended up singing Johnny Burke, James Monaco and director Victor Schertzinger songs to a saronged Dorothy Lamour. The movies slight plot was bolstered by the music, a faux-exotic locale and the breezy camaraderie of the newly installed leads. Paramount found themselves with an unexpected hit.
Bing and Bob had first met in NYC in 1932 when Bob was emceeing at the Capital Theater where Bing had a week long engagement. Sharing a love of fun and repartee, the two hit if off and worked up routines to enliven the show. Years later in Hollywood, between their writers and their individual wits, the future entries in their movie series took off in wild flights of fancy and fun, for the participants and for the audience. The followups, all with songs by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Huesen, are 1941s Road to Zanzibar, 1942s Road to Morocco, 1945s Road to Utopia, 1947s Road to Rio, 1952s Road to Bali (and the other one).
Dorothy Lamour, Bing Crosby
The idea in all these movies is that Bing and Bob are shiftless entertainers usually on the run from the law and/or shotgun armed fathers of voluptuous daughters. Along the way there would be evil-doers (Anthony Quinn, Douglas Dumrille, Jack LaRue, etc.) and Dorothy Lamour as a damsel in distress who loves both of them but usually ends up with Bing. Songs in the series would become standards such as Moonlight Becomes You, Personality and But Beautiful. Ensuing hijinks include contemporary political humour, inside jokes, breaking the fourth wall, talking animals and Robert Benchley.
Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour
In Road to Bali (they never do get there) the boys are broke in Melbourne and on the run from a couple of dolls. One of them is 22-year-old Carolyn Jones! They end up as deep sea divers aka giant squid bait retrieving sunken treasure. A half Scottish Island princess gives the boys an excuse to wear kilts for a novelty tune, Hoot Mon. The princess has an evil cousin played by Mervyn Vye (Golden Earrings, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court). A widowed gorilla falls for the boys. Bob, Bing and Dorothy sing a lively The Merry Go Run Around. Oh - and there's a volcano. All of this happens with non-stop one-up-mans-ship in the form of quips, asides and some of the corniest sight gags, sound gags and celebrity cameos you have ever seen in one movie. It cracks me up!
TCM is showing Road to Bali on Friday, May 2nd at 10:45 am. It is part of a morning of Bing Crosby films to commemorate his birthday. The lineup is Going Hollywood, Road to Bali, High Society and Man on Fire.