Road to Zanzibar (1941) – reviewed by George

Zanzibar is an island off the East Coast of Africa and is part of the United Republic of Tanzania. I think in 1941 it was independent. It doesn’t really matter, because as in Road to Singapore the destination is never reached. In this second Road picture Victor Schertzinger is again the director, and the order of the credits I expected in the first film is formalized: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour. Supporting players are Una Merkel as Dorothy’s pal and co-con artist, Eric Blore as a super-excentric rich Brit, Douglass Dumbrille as a territorial policeman, and Iris Adrian as a “French soubrette”. I didn’t recognize her at all – she was brunette and very young.

Bing and Bob are carnival showmen who always have a gimmick to keep Bob safe. In the beginning he is Fearless Frazier the Human Cannonball, supposedly doused in kerosene, fired through a burning hoop to catch fire, and shot into the ocean to put out the fire. Actually he drops into a compartment beneath the cannon and a dummy is fired through the ring of fire. Part of Bing’s spiel: “We have to be very careful how we aim this, folks. Last week we were two feet off and we sunk the S.S. Idaho.” Bob adds: “We went right through Ida, and there wasn’t much left of Ho.”

After they burn down the carnival they start moving around Africa (they are wanted for the carnival fire) and they try other gimmicks that all end in newspaper headlines, such as “Neck Not Broken, Say Specialists”. Bing then decides to have Bob wrestle an octopus. “They spit ink.” “All the better – You can wrestle him and write home at the same time.” Lamour and Merkel appear at about 30 minutes in, with a slave auction con that takes all of the boys’ money. There’s a fight scene that is made funny by being slightly speeded up like a silent film, and there are some very nice slapstick moments as well. Of course there is the romance, so that Crosby has a chance to sing, but for me the best song is “You’re Dangerous”, sung by Lamour to Hope. I wonder if, in ANY of the Road pictures, they ever got where they were going?

Cannot control myself: Bing’s line should be “… we sank the S.S. Idaho.”                        And the exchange itself is so very similar to the lines from Bing’s 1948 movie “The Emperor Waltz”, which you can find under Movie Quote # 2, posted January 21, 2014, that you kind of assume that Billy Wilder had seen “RTZ”.

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