Saturday, March 12, 2016

Road to Singapore


Today, I'm writing about The Road to Singapore (1940), starring Judith Barrett (left), Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour, and Bob Hope.

This article is part of Dorothy Lamour: The "Dot" Blogathon hosted by Font & Frock and Silver Screenings.

The "Road" movies co-starring Dorothy Lamour, Bing Crosby, and Bob Hope were some of the most popular films in old Hollywood's golden age. These breezy comedies lifted spirits during the Great Depression and World War II with a fun blend of wisecracks, slapstick, and song. The first film in the series was Road to Singapore (1940), but like many movie projects it had a long and winding path to the silver screen.

The Road to Singapore tells the story of Josh Mallon (Crosby) and Ace Lannigan (Hope), two happy-go-lucky sailors who decide to get out of the United States and head to more exotic climes after their families pressure them to settle down and get steady jobs. The two friends make their home on the fictional South Seas island of Kaigoon (ironically, Singapore is never actually depicted in the movie) where they quickly strike up a friendship with a lovely native woman, Mima (Lamour). Hi-jinks ensue when the trio are pursued by everyone from a former fiancee (Judith Barrett) to the immigration authorities.


Crosby, Lamour, and Hope are so natural together that it seems like a foregone conclusion that they would play the parts, but that wasn't the case. The script, which had several working titles including Road to Mandalay and Beach of Dreams, was offered to Fred MacMurray and Jack Oakie and then George Burns and Gracie Allen, who both turned it down. Paramount executives then came up with the brilliant idea of pairing Crosby and Hope, who had worked briefly together in vaudeville and often gave impromptu performances on weekends at the Del Mar racetrack. Paramount put the popular Dorothy Lamour in the movie as box-office insurance, and the rest is history.

Lamour remembered the filming as a good time where the laughs flowed frequently, and Crosby and Hope endlessly competed to one-up each other. Lamour eagerly studied her lines the night before the first day of filming, but when the cameras started rolling, Hope and Crosby went way off the script (Lamour didn't know it at the time, but both men hired joke writers). "Mostly they [Hope and Crosby] would ad lib, playing with the lines I'd worked so hard to memorize," Lamour told People magazine. "The night before Road to Singapore  I naively studied my script like crazy. When it came time, the ad-libs started flying every which way. I kept waiting for a cue which never came. In exasperation I said, 'Please, guys, when can I get my line in?' They stopped dead and laughed for 10 minutes."

A Spanish language poster for Road to Singapore (1940).
Road to Singapore is somewhat outdated, but it is still a fun movie in 2016. Crosby's laid-back charm is always a welcome onscreen presence, but Road to Singapore is a lot more plot heavy than the later "Road" movies, and Crosby was saddled with an unfortunate subplot about his rich father (Charles Coburn) and clutching fiancee that was way too melodramatic for such a light romp. Road to Singapore really gives the spotlight to Hope and Lamour. This was a breakout movie for Hope, who up to that time was primarily a radio star. He has a lot of great ad-libs, especially one about the Republican Party that is still relevant today.

Road to Singapore is also a great showcase for Lamour. She looks stunning in her Edith Head-designed costumes, including her signature sarongs, and the movie showcases her beautiful singing voice in the "Too Romantic" duet with Crosby and in her lovely solo number, "The Moon and the Willow Tree." I'll leave you with a clip of Lamour singing the song.


Road to Singapore is available on DVD and video on demand.


You can check out my first entry for The Dot Blogathon here. It's all about Lamour's trademark sarongs.



4 comments :

  1. I didn't know others (e.g. Burns and Allen) were considered for these roles. It's hard to imagine this film with anyone else but Hope, Crosby and the fab Lamour!

    Yes, this film is a bit more plot-intensive than the other road movies, but I can forgive it because of Charles Coburn.

    Thanks for bringing TWO fab posts to the Dorothy Lamour party!

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  2. Love the "Road to..." films but realized recently - right after it aired on TCM of course - that I had somehow missed this one. Sigh... Hopefully they will air it again soon or my library will get it...

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    Replies
    1. I'm partial to Road to Bali and Road to Morocco

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