One wintery evening, elderly married couple Sal (Dorothy Lamour) and Chester (Bob Hope) Hooten are spending a quiet night by the fire when they are interrupted by the arrival of an old friend. Duke Johnson is a friend that the Hootens have not seen for years and they immediately being reminiscing about their time in the Klondike.
At the turn of the century a man has been murdered by two thugs, McGurk (Nestor Pavia) and Sperry (Robert Barrat, yes I know!!) and his map to a gold mine has been stolen. With his dying breath the man tells his daughter, Sal, that the mine is in Alaska and to seek out a man called Ace Larson. Racing to the dock Sal manages to get the last boat to Alaska just ahead of Sperry and McGurk. The two men spot Sal but can do nothing to stop her especially as there are police nearby. In order to avoid suspicion the two men duck into a nearby theater where a vaudeville act is going on.
Duke and Chester are putting out all the stops in their performance and are currently working a “ghost scam” and encouraging the audience to gamble their money in an effort to double it. As the police enter the theater, Sperry and McGurk rush onstage upsetting the set and revealing Duke and Chester for charlatans. As the two thugs rush to avoid the police, Duke and Chester beat a hasty retreat. The two begin to divide up the money and Chester says that he is tired of running from town to town. Duke tries to convince him to come along to the Klondike to search for gold, but Chester isn’t having it. At the dock the two part ways, and pick pockets, until Duke is onboard and Chester is waving on the dock. At least he is until he sees Duke counting all his money onboard. Chester runs onboard ready to throttle his partner and notices that the boat has departed so whether he likes it or not, Chester is on his way to the Klondike.
Sal arrives in Alaska and meets up with Ace Larson (Douglas Dumbrill). Rather than going to the police, Larson assures her that he will take care of things. He also gives her a job as an entertainer in his saloon. Larson’s girlfriend, Kate (Hillary Brooke), is less than thrilled with this development but she cheers up considerably when Larson reveals his plan to steal Sal’s mine and keep it for the both of them. Meanwhile, Duke and Chester have run out of money to pay their passage aboard ship so they are now being put to work as the cleaning staff. While cleaning a cabin they come across the map to a gold mine. They realize that the occupants of the cabin are the thugs who killed Sal’s father (which was in the paper) and that they are right behind them. After a brief scuffle Duke and Chester emerge victorious. They take the map and the beards of their foes and exit the boat.
Now in Alaska, Duke and Chester argue about who should get to hold the map. They finally decide that the best plan is to tear it in half and have each man keep his own piece. Once that is settled they adopt a tough persona consistent with their beardy reputations and enter the nearby saloon. The saloon just happens to be owned by one, Ace Larson and amidst free champagne and female companionship the two men are treated to the main act. The curtain rises and who should emerge but Sal and that is where things get complicated.
First of, let me say that I love the Road series. I would watch them all day, every day on repeat if I could. Well, except for ROAD TO HONG KONG…we don’t mention that one. I think the fact the Dorothy Lamour has only a cameo in it is one of the reasons that it doesn’t work for me as a Road movie because honestly, who else could keep up with Bob and Bing and still be beautiful, feminine, and sassy? No one but our Dot, that’s who! She is just as quick and funny as either of her male co-stars and manages to hang on for the ride gamely when the schemes get zany or the al-libs whizz by.
ROAD TO UTOPIA is unique in that it is the only Road movie not to have a real place in the title and to not take place in a contemporary setting. I love the Robert Benchley narration, the breaking of the fourth wall, the craziness, the fact that Robert Barrat is in it. I also love the Alaskan setting. Most of the Road movies seem to take place in decidedly warmer climates and I do love me some mountain adventures. But there is also a slightly more adult feeling to this film. Sal is not some shrinking violet, nor some wide eyed innocent, nor an elegant princess. She is an average woman who takes control of her life and her situation and even sets a few plans of her own into motion. I really enjoy the fact that Sal is a tough and smart woman who speaks her mind. Also there are some jokes, especially at the end, regarding Sal and Chester’s marriage and offspring that are a bit sharper than the usual Road movie wackiness. Of note, ROAD TO UTOPIA is also unique for being one of only two films in the series where Bob Hope ends up with Dorothy Lamour, with the second one involving hypnosis…so maybe that one doesn’t count.
I love Dorothy Lamour. I love Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. I love The Road movies and I loved having an excuse to watch ROAD TO UTOPIA. If you are having a bad day do yourself a favor and get a mug of your favorite warm beverage, cuddle up on the couch, and pop this movie in. You won’t regret it…tell them Sal sent you!