Road to Morocco (1942)
Road to Morocco (1942)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 22 min.

Release Date: November 10th, 1942 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: David Butler Actors: Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour, Anthony Quinn, Dona Drake, Vladimir Sokoloff, Mikhail Rasumny, George Givot, Robert Barron

 


 

T

he news is atwitter with details about the ship Star of Capetown, which was sunk near the north coast of Africa by a mysterious explosion. Miraculously, all hands are accounted for, save for two unidentified stowaways – a strange footnote, considering that they’re unidentified and stowaways, both qualities that should mean that no one was aware of their presence. Nevertheless, Jeff Peters (Bing Crosby) and Orville “Turkey” Jackson (Bob Hope) are adrift on a makeshift raft, concerned about who will be sacrificed to the other when insatiable hunger takes hold after several days at sea.

“It’s only a kangaroo.” With a stroke of exceptional luck, the twosome find land and clamber ashore, additionally coming across a camel, which they use as conveyance to the conveniently nearby Morocco. This brightens their attitudes, prompting a jolly duet as their fluffy quadruped trots into the bustling kingdom. Once among the marketplace vendors with their plenteous pabulum, Jeff and Turkey plot to receive a free meal by pretending to be mentally challenged, leading to some (now) inappropriate yet amusing shenanigans.

Everything about Morocco is presented in an expectedly stereotypical fashion, from the food to the violent reactions, further supplemented by familiar costumes and music. Similarly, the leads continue to get into comical mishaps, also of questionable genuineness, such as when Jeff sells Orville to pay a bill, suggesting that a white man in the African territory is worth quite a bit as a slave. But no matter the severity of their lighthearted betrayals, the tone never changes from airy and casual. A jaunty song always seems to lift spirits and turn deadly danger into breezy mischief.

In fact, as the film progresses, Morocco transitions from a dusty, dirty, savage place to a lavish paradise full of ivory palaces with singing and dancing women in skimpy, sheer silks. Soon, the daffy duo’s predicaments comparably transform into a love triangle with the glamorous Princess Shalmar (Dorothy Lamour) – a much less sinister ordeal, particularly as their quarreling never interferes with the intermittent serenade or professions of love by servant girls (namely Mihirmah [Dona Drake]). Clearly, as a vehicle for Hope and Crosby, the setting is almost inconsequential to their blithe bickering, their competition over a woman, and the spontaneous crooning.

Additionally paired with various bits of slapstick, the comedy team tends to resemble Abbott and Costello as they vie over the ladies, engage in perpetual lying/backstabbing, and boss each other around. Even when death becomes a major element of the plot, the mood doesn’t shift from farcical; in the face of doom from warlord Sheik Mullay Kasim (Anthony Quinn), Jeff and Turkey decide to play a mocking game of patty-cake. In the end, the humor is significant, turning the incongruity of African plights and sincere antagonists into opportunities for fourth-wall-breaking, nonsensical, fantastical feats of stupidity and playful sabotage – even though few of them are memorable (save for the recurring gags that feature across nearly all of the films in the series) and most are of the low-effort, cartoonish variety. This was clearly a gut-buster at the time, however, as “Road to Morocco” picked up an Academy Award nomination for its screenplay.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10