Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Road to Zanzibar


As usual our boys are con men, actually carnival performers whose tricks always go wrong, but this time the girls—Dorothy Lamour, of course, and her friend Una Merkel—are cons, too, running a racket where Dorothy poses as a slave and Una convinces a chump to buy her. They split the money with the slave trader. Since this is “darkest Africa,” you expect a little 1940s racism, but it’s not too bad. In the credits there are caricature drawings of “natives” and they have the big, white, Al Jolson minstrel show lips. But when the cannibal tribe is debating whether they should worship the white men or eat them, the subtitled dialogue is pretty funny. The slapstick highlight is a wrestling match between Hope (actually a pretty obvious stunt man) and a man in a moth-eaten gorilla suit. There’s also some pretty fine drumming and dancing among the black extras. Their longest-running gag in these films is probably the “Patty cake, patty cake, baker’s man” schtick, where they face each other and clap hands as they say the rhyme, and on the last word they sock the guy or guys standing beside them. But already they are working variations on it. They try the routine on a huge guy, and before they get to the end he clobbers both of them on the top of the head. And Hope says “He must have seen the picture!”