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Five years after Bing Crosby and Bob Hope had completed their travels on the Road to Rio (1947), Paramount sent the wisecracking duo out for their last road trip for the studio, switching the Atlantic to the Pacific along the Road to Bali (1952). For the fans that had been waiting all this time for a new trip, Paramount had an extra treat. For the first and only time in the "Road" series, Hope and Crosby would have a Technicolor vista before them.
For the record, here's the plot. Bob and Bing are vaudevillians on the run from a shotgun wedding. They sign on to a deep-sea diving expedition in the South Pacific where they meet the lovely Princess Lala (Dorothy Lamour). Lala naturally prefers the crooner but she feels an obligation to the comedian - because of his resemblance to her childhood friend, a chimpanzee. As usual in the Road movies, all of this is merely an excuse to introduce songs by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen and in-jokes from Hope; sometimes simultaneously as when Bob prefaces a song by Bing by announcing to the audience, "He's gonna sing, folks. Now's the time to go and get your popcorn."
More than most of the Road movies, Road to Bali relied on a number of cameo appearances by celebrities. Jane Russell, Hope's bountiful co-star in his hit comedies The Paleface (1948) and Son of Paleface (1952), makes a cameo appearance as does Humphrey Bogart spoofing his Oscar®-winning role in The African Queen (1951). Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis also pop up in a Dorothy Lamour dream sequence. The then super-hot comedy pair were breathing down the neck of Hope and Crosby, a rivalry that seems to have been taken seriously by the older duo. When Lamour kidded Bing and Bob by announcing after a spoiled take, "Better warm up Martin and Lewis. They're younger and funnier." Hope glared at her and cracked back, "You'd better be careful how you talk to us. You can always be replaced by an actress."
Dorothy Lamour was as much a part of the series as Hope and Crosby but, while they had become bigger stars than at the first of the series, Lamour's star had fallen by the time of Road to Bali. Both Hope and Crosby worked for a share in the profits in this sure-fire box-office winner while Lamour worked for salary. She tried to get her due after filming, saying she did not think it fair to record her songs for the soundtrack album unless she was paid the same fee as Hope and Crosby. Without responding to Lamour, Hope and Crosby spent one morning in a studio recording their songs using Peggy Lee as a replacement. Unlike her co-stars, Lamour was already being pushed out the Paramount door with her contract ending and no renewal in the offering. Instead, she became a popular nightclub entertainer, returning for a cameo in the last Road movie, The Road to Hong Kong (1962).
Director: Hal Walker
Producer: Daniel Dare, Harry Tugend
Writers: Frank Butler, Hal Kanter, William Morrow
Music: Joseph J. Lilley, Johnny Burke, Jimmy Van Heusen
Cinematography: George Barnes
Editor: Archie Marshek
Art Director: J. McMillan Johnson, Hal Pereira
Cast: Bing Crosby (George Cochran), Bob Hope (Harold Gridley), Dorothy Lamour (Princess Lala), Murvyn Vye (Ken Arok), Peter Coe (Gung), Ralph Moody (Bhoma Da), Leon Askin (Ramayana).
by Brian Cady