Monday, June 29, 2015

BING AND INGER STEVENS

Inger Stevens was born Oct. 18, 1933, in Stockholm, Sweden. Her parents separated and she came to the United States to live with her father when she was 13. Inger ran away from home while in high school and ended up in a Kansas City burlesque show where she danced as a "popcorn girl." At 18 she moved to New York and enrolled in the Actors Studio. Soon she had her first acting job and began appearing regularly in television dramas.

Her big break came in 1956, when she auditioned for the role of Bing Crosby's new love interest in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Man on Fire. The movie is a realistic study of a child custody battle between Crosby and his ex-wife, played by Mary Fickett.

"I never thought in a million years that I would get the role in Man on Fire. But I went in there and just sort of did it. It scared the daylights out of me. I had never done a movie before -- and to work on a film with Bing Crosby!"

When Inger was carried off the set with an appendicitis attack, Crosby visited the hospital with flowers every day. They soon became fodder for gossip columnists -- the young bedimpled Swedish beauty and the millionaire widower. Bing's wife of 22 years, Dixie Lee, had died in 1952. Crosby was previously linked with Joan Caulfield, Mona Freeman, Kathryn Grant, Grace Kelly, and Paramount dancer Betty Hannon.

"I thought Bing loved me," Inger told a friend. Her hope to marry Bing apparently continued until the very day Crosby wed Kathryn Grant in October, 1957. Inger was devastated. She had thought Bing's relationship with Grant had ended.


Inger took Bing's rejection hard and, based on Kathryn's biography of Bing, may have threatened both suicide and litigation. Inger later said the reason Bing didn't marry her was because she was not Catholic. (The new Mrs. Crosby, Kathryn, converted to Catholicism before her marriage to Bing.)

"One day he called me up and told me to go buy new drapes and curtains for the Palm Springs house," she said afterwards. "He wanted me to decorate it to my taste. He even told me that it was going to be my house so I had better fix it up the way I liked it. It may not have been a proposal but I sure took it as one. Believe it or not, I was down in the house, supervising some workmen in putting up the new drapes when I heard the news announcement over the radio that Bing had married another girl. I went into a state of shock. It took me months to recover. I actually became physically sick from all the distress."

Later, the Swedish beauty would say, "After you go out with Bing, you're spoiled for young men of say 25 or 26. Being with an older man is a secure feeling for me. There was a big age difference, too. Also I was guilt-ridden because I was dating a man and I wasn't yet divorced."

Inger moved on to star in several more movies as well as the 1960s TV show The Farmer's Daughter. Throughout her career she suffered from frequent bouts of depression and attempted suicides. She eventually succumbed to a drug overdose on the morning of April 30, 1970, at age 36...

Monday, June 22, 2015

SONGS THAT BING RUINED

One of my favorite posters from the old days of the Bing Crosby Internet Museum was Candace Scott. (If anyone has her contact info, let me know). Candace always have the greatest topics to post about such as this one regarding her least favorite Bing recordings...

There are several Bing songs which I love but which I feel have been compromised (or even ruined) by one element. Sometimes it's the background singers, sometimes it's the orchestration or arrangement, but I always end up thinking, "boy, that was a great record, but ruined by that one irritating thing." Back in the days of vinyl, I would always just pick up the needle and skip over the offensive part. It's harder ot do that with CD's so I end up not playing some of these songs.

So here goes-- here's my list of good Bing songs which were brought down many pegs by one single bad element:

1. Sweet Leilani: the obvious #1 choice. I refuse to listen to the first 55 seconds of that horrible guy singing the first verse. Awful! It's a great song and Bing sings it perfectly, but that Hawaiian fellow utterly wrecks it for me.

2. Deep in the Heart of Texas: I love Bing's vocal, love the arrangement, love the orchestra. But I don't like the overly l-o-n-g middle section with the orchestra which goes on forever. I want more Bing, less orchestra.

