Josh, irresponsible son of a tycoon, flees an arranged marriage and sets up home with his best friend Ace in Singapore, where they compete for the affections of native girl Mima.
This pleasant 1940 comedy-drama hit on the successful double-act teaming of crooner Bing Crosby and patter comic Bob Hope, throwing in sarong-clad Dorothy Lamour for glamour and working through a trivial plot about fleeing responsibility for a South Seas idyll.
Anything that might be seen as content was dropped for Road to Zanzibar (1941), a follow-up in which Bing and Bob have different character names, but remain themselves – and Lamour is yanked in for some more pin-ups.
The series hit its stride with Road to Morocco (1943) and Road to Utopia (1946, set in Alaska), with running gags carried over from picture to picture (the ‘patty-cake’ routine), surreal gags (a talking camel, the Paramount mountain passing by in the background), vestigial plots with villains chasing vaudeville boys, comedy duets with knock-out silly lyrics (‘like Webster’s Dictionary, we’re Morocco-bound’), studio backlot exotic settings and one of the odder, more painful comedy relationships in the movies as the purportedly charming, sympathetic Bing is forever on the point of selling dumb, greedy, lecherous Bob into slavery or allowing him to be sacrificed to an octopus God.
Road to Rio (1947) is a little tired; Road to Bali (1952) is in colour but otherwise unremarkable; and Road to Hong Kong (1962), which reduces Lamour to a cameo as herself and partners Bing and Bob with Joan Collins, failed to revive the series.
They manfully refrained from doing a Carry On Columbus reprise in their later years, though Hope cameoed in John Landis’s homage to the series, Spies Like Us. Huge hits in their day, with a lot of topical gags that make no sense any more, these are still great afternoon TV fun.
Some of the gags are too topical to make these charming comedies timeless but there still a fun watch.