Day 138 of Colourisation Project – September 22
Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.
Growing up in the 1960s, the ‘Road to…’ movies seemed to be a never-ending source of fun and adventure led by two very funny people with a glamorous side-kick. The fact is that only seven ‘Road to….’ movies were ever made but they were repeated so many times on early Australian TV that it was difficult to keep track. It was also the first time I’d ever heard of anyone with such a glamorous name, and a look to match, as Dorothy Lamour.
One of the four most popular pin-ups of the Second World War, along with Betty Grable, Lana Turner and Rita Hayworth, Lamour came to be known as Hollywood’s ‘sarong girl’. She was initially famous for a string of 1930’s jungle pictures, clad in her trademark sarong, usually a floral print wrap-around. Although she actually only wore a sarong in 11 of her 59 pictures, it defined her career. However, it is the phenomenally successful ‘Road to…’ films from 1941 to 1953, where she played the comedic femme fatale alongside Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, often clad in a regulation sarong, that she is best remembered for.
Seven ‘Road’ movies were made, always set in exotic locations; Road to Singapore (1940)… Zanzibar (1941)…Morocco (1942)…Utopia (1946)…Rio (1947)…Bali (1952)…Hong Kong (1962). Though she made a cameo appearance in the last one, the femme fatale role was played by a younger Joan Collins. An eighth Road to … movie was planned in 1977, titled Road to the Fountain of Youth; however, Crosby died that year of a heart attack.
Each film was a satire of some of the popular film genres of the day, including jungle, Arabian nights, Alaskan adventure, and high seas, where the plot often gave way to gags, frequently ad-libbed by the stars during filming. After a spell of 10 years, the final film, Road to Hong Kong involved parodying the newer genre of spy films.
The series of films had several running gags that appeared in nearly every movie. During the filming of Road to Singapore, Lamour said to the camera, “Hey fellas, I haven’t had a line for ages!” From that time on, the scene was set for ad-libbing and self parody. Most of the gags originated in Road to Singapore including; a ‘patty cake’ routine used as a distraction before starting a fist fight (the only film in the series in which the routine was not used was in Road to Utopia) and references to Crosby’s ‘spare tire’ waistline,
Hollywood in-jokes and a sense of self-parody were a key to the success of the series and by the time the third film Road to Morocco was released, it came as no surprise when in the opening musical number the boys sang “I’ll lay you eight to five we meet Dorothy Lamour” and “For any villains we may meet we haven’t any fears; Paramount will protect us because we’ve signed for five more years.”
Another factor which endeared audiences to these films was Bob Hope’s frequent use of breaking the ‘fourth wall’, a theatrical convention where an actor addresses the audience directly, such as in Road to Bali, Hope faces the camera saying, “[Crosby]’s gonna sing, folks. Now’s the time to go out and get the popcorn.”
The last film, Road to Hong Kong generally lacked the pizazz of the earlier films but Lamour had probably the brightest moment when, asked by the two boys to help them hide from gangsters, she replies, “OK, boys, I’ll hide you.” “From the gangsters?” they ask. “No,” she says, “From the critics.”
Lamour died at her home in North Hollywood on this day, September 22, 1996. She was 81.
She was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 6332 Hollywood Boulevard; and for Radio at 6240 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
“Some day I hope the critics will say of me, not only that I wear a sarong becomingly, but also that I gave a good performance. I’ve never had any real theatrical training you know.”
– Dorothy Lamour