Road to Utopia


1h 30m 1946
Road to Utopia

Brief Synopsis

Two song-and-dance men on the run masquerade as killers during the Alaskan gold rush.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
Release Date
Mar 22, 1946
Premiere Information
New York opening: 27 Feb 1946
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,057ft

Synopsis

When a wealthy elderly couple is visited by Duke Johnson, an old friend who they thought was dead and have not seen in thirty-five years, he recounts the story of their early adventures: At the turn of the century, during the Alaska gold rush, Duke, a vaudeville performer, and his partner Chester Hooton, are forced out of town after a pair of murderous thieves run onstage while being chased by the police, and Duke and Chester are exposed as charlatans. The thieves, Sperry and McGurk, killed a man for a map to a gold mine belonging to Sal Van Heusen. Sal arrives in Skagway, Alaska to seek the help of saloon owner Ace Larson, an old friend of her father, who is now crooked. Meanwhile, Duke and Chester board a ship bound for Alaska as stowaways, hoping to cash in on the gold rush, and find the map to the mine in Sperry and McGurk's berth. The thieves hold them up, but Duke and Chester outsmart them and escape disguised as Sperry and McGurk, leaving them tied up onboard. In Skagway, the town waits in terror as the "murderers" arrive and enter the saloon. Ace, who has hired Sal to sing in his saloon, plots with his girl friend Kate and his partner LeBec to swindle Sal out of her mine. While Sal seduces Duke and Chester, believing they are Sperry and McGurk, LeBec absconds with Duke's half of the map. Searching for the mine, LeBec, Kate and Ace travel into the frozen North by dog sled to Dawson City. Duke and Chester follow and, taking Ace's bait, rescue Kate in the snow. Sal arrives, and all four stay together in a cabin, where the women use their wiles to get Chester's half of the map, which is hidden in his undershirt. Sal falls in love with Duke, who tells her his true identity, and she confesses that the mine is hers. Kate convinces Sal that she can only save Duke's life by turning the map over to Ace, so she steals it and escapes with Kate. When Sperry and McGurk arrive, Duke and Chester again outsmart them and escape back to Skagway, where they elude a crowd of townspeople ready to hang them as Sperry and McGurk. Ace, LeBec, Kate and Sal, meanwhile, have returned to Skagway, where Sal confesses that she is in love with one of the "wanted" men and only went along with Ace's scheme in order to save them. Sal is tied up, but Duke and Chester steal the map from Ace's safe, rescue Sal, then blow up the saloon with a stick of dynamite after Sperry and McGurk enter it. Ace's men chase Duke, Chester and Sal to the North Pole, where the ice splits, leaving Sal and Chester on one side and Duke on the other. Duke throws them the map and faces Ace's men. Thirty-five years later, Duke meets the grown son of Chester and Sal, who is the spitting image of Duke, and Chester says they adopted him.

Photo Collections

Road to Utopia - Lobby Cards
Here are some Lobby Cards from Paramount's Road to Utopia (1946), starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
Release Date
Mar 22, 1946
Premiere Information
New York opening: 27 Feb 1946
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,057ft

Award Nominations

Best Writing, Screenplay

1947

Articles

Road to Utopia (1946)


For Paramount Pictures in the 1940s, it was an opportunity that seems like a no-brainer in hindsight. The studio had two contract players of enormous popularity in the broadcast medium, who had already established an obvious on-stage rapport with each other on their respective programs, and were clearly poised to become a popular comedic screen duo. Armed with their radio gag writers to bolster the screenplays, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby hit the "Road" with a string of popular comic adventures laden with outrageous sight gags, in-jokes, and humorous asides to the audience, to say nothing of the presence of the alluring Dorothy Lamour (usually cast as South Sea sirens). The fourth entry in the series, Road to Utopia (1946), takes full advantage of each of these winning elements and is still considered one of the best entries in the series.

The Oscar®-nominated script, courtesy of longtime Hope scribes Norman Panama and Melvin Frank, opens with the three principals in age makeup, as the wealthy Chester Hooton (Hope) and his wife Sal (Lamour) are idling in their mansion, wistfully dwelling on how they gained a fortune and lost their best friend. At that moment, the long-thought-dead Duke Johnson (Crosby) arrives on their doorstep, and the narrative segues to Gold Rush-era San Francisco, where Duke and Chester were unsuccessfully plying their trades as song-and-dance men and bunco artists. In dodging the cops, they wind up on a steamship bound for the Yukon.

