Saturday, April 4, 2020

THE ETHNICITY OF BING


Birth Name: Harry Lillis Crosby, Jr.

Date of Birth: May 3, 1903

Place of Birth: Tacoma, Washington, U.S.

Date of Death: October 14, 1977

Place of Death: Alcobendas, Madrid, Spain

Ethnicity: English, Irish

Bing Crosby was an American singer and actor. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Going My Way (1944).

His father, Harry Lillis/Lincoln/Lowe Crosby, was of English descent and his mother, Catherine Helen (Harrigan), was of Irish descent. Bing was raised Catholic.

Bing was married to actress and nightclub singer Dixie Lee, until her death, and to actress Kathryn Grant, until his death. He had four children with Dixie, and three children with Kathryn.

Actor and businessperson Harry Crosby is his son. Actress Denise Crosby is his granddaughter.

Bing’s patrilineal line can be traced to Anthony Crosby, who was born, c. 1545, in Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, Yorkshire, England.

Bing’s paternal grandfather was Nathaniel Crosby (the son of Nathaniel Crosby and Mary Lincoln). Bing’s grandfather Nathaniel was born in Maine, and was of English descent, from a family resident in New England since the 1600s. Bing’s great-grandfather Nathaniel was the son of Nathaniel Crosby and Ruby Foster; Ruby was the daughter of Chillingsworth Foster III and Sarah Freeman. Mary was the daughter of Isaac Lincoln and Mary Foster.

Bing’s paternal grandmother was Cordelia Jane Smith (the daughter of Jacob Smith and Priscilla Fearnley). Cordelia was born in Indiana. Priscilla was born in England.

Bing’s maternal grandfather was Dennis Harrigan (the son of Dennis Harrigan and Catherine Driscoll/Driscol). Bing’s grandfather Dennis was born in Williamstown, Northumberland County, New Brunswick, Canada, and was of Irish descent.

Bing’s maternal grandmother was Catherine Ahearn/A’Hearn (the daughter of John Ahearn and Ann Meighan). Catherine was born in New Brunswick, to Irish parents...

Friday, March 20, 2020

BING ON FILM: TOP O' THE MORNING - PART TWO


This would be the third pairing of Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald. They hit movie gold twice with their pairing as priests in the landmark film Going My Way in 1944, and as doctors in Welcome Stranger in 1947. Paramount figured that three times was a charm, but it was not exactly. The best part of the film was the interaction between Bing and Barry Fitzgerald, but the script did not allow for much of the friendly banter that was seen in their previous two films together. Personally, I feel they should have made Bing and Barry Fitzgerald both policemen – one young and one old – who had to settle the case of the missing Blarney Stone, using new techniques and old techniques of investigation to crack the case. I was not around in 1949, so Paramount was not able to ask me for my script recommendations!


Like many of Bing Crosby films, the singing was the major draw of the film. My favorite number was Bing singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”. Bing did not record the number for the movie soundtrack, but he did record it a few years before the film was made, on May 7, 1946. The songwriting team of Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke were commissioned to write new songs for the film, but only two songs were written. They wrote the title song “Top O’ The Morning”, which was my favorite song from the film. Bing must have liked the song too, because he sang it three times in the film. The songwriters also wrote a pretty forgettable ballad called “You’re In Love With Someone”, which Bing sang, and then it was sung later in the film as a duet with Bing and Ann Blyth. Rounding out the music were traditional Irish songs like “Kitty Coleraine”, “The Donovans”, and “Oh Tis Sweet To Think”.

Bing was in fine voice towards the end of the 1940s, and as always, he was his charming self in the movie, so he cannot be blamed for this misguided film. Bing did however personally selected David Miller as director of Top O’ the Morning.  Groucho Marx recommended him to Bing.  Miller had just completed what turned out to be the final Marx Brothers’ film.  It was Love Happy, the least revered of all the Brothers’ films. I think also movie audiences were changing as television was beginning to take hold.


Some of the critics liked the film though:
Bing Crosby, after two lush Technicolored musicals, has been handed a light, frothy and more moderately budgeted picture by Paramount to cavort in, which should put him once more at the top of that studio’s breadwinning list.
      …Under David Miller’s light-handed direction, Crosby and the rest of the cast fall right into the spirit of the story. Groaner, despite his having to play to a gal (Ann Blyth) who is so obviously younger, is socko. His easy way with a quip, combined with his fine crooning of some old Irish tunes and a couple of new ones, is solid showmanship.
      …Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen have cleffed two bright new tunes for the film, both of which, with Crosby to introduce them, should get plenty of play. “You’re in Love with Someone,” a ballad, has the edge but the other, “Top O’ the Morning,” has the lilt that Crosby fans go for. Crooner also gets a chance to dispense a round of traditional Irish airs, ranging from “Irish Eyes” to the lesser-known but more sprightly variety.
(Variety, July 20, 1949)

In my opinion, Top O’ The Morning is not a great Bing Crosby movie, but even a bad Bing film is worth viewing. The last fifteen minutes of the movie is the best, and some of the plot is pretty sinister for a lighthearted Bing film. Bing and the cast does the best they could with the script, and this film is worth watching. My copy came from a showing on AMC Network in 1998, and now TCM has also shown the film, so if you get a chance check out this slight Bing film. The film was not great but pleasant enough..