3. Silent Night (the gorgeous 1944 version) This is one of Bing's most sublime vocals, he's in rare form here. But the background chorus sounds like a Lawrence Welk reunion. No background singers, please.

4. White Christmas ('47 version) I'm loathe to criticize this song, but the Ken Darby singers add nothing to this classic recording.


5. Remember Me? One of my favorite Bing vocals, but the long orchestration in the middle grinds on way too long.

6. Yes, Indeed! I wish Connie Boswell wasn't on this track. Satcho instead.

7. Hey Jude -- admittedly a tired-sounding performance from Bing, but it's not that wretched. It's the "pom pom pom pom-pom-pom-pom's that sink it!

8. Don't Fence Me In-- when the Andrew Sisters drag out the line, "Oh give me l-a-n-d, lots of la-ha-ha-ha-and..." and the song moves into that bluesy beat. Horrors! I want to hear Bing sing that verse, not Laverne, Patty and Maxine.

One common thread on my list is that Bing is never at fault, it's ancillary elements rearing their unattractive heads. OK, fire away, I'll put on my bulletproof vest...



Monday, June 15, 2015

RIP: JACK CROSBY - BING'S OLDEST NEPHEW


Jack Crosby, a nephew of Bing Crosby who served as the first art director on the ABC daytime drama General Hospital, has died. He was 88.

Crosby died Sunday of complications from Alzheimer’s disease in Henderson, Nev., according to his daughter, Cynthia Crosby. His father was Larry Crosby, the eldest of Bing's six siblings. Larry was the actor-singer's longtime publicity director and manager of Bing's "clambake" golf tournament held each year at Pebble Beach, Calif.

Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1940s as Bing’s first-born nephew, Jack would pal around with the singer, going to baseball games and horse races. They also played golf and fished together, his daughter noted.

In the 1950s, Crosby worked as a draftsman and then as an assistant art director for CBS during the early days of television. He moved to ABC in 1961 as an art director for the game show Seven Keys, hosted by Jack Narz. Two years later, Crosby took a job to design scenery for the new black-and-white series General Hospital, created by husband-and-wife writers Frank and Doris Hursley, and remained with the program for 17 years.

After retiring from ABC, Crosby taught art direction at Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine University. In addition to Cynthia, survivors include his wife Barbara, sons Michael and James and grandchildren James, Jennifer, Justin and Lucy...

Larry Crosby, with portrait of son Jack in the background




GUEST REVIEWER: TOO MUCH HARMONY

Bing Crosby guru Bruce Kogan is back for another guest review of a Bing Crosby film. This time around he is reviewing the rare early Crosby film - Too Much Harmony from 1933...

This was Bing Crosby's third feature film on his new Paramount contract and by now Paramount discovered that they didn't have to put much production values into his films. Just give Bing some good songs to sing and the picture sells itself.

That was definitely the case here. Crosby was supplied with a nice score by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow that contained two of his early film hits, Thanks and The Day You Came Along. For Crosby fans that's enough recommendation right there.

However what makes the film sad is that this is a backstage story with enough opportunities to do some really nice production numbers. When you consider what Busby Berkeley was doing at Warner Brothers at the same time Paramount was making Too Much Harmony, this film comes off much the worse by comparison to any of Berkeley's work.

They gave Bing a nice supporting cast with Jack Oakie, Skeets Gallagher, Ned Sparks and Harry Green. Bing is caught between two girls in this one Judith Allen and Lilyan Tashman. Lilyan is the bad girl and gold digger that she is, you kind of wonder why Bing is bothering with good girl Judith Allen.


Judith Allen, I understand was the current inamorata of one of the Paramount studio bigwigs and he foisted her on this film. She's so bad she makes Ruby Keeler look talented. Her singing was as bad as Ruby and her acting was insipid. She didn't last long at Paramount, she was doing B westerns at Republic with Gene Autry by the end of the decade and dropped out of sight after that.