Their fortunes don't change for the better; not only do they lose their tickets, they wind up antagonizing two of the territory's most dangerous thugs, Sperry (Robert Barrat) and McGurk (Nestor Paiva). After improbably overpowering these cutthroats, Duke and Chester assume their identities taking their clothes, their gear, and the map to a gold mine that the thugs murdered Sal's father to obtain. Sal is summoned north by her father's shady attorney (Douglass Dumbrille), and believing the boys to be the killers, sets out to seduce them into giving up the map. The balance of the tale involves the expected romantic rivalry, a raucous race to the claim with the heavies, and an ending that somehow got past the censors of the day.

Although Road to Utopia wrapped in March 1944, distribution was held up for nineteen months. The cited reasons have ranged from the studio's continued and profitable exhibition of the prior "Road" opus, Road to Morocco (1942), to an avoidance of distracting attention from Crosby's much-lauded performance in the current hit, Going My Way (1944). While all of the series heartily disregard the "fourth wall" separating the audience from the action, Road to Utopia took the extra step of having the esteemed humorist Robert Benchley provide a running commentary on the script via a series of cut-ins. Benchley, who spent his later days adapting his wit to the screen with a popular series of short subjects, passed away before the film reached theaters.

In her autobiography My Side of the Road, Lamour recalled Utopia primarily for her musical number "Personality," in which she donned a seemingly sprayed-on evening gown. She recounted that on the morning of the shoot, after three hours in wardrobe and makeup, Hope and Crosby pulled a complete no-show. "Finally at 4:30 Gary Cooper ambled onto the set and asked what was going on. I recounted my tale of woe. 'Dottie,' he said, 'you shouldn't let those guys take advantage of you. Why don't you just give them a taste of their own medicine?'" Coop escorted her off the set, and Lamour refused to return when her co-stars finally put in their appearance. "The next day was all patched up," she recalled. "But they didn't pull another stunt like that ever again."

Producer: Paul Jones
Director: Hal Walker
Screenplay: Melvin Frank, Norman Panama
Cinematography: Lionel Lindon
Film Editing: Stuart Gilmore
Art Direction: Roland Anderson, Hans Dreier
Music: Leigh Harline, Jimmy Van Heusen
Cast: Bing Crosby (Duke Johnson/Junior Hooton), Bob Hope (Chester Hooton), Dorothy Lamour (Sal Van Hoyden), Hillary Brooke (Kate), Douglass Dumbrille (Ace Larson), Jack La Rue (LeBec).
BW-90m. Closed captioning.

by Jay S. Steinberg
Road To Utopia (1946)

Road to Utopia (1946)

