Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Caftan Woman's Choice: One for May on TCM


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 sarong clad Dorothy Lamour. The movie's 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.










14 comments:

  1. Did all three of them play the same characters throughout the 'Road' movies?

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  2. They weren't the same characters, but had the same characteristics. Bing was the wise guy. Bob was the coward. They both chased the girls. Dorothy got to vary her schtick. In "Road to Utopia" she is more of a femme fatale, and in "Road to Rio" a genuine damsel in distress.

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  3. Great pick, and I'll make sure to catch it when it's on! Road to Bali is actually my favorite of the Road flicks (though it was also the first one I saw, which may have influenced me :) ). The bit with the snake baskets at the end kills me! And I agree about "the other one"—such bizarre choices all around there! (Space?! Really?!)

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    1. I find that with series, if we like the films, it's always that first one we saw that stays our favourite.

      My husband's favourite is "Road to Morocco" while I lean toward "Road to Utopia".

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  4. Great write up MissPaddyLee. IRC, Bing was usually conning Bob into doing some dangerous/dirty job for money. I don't remember much of Road to Bali, except the songs were quite good. Out of the ones I can remember, I'd rank "Road to Utopia" and "Road to Morocco" as the best.

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    1. Thanks. I always associate the movies with rainy days in front of the television on Sunday afternoons. All of them are crazy good times.

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  5. Thank you for this. Road movies are my all time favourites, I think. Especially Morocco with that camel (camels get no love). I'm going to have to dig out my copies and do a Road movie marathon now.

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    1. So true. The poor benighted camel finally came into his own.

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  6. Caftan Woman - thanks for the review of this Road Trip movie - one I've never seen - and just in time for me to see it!

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    1. Hooray! Some days really need to start off with a bit of goofy fun, and "Bali" is just the ticket.

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  7. Probably my third favorite Road movie, right after Utopia and Morocco, but its a real close tie between Morocco and Bali. Bali is probably the silliest of the Road movies, which is saying something.

    My dad's favorite was Zanzabar and my cousin's is Rio. We're all over the place in the family with the Road movies...but I love them all, except for the unmentionable one.

    I remember there was talk in the 70s with Bing and Bob re-uniting for THE ROAD TO THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH. Kinda glad it wasn't done.

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    1. They are all so pleasantly silly, but you're right, "Bali" probably takes the cake. When I was a kid I would get them confused so I had to watch them over and over again. There are times when I think about Bob Crosby's "shot in the picture" and I'll just start giggling. I get the strangest looks.

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    2. I'm glad you talked about this one, Caftan Woman - it's by far my favorite of the Hope/Crosby ROAD movies. The bright Technicolor cinematography helps put this one on top, plus it's just so much fun seeing the boys play around with South Seas movie cliches, like diving for treasure and dealing with a giant octopus.

      ROAD TO BALI must have fallen into the public domain, because it's hard to find a good DVD release of it. It did come out on the now-defunct HD-DVD format several years ago...hope to see it in all its glory on Blu-Ray some day.

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    3. A nice blu-ray of "Bali" would be spectacular. There has never been a time when one of these films couldn't make me laugh - and I've had some times!

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