My favorite number in this takes place in a train boxcar where Bing, Ms. Allen and the rest of the cast gradually join in as Bing kids his image by singing All the World is Singing Buh boo boo boo. It has that very impromptu look that a lot of Crosby's best movie numbers have. Too bad he didn't make a record of it.

He did however make a record of another song from the film that he didn't sing in Too Much Harmony. An actress named Kiity Kelly does a lovely torch number called Black Moonlight. However Crosby did record it for Brunswick records like the other two numbers mentioned and it did enjoy a good sale considering this was Depression America. He always liked it and said so on his Musical Autobiography for Decca that came out a generation later. He said he hoped some of the newer generation of singers revived it. No one else has ever sang it to my knowledge...

BRUCE'S REVIEW: 7 OUT OF 10
MY REVIEW: 7 OUT OF 10


Monday, June 8, 2015

LORETTA HUNT AND HER CONNECTION TO BING

Even the most mundane of connections to the great Bing Crosby is news worthy, even in 2015. Here is an obit from last month...


Her career spanned a half-century, covering an era when Las Vegas marriages enjoyed growing national popularity. Hunt died Friday at her home, 68 years after she started as deputy county clerk in 1947.
The civil servants — then, as now — sometimes rub elbows with the rich and famous who come to Las Vegas to get married. Hunt signed and issued a marriage certificate in 1957 to crooner Bing Crosby and his bride, Kathryn Grant.
That bit of paperwork led to her making an appearance on the CBS show where a group of panelists asked guests questions in an effort to learn their occupation and career highlights.
“Loretta was an institution in Clark County,” County Manager Don Burnette said in a prepared statement. “She was an important and influential member of the criminal justice community in Southern Nevada for many years.”
According to a county documentary feature on Hunt’s life, she didn’t “stump” the panel of experts, but still received $50 in prize money.
A newspaper clipping about her TV appearance said she “brought invaluable publicity to Las Vegas.”
Hunt was appointed county clerk in 1965 to fill a vacancy, and she went on to serve eight four-year terms before her 1999 retirement when she was 79.
She was born Loretta Bowman on Feb. 10, 1919, according to her obituary, the daughter of Elmer and Elizabeth Bowman, and married James Charles Hunt after retiring.
Issuing nuptials to Crosby was just one accomplishment.
Hunt was president from 1977 to 1978 of the National National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks.
By BEN BOTKIN
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

Monday, June 1, 2015

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: EVEN MORE CANDID BING

I have been a Bing Crosby fan for over 35 years now, and what amazes me is the wealth of pictures out there featuring Der Bingle. Now with the internet, everyday I find pictures of the great crooner that I haven't seen before. Here are just a few more candid pics of Bing you might not have seen yet:












With The Rhythm Boys


With a Frank Sinatra fan

Monday, May 25, 2015

BING AND A PERSONAL WAR STORY

As the 70th anniversary ceremonies honoring the Allied Forces who served and died in Normandy in the summer of 1944 ended last year, a small British village  quietly observed its own sacrifice made to the ravages of World War II.  The residents of Freckleton in northwest England on Saturday saluted the memories of 61 people killed Aug. 23, 1944, when an American bomber undergoing a test flight became entangled in severe weather and nose-dived into the village. Thirty-eight of the fatalities were children ages 4 to 6 who were attending their second day of school for the semester.

One of the three children in the school's toddler wing to survive was Ruby Whittle Currell who was four at the time of the crash. She was taken to the base hospital, burned over 40 to 50 percent of her body.

Ruby was all wrapped up like a mummy, all in gauze and Bing Crosby started talking to her and he asked her, ‘What would you like me to sing?’ and all she knew was "White Christmas."

Crosby tried three times to sing the song by the burned child’s bedside but kept choking up. Finally he walked out into the hall and sang from there.

At first he just couldn’t look at her. After he sang "White Christmas", he came back into the room and apologized. He explained to her that he was not sad at how she looked but upset at what the war was doing. According to Ruby, he pulled out a pen and paper and wrote his address and personal phone number down. He also paid for her extensive hospital bills, which included various operations.