For Paramount Pictures in the 1940s, it was an opportunity that seems like a no-brainer in hindsight. The studio had two contract players of enormous popularity in the broadcast medium, who had already established an obvious on-stage rapport with each other on their respective programs, and were clearly poised to become a popular comedic screen duo. Armed with their radio gag writers to bolster the screenplays, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby hit the "Road" with a string of popular comic adventures laden with outrageous sight gags, in-jokes, and humorous asides to the audience, to say nothing of the presence of the alluring Dorothy Lamour (usually cast as South Sea sirens). The fourth entry in the series, Road to Utopia (1946), takes full advantage of each of these winning elements and is still considered one of the best entries in the series. The Oscar®-nominated script, courtesy of longtime Hope scribes Norman Panama and Melvin Frank, opens with the three principals in age makeup, as the wealthy Chester Hooton (Hope) and his wife Sal (Lamour) are idling in their mansion, wistfully dwelling on how they gained a fortune and lost their best friend. At that moment, the long-thought-dead Duke Johnson (Crosby) arrives on their doorstep, and the narrative segues to Gold Rush-era San Francisco, where Duke and Chester were unsuccessfully plying their trades as song-and-dance men and bunco artists. In dodging the cops, they wind up on a steamship bound for the Yukon. Their fortunes don't change for the better; not only do they lose their tickets, they wind up antagonizing two of the territory's most dangerous thugs, Sperry (Robert Barrat) and McGurk (Nestor Paiva). After improbably overpowering these cutthroats, Duke and Chester assume their identities taking their clothes, their gear, and the map to a gold mine that the thugs murdered Sal's father to obtain. Sal is summoned north by her father's shady attorney (Douglass Dumbrille), and believing the boys to be the killers, sets out to seduce them into giving up the map. The balance of the tale involves the expected romantic rivalry, a raucous race to the claim with the heavies, and an ending that somehow got past the censors of the day. Although Road to Utopia wrapped in March 1944, distribution was held up for nineteen months. The cited reasons have ranged from the studio's continued and profitable exhibition of the prior "Road" opus, Road to Morocco (1942), to an avoidance of distracting attention from Crosby's much-lauded performance in the current hit, Going My Way (1944). While all of the series heartily disregard the "fourth wall" separating the audience from the action, Road to Utopia took the extra step of having the esteemed humorist Robert Benchley provide a running commentary on the script via a series of cut-ins. Benchley, who spent his later days adapting his wit to the screen with a popular series of short subjects, passed away before the film reached theaters. In her autobiography My Side of the Road, Lamour recalled Utopia primarily for her musical number "Personality," in which she donned a seemingly sprayed-on evening gown. She recounted that on the morning of the shoot, after three hours in wardrobe and makeup, Hope and Crosby pulled a complete no-show. "Finally at 4:30 Gary Cooper ambled onto the set and asked what was going on. I recounted my tale of woe. 'Dottie,' he said, 'you shouldn't let those guys take advantage of you. Why don't you just give them a taste of their own medicine?'" Coop escorted her off the set, and Lamour refused to return when her co-stars finally put in their appearance. "The next day was all patched up," she recalled. "But they didn't pull another stunt like that ever again." Producer: Paul Jones Director: Hal Walker Screenplay: Melvin Frank, Norman Panama Cinematography: Lionel Lindon Film Editing: Stuart Gilmore Art Direction: Roland Anderson, Hans Dreier Music: Leigh Harline, Jimmy Van Heusen Cast: Bing Crosby (Duke Johnson/Junior Hooton), Bob Hope (Chester Hooton), Dorothy Lamour (Sal Van Hoyden), Hillary Brooke (Kate), Douglass Dumbrille (Ace Larson), Jack La Rue (LeBec). BW-90m. Closed captioning. by Jay S. Steinberg

Quotes

Can't you suppress it somehow?
- Duke
Frighten me.
- Chester Hooton
I can't, I haven't got a mirror.
- Duke
Experience is the best teacher.
- Duke
Oh, experience is the best teacher, huh?
- Chester Hooton
Naturally, and I'm a Ph.D.
- Duke
I'll have a lemonade.
- Chester Hooton
In a dirty glass.
- Chester Hooton
Am I dead?
- Chester Hooton
I can't tell, you always look that way.
- Duke
Yeah? Well, I ain't afraid to die. I just hate being killed, that's all.
- Chester Hooton
As far as I'm concerned, this picture's over right now.
- Chester Hooton

Trivia

Notes

This film is introduced by humorist Robert Benchley, who died in 1945 before it was released. Benchley states that the film was made "to demonstrate how not to make a motion picture and at the same time win an Academy Award." Benchley warns the audience that he will be speaking periodically throughout the picture to clarify points; he appears at various instances in an upper corner of the screen and comments on the action. Hollywood Reporter news items report the following information about the production: Sidney Lanfield was initially going to direct the film, but cast members reportedly requested that Hal Walker be appointed. Although production began in 1943, marking Walker's first solo directorial assignment, the film was not released until two years later. Some scenes were shot on location at June Lake, CA. This was the fourth film in the "Road to..." series starring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. The film includes a shot of a snowcapped mountain encircled by stars, which is the Paramount Pictures trademark. This film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay). For more information on the series, consult the Series Index and see the entry for Road to Singapore in the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.3789.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States on Video May 5, 1988

Released in United States Spring March 22, 1946

Released in United States Spring March 22, 1946

Released in United States on Video May 5, 1988