Road to Morocco (1942)

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“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” –Joseph to his brothers, Genesis 50:20

Once upon a time, some young men sold their brother to a group of Egyptian travelers in a fit of jealousy. This malicious plan, however, didn’t turn out to be such a bad deal because the brother climbed the ranks in his new country and became Pharaoh’s right hand man. You might recognize that description as the Biblical story of Joseph. Correct, and it’s also a great way to set up the plot of Road to Morocco.

 Two friends lost at sea, Jeff and Orville (Bing Crosby and Bob Hope), get washed ashore and hitch a ride on a camel to Morocco. To pay for a meal, Jeff sells Orville into slavery, but after a while he feels bad about this decision and starts a search-and-rescue mission for his friend. As it turns out, Orville is doing alright. He is living in a lavish palace, engaged to a beautiful princess, and pampered by her equally beautiful (albeit identical-looking) girlfriends. But is it all ploy because a psychic warned the princess her first husband will die a violent death? Yikes. When Jeff arrives on the scene and everyone starts to fall in love with each other, things get messy.

In my humble opinion, Bing and Bob are the saving grace of this movie. Their characters make split-second decisions in the script that are not rational. For example, I have never gone into a restaurant for a meal without first making sure I had enough money to pay for it. If I did find myself in that situation, I would not auction off my dinner date. I would crack open a window so we could escape. (Sorry to any waiters or waitresses who are reading this.) That being said, these two actors meet the script where it’s at and make it an enjoyable ride full of twists and turns. Road to Morocco may have faults, but a plodding pace is not one of them. The headlining comic geniuses never let go of the reins.

A reminder of Joseph’s story was just what I needed this week. NPR bombards me with notifications every time something important happens in the world, and lately America’s political news has made me contemplate finding my own road to Morocco. While I would never force my own Christian beliefs on someone, I am a man of faith, and that aspect of my life gives me peace in knowing that God has a plan for the world. Even if our political system fails us and a buffoon becomes president, there will always be a Joseph (or Josephina!) hiding away somewhere, just waiting to pop out and surprise us with divine leadership and prowess.

Jeff and Orville both end up with a girl, but you’ll have to watch it yourself to see who the princess chooses. The film ends with the two couples drifting on a raft in the ocean, lost at sea once again. Orville launches into a complaining monologue. Jeff interrupts him. Unexpectedly, Bob Hope breaks character and exclaims, “You had to open your big mouth and ruin the only scene I got! I might have won an Academy Award!” The end.

Usually, a throwaway ending like this would make me mad. But Bob Hope was a comedian who lived in such a way that prioritized bringing out the good in others, especially soldiers far away from home…people like Joseph. So I can forgive him.

 

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