Bob, Dorothy and Bing set off on the very first Road trip.
Road to Singapore was the very first of the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope “Road” pictures. It established most of the elements that would become familiar with movie audiences over the next 2 decades. Crosby and Hope as best pals off to an exotic location where they meet and rescue Dorothy Lamour. This is followed by a lighthearted competition between the friends for her heart, with Crosby always winning. Oh and somewhere along the way there was usually some sort of wedding ceremony and of course a few song and dance numbers.
These movies were always silly good-natured fun that wanted nothing more than to entertain. They are fast paced and filled with action. In this one Hope and Crosby get in no less than three brawls in the first 30 minutes. Each one beginning with what would become their trademark sign of a coming fist-fight; the two of them playing patty cake. The one element that is almost completely missing in this first installment is the breaking down of the fourth wall. Usually one or the other would make some smart remark with a wink to the audience. The closest this movie comes to doing that is when Bing Crosby mentions “shilling for Paramount” in a song lyric.
Dorothy Lamour brings a bit of sex appeal to the proceedings but the real couple in these movies is Hope and Crosby. They bicker constantly, are always there for each other, speak their own joking shorthand and sleep together without having sex. You know just like an old married couple. The supporting cast includes a very young Anthony Quinn (he would show up again in Road to Morocco) and Charles Coburn as Bing Crosby’s shipping tycoon father.
Road to Singapore is slightly less silly than its 6 sequels. It began one of the most successful buddy movie series in Hollywood history. The humor may seem hopelessly corny today but Bing, Bob and Dorothy exude the charm of a simpler time.
Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in Road to Singapore.
This is a very slight and mildly silly comedy. The plot isn't much and the jokes are just okay. If it wasn't for Bing and Bob's chemistry together I'm quite sure it would have flopped instead of being the start of one of the most famous film series in Hollywood History.
The very best moments in this film come via Bob and Bing's banter. It's not even that they crack really funny jokes, it's just the way they bounce back and forth off of each other like, "I'm going with them." "Oh, you're going with them?" "Yeah, I'm going with them." If they weren't friends in real life then they were the greatest actors ever because they seem to be having so much fun that it is contagious at times.
Lamour does add sex appeal. In fact, not having seen any of these movies since I was very young, I never realized how sexy she was, but she looks pretty good here. She does a sexy act with a whip. I also couldn't get over how young Bob Hope looked. He doesn't look any better, but he does look young. Bing on the other hand looks the same as he always did. I think he's one of those actors who looked middle aged before his time, but had the last laugh by staying that way until he was quite old.
Perhaps the most disappointing things are the songs. None of them are memorable. Even now, just shortly after watching, I'm having trouble remembering any of them. You'd think with Crosby singing at least one would be a winner.
As far as lightweight and corny comedies from yesteryear go this one isn't all bad, but to my mind, simply seeing where this famous film series originated is more interesting than actually entertaining.
Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in Road to Singapore
Road to Singapore starts well enough. Hope and Crosby lean on the ships rail and comment on their married shipmates. One sailor's wife snatches his pay before hugging him. Another's wife nags him insistently. He has several sons, one finds a picture of him in his duffel bag with a hula dancer, getting him in even more trouble with the wife. Hope states he will never get married, while we soon find out that both men have intended brides, that will clearly not make either happy.
The boys run off to Singapore to avoid matrimony. They agree to not have any more women in their lives. "No women of any size, shape or color." Then they go to a club and get a load of Lamour and her whip dance. The place ends up in a bar brawl with the two heroes carrying Lamour off.
The Road pictures were known for their star's camaraderie and one liners. Of the series, this one seems a bit skimpy on the jokes. Their "patty cake" routine, which precedes a fight, is more silly than funny. The quick pace Patrick mentioned, helps but it does not make the jokes any funnier. The soap scam scene is not as funny as it should have been. One line is funnier now than it was then. A reporter gets a telegram and announces, "It's from the home-O, direct to me." Of course he means, "home office" but it is funny none-the-less.
Scott mentioned how well Hope and Crosby bounce off each other, and I agree. This is best exemplified in the scene right after they kick Lamour out. They both brag to each other how well they handled it. They of course let her stay as they are both in love with her and begin courting her. These confirmed bachelors seem awfully bent on starting a relationship.
Whereas Crosby would continue to play the crooning ladies man in the rest of the series, Bob Hope would get more one liners. This was the only Road picture whose story was written by Harry Hervey, who also wrote Shanghai Express. He clearly liked stories set in exotic locales but comedy was not his forte.
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures (1940)