Movies You Might Have Missed: Road to Morocco

TitleRoad to Morocco
Release Date: 1942
Rating: N/A
Length: 82 minutes
Director: David Butler
Starring: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour
Language: English
Country: USA

The Hope-Crosby Road series is classic, of course, but not as well-known as it ought to be. Like many classics they are honored more by being ignored than by being watched. Which is a shame, really. A lot of young folks might be affronted by their lack of sensitivity to other cultures, but surprised at the meta-jokes and fourth-wall breaking.

A silly plot opens with Hope and Crosby riding a camel across the desert and singing a song all about the movie itself. It’s about how they’re going to Morocco in this film, how they expect Dorothy Lamour to show up at some point, and some jokes about the nature of the movies. Turns out she’s a princess, they both swoon over her, she’s had her fortune told so that the first man she marries will die almost immediately… Look, it’s not hard to follow and, like Marx Bros. movies it’s just a simple frame upon which to hang slapstick, one-liners, and a few songs. It’s a fine plot, so far as it goes.

You’re not here for the plot; you’re here for the jokes and in that regard it delivers. Hope is brilliant in his dopey, physically awkward way. Crosby is drily funny with a cool panache and a slightly smarmy attitude that’s all the better for being punctured now and then. Lamour smolders throughout in her best exotic manner. (Side note: it’s a crime she never got any serious dramatic roles that were worthy of her talent and looks.) Anthony Quinn shows up to play the heavy and strikes just the right note as both villain and straight man for Hope and Crosby to bounce off. We get a couple songs and a lot of laughs and then it’s on to the next.

You can tell that they didn’t make these with an eye to posterity. It’s a credit to them that, though that’s apparent, the work is done well enough that they do stand up nearly 80 years later. All the Road pictures are worth watching, but for my money this is the best of the bunch. It’s the high point of the series and the easiest to return to over and over. I’d put this up against any of the silly comedies in the last 20-30 years; it’s at least as silly and more intelligent at the same time.

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