Road to Zanzibar

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Road to Zanzibar
RoadToZanzibar 1941.jpg
Film poster
Directed by Victor Schertzinger
Produced by Paul Jones
Screenplay by Frank Butler
Don Hartman
Story by Sy Bartlett
Frank Butler
Starring Bing Crosby
Bob Hope
Dorothy Lamour
Una Merkel
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography Ted Tetzlaff
Edited by Alma Macrorie
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • April 11, 1941 (1941-04-11)
Running time
91 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Road to Zanzibar is a 1941 Paramount Pictures comedy film starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour, and marked the second of seven picture in the popular "Road to …" series made by the trio.

Paramount executives owned the rights to a story by Sy Bartlett titled "Find Colonel Fawcett" about two men trekking through the jungles of Madagascar. They felt that its plot was so similar to the recently released Stanley and Livingstone (1939) that it could not be made as written without seeming too derivative, so they turned the project over to Frank Butler and Don Hartman, the writers on the wildly successful Road to Singapore which Paramount had released the year before. Thus reborn as a comedy and spoof of the safari genre, the film resembled its predecessor in every important way, with plot taking a back seat to gags (many of them ad libbed), and music.[1] The film was so successful that further "Road to..." pictures were assured.

Plot[edit]

The film starts with con-artist Chuck Reardon (Bing Crosby) as a side-show caller at a circus advertising an act featuring his friend Hubert "Fearless" Frazier (Bob Hope), as a human cannonball, with 'Fearless' quickly substituting a dummy at the last minute and hiding in a secret compartment. The flaming dummy sets the big tent on fire and everyone into a panic and the two of them flee. Their subsequent acts show 'Fearless' doing more dangerous acts, usually getting injured. When Chuck brings the next 'great idea', wrestling a live octopus, 'Fearless' finally balks and wants to go back to the states. At a fancy restaurant, they're sent champagne by a wealthy man, diamond baron Charles Kimble (Eric Blore). The festive mood turns sour when the police show up, but Kimble bails them out. They decide to go home to the United States, but when Chuck goes to get the tickets Kimble invites him onto his yacht for a drink.

'Fearless' is busy packing and when Chuck comes back, he finds out Chuck spent all their money, five thousand, on the deed for one of Kimble's diamond mines. It seems like a good deal, until they find out Kimble is an eccentric who would sign over anything and the deed is worthless. Furious at Chuck losing all their money, 'Fearless' ends their partnership.

Later that evening, 'Fearless' comes back with a fistful of money, claiming to have 'sold' the diamond mine to some guy at a bar for SEVEN thousand. They start to leave only to be confronted by the same man, Monsieur Lebec (Lionel Royce). 'Fearless' had inflated the story a little, so the Lebec and his huge bodyguard want Chuck and 'Fearless' to accompany them to actually see the mine. Chuck and 'Fearless' manage to escape and jump onto a boat.

Stranded, they are propositioned by Julia Quimby (Una Merkel) to help rescue her friend, Donna LaTour (Dorothy Lamour), from being sold at a slave auction. They bid 150 in local coin on her to rescue her. Unbeknownst to both of them, Julia and Donna are also con-artists and take half of the payment to get food. Donna reveals to Julia about the seven thousand Chuck and 'Fearless' have and how she has convinced them to take her and Julia on a safari across the country, not telling them it's to see Donna's wealthy boyfriend. 'Fearless' is reluctant to go, but Chuck convinces him it's the best way to hide out and really wants to help Donna.

On the safari, Donna romances 'Fearless', but he's unsure about her intentions, especially when she cuddles up to Chuck, who seems oblivious. Julia also doesn't like Donna romancing Chuck and casually throws around the name of Donna's boyfriend.

As their journey continues, with the help of an announcer and a montage, Chuck and 'Fearless' both vie for Donna's attention. During a moonlit canoe ride, Chuck proclaims his feelings and Donna realizes she's starting to fall for him too. Julia tells Donna it would be foolish to give up her wealthy boyfriend for a side show crooner. Chuck and 'Fearless' continue to fight over Donna, with Chuck drugging 'Fearless' and 'Fearless' ripping up Chuck's shirt.

Donna finally confides to 'Fearless' that despite her feelings for Chuck, her heart belongs to another. Thinking its him, 'Fearless' agrees to tell Chuck. Chuck refuses to believe 'Fearless, who is practically skipping, but then Julia comes in and tell them both about the rich boyfriend.

Chuck and 'Fearless' finally learn they've been had from the beginning and everything had been a set-up. They angrily run into the jungle to confront her. While she is swimming in the nude, a pair of leopards appear and tear her clothes while she hides in the reeds. Upon seeing her torn clothes, Chuck and 'Fearless' assume she's dead. They bury her clothes and have a funeral, all while Donna watches. During their attempt at a eulogy, they admit that despite the fact she lied to them, they both loved her. Chuck and 'Fearless' start to sing and burst into tears, until Donna sings to them and then they both turn on her. They storm off into the jungle and the safari leaves without them.

