Classic Video Showplace


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For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

Last week here at the “Showplace” we talked about the history and running elements of the famous Road To… movie series featuring Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour and Bob Hope.

As promised this week, we’ll take a look at the Road To Bali (airing on RCN-TV) which was memorable for many reasons.

For beginners, it was the first of the movie series to be shot in color.

While previous films fired zingers at, and/or made references to, prominent contemporary stars of the day, this was the first of the series to feature cameos from other actors.  Among the special appearances in this film include Humphrey Bogart, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Jane Russell and Bing’s brother, Bob Crosby, who was a prominent band leader and was featured in two of the nation’s most popular radio shows at the time of the film’s production and release.

Bali held a significant layoff between its release and its predecessor, Road To Rio, due to salary arguments and production issues. The film was initially shot in 1950 for a same year release but took nearly two years to make it to the silver screen.  The only other time there had been more than a one year span between movies was between Road To Morocco and Road To Utopia, which was delayed due to World War II issues and the fact that Crosby was also making two other movies (Going My Way and The Bells of St Mary’s) that both would earn him Academy Award nominations (winning the Oscar for the former film.)

Fans of the series would probably agree that the screenplay – normally not one of the strengths to this film series anyway – was even more ridiculous than any of the earlier films in the series, complete with a volcano god initiating a mass eruption, Jane Russell popping out of a tiny basket because of Hope’s flute playing and, for a few seconds, Crosby’s and Hope’s characters (George and Harold) being married to themselves, instead of either one of them “getting the girl” as normally happens in these films.

As discussed last week, there were the usual continuing gags in this film, including Hope breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience.  Contrary to its predecessors, however, the movie ends with Hope asking the audience a question and leading to an open-ended, somewhat unresolved finale.

The constant rewriting of scenes, with Hope and Crosby continuing to try to outdo each other, started to strain the relationship between the three leading stars.  Lamour, in particular, was growing tired of the often lengthy takes while the male leads would jockey for control of the punchlines, along with an erratic work schedule and lengthy delays caused by the two male stars’ desire to sneak away for a round of golf between scenes. The off-color jokes by Hope, usually directed at her, also caused animosity on the set, according to famed biographer Arthur Marx.  This friction also made for the last time that Lamour would be the leading lady in the Road To… movies.

While Bali still was well received and did moderately well at the box office, it marked the first time that one of the ‘Road To…” pictures did not outgross its predecessor.  It’s opening weekend – released on Christmas Day – debuted in the fourth position at the box office and held a decent run in theaters.  Hope was very critical of Paramount spending far less in advertising for this film – more than half of the amount that he had expected them to commit to the project.

This production also sparked a series of conflicts between Crosby, Hope, Lamour and Paramount Pictures…and this popular movie franchise, along with the relationships between all of its stars, would never quite be the same again.

But that’s a story for another movie … and for a future “Showplace” blog entry.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.