Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Tits & Sand – Road to Morocco (1942)

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15110-8709408519-5116511201-9548258739-large-400x570Morocco was never like this.
And frankly, who cares?

Road to Morocco (1942), directed by David Butler, is the third in the “Road to…” franchise (did they have franchises, back in 1942?1), and is probably the best of the lot.
The formula was quite simple – two happy-go-lucky Americans, an exotic locale, a beautiful woman, some flimsy reason for adventure.
And after all, exotic locales and beautiful women are usually reason enough for adventure – in fiction at least.
The formula worked for over twenty years and seven movies.

The team-up of straight guy Bing Crosby and funny guy Bob Hope did also work on the screen, and American audiences were getting acquainted with exotic places because of the war and, later, with the popularity of international tourism in the post-war years.
Dorothy Lamour adds the glamourous bit – and the three leads can sing, too!

Turkey Jackson: I can’t go on! No food, no water. It’s all my fault. We’re done for! It’s got me. I can’t stand it! No food, nothing! No food, no water! No food!

Jeff Peters: What’s the matter with you, anyway? There’s New York. We’ll be picked up in a few minutes.

Turkey Jackson: You had to open your big mouth and ruin the only good scene I got in the picture. I might have won the Academy Award!

The movie was actually nominated for two Academy Awards.

A direct parody of our beloved tits & sand movies, Road to Morocco casts (literally) the two Americans on the coast of Morocco and from there we are treated to a fun piece of Arabian Nights fluff – there’s a princess, a prophecy, a fierce desert raider (Anthony Quinn, always great), Arab bandits, harem girls, the lot.

 

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The story is light-weight, the sets are absolutely lavish, and we get some action, quite a few gags (most of which still work after seventy-five years, which is good), an four musical numbers.

The movie was hugely successful – especially as it hit the screens exactly two days after the Marines landed in Morocco for “Operation Torch”.
Talk about a PR campaign…

The movie, and all the series, have been criticized as stereotypical and politically incorrect – and yet many seem to miss that these are also parodies of stereotypical adventure movies.

Rewatching it after years – more, decades – the movie still holds.
It’s light comedy, fantasy, a simple way to spend one hour and twenty minutes.
Also, it was a great opportunity to notice Dona Drake, an actress/singer often cast in ethnic roles, that has a supporting role as a harem girl in love with the Bob Hope character2.
What a lovely young woman!

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Curiously enough – or maybe not – modern attempts at reviving the formula – John Landis’ Spies Like Us and Elaine May’s Ishtar being notable examples – failed spectacularly. Maybe it’s the chemistry between the leads, maybe it’s the fact that the cheeky kind of naivety of those movies does not belong in post-80s cinema.
If it’s true that Hollywood has a hard time making good pulp adventure movies, it’s also true that it’s been so far unable to replicate the Road to… formula successfuly.
Which is a pity – but also makes me want to watch a few other Road to… movies again.


  1. well, they made a series of movies, radio dramas and records… it was a franchise in everything but action figures and LEGO tie-ins… 
  2. and yes, the fact that she loves the funny guy made her infinitely more attractive to me than the Lamour character. 
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Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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