Bob Hope as Harold Gridley, traveling comedian, “sportsman, raconteur, polo player, and all-around good egg”
South Pacific, Spring 1952
Film: Road to Bali
Release Date: November 19, 1952
Director: Hal Walker
Costume Designer: Edith Head
I always associate summer with Tiki culture, spending sunny days wearing aloha shirts while enjoying tropical cocktails at Polynesian-themed watering holes. To combat a case of the winter blues earlier this year, I hoped to watch a Tiki-themed movie and was given the recommendation of Road to Bali, the only full-color entry of the seven “Road to…” comedies starring Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour, and Bob Hope, the prolific entertainer born on this day in 1903.
Like the rest of the “Road to…” movies, Road to Bali never takes itself too seriously, its loose central plot primarily a rod for draping the constant gags, puns, and breaking the fourth wall such as when Bob warns us of his partner: “He’s gonna sing, folks… now’s the time to go out and get the popcorn.”
Bing and Bob play a pair of entertainers who need to find work that gets them out of Australia—and their myriad romantic entanglements—so they take on jobs as deep sea divers in a tropical paradise. Having evidently not learned their lesson, the two tomcats ask about local women and are answered with: “Could it be a paradise without girls?”
Their toothbrushes packed in their breast pockets, the boys arrive at the promised South Seas paradise, where a bevy of native women give them the star treatment and give Road to Bali a swift kick into the territory of male fantasy as one of the young beauties comments “too bad there’s only two of them!” Despite taking an oath to avoid involvements with women, the sight of a saronged Dorothy Lamour has both eating their words as they begin competing for her affections.
Dorothy: Do you always fight over girls?
Bob: Well, what else can we fight over? We never had any money… (looks at the camera) That’s for Washington.
What’d He Wear?
“Well, these threads are a little beat! If we’re shoving off to paradise, we better slip into our linens, eh?” declares Bing, and the next we see, the boys are decked out in their crisp island-wear: Bing in his trademark captain’s hat and a plain blue camp shirt, and Bob a little wilder in an purple printed sport shirt with his own mariner’s cap that matches his powder blue slacks… presumably dressed by prolific costume designer Edith Head.
Bob and Bing each embark on their journey with a borrowed jacket that they never wear and appear to be abandoned after arriving at the princess’ palace. Bing hoists an English-detailed navy blazer, possibly one of the actor’s own, while Bob slings a pale blue gabardine zip-up windbreaker over his arm.
The rosy mulberry-hued shirt’s complex all-over medallion-like print consists of purple stenciled “X” shapes, each with a small beige dot at the center and arranged to create a quasi-grid. Filling the “grid” space between the corners of each “X” is a busy purple square, itself split into four smaller quadrants by a tonal “X” at the center with small yellow clusters at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions, echoing larger yellow clusters at each corner.
Bob’s long-sleeved shirt has a soft, long-pointed collar, shaped more like Billy Eckstine’s signature “Mr. B” collar than Bing’s sporty camp collar. The shirt’s straight hem allows Bob to more freely wear it untucked, and it has five buttons up the plain “French placket” front, with an additional button to close each squared cuff.
Bob and Bing wear nearly identical pale blue slacks, possibly made from gabardine or a linen blend, given the proneness to wrinkling after their rough adventures. Bob’s reverse-facing pleats contribute to the fashionably full fit, loose through the legs down to the bottoms finished with turn-ups (cuffs). He holds the trousers up with a stone-colored cotton belt with a polished silver D-shaped buckle.
The pale blue uppers of Bob’s derby-laced cap-toe shoes match his trousers, with the substantial crepe soles giving the 5’10” Hope even more of a lift over his 5’7″ co-star Crosby.
This surprising combination is still available nearly 70 years later, thanks to Clarks offering its classic crepe-soled desert boots in light blue leather, though Sperry CVO deck sneakers like the affordable oxford cotton-upper Striper II could provide a similar effect.
“Get your shoes off, you’re in a palace!” Bing instructs Bob as he makes himself at home in their assigned bedroom in the princess’ palace. Bob slips off his shoes, revealing a big hole in his black sock that prompts him to quip, “I better get some black polish, this may be formal tonight.” (Indeed it is, and the boys are outfitted in Scottish kilts patterned in the princess’ family tartan!)
By the time they’re back at sea, Bob has replaced his holy black socks with tan socks, though this is far less a glaring continuity error as with Bing’s hosiery, as the crooner’s socks alternate between red and yellow within the same scene!
Bob tops his look with a mariner’s peaked cap, detailed with a black band, a short black patent leather brim, and a powder blue cloth cover.
The final detail is Bob’s gold pinky ring, shining from the little finger of his left hand and likely the actor’s own affectation as he was frequently photographed in real life wearing such a ring.
“Hey, I found a gun!” Harold reports on the desert island, to which Princess Lala delights that now one of the men can hunt for their dinner. “Say here, Annie Oakley,” Harold hands off the rifle to George, adding, “run out and shoot us a filet mignon, medium rare.”
The breech-loading rifle with its two-pin receiver and fore-end barrel band appears to be a sporterized variant of the Remington Rolling Block, a single-shot American battle rifle that saw extensive military use around the world following its development after the Civil War. Princess Lala was keen to observe that the Rolling Block would have been a favorable hunting weapon, as it was favored by Scandinavian moose hunters and was reportedly second only to the Sharps among American buffalo hunters in the late 19th century.
How to Get the Look
Once they change out of their grimy performance suits, Bob and Bing appear in more appropriate gear for traveling through the tropics in their nautical caps, untucked sport shirts, and loose gabardine slacks, with Bob’s complex-patterned purple shirt and matching powder blue slacks and shoes consistent with trends in ’50s casual wear.
- Purple complex medallion-patterned long-sleeve sport shirt with long-pointed collar, two flapped chest pockets, plain front, and 1-button squared cuffs
- Pale-blue gabardine reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, slanted side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Stone cotton belt with silver D-shaped buckle
- Pale-blue cap-toe derby shoes with crepe soles
- Black socks
- White cotton sleeveless undershirt
- Mariner’s peaked cap with pale-blue cloth cover and black patent leather brim
- Gold pinky ring
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie, available on Blu-ray and free to stream from Prime and many other places due to its copyright expiry landing it in the public domain.
What happened, is the picture over?!