Judge Maurice Cobbs thought Road to Perdition was a Hope and Crosby flick, too.
"Don't race your motor, dippermouth. I booked us a date. We can start eating again."—"Scat" Sweeney
This is the fifth in the Road Movie series, and I think it's one of the best. By now, you already know the deal: Bob Hope and Bing Crosby are off to another exotic locale with Dorothy Lamour along for the ride.
This time, "Hot Lips" Barton (Bob Hope, The Lemon Drop Kid) and "Scat" Sweeney (Bing Crosby, Robin and the Seven Hoods) stow away on a cruise ship bound for Rio to escape a disastrous performance at a carnival. While hiding out, they find themselves up to their necks in intrigue as they try to save the beautiful Lucia Maria de Andrade (Dorothy Lamour, Moon Over Burma) from the machinations of her sinister aunt Catherine (Gale Sondergaard, The Mark of Zorro). As usual, Bob and Bing must wisecrack their way through unbelievable comic misadventures while competing for Dorothy's affections—the duo gets chased out of four states by angry, gun-toting mobs, and that's just in the first five minutes of the movie! Along the way, we're treated to cameo appearances by the Andrews Sisters, the Weire Brothers, the Stone-Barton Puppeteers, and Jerry Colonna. Also, look for Ed Wood regular Tor Johnson as a carnival strongman.
For those who have never experienced a Road movie, this is not a bad place to start. Director Norman Z. McLeod, the man behind the camera on such comedy classics as Topper and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, wonderfully realizes the screwball script by Edmond Beloin (who supplied the stories for My Favorite Spy and The Lemon Drop Kid) and Jack Rose (writer of several Bob Hope movies, including The Great Lover, Sorrowful Jones, and My Favorite Brunette). As with all the Road movies, this one is chock full of inside jokes, asides to the camera, and knowing winks to the audience: While dangling precariously from a high wire, Hot Lips says nervously to the camera, "You know, folks, this picture could end right now." At another point, after a series of exciting turns of events, a desperate scream is heard from offscreen. "Who was that?" asks Scat. "The Warner Brothers," replies Hot Lips. "They're very jealous."
The Andrews Sisters unfortunately appear for only one musical number, "You Don't Have to Know The Language," but it is a delightful one, full of the verve and style that we've come to expect from the many Crosby-Andrews team-ups. The Wiere Brothers, a trio of zany comics who today may be only slightly more obscure than the Stone-Barton Puppeteers (even though I was actually familiar with them due to my long-standing love of vaudeville), consistently steal scenes with their particular brand of manic musical comedy. Hope and Crosby are at their rapid-fire best, throwing wisecracks like daggers and ad-libbing so many asides that it's hard to catch them all the first time around. The soft-shoe vaudeville routine at the start of the movie—"Apalachicola, Fla."—is a fine showcase of the Hope-Crosby chemistry, and Crosby is at his lyrical best performing the love ballad "But Beautiful." Dorothy Lamour takes the spotlight to perform "Experience," and Bob Hope adds a comic twist to the number with a trumpet that accidentally starts blowing soap bubbles.
Unfortunately, this film isn't included in the Universal Road Movie set, in which the contents are beautifully restored and remastered, but this Brentwood Home Video release is taken from a pretty decent print from the UCLA archives and has a nice picture with very little in the way of scratches or dirt. The sound is also quite good—all in all, a good, solid release, making this a must-have for collectors and a perfect way for newcomers to experience one of the great Hollywood comedy teams for the first time.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Brentwood Home Video
• Bob Hope Biography
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