Road to Zanzibar


1h 32m 1941
Road to Zanzibar

Brief Synopsis

A lady con artist scams two out-of-work entertainers into financing a safari.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
Release Date
Apr 11, 1941
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,460ft (9 reels)

Synopsis

Circus performers Chuck Reardon and Hubert "Fearless" Frazier flee an African town when their human cannonball act accidentally causes the circus to burn down. After diamond mine owner Charles Kimble saves them from arrest in another town, Chuck, always on the lookout for instant wealth, purchases a diamond mine from him. Chuck and Fearless realize that they have been duped when they learn that Kimble is an eccentric whose signature on any document is worthless. Fearless, who has been Chuck's "human cannonball" for longer than he likes, is furious that Chuck has spent the $5,000 that took them five years to save on a worthless mine deed and sells the paper to a shady character named Lebec. When Lebec and his thug come after them for directions to the mine, Fearless and Chuck take a boat and escape with the money. In an unfamiliar town, they are conned into buying beautiful Donna Latour out of apparent slavery by her partner, Julia Quimby, who is working with the slaver to split the proceeds. Donna then suckers Chuck into a safari with a sob story about finding her ailing father in the jungle. In reality, she just needs help crossing Africa to reunite with her wealthy fiancé. Fearless is suspicious of the women, but he and Chuck nonetheless pay for the safari. Along the way, Donna flirts with both men and plays them against each other, but sincerely falls in love with Chuck. Chuck and Fearless finally find out they have been duped and leave the women to continue on the safari, but then get lost themselves without their African guides. Chuck and Fearless are trapped by cannibals when they stumble on a sacred cave. When the cannibals pit Fearless against a gorilla in a wrestling match to determine if Fearless is a god, Fearless loses the match, and the two men are fattened up for days in preparation for dinner. Just as they are about to be dunked into a giant kettle, Fearless and Chuck outwit the cannibals with a game of "pattycake" and flee. In an African town, Chuck promises to buy steamer tickets for home but instead returns to the apartment with Donna, whose fiancé rejected her, and Julia. Chuck and Donna reunite and the four friends form a new carnival act.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
Release Date
Apr 11, 1941
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,460ft (9 reels)

Articles

Road to Zanzibar (1941)


The second of the seven "Road to" movies Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour made over the course of more than 20 years, Road to Zanzibar (1941) finds the two boys on the lam in Africa after their sideshow causes a fire and Hope sells a dangerous criminal a bogus diamond mine he was tricked into buying. They come across Brooklynite Lamour and another con artist, Una Merkel, who dupe the men into financing and accompanying them on a safari to find Lamour's lost brother. It turns out, however, that Lamour is really chasing a millionaire she wants to marry.

The plot, as usual in this series, is little more than an excuse for Hope and Crosby to do their seemingly improvised vaudeville return, sing a few songs, and ogle the charms of Lamour (who, inevitably, falls for Crosby). The appeal of this movie, as with all the other Road flicks, lies largely in the in-jokes, the knowing spoof of action-adventure movies, and the meta-cinematic way the actors often talk to the audience and reveal their awareness of being in a movie. As one reviewer said at the time of its release, this picture "is nonsense, but it is nonsense of the most delightful sort."

The Road movies came about as a result of some personal appearances Hope and Crosby made in the 1930s. The two first met briefly on the streets of New York in 1932 when Crosby was a national singing sensation and Hope an up-and-coming vaudeville star beginning to make a mark in radio. That year they performed together for the first time on the stage of the city's Capitol Theater as part of a live show before the screening of the Boris Karloff picture The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932). Several years later, remembering the success of their routine, Crosby asked Hope to appear with him at the opening of the Del Mar racetrack near San Diego. A Paramount studio executive was in the audience, and he quickly began searching for a film project to showcase the easy-going humor arising out of their public personas and joking rivalry. The studio found a script originally meant for Fred MacMurray and Jack Oakie and retooled it to become Road to Singapore (1940). For feminine interest they added sultry Dorothy Lamour, who received billing over relative movie-novice Hope.

