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Road to Singapore

1940 movie poster
Directed by Victor Schertzinger
Produced by Harlan Thompson
Written by Frank Butler &
Don Hartman
Harry Hervey (story)
Starring Bing Crosby
Dorothy Lamour
Bob Hope
Charles Coburn
Judith Barrett
Anthony Quinn
Jerry Colonna
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography William Mellor
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) March 14, 1940
Running time 85 min
Country  United States
Language English
Followed by Road to Zanzibar

Road to Singapore is a 1940 Paramount Pictures film starring Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour, and Bob Hope, which marked the debut of the long-running and popular "Road to..." series of pictures starring the trio.



Josh Mallon (Bing Crosby) and Ace Lannigan (Bob Hope) are the best of friends and work aboard the same ship. As their ship returns to the US after a long voyage, they see all the other sailors being mistreated by their wives and girlfriends, and the two friends pledge never to get involved with women again.

Unfortunately, this vow is tested almost immediately. First, Ace is confronted by the family of a former lover, Cherry, who insist he marry her. Then Josh, who is the son of rich shipping magnate Charles Coburn, has to fend off his fiancee, Gloria (Judith Barrett), and his father's wishes that he settle down and take over the family business.

Things get worse when Josh and Ace get caught up fishing and turn up late for a party to celebrate Josh's engagement. Gloria's hostile drunken brother starts a fistfight and a news reporter takes photographs that cause a scandal. Josh and Ace flee to Hawaii and then head for Singapore.

However, the pair only get as far as the island of Kaigoon before their money runs out. They rescue Mima (Dorothy Lamour), an exotic local (but not native) from her abusive dance-partner, Caesar (Anthony Quinn), and she moves into their hut. Soon Mima is running the two men's lives, much to their chagrin. The trio try to make money in several different ways, including trying to sell a spot remover that is so bad it dissolves clothes.

When Josh's father finally locates his wayward son, he and Gloria fly out to bring Josh back to face his responsibilities. The resentful Caesar leads them to where Ace, Josh and Mima are enjoying a local feast. By this point, both Josh and Ace have fallen in love with Mima. She is heartbroken to learn that Gloria is Josh's fiancee.

Ace proposes to Mima, but before she can accept, Josh returns. The two friends almost come to blows over Mima, but then decide that she should choose between them. Mima picks Ace. Josh boards an ocean liner with Gloria and his father.

Meanwhile, Caesar informs the local police that Ace is on the island illegally. Ace is arrested when he cannot produce a passport, but manages to escape. He and Mima flee aboard a ship, but Ace comes to realize that Mima really loves Josh.

When Josh's ship docks at a tropical port, a passenger complains about a terrible spot remover that disintegrated his suit jacket. Josh realizes that Ace and Mima must be on the island. When he finds them, Ace tells his best friend that Mima really loves him.

Running Gags

The "Road to..." series of films had several running gags that appeared in nearly every movie. Most of these originated in Road to Singapore. These include:

  • Pat-a-cake - Ace and Josh play patty-cake as a distraction before starting a fistfight;
  • References to Bing's waistline (in this movie, Crosby himself pokes fun at his 'spare tire'); and
  • Confidence tricks - the two main characters are usually con-men, although in this movie it is not their starting profession.


  • "Captain Custard"
Lyrics by Johnny Burke - Music by Victor Schertzinger
Performed by Hope and Crosby
  • "The Moon and the Willow Tree"
Lyrics by Burke - Music by Schertzinger
Performed by Lamour
  • "Sweet Potato Piper"
Lyrics by Burke - Music by James V. Monaco
Performed by Crosby, Lamour, and Hope
  • "Too Romantic"
Lyrics by Burke - Music by Monaco
Performed by Crosby and Lamour
  • "Kaigoon"
Lyrics by Burke - Music by Monaco
Performed by chorus
The lyrics to "Kaigoon" are in Esperanto.[citation needed]


As a result of EMKA, Ltd.'s acquisition of the pre-1950 Paramount library (which includes this and the following three "Road" pictures) and the later transfer of rights to the fifth and sixth films to FremantleMedia and Columbia Pictures Television, Paramount would end up losing the rights to all the "Road" pictures it originally produced (the last film, Road to Hong Kong, was produced and released by United Artists, who retain the rights to the film to this day).

The copyright to Road to Singapore was renewed in a timely manner by EMKA. Originally registered for copyright as LP9497 with a declared publication date of March 22, 1940, the continuation of copyright was contingent upon renewal between the 27th and 28th anniversaries of that date. Renewal occurred March 31, 1967, number R407858. Although the film opened a week prior to the publication date, the renewal is still timely even if the earlier date were considered publication date. Renewal was filed by EMKA, Ltd., today part of NBC Universal Television Distribution, so thus Universal Studios now handles theatrical and home video distribution. The copyright is now scheduled to run until 95 years after the publication date (2035). The film has not entered the public domain.


According to Hope biographer Raymond Strait, the project which became Road to Singapore was first offered to Fred MacMurray and Jack Oakie (under the working title of Road to Mandalay), and after they declined, to George Burns and Gracie Allen (as Beach of Dreams), with a second male lead to be determined. They also declined. (Burns is quoted as saying that Gracie "thought the whole thing was silly.") At this point, Paramount decided to pair Hope and Crosby, and to take advantage of the screen popularity of Lamour, who had already made several lucrative pictures with a "South Seas" theme.

Although the Road to Singapore script was written by established screenwriters Frank Butler and Don Hartman and directed by Victor Schertzinger, much of the material was ad libbed by Hope and Crosby or surreptitiously contributed by their own writing staffs (including Sid Kuller and Ray Golden).

This was the only installment of the series in which Hope was billed third.


The film was an immediate box office success, helped in large measure by good reviews and by Hope's promotion of it on his weekly radio show.


Strait, Raymond, Bob Hope: A Tribute New York: Pinnacle Books ISBN 0-7860-0606-4, 2003

External links



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