Road to Bali – 1952


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?