I’ve seen four of the seven Road movies: Road to Morocco, Road to Bali, Road to Utopia, and now Road to Zanzibar. It could be that I have caught bits and pieces of Road to Singapore, Road to Rio, and Road to Hong King, but I don’t remember exactly. And they do all tend to blend together. It’s Hope, Crosby, gags, shtick, and a beautiful lady or two. Rinse and repeat.
But Road to Zanzibar certainly stands out as a movie that has at least the bare bones of a story. Hope and Crosby are two carnival barkers who keep ahead of their latest scandal or failures by Crosby constantly thinking up new, bizarre, and usually dangerous acts for Hope (aka, the ironically named, “Fearless”) to be the brunt of. Their last idea, the human canon ball, ended by burning down the circus they were performing at, so both have to hightail it out of town.
And in probably the biggest spoiler, along the way they (close your eyes if you want to be surprised), run into Dorothy Lamour. Lamour and her cohort have a similar philosophy: work your way through life via clever scams and schemes. And this time, Hope and Crosby (always softies for a pretty face) fall for the scams and schemes of Lamour to take them where she wants to go, under false pretenses, of course, through the heart of Africa.
Intermixed in the adventure are some fine tunes sung by Bing Crosby. Of special note is a song he sings interwoven with a kind of African chant. It’s a marvel. And there is a memorable scene of Crosby and Lamour in a boat as Bing finds a clever way to break the fourth wall and does a spoof of movie tunes themselves as he summons an orchestra out of nowhere and Lamour strings the harp by dancing her hand in the water.
All in all, this is a movie (unlike a couple other Road Shows) that hangs together well. I consider the crème de la crème of the Road movies to be “Road to Morocco.” But this is a close second.
The first “Road to …” movie, “Road to Singapore,” was originally written for George Burns and Gracie Allen. When they turned the parts down, it was suggested Bob Hope and Bing Crosby – who had great chemistry – be paired and Dorothy Lamour was signed on and one of the most famous franchises began.
The “Road to …” movies contained musical numbers, gags, and ad-libbed banter. Hope frequently addressed the audience in these films with comments such as, “[Crosby]’s gonna sing folks. Now’s the time to go out and get the popcorn.” This is known as breaking the fourth wall, an imaginary boundary between the movie and audience.
They were conmen who vowed they wouldn’t let women interfere – though their vows would become null and void when a woman (aka Dorothy Lamour who co-starred in this series of movies) caught their eyes. Naturally, Crosby almost always ended up with the girl except in “Road to Utopia” and “Road to Rio.” More »