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Bob Hope & Bing Crosby

Icons of the Century

On paper it looked like one of the most improbable matchups in show business.

Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were already legends in the making when they teamed up in 1940 to make “The Road to Singapore” — especially Crosby who, owing to the development of radio and sound recording, was already the most popular singer in history and, as bandleader Artie Shaw quipped, “The first hip white man born in America.” Hope’s nonchalant, breezy one-liners and mock-cowardice were a perfect answer to the country’s war jitters. But the duo fell right in step, like an amiable golf pairing who left their egos at the clubhouse.

Until the road ended in Hong Kong in 1962, Hope and Crosby joked and jived through the same clunky set draped in different exotic locales — Zanzibar, Morocco, Utopia, Rio and Bali — eluding baleful bandits and menacing officials in casually deliberate pursuit of the one thing worth having in life, Dorothy Lamour. Buddy movies have rarely been as engaging since.

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