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By Brad Laidman | December 29, 2000

I have to admit that I pretty much have always felt that either Bing Crosby or Pat Boone was the whitest guy in the history of the world. To Bing’s credit he could actually sing and act, but there still never seemed to be much soul there. I was a kid when I heard that he used to beat his kids so I may hold some sort of subliminal grudge, but you really get the impression that when he heard what the Drifters did to “White Christmas” that he probably required a drink or two.
I’ve always kind of dug Bob Hope though…the guy probably spent more time playing golf in his life than Arnold Palmer, which has to be a pretty decent way to go if you enjoy that kind of thing. I sort of see him as the Bill Murray of his day. Never really taking himself very seriously, good looking in an odd caricature-ish kind of way, an amusing coward, a little bit disrespectful of authority, and a really decent guy at heart. It’s hard to think of him that way now because he got himself caught in a worse cycle of formula gigs since Elvis in the ’60s.
Say hello to the troops, tell the same jokes rewritten a little bit for each occasion, be a little critical of the Government, but hardly as much as a minute of Bill Hicks or Sam Kinison over 60 some odd years added altogether, bring out the pretty actress of the day and then sing “Thanks For The Memories”. He seemed to be really awe-stricken by Brooke Shields late in his career. It seems alright to me for some reason to see guys longing for home during WWII and going ga-ga over Betty Grable or Joan Mansfield, but after Vietnam the whole thing didn’t seem too cool anymore. I mean it was great that he wanted to support the boys in the armed services, but compare the average Bob Hope Show to the Playboy Rock and Roll show in Apocalypse Now and it seems odd that those two worlds could ever intersect. Then once the ’80s came around it was like, what’s the point? We don’t really fight wars anymore, and who ever was dumb or desperate enough to wind up overseas in a military unit probably deserved to wait longingly for six months to see Loni Anderson up close.
The point is Bob Hope seems to me to have been very happy to cash in on each success by providing more of the same until no one would pay him to do it anymore. He did the same TV Special on NBC for like thirty years and he used to kill on the Arbitron’s. Before that he did a bunch of Road Movies with the aforementioned Crosby. They would play two shleps somehow bound to each other for life who would have wild outrageous adventures in far-away places and eventually try to bag Dorothy Lamour. I’m probably not giving away much because Bing and Bob ride into the movie on a camel singing essentially just that. “Hey guys how are you. It’s us we’re in Morocco right now so we’ll have some sand jokes, Bing will sing a song and then we’ll chase Dorothy Lamour around for a while…yes we’re off on a road to Morocco!” Even the talking camels know that this is just a movie.
It seemed like it was a pretty easy gig to Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, but try not to blame their swing and miss on Bob and Bing. Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin did it for like 15 films too. It would have been really interesting to see Paul McCartney and John Lennon reconcile and do one. To me the best modern attempt was Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi in “The Blues Brothers,” but then they also made “Neighbors”.
In this one Bob and Bing are the only two survivors of some blown up Mediterranean steamer, which hardly seems fair because they had merely been stowaways, and it is even inferred that Bob might have even caused the whole thing. I have to admit though that these guys are still pretty damn funny. They don’t really even seem to like each other. Hell, this one starts when Bing Crosby actually sells Bob Hope for $200. Somehow Bob winds up as Dorothy Lamour’s fiancé and gets a bunch of female servants like Eddie Murphy had in “Coming to America”. Essentially the rest of the plot goes something like this: Bing screws Bob over. Bob Screws Bing over. Bing screws Bob. Bob Screws Bing. Dorothy Lamour screws Bob. And so on and so on until they both wind up stranded in the desert.
They aren’t as anarchic as the Marx Brothers but you have to give points to a duo that can start a war with a whoopie cushion. Also fun are the world’s stupidest jailor, a magic ring that gets wasted, a mirage of a burger drive-thru, Bob in drag as his aunt, and threats of cannibalism. I’m not really sure where the Nazis were through all of this but it remains pretty damn likable and sharp. Cue “Thanks For The Memories”.

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