Singapore was such a hit, the studio quickly set about finding another project for their stars. They had a script called "Find Colonel Fawcett" about two adventurers trekking through Madagascar, which had been shelved because the studio thought it seemed too similar to the MGM hit Stanley and Livingstone (1939). They reworked it for Hope and Crosby, copying the winning formula from the first film with a changed locale, and a hit sequel was born.

Paramount went all out for the second picture, employing more than 300 African-American extras for the slave auction scene. Some of the extras were deemed not dark enough for their roles and 15 additional make-up artists were brought in to apply "black face" to them. Set decorators needed so many plants for the jungle scenes they ran through the stock in the studio backlot greenhouses and had to import greenery from as far away as Arizona. The publicity department spared nothing as well in promoting the film. One hyperbolic press release claimed dance director LeRoy Prinz had scoured Africa for months looking for authentic tribal rituals and costumes and boasted that "the original conga as danced in the heart of Darkest Africa is shown in one sequence."

As with the first film, Lamour was driven to distraction by Hope and Crosby's constant improvisation on the script. She would learn her lines, then wait with increasing impatience for her cues, which were often altered beyond recognition. The screenwriters weren't any happier about this situation, especially when Hope told them in front of the entire cast and crew, "If you hear one of your lines, yell 'Bingo!'" Hope and Crosby were not, however, the skilled improvisers they wanted everyone to believe; the "ad-libbed" gags were actually written by their radio comedy writers after being given copies of the script by the stars. But director Victor Schertzinger loved the added comedy and encouraged the pair to be as free as they wanted with the dialogue.

The friendship between Hope and Crosby was also reportedly not all it was cracked up to be. According to several sources, the rivalry between the two was not always good-natured. Hope often acted out his jealousy of Crosby's personal and professional success. Crosby could also be a difficult and cruel person and regularly taunted Hope about his lack of sex appeal to women. Lamour grew increasingly disenchanted with her involvement in the series, resenting the frequently condescending and disrespectful treatment by her two co-stars and her diminishing stardom. By the second picture she was reduced to third billing beneath Hope, and when the three were reunited for the last time in The Road to Hong Kong (1962) - the only one not produced at Paramount and the only one with "the" in the title - Lamour, who was 11 years younger than her co-stars, was judged too old for the part. She was deeply hurt to find her role was reduced to a cameo while Joan Collins got to cavort with the nearly 60-year-old male stars.

There was talk for a time of an eighth Road movie; even after Crosby's death in 1977, the possibility of another in the series was suggested with a potential teaming of Hope and Red Skelton. Nothing ever came of it but something of the tone and style of the Road movies was attempted with disastrous results in the Warren Beatty-Dustin Hoffman vehicle Ishtar (1987).

Director: Victor Schertzinger
Producer: Paul Jones
Screenplay: Frank Butler, Don Hartman
Cinematography: Ted Tetzlaff
Editing: Alma Macrorie
Art Direction: Hans Dreier, Robert Usher
Original Music: Jimmy Van Heusen
Cast: Bing Crosby (Chuck Reardon), Bob Hope ("Fearless" Frazier), Dorothy Lamour (Donna Latour), Una Merkel (Julia Quimby), Eric Blore (Charles Kimble).
BW-92m. Closed captioning.

by Rob Nixon
Road To Zanzibar (1941)

Road to Zanzibar (1941)

