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  Road to Utopia All Gold
Year: 1946
Director: Hal Walker
Stars: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Hillary Brooke, Douglass Dumbrille, Jack La Rue, Robert Barrat, Nestor Paiva, Robert Benchley
Genre: Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 3 votes)
Review: Here is Robert Benchley to introduce the film, where he explains that the producers felt the storyline might be confusing to audiences so he has been added as a narrator to assist us through those bumpy stretches - in his opinion, this is wholly necessary. And so, on with the plot, which sees a now elderly Chester (Bob Hope) and Sal (Dorothy Lamour) enjoying their later years together until there is an unexpected visitor, none other than their old friend Duke (Bing Crosby) who they believed had perished in Alaska. What were they doing in Alaska anyway? Well, that's quite a story, so settle down...

Road to Utopia was the fourth of the Hope-Crosby-Lamour Road films, and for many it's the finest they ever made, certainly capturing that endless irreverence that so appealed to audiences of the forties and to their loyal fans today. It had actually been sitting on the shelf after being pretty much completed in 1944, but Paramount withheld the production knowing they had, to coin a phrase, a goldmine and by milking the anticipation they would make even more money out of it once it was finally released. They were absolutely correct in that assumption, and until the James Bond franchise happened along, the Road pictures were the most successful movie series of all time.

They're still popular today, although now relegated to a more cult status among those who enjoy the style of wisecracking humour that they specialised in, a method that has aged pretty well considering. Some of the more specific references may have been lost to the ages for many viewers, but the constant stream of jokes that Hope and Crosby sparred with is something that never seems to get old, and any buddy comedy thereafter, right up to the present day, does its best to replicate their laughs and the curious antagonistic yet amused bond between the two stars. That rivalry is the basis for the plot, and also their relationship to Lamour, yet you can't imagine one abandoning the other for too long.

Not on screen at any rate, as we are plunged into the flashback (Benchley helpfully points out that bit of technical jargon) that sees Duke and Chester carrying out their song 'n' dance 'n' fraud act on the stage; their subterfuge is naturally exposed and they have to leave town sharpish, with Chester heading for New York by ship and Duke deciding to try his luck with the gold rush in Alaska. Not that they're apart for long, as Duke liberates Chester's wallet and he has to jump aboard the other vessel to get it back, one thing leading to another and finding them skint and working to pay their way, but also discovering a map to a lucrative mine in them thar hills.

This is part of encounters with a pair of two of the most useless villains ever to grace a Road movie, who Duke and Chester act afraid of but in effect have no trouble overpowering and posing as, though they are chased by them throughout the rest of the plot. Sal is there in the town they end up in, and she wants that map, which results in much conniving to reunite the two halves the boys have. Along the way there was the usual mix of songs (Lamour's cheeky solo Personality one of the standouts), talking animals, brawls, cowardice on Hope's part and charm on Crosby's, with the gag to minute ratio very high indeed. You got a lot of value for money with this one, it may not have been situated at an exotic location like the others, but this change of scenery did wonders for revitalising a series that showed no hints of running out of steam. Music by Leigh Harline.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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