It's a laughfest from start to finish as an elusive, rich bachelor wiggles off the hook on his wedding day for the umpteenth time by begging insanity, but his strong-willed bride calls his bluff and has him committed to th... more »e loony bin! He manages to escape with another inmate and joins a traveling carnival, only to fall in love with the leggy owner and get involved in one slapstick mishap after another! From producer/director Hal Roach (Topper) and featuring songs by Hoagy Carmichael« less
HAL ROACH'S FINAL COMEDY FILM AS PRODUCER AND DIRECTOR
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As World War Two was just beginning to rage in Europe, Hal Roach saw the writing on the wall and was bringing his brilliant career as a comedic producer and director to a close. He had been producing and directing comedies since he "discovered" Harold Lloyd in 1915, but--with European markets gone (and his plans for a producing alliance with Benito Mussolini's State-owned Cinecietta studios literally gone up in smoke) he went to the gate one final time for the comedy gem ROAD SHOW, and then prepared to join the war effort as an officer and turn his "Lot O'Fun" over to the Signal Corps to use for the production of Military training films. Practically all of the (mostly) unbilled but very familiar faces who graced the Charley Chase, Thelma Todd, Laurel and Hardy, and Our Gang Comedies over the preceeding decade made one final appearance under the maestro's direction, and the result was a very funny ninety minutes of escapist joy. Headlined by veteran actor Adolphe Menjou (in what must rank as his most far-out role as an escapee from a mental institution!) and featuring Roach matinee star John Hubbard paired with leggy Carole Landis (star of 1941's TOPPER RETURNS and the 1939 classic ONE MILLION B.C.) the film combines the wacky world of the traveling carnival (aided by Patsy Kelly and Willie Best!) with the romantic tale of a man who wants to marry but always manages to wriggle off the hook at the last moment--even during the wedding! He plays nuts during the actual ceremony, but the would-be bride calls his bluff and orders him institutionalized. He escapes with Menjou, joins the carnival--and Roach and his stable of comedy character actors take it from there. By the end of the picture, rich John has bought Carole the best carnival ever known, and, finally, he's headed down the aisle--as a stubborn Indian would-be suitor chases after a very reluctant Patsy Kelly. A final look at a world about to vanish behind the smoke of Pearl Harbor; a glimpse back at the slapstick joy of Hal Roach which pulled the world through a Great Depression. You'll love ROAD SHOW from Hal Roach Studios via Image Entertainment!"
A generally good B comedy
S. Jones | Chicago, IL United States | 07/11/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Road Show is far from Hal Roach's best, but nowhere near his worst either. Oddly, Adolph Menjou is the mediocrity in this film, the rest of the cast holds up pretty well.
The highlight of this film is 'The Charioteers,' a nearly forgotten African American ensemble from the 30's and 40's singing several songs including "Calliope Jane." The DVD audio transfer of the song from the film is better than any I've heard off old Columbia '78's.
Shemp Howard makes a cameo."
A waste of talent, sadly
Laughing Gravy | Sacramento, CA United States | 11/14/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"ROAD SHOW (1941) was one of the last films personally directed by Hal Roach (according to the credits, he had the help of Gordon Douglas, late of the Our Gang series, and Hal Roach, Jr.). It's a rather trifling waste of a lot of very appealing vintage talent.
John Hubbard is a rich, handsome young man who leaves a variety of lovely young ladies waiting at the alter. When he feigns mental illness to get out of marrying his latest conquest, the golddigger has him committed to a mental institution, but he escapes with the help of Colonel Caraway ("Of the caraway seeds fortune"), a crackpot who has invented a camera that takes blank pictures. Our two erstwhile nutcases hide out in a carnival run by the beautiful Carole Landis and her sidekick, the not so beautiful but much funnier Patsy Kelly. The cops, the golddigger, and some stray tramps are all after our heroes, for various reasons.
The above plot is supposed to hold an audience's interest for 85 minutes, but don't count on it. Hoagy Carmichael contributes some songs, but "Stardust" these ain't. A black rhythm group called the Charioteers sing most of the numbers, and they're great, but the songs are so sparse they sing each one a couple of times, and frankly, four black men singing a number called "Yum Yum" only reminds me of "Uncle George", the sideshow wild man, who chased the Little Rascals while yelling "Yum! Yum! Eat `em up!" in THE KID FROM BORNEO, a much better (and shorter) picture.
Adolphe Menjou plays Colonel Caraway, and his character is the best thing in the picture, not totally insane but a few playing cards short of a deck. Patsy Kelly is funny, and so is Willie Best, Negro comic who plays a very nervous lion-taming assistant. On the other hand, why on earth did Roach sign Shemp Howard and Johnny Arthur for the picture, and then give them such slight parts, amounting to little more than cameos? And why is Hubbard such a dull leading man? When Landis spends much of the picture resisting his "charms", we can totally empathize with her feelings. (Although Shemp is only in one scene, you'll get a laugh out of him: his character's name is "Moe"!) Harry Langdon was one of the screenwriters, and when Hubbard dons tights and goes out reluctantly to do a circus act, you're going to be reminded of THE STRONG MAN, and you're going to think, "Oh, boy!" and oh, boy, are you going to be disappointed with the lameness of the bit.