The second of the seven "Road to" movies Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour made over the course of more than 20 years, Road to Zanzibar (1941) finds the two boys on the lam in Africa after their sideshow causes a fire and Hope sells a dangerous criminal a bogus diamond mine he was tricked into buying. They come across Brooklynite Lamour and another con artist, Una Merkel, who dupe the men into financing and accompanying them on a safari to find Lamour's lost brother. It turns out, however, that Lamour is really chasing a millionaire she wants to marry. The plot, as usual in this series, is little more than an excuse for Hope and Crosby to do their seemingly improvised vaudeville return, sing a few songs, and ogle the charms of Lamour (who, inevitably, falls for Crosby). The appeal of this movie, as with all the other Road flicks, lies largely in the in-jokes, the knowing spoof of action-adventure movies, and the meta-cinematic way the actors often talk to the audience and reveal their awareness of being in a movie. As one reviewer said at the time of its release, this picture "is nonsense, but it is nonsense of the most delightful sort." The Road movies came about as a result of some personal appearances Hope and Crosby made in the 1930s. The two first met briefly on the streets of New York in 1932 when Crosby was a national singing sensation and Hope an up-and-coming vaudeville star beginning to make a mark in radio. That year they performed together for the first time on the stage of the city's Capitol Theater as part of a live show before the screening of the Boris Karloff picture The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932). Several years later, remembering the success of their routine, Crosby asked Hope to appear with him at the opening of the Del Mar racetrack near San Diego. A Paramount studio executive was in the audience, and he quickly began searching for a film project to showcase the easy-going humor arising out of their public personas and joking rivalry. The studio found a script originally meant for Fred MacMurray and Jack Oakie and retooled it to become Road to Singapore (1940). For feminine interest they added sultry Dorothy Lamour, who received billing over relative movie-novice Hope. Singapore was such a hit, the studio quickly set about finding another project for their stars. They had a script called "Find Colonel Fawcett" about two adventurers trekking through Madagascar, which had been shelved because the studio thought it seemed too similar to the MGM hit Stanley and Livingstone (1939). They reworked it for Hope and Crosby, copying the winning formula from the first film with a changed locale, and a hit sequel was born. Paramount went all out for the second picture, employing more than 300 African-American extras for the slave auction scene. Some of the extras were deemed not dark enough for their roles and 15 additional make-up artists were brought in to apply "black face" to them. Set decorators needed so many plants for the jungle scenes they ran through the stock in the studio backlot greenhouses and had to import greenery from as far away as Arizona. The publicity department spared nothing as well in promoting the film. One hyperbolic press release claimed dance director LeRoy Prinz had scoured Africa for months looking for authentic tribal rituals and costumes and boasted that "the original conga as danced in the heart of Darkest Africa is shown in one sequence." As with the first film, Lamour was driven to distraction by Hope and Crosby's constant improvisation on the script. She would learn her lines, then wait with increasing impatience for her cues, which were often altered beyond recognition. The screenwriters weren't any happier about this situation, especially when Hope told them in front of the entire cast and crew, "If you hear one of your lines, yell 'Bingo!'" Hope and Crosby were not, however, the skilled improvisers they wanted everyone to believe; the "ad-libbed" gags were actually written by their radio comedy writers after being given copies of the script by the stars. But director Victor Schertzinger loved the added comedy and encouraged the pair to be as free as they wanted with the dialogue. The friendship between Hope and Crosby was also reportedly not all it was cracked up to be. According to several sources, the rivalry between the two was not always good-natured. Hope often acted out his jealousy of Crosby's personal and professional success. Crosby could also be a difficult and cruel person and regularly taunted Hope about his lack of sex appeal to women. Lamour grew increasingly disenchanted with her involvement in the series, resenting the frequently condescending and disrespectful treatment by her two co-stars and her diminishing stardom. By the second picture she was reduced to third billing beneath Hope, and when the three were reunited for the last time in The Road to Hong Kong (1962) - the only one not produced at Paramount and the only one with "the" in the title - Lamour, who was 11 years younger than her co-stars, was judged too old for the part. She was deeply hurt to find her role was reduced to a cameo while Joan Collins got to cavort with the nearly 60-year-old male stars. There was talk for a time of an eighth Road movie; even after Crosby's death in 1977, the possibility of another in the series was suggested with a potential teaming of Hope and Red Skelton. Nothing ever came of it but something of the tone and style of the Road movies was attempted with disastrous results in the Warren Beatty-Dustin Hoffman vehicle Ishtar (1987). Director: Victor Schertzinger Producer: Paul Jones Screenplay: Frank Butler, Don Hartman Cinematography: Ted Tetzlaff Editing: Alma Macrorie Art Direction: Hans Dreier, Robert Usher Original Music: Jimmy Van Heusen Cast: Bing Crosby (Chuck Reardon), Bob Hope ("Fearless" Frazier), Dorothy Lamour (Donna Latour), Una Merkel (Julia Quimby), Eric Blore (Charles Kimble). BW-92m. Closed captioning. by Rob Nixon

On the Road with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby Collection


The Hope-Crosby "Road" films have entertained audiences for decades and will continue thanks to the DVD set On The Road With Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. This collects the first four of the seven films (apparently the remainder weren't included due to rights issues) in sterling quality at a list price of only $24.98, which will be even lower if you shop around. Even viewers unfamiliar with the series might be willing to take a chance on it at that price and it's unlikely any will feel disappointed. Fans will be glad to have top-quality presentations of these films though they may have a minor tinge of disappointment that the only extras are two decent but short documentaries about Hope and Crosby.

Road to Singapore (1940) was the first film in the series, though at the time it was considered just a one-shot effort and since Dorothy Lamour is billed above Bob Hope it's clear the studio didn't necessarily think of it featuring what we now consider the two leads. Based on a script that had been floating around for a few years, Singapore is in the lines of other films featuring adventurers conflicting over a woman like A Girl in Every Port and What Price Glory?. It sets the basic template for the series with Crosby and Hope as best friends, the former slightly more worldly, the latter definitely a bit more opportunistic and not entirely bright. Some problem puts them in an unusual setting where Lamour becomes the target of both their affections as they try to avoid other plot complications (in Singapore the family wants to put Crosby to work in their shipping business). Oddly enough this is very similar to the Abbott & Costello films that were coming out at the same time which also took occasional breaks for songs. Though Singapore--which isn't actually set in Singapore-- is a bit pokey and predictable, it was successful enough that the studio correctly saw potential in further Crosby and Hope pairings, leaving Lamour to go down to third-billing.

1941's Road to Zanzibar is much better and shows how the series earned its reputation. For one thing, it's actually funny. The gags fly much faster as the two leads engage in continual verbal sparring, broken by occasional near-slapstick. There's also the first occurance of the self-referential jokes that would become a familiar feature of the series; here it's a comment that characters in the story must have seen the first "Road" film. Topping this activity off are stronger songs by the noted team of Burke & Van Heusen. Zanzibar presents Hope and Crosby as two guys who have kicked around Africa trying to earn money for a trip back to the States. They decide to help a damsel in distress (Lamour) and her best friend (Una Merkel), unaware that the two women are running a con on them. True, it's a somewhat flimsy story but strong enough that it allows for more comic possibilities and makes Zanzibar one of the best in the series.

Road to Morocco (1942) is a tad more perfunctory (it still inexplicably grabbed an Oscar® nomination for Best Original Screenplay) though it generally still delivers the goods, including a clever opening song where Hope and Crosby discuss their relationships with the studio and full expectations of meeting Lamour at some point in the film. Again, they're drifters but now shipwrecked on the coast of a backlot Middle East complete with desert warriors (led by Anthony Quinn), an Arabian Nights palace and trading bazaars of the kind parodied in The Life of Brian. How Lamour fits into this will be left for you to discover. The entire film flies by very quickly and, hey, you get to see Bob Hope in drag.

A clever device in Road to Utopia (1946) has Robert Benchley come on-screen to tell us that he will try to help clear up confusion about the film's story (as if anybody ever cared about that!). He then appears periodically in the corner to offer comments like "This appears to be a scene they put in the picture after I saw it in the studio" or observations on the best vantage point to view dancing girls. The film opens with an aging Hope and Lamour as a married couple visited by an equally aged Crosby. Together they reminiscence about a turn-of-the-century hunt for a lost gold mine in Alaska (the title's Utopia). Again, a Best Original Screenplay nomination but here much more plausible considering the Benchley inserts, a stream of anti-illusionist gags (after Crosby loses a singing contest Hope remarks that he should have brought Sinatra), a nicely handled story with twists within twists and songs that actually work within that story. Utopia is a small gem and precisely what people think about when they remark on the nature of the "Road" films.

One part of the "Road" films that hasn't aged well is some of the attitudes on display. Hollywood films in exotic locations have usually had a heavy layer of colonialism if not outright racism. Admittedly, the "Road" films aren't quite that bad but they still have regrettable moments. In Singapore, there's the slightly misogynist view of Lamour's role as well as Hope and Crosby masquerading in quasi-blackface to steal from local natives. Admittedly the ridiculous feast dance is something of a camp classic. Zanzibar features an African tribe created from a string of cliches: ruled by superstitions, cannibals, gaudily painted and not very bright. Morocco treats us to the spectacle of Crosby and Hope pretending to be retarded, again so they can steal from local merchants. Sure there weren't any bad intentions but that doesn't make these moments any easier for modern viewers.

Still, On The Road With Bob Hope and Bing Crosby is a welcome treat. With similar high-quality, low-price sets devoted to Abbott & Costello, Ma & Pa Kettle, Frances the Talking Mule and Don Knotts we are seeing a small flood of fondly remembered B-comedy and can only hope it continues.

To order On the Road with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, go to TCM Shopping.

by Lang Thompson

On the Road with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby Collection