While trying to find their way back, Chuck and 'Fearless' stumble upon skeleton-laden caves. They jokingly bang on the drums only to summon a local tribe of natives. The natives, thinking they are gods, adorn them with jewels and give them food. Chuck and 'Fearless' thinks its great until the natives decide to test them by throwing 'Fearless' in a cage with a giant gorilla. After a comical wrestling match, in which 'Fearless' loses, the natives prepare to cook them both, until they use their infamous 'patty cake' routine to escape.

They return to civilization, haggard, dirty and penniless until they hock the jewels they had received from the natives. 'Fearless' reluctantly lets Chuck go get the tickets. When he comes back empty handed, 'Fearless' is crushed, until Chuck presents Donna and Julia. Donna gave up the rich boyfriend because she's in love with Chuck.

When 'Fearless' asks what they are going to do for money, Chuck springs another 'great idea' and the film ends with the four of them again doing a carnival act, this time sawing a woman (Julia) in half.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

The film was placed at No. 8 in the list of top-grossing movies for 1941 in the USA.

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times loved it. "Pity the poor motion picture which ever again sets forth on a perilous (?) African safari, now that Bing Crosby and Bob Hope have traversed the course! For the cheerful report this morning is that the Messrs. Crosby and Hope, with an able left-handed assist from a denatured Dorothy Lamour, have thoroughly ruined the Dark Continent for any future cinematic pursuits. Never again will be hear those jungle drums throbbing menacingly but what we envision Bing and Bob beating a gleeful tattoo upon them. And never again will we behold a file of natives snaking solemnly through the trees without seeing in our mind’s eye the gangling Crosby-Hope expedition as it ambles in and along the Paramount’s “Road to Zanzibar,” which arrived at that house yesterday. Yessir, the heart of darkest Africa has been pierced by a couple of wags... Needless to say, Mr. Crosby and Mr. Hope are most, if not all, of the show—with a slight edge in favor of the latter, in case any one wants to know. Miss Lamour, who is passingly amusing in her frequent attempts to be, assists in the complications and sings a couple of songs... Farce of this sort very seldom comes off with complete effect, but this time it does, and we promise that there’s fun on the “Road to Zanzibar.” This time, as Mr. Hope puts it in one of his pungent phrases, they’re cooking with gas."[2]

Variety was not so impressed. "‘Zanzibar’ is Paramount’s second coupling of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour following their successful teaming in ‘Road to Singapore’. Although picture has sufficient comedy situations and dialog between its male stars to get over with general audiences in regular runs, it lacks the compactness and spontaneity of its predecessor...The story framework is pretty flimsy foundation for hanging the series of comedy and thrill situations concocted for the pair. It’s a fluffy and inconsequential tale, with Crosby-Hope combo, through their individual and collective efforts, doing valiant work to keep up interest... Comedy episodes generally lack sparkle and tempo of ‘Singapore’, and musical numbers are also below par for a Crosby picture. Bing sings two, ‘It’s Always You’ the best candidate..."[3]

Songs[edit]

  • "You Lucky People, You", performed by Bing Crosby
  • "African Etude / Road To Zanzibar", performed by Bing Crosby and a chorus while on safari
  • "You're Dangerous", performed by Dorothy Lamour
  • "It's Always You", performed by Bing Crosby
  • "Birds of a Feather" was written to be sung by Crosby but ultimately it was only included in background music.

All lyrics by Johnny Burke, and music by Jimmy Van Heusen

Bing Crosby recorded a number of the songs for Decca Records.[4] Crosby's songs were also included in the Bing's Hollywood series.

Copyright renewal[edit]

The film's copyright was renewed in a timely manner by the company which had acquired it. Originally registered for copyright as LP10409 with a declared publication date of April 11, 1941, the continuation of copyright was contingent upon renewal between the 27th and 28th anniversaries of that date. Renewal occurred April 18, 1968, number R434268.

While the film opened in New York on April 9, 1941, the renewal is still timely even if the earlier date were considered publication date. Renewal was filed by EMKA, Ltd., which acquired Paramount's classic pre-1950 library in 1957. Today, EMKA is part of NBC Universal Television Distribution, and Universal Studios is now the theatrical and home video distributor. The copyright is now scheduled to run until 95 years after the publication date (2036). The film has not entered the public domain.

References[edit]

  • Raymond Strait, Bob Hope: A Tribute (New York: Pinnacle Books, 2003)

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ Gilliland, John (1994). Pop Chronicles the 40s: The Lively Story of Pop Music in the 40s (audiobook). ISBN 978-1-55935-147-8. OCLC 31611854.  Tape 2, side B.
  2. ^ Crowther, Bosley (April 10, 1941). "The New York Times". 
  3. ^ "Variety". March 12, 1941. 
  4. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". A Bing Crosby Discography. Retrieved January 19, 2016. 

External links[edit]