She survived though, and is now 75 years old, but she will never forget how touching and kind Bing Crosby was to her. He wrote to her off and on until his death in October of 1977...


SOURCE

Monday, May 18, 2015

BING TOURS GERMANY

Here is a great article from the New York Sun of October 12, 1944...

Bing, Back, Tells of Exciting Eight-week Tour.

A two-man invasion of German-held territory in France and a two-minute capture of a town in the Metz area was accomplished by Bing Crosby, who is used to capturing top honors in crooning, and an Army lieutenant, while Der Bingle was on a U. S. O. Camp Shows tour in France. The singer recalled the experience today at the Waldorf-Astoria as he discussed his eight-week tour in which he sang for G. I. audiences numbering anywhere from a dozen to 15,000 soldiers.

Bing’s misadventure occurred early one morning when, after he attended Mass by himself, a lieutenant offered to drive him to a point near the front lines a few miles from where he was scheduled to sing.

“After we had traveled for ten or fifteen minutes,” the singer stated, “I became concerned because the telephone lines had run out and when you don’t see them, you know you’ve gone too far. Then we got to this town and I was surprised because I had looked at the war map earlier and it was still in German hands. I asked the lieutenant and he said that he was lost, and I said, ‘let's get out of here fast.’” Talking to a commanding officer that night Bing mentioned that he had been in the town.

“You couldn’t have been.”
“I sure as hell was,” Crosby replied.
“It was in German hands,” the officer protested.
“Well, we had it for two minutes.”
Lost 10 Pounds on Trip.

Crosby, who lost ten pounds during the trip, put on his show while under German gunfire on numerous occasions and was in London while buzz bombs, which he described as “frightening and devastating,” were falling. Though he had lunch with Gen. Eisenhower and visited Gen. Bradley and other high officers, he played only for enlisted men.


Praising the morale of the troops as “terrific,” Bing said: “The boys want to get home, but there is no whining. They want to know that the people at home are staying behind them and there is no weakening, and the needed supplies will be gotten to them. They are somewhat concerned about a complacent attitude. They’ve read about postwar planning discussions, and they don't want to hear about post-war plans. They want to get the war won first.

Crosby, who was dressed in a tan and blue sports combination, puffed occasionally on a big briar pipe while being interviewed. Asked if the report that he was a member of the Hollywood for Dewey Committee was true, he answered: “I don’t know anything about that.” He said that the men asked him mostly about Bob Hope (whom Crosby claimed the G. I.'s like most of all the entertainers), his children, his horses and Brooklyn. He mentioned that “a lot of pictures” have their premieres overseas.

In discussing the soldiers’ preference in songs, Crosby said that the ones they most requested him to sing were “White Christmas,” “Swinging on a Star” and “San Fernando Valley.” He declared that he had made recordings of songs for propaganda broadcasts to Germany, singing in German from words written out phonetically. “They told me I was adequate,” he said.

Although a great many German prisoners watched the shows and smiled, they probably didn’t know what was going on, Bing said. When asked if he had converted any of them, he answered with a grin: “I probably widened the breach.”

He lauded the Red Cross workers and members of his troupe which included Joe de Rita, Jean Darrell, singer; Darlene Garner, dancer; Buck Harris, guitarist, and Earl Baxter, accordionist. He said that he would leave for the coast tomorrow night and resume his radio program late this month...


Monday, May 11, 2015

BING: SECRET WWII WEAPON


Bing Crosby Goes to Work on Wehrmacht With Assistance of Phonetic German
By ROBERT MUSEL

LONDON, Sept. 3, 1944 (UP)—While Hitler is fooling around with buzzbombs and pick-a-back planes we're hurling a real secret weapon at Germany—der Bingle.
Der Bingle is what the Germans call it. Back home it's Bing Crosby.