The Hope-Crosby "Road" films have entertained audiences for decades and will continue thanks to the DVD set On The Road With Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. This collects the first four of the seven films (apparently the remainder weren't included due to rights issues) in sterling quality at a list price of only $24.98, which will be even lower if you shop around. Even viewers unfamiliar with the series might be willing to take a chance on it at that price and it's unlikely any will feel disappointed. Fans will be glad to have top-quality presentations of these films though they may have a minor tinge of disappointment that the only extras are two decent but short documentaries about Hope and Crosby. Road to Singapore (1940) was the first film in the series, though at the time it was considered just a one-shot effort and since Dorothy Lamour is billed above Bob Hope it's clear the studio didn't necessarily think of it featuring what we now consider the two leads. Based on a script that had been floating around for a few years, Singapore is in the lines of other films featuring adventurers conflicting over a woman like A Girl in Every Port and What Price Glory?. It sets the basic template for the series with Crosby and Hope as best friends, the former slightly more worldly, the latter definitely a bit more opportunistic and not entirely bright. Some problem puts them in an unusual setting where Lamour becomes the target of both their affections as they try to avoid other plot complications (in Singapore the family wants to put Crosby to work in their shipping business). Oddly enough this is very similar to the Abbott & Costello films that were coming out at the same time which also took occasional breaks for songs. Though Singapore--which isn't actually set in Singapore-- is a bit pokey and predictable, it was successful enough that the studio correctly saw potential in further Crosby and Hope pairings, leaving Lamour to go down to third-billing. 1941's Road to Zanzibar is much better and shows how the series earned its reputation. For one thing, it's actually funny. The gags fly much faster as the two leads engage in continual verbal sparring, broken by occasional near-slapstick. There's also the first occurance of the self-referential jokes that would become a familiar feature of the series; here it's a comment that characters in the story must have seen the first "Road" film. Topping this activity off are stronger songs by the noted team of Burke & Van Heusen. Zanzibar presents Hope and Crosby as two guys who have kicked around Africa trying to earn money for a trip back to the States. They decide to help a damsel in distress (Lamour) and her best friend (Una Merkel), unaware that the two women are running a con on them. True, it's a somewhat flimsy story but strong enough that it allows for more comic possibilities and makes Zanzibar one of the best in the series. Road to Morocco (1942) is a tad more perfunctory (it still inexplicably grabbed an Oscar® nomination for Best Original Screenplay) though it generally still delivers the goods, including a clever opening song where Hope and Crosby discuss their relationships with the studio and full expectations of meeting Lamour at some point in the film. Again, they're drifters but now shipwrecked on the coast of a backlot Middle East complete with desert warriors (led by Anthony Quinn), an Arabian Nights palace and trading bazaars of the kind parodied in The Life of Brian. How Lamour fits into this will be left for you to discover. The entire film flies by very quickly and, hey, you get to see Bob Hope in drag. A clever device in Road to Utopia (1946) has Robert Benchley come on-screen to tell us that he will try to help clear up confusion about the film's story (as if anybody ever cared about that!). He then appears periodically in the corner to offer comments like "This appears to be a scene they put in the picture after I saw it in the studio" or observations on the best vantage point to view dancing girls. The film opens with an aging Hope and Lamour as a married couple visited by an equally aged Crosby. Together they reminiscence about a turn-of-the-century hunt for a lost gold mine in Alaska (the title's Utopia). Again, a Best Original Screenplay nomination but here much more plausible considering the Benchley inserts, a stream of anti-illusionist gags (after Crosby loses a singing contest Hope remarks that he should have brought Sinatra), a nicely handled story with twists within twists and songs that actually work within that story. Utopia is a small gem and precisely what people think about when they remark on the nature of the "Road" films. One part of the "Road" films that hasn't aged well is some of the attitudes on display. Hollywood films in exotic locations have usually had a heavy layer of colonialism if not outright racism. Admittedly, the "Road" films aren't quite that bad but they still have regrettable moments. In Singapore, there's the slightly misogynist view of Lamour's role as well as Hope and Crosby masquerading in quasi-blackface to steal from local natives. Admittedly the ridiculous feast dance is something of a camp classic. Zanzibar features an African tribe created from a string of cliches: ruled by superstitions, cannibals, gaudily painted and not very bright. Morocco treats us to the spectacle of Crosby and Hope pretending to be retarded, again so they can steal from local merchants. Sure there weren't any bad intentions but that doesn't make these moments any easier for modern viewers. Still, On The Road With Bob Hope and Bing Crosby is a welcome treat. With similar high-quality, low-price sets devoted to Abbott & Costello, Ma & Pa Kettle, Frances the Talking Mule and Don Knotts we are seeing a small flood of fondly remembered B-comedy and can only hope it continues. To order On the Road with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, go to TCM Shopping. by Lang Thompson

Quotes

Trivia

Originally, this film was not supposed to be a sequel to "Road to Singapore"; in fact, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope were not even supposed to be in it. The film was first offered to Fred MacMurray and George Burns, who both rejected it. While assembling a list of contract Paramount stars to offer it to, someone at the studio remembered that "Road to Singapore" had done relatively well, and Hope and Crosby "seemed to work well together", so it was offered to them. The rest, as they say, is history.

Notes

An article in Hollywood Reporter reported that wrestlers George Zaharias, Jim Londos, Hardboiled Haggerty and Golden Terror protested the scene of the wrestling match between "Fearless Frazier" and the gorilla in the film because they felt it belittled the wrestling profession. According to modern sources, the original screenplay was titled Find Colonel Fawcett. In her autobiography, Dorothy Lamour noted that on May 7, 1941, Hollywood cameramen voted her one of the "Ten Best Undressed Women" because of her costume in this film, in which she wears only leaves, and also indicated that Harry Ray did her makeup and Barney Dean wrote special "gags" for the film. The success of Paramount's first "Road" picture, Road to Singapore, starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour, prompted this second production, which includes Hope and Crosby's "pattycake" gag, a trademark in their "Road" pictures. For more information on the series, see the entry for Road to Singapore in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.3790.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1941

Released in United States on Video October 15, 1992

Released in United States 1941

Released in United States on Video October 15, 1992