love actually (richard curtis, 2003)
what i've been reading

road to morocco (david butler, 1942)

The third in the Road series starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour. It turned up on TCM while I was channel surfing, and I have fond memories of it, so it was an easy decision to watch it.

Do the Road Movies need to be explained? Their peak was in the 1940s, when five of the seven movies were released, with the final picture coming in 1962, when Hope and Crosby were almost 60 and Lamour was reduced to a cameo. It’s hard to imagine many people under 50 seeking out comedies from the 40s that were very popular at the time but not considered “classics”, so my guess is there is a need to explain the series. All except the last involved Hope and Crosby stuck is some quandary, during which they’d cross paths with Lamour, with a battle for her heart ensuing. There were songs, Lamour wore sarongs in most of them, and the laughs were non-stop. The movies were ... how about “insouciant”? They were nonsensical, offering parodies of popular genres of the day. There were lots of ad-libs, with Hope often talking directly to the audience. As in Hope’s comedy act, there were plenty of topical references, one reason the films don’t hold up as well as some ... there was no attempt to be timeless. I guess the closest thing in more recent years would be the Naked Gun movies with Leslie Nielsen.

Road to Morocco is thought by some to be the best in the series. I certainly saw it many times on TV when I was a kid. It was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay (if the rumors are true, Crosby and especially Hope, or their writers, deserve a bit of credit for their ad-libs). It was named to the National Film Registry in 1996. Watching it again, I thought it fell a bit short of expectations, and in my memories, my favorite remains Road to Rio (admittedly a minority view).

There is a feeling that anything goes in the Road series. In Morocco, there’s a musical interlude with the three stars where each of their voices comes out of the mouths of others (so you’ve got Lamour with Hope’s voice, or Hope singing as Bing). There are talking camels. Anthony Quinn plays a desert sheik ... wait, that’s not so odd, the Mexico-born Quinn was famous throughout his career for filling whatever ethnicity a movie needed. A running gag in the series has Hope and Crosby playing “patty-cake” as a way to distract bad guys ... this time it backfires, the bad guys are expecting it, leading to the line, “That gag sure gets around”.

I don’t know ... I feel a fondness for the series, and re-watching Road to Morocco was enjoyable. I’m inclined to rate it higher than it probably deserves. 7/10.

Comments

Tomas

These used to be on regular rotation on LA television when I was growing up. This was our favorite. I remember laughing so hard I had to hit the ground, on my hands a knees. They're made for kids in some ways, or at least those of us who love stupid. But the vaudevillian set ups and the breaking of the 4th wall seemed so new to me. I thought Hope was a genius.

Steven Rubio

Hope (and his writers) was brilliant in the way he could rattle off one joke after another while being topical. There is a thrill in watching him in his heyday. But the topical nature of much of his humor means he's dated, plus the world passed him by, so he overstayed his welcome. But your description of how these movies seemed when you were a kid very much matches my own experience.

Charlie Bertsch

My dad, who watched the Road movies as they came out, starting at age 11, I believe, absolutely adores them. He was beside himself with excitement that TCM was featuring them the other day.

Growing up in a household where English was only sporadically spoken by his parents, but not having the confidence in German to speak it much with them, I think he struggled to find a voice. The Bob Hope Tomás describes above helped with that. My dad never became a confident speaker in public settings, but learned to do a quiet version of Hope's quipping when he felt comfortable.

Steven Rubio

I love that story! I may not have learned to jabber from Hope, but I did learn to croon from Bing.

steve

Mileage varies. I never made it all the way through a Hope/Crosby film, even as a kid. In fact, I think I've never watched an entire Hope OR Crosby film.

Steven Rubio

At one time, I had a real fixation on 1930s musicals, so I got a lot of Bing Crosby then. And one of my grandmothers was a big fan, played his music a lot. Gary Giddins's biography of Bing is excellent, as well.

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