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  Road to Morocco The Screwiest Picture They Were Ever In
Year: 1942
Director: David Butler
Stars: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Anthony Quinn, Dona Drake, Vladimir Sokoloff, Mikhail Rasumny, George Givot, Yvonne De Carlo
Genre: Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: A ship has been sunk off the coast of North Africa, and two of the survivors are unaccounted for, friends since childhood Orville (Bob Hope) and Jeff (Bing Crosby). That is because they are adrift in the ocean on a makeshift raft, with no supplies such as food or water to prolong their existence, and they are beginning to get anxious - well, fair enough Orville has smuggled aboard a couple of biscuits, and he might have told Jeff about them if he hadn't been found out, but then again his pal is sizing him up for a spot of cannibalism should the situation grow dire, they tossed a coin for it after all and Orville couldn't guess the date. Just as the relationship is deteriorating, they spot land...

Road to Morocco was the third in the hugely popular Road series headlined by Hope, Crosby and the female lead Dorothy Lamour, and the last one before the end of the Second World War, which was odd since all three did their bit to entertain the troops and fund raise for the war effort, tirelessly touring the globe in the process. But they continued to make movies, and this one was judged to be the biggest hit with the soldiers of the whole war, not to mention the appreciation shown back home and indeed abroad, their wordplay, topical references and zany action offering the perfect antidote to the horrors many wanted to escape from for just a while. Nevertheless, it was 1945 before Road to Utopia was ready.

Back in 1942, this was hot on the heels of Road to Zanzibar which had cemented the series' place as a top moneymaker, and the entire Road franchise was the most profitable one of all time until the James Bond films took their crown. That relentless irreverence was carried over to here, where in spite of the way that Crosby and Hope were essentially treating one another abominably, with Jeff selling Orville into slavery to pay for his restaurant meal or Orville contriving to see Jeff marry the Princess (Lamour) in his place to ensure the prophecy about her first husband dying won't come true, the real tenor of what a buddy movie should be was forged with their screen friendship.

It was an offscreen friendship as well, but they were also rivals for the affections of the public, and that fuelled their appearances in the movies they starred in, and didn't that public love being in on the joke? Of course times change as do tastes, and Hope continued to make films into the early nineteen-seventies where he was coming across as if he'd outstayed his welcome when the material was lacking, Crosby having given up the film acting lark some time before, yet for obvious reasons their Road pictures enjoyed a lasting fanbase, often showing up on television revivals to find a new audience delighted by their invention and sharp humour. Often Morocco would be declared the best of the lot, though not everyone agreed; it was over the top, but maybe not as inspired as the series could get.

That wasn't to say there weren't laughs, there were plenty, but compared with Utopia it wasn't as surreal as it could be, and possibly the gags were a shade too self-satisfied when they could be more hilarious in other instalments. What wasn't in doubt was the songs were probably the best here, from the opening Morocco Bound with quip-packed lyrics, to Bing's swooning ballad Moonlight Becomes You, though even that was subject to lampooning in the mirage sequence where the three leads swap voices. Bing's devil-may-care Ho Hum was a gem of a tune as well. The plot was a breezy spoof of the Arabian Nights movies that were gaining popularity, which did mean Hope's love interest (other than Lamour) was the African-American Dona Drake, pretty progressive for the forties although it should be noted she pretended to be Latina throughout her career. Still, it was notable, though then again more would be noting the talking camels or the practical joke-filled finale where villain Anthony Quinn comes to grief at the comedy, as many villains would.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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