Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bing, Bob and Dottie: The Road to Success

No relation to the 1931 melodrama of the same name, The Road to Singapore (1940) would launch one of the most popular and successful movie series in history and become a touchstone for the "buddy" film henceforth. Seven times Paramount contract stars Bing Crosby and Bob Hope headed to some far-reaching locale, either on the lam or touring their vaudeville act, inevitably meeting up with sarong beauty Dorothy Lamour.

The irony is the mega popular trio only developed after Fred MacMurray, Jack Oakie and comedy team Burns and Allen all turned down the film. Crooner Crosby and comedian Hope were then paired with exotic Lamour as the love interest. Road to Singapore became a huge hit for Paramount. Bob Hope was given third billing, being the least famous of the three stars but after his success in Singapore, along with the two hit comedy thrillers, The Cat and the Canary and The Ghost Breakers, he made with Paulette Goddard, he topped Lamour for the second spot in the forthcoming film, Road to Zanzibar(1941) and all those thereafter. Zanzibar was originally a jungle adventure script that the studio wasn't sure what to do with. When they changed the formula to comedy and cast Bing, Bob and Dottie (as Lamour was affectionately called) based on the success of Singapore, they knew they had struck gold.

The films always showcased both lively and romantic songs sifted in with the laughs. The third entry, Road to Morocco (1942) offered great musical examples with the balled "Moonlight Becomes You" and the raucous title tune, which displayed Hope and Crosby's flair for ad-libbing and using Hollywood insider jokes (as they sit atop a camel they sing the line "..For any villains we may meet, we haven't any fears; Paramount will protect us cause we're signed for 5 more years.."). Classic! Arguably the best in the series, Road to Morocco was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Screenplay and Best Sound Recording.

The hits continued with Road to Utopia (with Dorothy Lamour giving a great rendition of "Personality") in 1946, Road to Rio (featuring the Andrew Sisters in one of their final film appearances) in 1947 and Road to Bali in 1952. Bali was the only "Road" picture to be filmed in color, and though it was still a profitable entry in the franchise, the original magic of the earlier films was lacking. The final "road" taken was Road to Hong Kong in 1962, but this time Dorothy Lamour was replaced with younger actress Joan Collins (Lamour received a small cameo role). It was also the only film of the group that was not released by Paramount. The public was lukewarm and it appeared that alas, the spark was gone.


  1. I haven't seen all the road movies. I have seen this one and really liked it. Now reading your blog on it I have to see more of them!

  2. Well done on the review and links to Paulette... a great series of films although I do prefer the two earlier Hope classics with Goddard. Anyone who loves them should get My Favourite Brunette too. Keep 'em coming fella!!!!

  3. ClassicJo-if you get a chance the earlier ones are better than the latter ones.

    David-I'm right with you on the Hope/Goddard films. Stylish, scary and charming.

  4. I knew none of this. Fred MacMurray? Makes you realize again just how happy accidents are often better than the original plan. Ronnie and Ann Sheridan in Casablanca? I still can't believe that one.

    I also love the Hope/Goddard pairings; you've inspired me to go rent Cat and the Canary again.

  5. Thanks for another great back-lot backstage tale!

  6. "Hong Kong" did well enough at the box office for H & C to pocket a nice chunk of change from their investment and for discussions to start on "Road to Rome" and "Road to the Moon", according to Crosby's authorized biographer.

  7. Hmmmmmm I am trying to imagine George and Gracie in these films. I adore George and Gracie but it really would have been a travesty.

    The interaction between Hope and Crosby was so natural. I don't think there have been any other buddy movie teams that come close to that level of on-screen camaraderie.

  8. At the time of Crosby's death, they were discussing making "The Roady to the Fountain of Youth." Lamour would again have been the lading lady.



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