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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.
Coming up next week on RCN TV, we will present one of the famous “Road to…” movies that were extremely popular in the 1940s and early 1950s.
But to better enjoy these humorous films set in picturesque locales, it’s important to understand the history and continuing characteristics of these films, along with their enduring legacies.
In the late 1930s it was hard to find two more popular international entertainers than Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Both had popular radio shows, had starred in their own films multiple times and were raking in major cash with live performances and topping the nation’s record sales (Crosby had a decade of top singles and Hope had just released the song “Thanks for the Memory,” which won an Oscar for Best Original Song and would later become his personal theme song).
It would seem like a no-brainer today to pair these two legends, along with up-and-coming starlet Dorothy Lamour, for a series of films that would take them around the world and allow both Crosby a vehicle to sing and for Hope to tell jokes.
Unfortunately for Paramount Pictures it took several OTHER combinations of performers to reject the idea before the studio decided on Crosby and Hope.
The plot of these films–usually secondary to the vehicle they provided the leading stars–always involves Crosby and Hope in a hair-brained scheme or “get rich quick” idea which goes awry and leads to grand adventures in exotic locations.
The films were packed with timely zingers and references to other prominent, contemporary actors, movies and even jokes at Paramount’s expense.
While there’s some debate as far as how much of the movies were scripted and what lines were improvised, it seems certain according to most Crosby and Hope biographies that a large amount of rewrites were done on each screenplay–even as they were filming the scenes themselves.
Other continuing occurrences with the films include Hope breaking the fourth wall and telling jokes directly to the audience. Hope would usually have a nickname that would often contradict itself from film to film. Crosby would be featured with a monologue on some aspect of everyday life combined with crooning at least one song that would become a hit single. Lamour would be featured in dazzling wardrobes and single-handedly made the word “sarong” a household name in the Forties. Lastly, a version of the “patty cake” game with slight alterations in each movie would help get the starring duo out of a tough jam.
The initial film, Road To Singapore, was a smashing success with critics and at the box office when released in early 1940. The first five films would continually outgross its predecessor and were produced with very little conflict. The outbreak of World War II hurt some intended filming locations and later films’ contract disputes between Crosby and Hope were the two notable exceptions. Money issues in the early 1950s also caused a bit of a rift between the two stars–one that eventually worked itself out and saw the pair teaming up for several other projects.
In our next entry here at the “Showplace,” we will have more on the Road to Bali which you can see in the “RCN Movie Vault” next week on RCN TV.
To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.