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Bob Hope and Bing Crosby's beloved Road series arrived at a final destination with The Road to Hong Kong (1962). For their seventh and last entry, though, Hope and Crosby encountered Joan Collins as an evil foil instead of their usual companion, Dorothy Lamour (who appears in a minor supporting role). The story begins as Chester (Hope) and Harry (Crosby), two out-of-work vaudevillians, travel through India while trying to sell an "Interplanetary Fly-It-Yourself Space Kit." Unfortunately Chester has a bout of amnesia but an ancient Tibetan cure proves so effective that he discovers he now has infallible memory. This greatly interests a secret agent (Collins) and a shadowy secret society that has developed a space-traveling rocket. The situation gets wilder and weirder from there.
The Road to Hong Kong was a departure from past Road pictures in that it parodied the current secret agent/spy movie craze as well as the Space Race. It also featured more guest appearances than any other Road movie and featured cameos by Zsa Zsa Gabor, David Niven, comedic singer/songwriter Jerry Colonna, Peter Sellers as an Indian doctor, and Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin who appear in the final scene of the film wearing futuristic headgear. Even Bing's brother, Bob Crosby and his Orchestra, make an appearance. Originally, Dorothy Lamour wasn't even considered for a part in the film until she read about the production in a newspaper and contacted the producers. Bob Hope campaigned for her involvement despite objections from Crosby who wanted someone younger but a compromise was reached with Lamour being offered an expanded cameo role and the opportunity to sing a song, "Warmer Than a Whisper."
For the major female lead, Crosby initially wanted a famous international sex symbol, commenting, "I'd like to see [Brigitte] Bardot in the part most of all. Mind you, I think she might be a little on the young side for Hope...Filming is kind of difficult for someone at my time of life. I'm too old to get the girl and not old enough to be her granddad. But still I'd sure like to work with Bardot. I only saw one film of hers, but it made a deep impression. Pretty good lines, I'd say...." Gina Lollobrigida was Crosby's second choice for the part and Sophia Loren was even considered but, in the end, the role went to Joan Collins.
Filming started August 2, 1961 at Shepperton Studios in England and was completed November 3rd, just days after the birth of Crosby's third child. Finding accommodations near the set for the two stars and their families had been a difficult task since it was the height of the tourist season in London. Luckily, producer/co-director Melvin Frank was able to rent Cranbourne Court, a stately country home with twenty-five acres and twenty-two bedrooms. Crosby suggested to Hope that they both stay there and it marked the only time in their professional lives the two men had shared lodging together with their families on a shoot. During filming, Crosby and Hope happily promoted The Road to Hong Kong in several interviews at the BBC. And when they weren't on the set, they spent their leisure time playing golf.
The Road to Hong Kong proved to be successful when it was released in England on April 1 and then in the US on May 26th, 1962. The Road pictures were always critic-proof and highly profitable for Paramount and this final venture was no exception - it was one of the top ten box office hits of 1962. "The script is spiced with a number of private jokes (golf, Hope's nose, Crosby's dough, reference to gags from previous Road films) but not enough to be irritating," stated Variety and some of the sight gags were obviously inspired by other films such as the automated feeding machine in which Hope and Crosby are force-fed bananas and milk; it was a direct nod to Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times (1936). Most of the best reviews, however, singled out Peter Sellers as the real scene stealer in the film and it marked his second of three appearances as Indians in his movies (he first played an Indian physician in The Millionairess in 1960 and later an Indian extra who inadvertently destroys a movie set in The Party, 1968). In addition to the Dorothy Lamour duet with Hope, the score by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen also included "Let's Not Be Sensible," "Teamwork," "It's the Only Way to Travel," and "We're on the Road to Hong Kong."
Director: Norman Panama
Producer: Melvin Frank
Screenplay: Melvin Frank, Norman Panama
Cinematography: Jack Hildyard
Editor: Alan Osbiston, John C. Smith
Art Direction: Syd Cain, William Hutchinson
Music: Robert Farnon
Cast: Bing Crosby (Harry Turner), Bob Hope (Chester Babcock), Joan Collins (Diane), Dorothy Lamour (Herself), Robert Morley (The Leader).
by Lang Thompson
The Films of Bing Crosby by Robert Bookbinder (Citadel Press)
Bing Crosby by Donald Shepherd & Robert F. Slatzer (St. Martin's Press)
The Films of Bob Hope by Donald W. McCaffrey (Praeger)