Alongside costars Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, Bob Hope made seven classic adventure comedies between 1940 and 1962: the “Road” series.
When Bob Hope died 10 years ago today, he was 100 years old and had packed an unbelievable amount of living into that century. A professional entertainer from the age of 12, Hope worked to make the world laugh until his very last days on earth. He was a TV star who entertained the troops in six wars over half a century, boxed professionally, played a notable game of golf, starred on Broadway, and, of course, made dozens of hit movies. Among the greatest of those movies was the Road series.
Alongside costars Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, Bob Hope made seven classic adventure comedies between 1940 and 1962: Road to Singapore, Road to Zanzibar, Road to Morocco, Road to Utopia, Road to Rio, Road to Bali and The Road to Hong Kong. These fan favorites are still hilarious all these years later. We’re watching them today, and remembering some of our favorite Road tropes and running gags, in Bob Hope’s honor.
Bickering over beauties. As seafaring men Ace and Josh, Hope and Crosby always vowed they would never again let women interfere with their plans… and inevitably, they’d soon end up in a fight for some lovely lady’s attention. In Road to Singapore, a squabble found its way into a song.
Con artists. Hope and Crosby ran cons in the Road movies, with Crosby as the idea man and Hope doing the dirty work. In Road to Zanzibar, Hope’s character was much the worse for wear after a series of silly schemes.
Breaking the fourth wall. The stars of the Road movies frequently broke the fourth wall to talk directly to the camera, as in this song from Road to Morocco.
Jabs at Hollywood. Hope and Crosby often made in-joke references to other Hollywood stars and to Paramount Pictures, the studio that made the Road movies. Road to Utopia inserts the studio’s iconic mountain in the Alaskan scenery.
Song and dance. Of course, each Road film was heavy on the musical numbers, a big draw in the golden age of Hollywood. And they were often a bit goofy – or a lot goofy, as in this torch song featuring Hope’s bubble-blowing trumpet from Road to Rio.
Celebrity cameos. In the later movies, other celebrities began showing up for cameos. This was especially true in Road to Bali, which featured walk-ons from Humphrey Bogart, Jane Russell, and fellow comedy team Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
Genre spoofs. Each of the Road movies parodied a genre that was currently popular at the box office. Road to Singapore started the tradition with a send-up of South Seas pictures. As moviegoers’ tastes changed, Hope and Crosby’s satires evolved with them, until they were poking fun at 1960s spy flicks in The Road to Hong Kong.
When the Road series ended, fans had been loving the wacky Hope-Crosby pairing for more than twenty years and Hope’s career was in its fifth decade, yet he still had decades more to offer his fans. His was an astonishingly varied life – but we’re glad he took some time to go on the road with his pals.