Saturday, December 12, 2015

30 Days of The Fade Out: On The Road.

At the end of the debut issue of The Fade Out, we learn why Gil Mason was pestering Bob Hope at The Brown Derby:  he was pitching a "road movie" to him.

Knowing that Gil had been blacklisted but was secretly Charlie Parish's ghostwriter, I wonder why he bothered.  Was this just part of a ruse, accounting for why he stuck around Hollywood when he supposedly couldn't get work?  Or did he convince himself that that was the reason, while he was genuinely seeking some sort of significance, with the same drive that would lead to his crusade against the studio apparatus that covered up the murder of Val Sommers?

Either way, it's worthwhile to take a closer look at what Gil was actually proposing.

He mentioned a story of Bob Hope barely escaping the Germans in Africa, an event that USA Today described as "stranger-than-fiction" in an August, 2014, feature on The Fade Out.  While I haven't been able to find more information about that particular story, I've found that Hope did survive an intense bombing raid, both he and his troupe, dubbed the Hope Gypsies.
The Gypsies did their first USO combat zone shows that summer in North Africa, Italy, and Sicily. Palermo offered them both their largest audience—19,000—and a narrow escape with their lives when 100 Nazi Junker JU-88s with a fighter escort dive-bombed the docks, destroying the area around the troupe’s hotel a few blocks away. Hope said that returning safely to the States that fall “was something of a letdown. Hollywood was tinsel and make-believe and happy endings. Where we had been was mud and reality and horror.”
(The entire article linked above, from the October 2007 issue of the magazine America in WWII, is definitely worth reading, with mentions of Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart, John Steinbeck and General George Patton.)

Inspired by the comedian's narrow escape, Gil pitched an addition to the "road movies" series starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.  Between 1940 and 1947, the pair had released the first five entries in what would be a seven-film series.  Highlighting Bing and Bob's musical and comedic talents, the films were quite popular in their time, so it's not unreasonable that a seemingly out-of-work actor would try his hand at pitching a "road movie."

The movie series continues to influence pop culture, most recently with Family Guy's pastiches featuring Brian and Stewie:  if a movie musical was prominent, Seth MacFarlane will riff on it, sooner or later.  One of the episodes comes very close to Gil's proposal, being titled "Road to Germany," just as They Might Be Giants had a song called "Road Movie to Berlin" on their 1990 album Flood.

And the films remain quite entertaining to this day.  As a sample, here's the title song to 1942's Road to Morocco.

We can't help but wonder, was that camel on a treadmill?

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