Friday, March 25, 2011

Hope & Crosby: Bob + Bing = Bliss

There are some stars that earn the adjective "beloved." Either for their professional or personal contributions, or both, they are adopted by the audience and become a part of the "family." Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, separately, were two such stars.

Bob Hope
With a favorite co-star, Jane Russell
Bob Hope was everywhere. He was a radio star, a movie star and a television star. Audiences from the 1930s through the 1990s (the decade his last television special aired) knew him and loved him. He was the host of Academy Awards Shows before Carson and his dedication to the entertainment of American service men and women is legendary. Most people over 50 can't remember a time when he was not, in some way, a part of their lives.

Bob Hope had a very successful film career. He was the unashamed coward who just happened to be frightfully funny and sort of lovable (in a sneaky kind of way). He was best with a knowing partner who had his number, such as Jane Russell in "The Paleface" and "Son of Paleface." Bob always wanted the pretty girl, but it was ever an uphill battle for him. The last thing he needed was competition from another man, especially a romantic crooner who had his number ever better than the woman.

Bing Crosby
Box Office Champ
It is impossible to imagine any star today having the multi-media success that Bing Crosby enjoyed in his long career. A wildly successful recording artist and radio star, he was also a mega movie star. From 1934 - 1954 he was in the top 10 box office champions 15 times, coming in at number 1 for five of those years. Famous for his laid back style, he was more than just a lazy crooner. His personality was casual and comfortable, but there was an edge to him. He was not above doing something a little underhanded to get that leading lady at the end of the film.

On his own he was a successful film actor, with such classics as "Going My Way," "Holiday Inn," "The Country Girl," and so many more in his impressive repertoire. Like many singers, he was a very good actor. Light comedy was cake to him and he could also handle the heavier dramatic stuff with his customary ease. But it took the hook up with a wise-cracking golf buddy to create one of the most successful comedy teams in movie history.

Hope & Crosby
Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were great friends in real life. When Paramount decided to cast them in a 1940 film called "The Road To Singapore," originally slated to star Fred MacMurray and Jack Oakie, the magic of their personal friendship came to life on the screen and spawned a series of "Road" pictures staring the two pals.

The plots of all of the succeeding "Road" pictures were similar: Bing and Bob are con artists looking to cash in, with Bing being a slightly smarter bulb than Bob. Both are not above double crossing the other in order the get the money and the girl, trouble ensures, hilarity erupts and all is well at the end, with the boys narrowly escaping disaster. What makes these films so delicious is the seemingly add-libbed comments, the great drop-ins by other stars, lots of "inside" jokes, Hope's breaking of the fourth wall to address the audience, and the obvious affection the two stars have for one another. Both Hope and Crosby were very big stars at a time when those words meant something. They did not have to share the screen with anyone. Their fame and name above the title was more than enough to ensure a film's popularity. Yet there is Crosby, playing the straight man, and there is Hope, getting bested by his best friend almost every time (Hope did get the girl in "The Road to Rio" and "The Road to Utopia").

Add Some Dorothy Lamour.....
Perfect Move Cocktail: Bob, Bing & a shot of Dot
Dorothy Lamour was a large part of the "Road" Pictures success. Not only was she beautiful and sexy, she was the perfect foil for those con men on the make. Her tolerance of their antics was endearing and her all-American exotica made their cut-throat competition for her charms understandable.

The "Road" pictures were more than just tomfoolery. They also offered some very beautiful music. Crosby's romantic renditions of "But Beautiful" and  "Moonlight Becomes You," and Dorothy's "Personality," gave the productions a first-class shimmer that made up for some of the plot silliness.

It was all done in great, good fun. Bob and Bing at that moment in time were pure stardust. They cast a glow that can never be repeated. How wonderful of them to share such good times with us. Morocco, Singapore, Rio, Zanzibar, Utopia, Bali... if you're on the road with these boys, it can only lead to joy.

Are you smiling yet? I am, but there is also a little tug at my heart. Having grown up with them ever present in the entertainment world (and on my TV), I miss them. I just assumed they'd always be there. And they are, in a way, thanks to film.


Caftan Woman said...

My husband is a "Morocco" man and I'm a "Utopia" gal. Is there hope for this 23 year union?

Watching Bing & Bob is like enjoying time with old friends. Old friends that are just a bit sharper and wittier than the norm.

FlickChick said...

CW - I'm a "Utopia" girl, too! Sounds like you & hubby have a solid union - just like Bob and Bing!

Diane said...

Oh how you captured my love for both of these men. I love the photo of Jane and Bob. I still love to sit back and watch both of their films and even listen to a tune of two of Bing Crosby's music.
Yes, I am smiling and there is a little tug at my heart. I miss them too.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, my dear. So glad you loved them, too.

ClassicBecky said...

I'm of the right generation to have been lucky enough to experience the magic of Hope and Crosby. I still miss them. ("Patty cake, patty case, baker's man, bake a cake as fast as you...*DOUBLE PUNCH*!") Their chemistry and perfect comic timing made the Road To movies true film treasures.

Individually, they were also top of their game. Bob Hope, along with the great Willy Best, made one of my favorite funny movies, "The Ghost Breakers". Crosby in "Going My Way" made one of my favorite movies of the heart.

What a lovely tribute and well-done review about these two greats. I hope they are never forgotten.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Becky! You are so right - I hope they are never forgotten. I worry about that - as they seem to be fading from people's memories. I was very happy to do this post and hope it reminds a few of the joy those 2 brought to the screen.

Dawn said...

I never really got into the Hope and Crosby films. I dont know why. I have always thought they were both quite talented.

FlickChick said...

Hey, Dawn - if you ever decide to give them another chance, let me know what you think (a glass of wine while watching might help!).

Lisa said...

Great to read an appreciation of Bob and Bing, who together were amazing. It was a fascinating working relationship, as both of them were reportedly rather cold and distant personally but with each other that distance disappeared and they egged each other on so well. So hip and relaxed, and really the precursor to the knowing comic style that's pretty much de rigeur these days. I love their subversive charm and even if somebody doesn't like them individually, together they really made it work. Love 'em!

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Lisa. They certainly did make fun a high art!

David Lobosco said...

Great article! I hope you don't mind but I posted it on my Bing Crosby blog...let me know if that is ok, and use anything from my two blogs anytime you want.

You are a gifted and talented writer!

Here is my blog: