Road to Bali – 1952

Road_to_Bali_film

My Review

—Good Cameo, Rough Film— 

Your Bogie Film Fix:

.5 Bogie  out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Hal Walker

The Lowdown

Two song-and-dance performers (Bing Crosby and Bob Hope) stumble upon a tropical island where they both fall in love with, and try to woo, an exotic princess (Dorothy Lamour), while avoiding a sea monster and unfriendly natives.

What I Thought

This completes my trilogy of posts on The African Queen after writing up the film, the radio broadcast, and now the cameo appearance by Bogart as Charlie Allnut!

When I was a kid, the local Fox affiliate would occasionally run Hope and Crosby Road movies on Saturday afternoons.  I was just old enough to enjoy the timeless jokes and just young enough to get bored by the more dated cultural jabs, so most of the films run together in my memory.

I have a very vivid memory, though, of watching this film in the living room with my mom.  When Bogart shows up for his brief cameo, I remember my mom laughing and saying something like, “That’s Humphrey Bogart from The African Queen!”   I didn’t get the reference at the time, but I knew that she was thoroughly enjoying the appearance of one of Bogart’s more classic characters.

Honestly?  I was entertained for the first half of the film.  Hope and Crosby escape from marriage proposals, take jobs that they’re not qualified for as deep sea divers, meet a princess, fall in love, find a treasure, and fight a sea monster.  It’s pretty standard, outlandish, fun and crazy, Road movie stuff.  Unfortunately for Road to Bali, all of that happens in only the first half of the movie.  There’s still another forty or fifty minutes left afterwards where the routine grows very stale.

I think Hope and Crosby are incredibly entertaining, and I LOVED their appearance in Hollywood Victory Caravan, but the last half of this script really lets them down – and that’s saying a lot considering that none of the Road films are known for their stellar screenplays.

Definitely not a must see in the Bogart canon, but if you need a couple of laughs and have some good food to distract you, I could mildly recommend this film.

The Bogart Factor

Onscreen for perhaps only four or five seconds, Bogart has a very brief cameo to say the least.  Hope, Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour are traipsing through the jungle when Lamour points out over a river/lake/small pond and says, “Look!”  Hope and Crosby look up to see Bogart, dressed in his African Queen cap, striped shirt, and a bandanna around his neck, pulling a boat through the reeds in the water.   He has no lines and he’s gone in the blink of an eye.  Our trio of comedians wonder if it was some sort of hallucination when Crosby suddenly finds Bogart’s Academy Award in the reeds and they decide it must have been the real thing.

If you’re a Bogart completist, it’s a pretty fun moment, and I’ll admit, I got just about as excited as my mom did when I saw it.  Bogart was a good sport to reprise the role for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo.  Part of me wonders though, did they just drop in a clip from the actual film?  Couldn’t they have given him one little line?

The Cast

Much like The African Queen, this film only has four major characters, and I think that’s where some of the problems stem from during the last act.  After an hour with Crosby, Hope, and Lamour, we’ve seen just about all of their jungle island gags played out, and the introduction to at least one more main character (besides the gorilla) would have been welcome.

Dorothy Lamour as Princess Lala is given very little to work with as far as the script goes.  She looks beautiful, and she gets to do a great rendition of Moonflowers, but other than watching the two fellas joke around, she’s left adrift most of the time.  I really only know Lamour from her work on the Road films, so I should probably check out the rest of her filmography sometime.

Bing Crosby and Bob Hope deliver sporadically as George and Harold, the two love-struck conmen performers.  Even in a less-than-stellar film, their chemistry is a lot of fun, and I love how Hope teases Crosby about his age while Crosby teases Hope about his weight despite the fact that they both appear to be about the same age and weight.  It’s easy to see why audiences enjoyed their routine, as they seemed to genuinely enjoy one another’s company.

Murvyn Vye plays one of Lamour’s fellow islanders, Ken Arok.  The role appears not to be based on the real life Arok, and the less said about Vye here the better.  I have a feeling that Director Walker’s only motivation for Vye was something like, You’re a mean islander!  There’s nothing for Vye to do but stand around grimacing to move the plot along.

Classic Bogie Moment

No lines and almost  no screen time, so there’s just a pic this week:

road to bali

The Bottom Line

If you’re a Hope and Crosby fan, check it out – otherwise . . . well, there’s always the real African Queen right?

Hollywood Victory Caravan – 1945

hc1945

My Review

—Short and Fun— 

Your Bogie Fix:

.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies

Director – William D. Russell

The Lowdown

A young woman in Hollywood is unable to visit her wounded, war veteran brother in Washington D.C. because there’s no transportation to get there.  Discovering that a train load of celebrities is headed to D.C. to sell war bonds, she crashes the front gate at Paramount Pictures to beg and plead her way to Bing Crosby, who might just be able to secure her a place on the train.

What I Thought. . .

Filled with celebrities that are still household names today (Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Barbary Stanwyk, etc.) and a few that time has kind of left behind (Carmen Cavallaro and Olga San Juan), at least half of the twenty minute running time is song and dance routines.  There are also a few fun bits with a campy train station agent (Franklin Pangborn), a disgruntled Paramount security guard (William Demarest) and a number of very funny moments with Hope and Crosby.  All in all, it’s a variety show in the guise of a half hour sitcom that ends up as a commercial for the US government.

It’s a fun little time capsule into 1940’s pop culture, and worth checking out.

The Bogart Factor

Playing himself, Bogart takes no part in the running story of the woman and her war veteran brother.  His sole job is to walk out onstage during the final celebrity packed show and make a pitch to buy bonds.  He looks fantastic – very healthy and sharp – and I’d have to say that if I’d been in the audience, I might have bought a war bond after hearing his short pitch.  Then again, he was charismatic enough that he could have sold me just about anything he wanted.

The Cast 

By far the best part of the show comes when Hope and Crosby are forced to share a berth on the train to D.C.  Having the most screen time out of all the celebrities in the show, there are lots of great moments for each man, but the sight of them spooning in bed, fast asleep, as Hope drapes his arm around Crosby’s waist is priceless.  Then, when Crosby begins to dream about his racehorse Bluefoot (?) and starts reaching around and slapping Hope on the backside while saying, “Giddyup!” I had an actual laugh-out-loud moment.  It’s every bit as fun as the hotel bed scene in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and it makes me very excited to eventually review Road to Bali, as Bogart makes a cameo in that film as well.

Classic Bogie Moment

He’s not acting, so there are no classic tough guy lines or actions, but the classic Bogie stance does make an appearance.  If you’ve seen any Bogart movies at all, you know the stance I’m talking about.  Bogart stands up straight, puffs his chest, pops his hips out just a bit, and then tucks his thumbs into the waistband of his pants as he talks.

The Bottom Line

This is probably not a must see unless you’re a completist, but there are a few good chuckles and at least one guaranteed laugh from Hope and Crosby.  If you’re a fan of Classic Hollywood, you won’t mind spending twenty minutes enjoying this little piece of Cinema history.