ROAD SHOW is an okay picture; I mean, it doesn't stink. But Roach clearly intended it to be an "A" rather than a "B" movie, and with a better script and wiser use of talent, he might've achieved that. (Image has just released this film on DVD; it's a good print and transfer, some scratches, nothing major, no extras.)
C.A. Arthur | Tacoma, Washington | 09/11/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Given the cast, this is a shocking stinker. The plot rambles, whole scenes are ridiculous, there can't be more than a single laugh in this "comedy," and the music is the worst Hoagy Carmichael you will ever hear. One feels sorry for the cast, especially Adolph Menjou, who has to play a nut, and Carol Landis, who had capabilities that Hollywood underestimated. And then there is poor Willy Best, whose ignorant and fearful black stereotype seems unusually cruel today. And Patsy Kelly, a talented comedian who appears in one embarrassing scene after another.
This was meant to be a screwball comedy. It doesn't come close. My copy goes in the wastebasket; I wouldn't want to inflict this on anyone."
A pleasant time killer, with three fine Hoagy Carmichael son
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 11/21/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"When millionaire society playboy Drogo Gaines (John Hubbard) backs out of his marriage in front of the minister by pretending to be crazy, his society gold digger fiancé has just the answer. She has him committed. He can't talk his way out of this one. He meets fellow patient Colonel Carleton Carroway, of the caraway seeds Carroways (Adolphe Menjou, who is top billed). After several amusing situations involving loony jokes, the two break out. They find themselves in a traveling road show company of good-hearted, small-time entertainers that the local police always want to close. After songs, jokes, romance and an apparent shared taste for salting their apple pie slices, Drogo and road show manager Penguin Moore (Carole Landis) bring the road show to the old manse and find true love. Drogo's money and the Colonel's fast talking save the carnival. Along the way we've had a chance to see the carnival in action, a fine comic riot and some first-class second bananas doing their stuff...people like Patsy Kelly, Charles Butterworth, George E. Stone, Florence Bates...and Menjou. In his day he was a first-class comic actor. Just watch him in Roxie Hart. Unfortunately, there's also some "ya suh, boss," quivering-knees-in-front-of-the-lion, fried-chicken humor involving Willie Best.
Why push on through this pleasant, unexceptional time killer, even if it was co-written, or, more probably, had some of the jokes developed by Harry Langdon? Two words: Hoagy Carmichael. He wrote three songs for this movie. If you're as much a Carmichael fan as I am, you'll know the chances of ever hearing these three if you don't watch the movie are probably zero. "Yum Yum" (20 minutes in) and "Calliope Jane" (34 minutes in) are performed by the four-member African-American close-harmony group, The Charioteers. They're excellent upbeat songs. Carmichael wrote the lyrics for both. "I Should Have Known You Years Ago" (58 minutes in) has a nice melody of yearning, dubbed by Martha Mears for Landis, but is marred by the conventional, syrupy lyrics of Harris Robison.
Carmichael wrote many great songs, and some of his greatest had lyrics by Johnny Mercer. One of my Carmichael/Mercer favorites is "How Little We Know" from To Have and Have Not (Keepcase).
Maybe it happens this way Maybe we really belong together But after all, how little we know
Maybe it's just for a day Love is as changeable as the weather And after all, how little we know
Who knows why an April breeze never remains Why stars in the trees hide when it rains Love comes along, casting a spell Will it sing you a song Will it say a farewell Who can tell
Maybe you're meant to be mine Maybe I'm only supposed to stay in your arms a while As others have done
Is this what I've waited for, am I the one Oh, I hope in my heart that it's so In spite of how little we know
One of the greatest songs ever written by anybody is Skylark. If this isn't perfect poetry of words and melody, with lyrics by Mercer, I don't know what is.
Skylark, have you anything to say to me? Won't you tell me where my love can be? Is there a meadow in the mist Where someone's waiting to be kissed?
Skylark, have you seen a valley green with spring Where my heart can go a journeying Over the shadows and the rain To a blossom covered lane?
And in your lonely flight Haven't you heard the music in the night, Wonderful music, Faint as a will o' the wisp, crazy as a loon, Sad as a gypsy serenading the moon.
Oh, skylark, I don't know if you can find these things But my heart is riding on your wings. So if you see them anywhere Won't you lead me there?
Susannah McCorkle's CD The Songs of Johnny Mercer has both.
Road Show is in the public domain. The version I saw doesn't look much worse than an old VHS tape, but buyer beware."