Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Road to Utopia ( 1945 )

Bob Hope and Bing Crosby are on the road once again in the 1945 comedy classic Road to Utopia, this time heading out to Alaska during the Klondike gold rush at the turn of the century. Hope and Crosby play a couple of down-in-their-luck vaudevillians named Chester and Duke who find a map to a gold mine, a map stolen by Sperry and McGurk, two murdering thugs who are hot on the twosome's trail to retrieve the map. En route to Alaska, Chester and Duke lose their money and stow away on a steamer. After they are caught, they assume the identities of Sperry and McGurk in order to disembark unobserved. This is when the film really gets fun watching the cowardly Chester and mild-mannered Duke swagger and snarl as they masquerade as tough guys. 

"I'll have a lemonade," Chester barks at the bartender and then, realizing he was supposed to be Sperry, adds "....in a dirty glass!"

Also on the trail of the map to the gold mine is the curvaceous Sal ( Dorothy Lamour ), whose father was murdered for the map. Ace Larson ( Douglas Dumbrille ) and his gal Kate ( Hillary Brooke ) claim they will help her retrieve it but they too are after it for themselves.  We never do get to see this elusive gold mine but the fun of the chase for the map makes up the best parts of the picture.

Road to Utopia was the fourth film in the Road Pictures series and it ranks as one of their most hilarious. Crosby and Hope are clearly having a ball and their verbal sparring is furious and fun. Their dialogue is delivered so off the cuff that one wonders how much of it was written in the script and how much was impromptu. The words that were written on paper earned screenwriters Melvin Frank and Norman Panama an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. 

"Am I dead?" - Chester

"I can't tell, you always look that way." - Duke

Like many of the Road pictures, the "fourth wall" is often broken with Bob Hope making sly glances and remarks to the audience. This one also features humorous breaks from Robert Benchley who comments on the silliness of the script. 

Silliness it indeed is, but this is what makes the film so amusing. Hope and Crosby deliver their lines and then add some personal comments and a little playful bickering before going back to playing their parts. Plus, der Bingel takes time to sing a few songs including the memorable "Welcome to My Dreams". Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen penned the songs for the film and Dorothy Lamour's sizzling rendition of "Personality" hit #1 on the music charts that year. 

Hope and Crosby would return to the sweltering climates of the other Road pictures in Road to Rio ( 1947 ) but for wintertime fun you can't beat this Alaskan outing with the twosome. The film is available on DVD ( in multiple editions ) and via streaming. 

1 comment:

  1. This is proooooobably my favorite Road picture :-D Just so funny!