Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, and Bing Crosby in 1942's "Road to Morocco."

Road to Morocco 
September 16, 2021

DIRECTED BY

David Butler

STARRING

Bob Hope

Bing Crosby

Dorothy Lamour

Anthony Quinn

Dona Drake

 

RATED

NR

RELEASED IN

1942

 

RUNNING TIME

1 Hr., 22 Mins.

R

oad to Morocco (1942) was the third of seven comedies starring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour with the same basic premise and title (save for a location change). Two bumbling friends, played by Hope and Crosby, accidentally land in a faraway locale (like Zanzibar or Hong Kong); Lamour, often playing a royal there, becomes a lust object. Hijinks ensued, and so did songs, in these

joke-a-minute satires of the adventure movies du jour. Despite this being a series, no one played the same character twice in the Road to movies. None of the films are explicitly connected to one another either. These comedies were more a set of specials than a serial — not connected travelogues but one-and-done vacations. 

 

Critics and audiences loved these movies. (At least the early ones: the first four were released between 1940 and ‘47.) Watching Road to Morocco — which is pretty universally considered both the funniest and the best distillation of the beaten-to-death white-guys-being-stupid-in-unfamiliar-places formula — now, you suffer from some you-had-to-be-there-itis even when you’re laughing. The movie is largely amusing (notwithstanding its regular exoticism, which though meant satirize what other Anglo-centric adventure movies were doing still nonetheless reiterates Orientalism regularly as fodder for a laugh). Hope and Crosby have affable goofball-straight man chemistry, too. But the impulse after finishing it is not to watch six more just like it, let alone one. Why engorge on too much of a just-fine thing? 

 

This iteration of the franchise sees Hope and Crosby playing, respectively, Orville and Jeff, two blundering stowaways turned adrift after Orville capsizes the ship they’ve sneaked onto by lighting a cigarette in a strictly no-smoking section. The friends don’t sit in the wreckage long (though long enough for inevitable cannibalism-as-survival jokes) before they notice in the distance some land. (Guess which North African country these shores belong to.) Hijinks ensue, so do songs, yadda yadda. Speaking with a pristine, near-streetwise American accent, Lamour appears as a princess pursued by a marriage-minded sheik (a young Anthony Quinn); she spends most of the movie yo-yoing with Orville and Jeff. Lamour’s performance has a funny ironic detachment that complements Hope’s careful idiocy and Crosby’s self-parodying suaveness. It works well with the movie’s general (and mostly charming) this is very dumb, isn’t it self-awareness, which doesn’t congeal into off-putting glibness thanks to its fleet 82-minute runtime.

 

I was won over. Though I haven’t, except for 1940’s inciting (and not originally intended to be inciting) Road to Singapore, seen the profusion of sequels, I can’t imagine Morocco’s inspired-enough genre-blending making-fun-of-itself-and-everything-else being equally endearing with every successive revival. I suppose that like any vacation, you’ll have your favorites the more you go on. The general public seems to have picked this comic misrepresentation of Morocco as the vacation spot it would like to visit again and again. B-