Film Review: Road to Singapore
In 1940, Victor Schertzinger released Road to Singapore which starred Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Charles Coburn, Judith Barrett, Anthony Quinn, and Jerry Colonna. The film grossed $1.6 million at the box office.
When Josh Mallon and Ace Lannigan dock on the ship they work aboard, they see their fellow sailors being mistreated by their wives and girlfriends. The two vow never to get involved with women again, which is tested when the former has to fend off his fiancée, Gloria and the latter is confronted by the family of a former lover. They flee to Hawaii and head to Singapore, only to make it to the island of Kaigoon, where they rescue a woman named Mima from an abusive dance partner.
Road to Singapore was not only a very successful movie for Paramount, but it was also really fun, especially due to the friendship between Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, which helped give them great on-screen chemistry to bounce off of each other. This really makes everything the characters do have a better sense of realism. Their vow to no longer get involved with women really does seem like a couple of best friends who have had it with getting pushed around just making a dumb decision. Further when the two of them end up not being able to hold by that vow, the ensuing frustration is just hilarious. Yet it's not just the vow that demonstrates the great chemistry from the duo as all their dialogue together exudes a sense of long-lasting friendship that really makes the film so fun to watch. Their con schemes, for example. These work really well when they're able to throw lines, catch them and throw a few back in quick succession, making it seem like they’ve been working on those schemes forever. In addition, when they play pat-a-cake to get away from pursuers, it doesn’t seem like it’s a corny shtick with these two. Instead, it comes off as a rather well-timed idea that they'd been thinking of for quite some time, just in case the two of them ever had to make a quick escape.
As for Mima, she isn’t just a character thrown in to make Josh and Ace fight each other over their vow. Rather, she’s a good addition to make the con duo into a con trio, which can really be seen when they're pulling a con on all the islanders. Instead of being a burden on the ploy, she actually furthers it like a natural con artist. She also does well in managing their lives, which works since the two really are a couple of grown children at heart. However, that doesn’t mean she isn’t a good love interest. In fact, she’s really good at making it so that it’s up in the air about who she’ll end up with until she declares it in the last 15 minutes.
The story itself is fantastically fun too, especially with the reason the two decide to go to Singapore being because of a photographed fistfight. There’s also the big dance that goes on in the final third of the film, with the guys pretty much throwing the vow to the wayside to dance, but don’t realize that doing so would get them married whether they like it or not. What's more is the con they mainly decide to go with: a spot remover that’s so bad it ends up making whatever it’s applied to not only dissolve the spot, but whatever the person applies it to as well.
The songs found in the film are also quite good. There isn’t exactly one starting off with “on the road to,” but the first one, “Captain Custard” is a great song that showcases how well the two do together early on. In the middle of this song, there is a great line where someone expresses their desire to hire out one of them, with the other proclaiming they’re a package duo. It’s a fascinating line because it not only shows that the characters are inseparable, but calls forward to how Crosby and Hope would work together on these movies for 22 more years.
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