From a position dangerously near its launching platform (a grand piano in the studio of the American Broadcasting system in Europe) I watched der Bingle go to work on the Wehrmacht. It was beautiful to see and hear and experts of psychological warfare said its effect would be beautiful too.

Der Bingle took off first in a snappy chat to the Wehrmacht which, the most powerful transmitters in Europe will smash right at the quivering ears of Hitler's "Herrenvolk." He astounded frontline observers by using reasonably good German. Since he doesn't speak German, der Bingle was later asked how come.

"I don't do it with mirrors," he said. "I do it with phonetics."

Der Bingle is a great favorite with the Germans and the gents from psychological warfare conceived the idea of having him do a little something direct, for the staggering Wehrmacht which probably doesn't appreciate what Generals Bradley and Patton are doing to it.

Thus, as Bing stepped to the microphone to make a recording, there was a mental image in my mind of a harried Hun, gasping and breathless and resting by the roadside ready to listen to anything as a change from the shell spitting tanks of his pursuers.

Bing, consulting his phonetic chart, began:
"Hello, German soldiers. Here speaks Bing Crosby. I've just arrived from America—the country where nobody is afraid of the gestapo and where everybody has a right to say and write what he thinks."

Der Bingle, rippling through the Teutonic gutturals with complete ease, told the Germans about constitutional rights, adding, "I sincerely hope that our rights and our freedoms soon will be observed again in your country. That's what we Americans are fighting for."

Letting this sink in for a brief instant, der Bingle signalled Corp. Jack Russian, pianist of Major Glenn Miller's band, and said: "But I didn't come here to preach. I came here to sing a few songs."
Bing then sang a song from a film in which he starred, except that the lyrics were cleverly twisted so that the sense of the song was really: "Come with me out of that nasty Hitlerland and back to the free world."

After that, because many Europeans such as forced laborers in Germany understand French, Bing did a song in that language. His phonetic French was not bad either.

A typist passing by asked what was going on inside the studio. "Bing Crosby is singing to the Nazis," she was told.

Increduously, the typist exclaimed: "To the Nazis! What kind of punishment is that?"


Sunday, May 3, 2015

BING AND HIS BIRTHDAY


Today would have been Bing's 112 birthday. To this day there is confusion on the year and sometimes even the day that Bing was born on. It is pretty much accepted now that Bing was born Harry Lillis Crosby on May 3, 1903, in a house that his father, Harry Lowe Crosby, built at 1112 North J Street, Tacoma, Washington. Bing had no birth certificate, and the actual date of his birth was shrouded in mystery until after his death. 

Even Bing's immediate family assigned at least 3 different years for his birth. For example, Ted Crosby's 1937 biography of his younger brother never actually lists Bing's birthdate, but from the ages he assigned to Bing throughout the book Ted implies that Bing was born the first week of May in 1901. This early birth is 9 months after Ted's (July 30, 1900). This seems most improbable if you consider that typical human females do not regain their fertility for at least 6 weeks following childbirth. The early May 1901 birth would require that Bing be born at least a month premature, but there is no account of any such premature birth. Meanwhile, archival documents of Bing's high school and college years at Gonzaga in Spokane, Washington, indicate that Ted's placement of many events in Bing's school days is at least a year before their actual occurrence.

During most of his lifetime Bing celebrated May 2, 1904 as his birthdate. After Bing's death in 1977 a Tacoma priest disclosed Roman Catholic Church baptismal records that revealed Bing's actual birthdate. Contemporary newspaper reports of Bing's birth also confirm the date as May 3, 1903:

The Tacoma Daily News Wednesday, May 6, 1903:
"Mr. and Mrs. H. L. Crosby are receiving congratulations on the arrival of a son at their household May 3."
Tacoma Daily Ledger, Thursday May 7, 1903:
"A little son arrived May 3 in the home of Mr. and Mrs. H. L. Crosby".

Apparently the family began celebrating May 2nd as Bing's birthday in deference to his sister, Mary Rose, who was also born on May 3 in 1906.

So happy birthday Bing - no matter how old you really are!