Monday, August 3, 2015


One of the most enduring comic teamings was that of singer Bing Crosby and  comedian Bob Hope. Bing and Bob met briefly for the first time on the streets of New York in the summer of 1932. In December, both performed at the Capitol Theater in New York, as the newspaper ad to the right reveals. There for the first time Crosby and Hope performed together, doing an old vaudeville routine that included two farmers meeting on the street.

They did not work together again until 1938, when Bing invited Bob to guest on his radio program and to appear with him at the opening of the Del Mar race track north of San Diego. The boys reprised some old vaudeville routines that proved quite amusing to the celebrity audience. One of the attendees was the production chief of Paramount Pictures. He began searching for a movie vehicle for Hope and Crosby. He dusted off an old script intended originally for Burns and Allen, then later Jack Oakie and Fred MacMurray, and, now, Hope and Crosby. The tentative title was "Road to Mandalay," but the destination was eventually changed to Singapore.

To add a love interest to the movie one of the leading Paramount stars, Dorothy Lamour, was written into the script. Dorothy had appeared with Bob in "The Big Broadcast of 1938," but had never appeared in a film with Bing. Dorothy was known for her sultry singing voice and the skimpy South Sea outfits called sarongs that she wore in a couple of her movies. Although "The Road to Singapore" turned out to be the least zany of the Road pictures, the chemistry of the stars turned it into a blockbuster hit.

The Road films became a new musical-comedy genre to which many imitators would be compared, almost invariably unfavorably. The characters played by Bing and Bob were con-men who openly acknowledged to the audience that they knew they were in a motion picture. They defied Paramount to have them killed because they had a contract to do another picture. As the series progressed even the bad guys got wise to the action. For example, the patty-cake routine that Bing and Bob used to escape trouble didn't always work because the bad guys, too, had seen the previous picture. The Road to Utopia employed a movie critic who intervenes from time to time to evaluate the movie for the audience, even suggesting when it would be best to go for popcorn, usually, of course, while Crosby was singing.

At the series outset Dorothy Lamour was nearly as big a star as Crosby and Hope, but as the series unfolded her star progressively dimmed, in the end leaving her only a brief appearance in the final Road flic. By the 1960s Lamour had retired from show business to devote more time to her family in Baltimore. Crosby wanted Brigitte Bardot to play the female lead in "Road to Hong Kong," but in the end had to settle for Joan Collins. An 8th road picture was to be filmed in 1978. It had been tentatively called "Road to the Fountain of Youth" and would have reunited Bing, Bob and Dorothy. Before the new adventure could begin Bing died suddenly of a heart attack in Spain...

No comments:

Post a Comment