MY RATING: 6 OUT OF 10




Monday, March 9, 2020

BING ON FILM: TOP O' THE MORNING - PART ONE

It is easy to review and write about High Society or Holiday Inn, but I wanted to look at a film that was not as remembered as other Crosby films. So that is why I picked Bing’s 1949 Top O’ The Morning. I have had the film on a bootleg DVD for years, but I just never could bring myself to watch the film. I am not sure why, but I finally viewed the film, and it is not too bad. It is not great either.

After making some great Technicolor vehicles like Blue Skies and The Emperor Waltz, Top O’ The Morning looks drab and boring in black and white. I don’t know how Paramount could make a movie about colorful Ireland without the film being in color. The plot is slight, and at times I surprisingly find the movie hard to follow. Although the film has a marvelous cast, it is only mildly entertaining, with the story stumbling along in fits and starts, though it does pick up speed in the last half.  Crosby plays a New York insurance investigator sent to Ireland to search for the missing Blarney Stone. Yes, it's been stolen! Barry Fitzgerald plays the ineffectual police sergeant in a nearby town, with Blyth playing his pretty daughter, Conn, and Hume Cronyn is his assistant, Hughie. John McIntire, who later appeared in Blyth's charming comedy Sally And Saint Anne (1952), plays a police inspector working on the case.


The original name of the film was supposed to be Diamond In The Haystack. Very little happens in this rather slow-moving film, which spends a great deal of time on the mysterious prediction of a townswoman (Eileen Crowe) regarding who will marry Conn; eventually, of course, the Blarney Stone mystery is solved and true love prevails. Even though I am of Irish decent, I did not really know what the Blarney Stone was. The Blarney Stone is a block of Carboniferous limestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle  about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from CorkIreland. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery). The stone was set into a tower of the castle in 1446. The castle is a popular tourist site in Ireland, attracting visitors from all over the world to kiss the stone and tour the castle and its gardens.

Back to the film, Bing Crosby looked quite bored in the film as if he was going through the motions of a substandard script. I do not know if it was because of the age difference of Bing and his co-star Ann Blyth, but their pairing did not seem to gel to me, and they did not seem to have too much chemistry. Bing Crosby had wanted Deanna Durbin to costar in this picture as well as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949). Miss Durbin, about to retire from the screen with the finish of her Universal-International contract on August 31, 1949, declined both offers from Bing. In place of Miss Durbin, Universal loaned Ann Blyth to Paramount for this film...

TO BE CONTINUED...



Friday, February 28, 2020

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: MORE MEMORIES OF DIXE LEE CROSBY

Almost eight years ago I published some great photos of the Bing's first wife Dixie Lee (1911-1952). Dixie was the love of Bing's life, and here are some more candid photos...















Friday, February 14, 2020

ST. VALENTINE'S DAY


Just in time for Valentine's Day, I wanted to spotlight a little compilation album that I used to have on an old 10 inch album. It was a cute album. St. Valentine's Day is a Decca Records compilation album of recordings by Bing. Bing Crosby had enjoyed unprecedented success during the 1940s, with his output including six No. 1 hits in 1944 alone. His films, such as Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary's, were huge successes as were the Road films he made with Bob Hope. On radio, his Kraft Music Hall and Philco Radio Time shows were very popular. Decca Records exploited this by issuing a number of 78rpm album sets, some featuring freshly material and others using Crosby's back catalogue. Ten of these sets were released in 1946, nine in 1947 and nine more in 1948. Most of these 78rpm albums were reissued as 10" vinyl LP's in subsequent years.

St. Valentine's Day includes two of Crosby's No. 1 hits from 1944 – "I'll Be Seeing You" and "I Love You" – two other chart entries ("You and I" and "Miss You") plus re-recordings of the singer's first ever recordings for Decca in 1934 "I Love You Truly" and "Just A-Wearyin' for You".



Track Listing:
1. "I Love You Truly"
2.. "Just A-Wearyin' for You"
3. "The Sweetest Story Ever Told"
4. "Mighty Lak' a Rose"
5. "You and I"
6. "Miss You"
7. "I'll Be Seeing You
8. "I Love You" 

The album was also issued as a 10" vinyl LP in 1949 with the catalogue number DL 5039...


Friday, January 31, 2020

BING AND AN ADVERTISING COMPANY

Here is an interesting advertisement featuring a drawing of Bing from 1941 for the J Walter Thompson Company. J. Walter Thompson (JWT), incorporated by James Walter Thompson in 1896, in 2018 was "the biggest of five advertising holding companies that control a significant portion of the world's advertising, marketing and communications firms." It has been owned by WPP plc since 1987...








Saturday, January 18, 2020

SPOTLIGHT ON FLORENCE GEORGE

I originally published an article on Florence George to my blog back on December 5, 2010. I have since learned more about this beauty so I wanted to share to write a new article. She was a remarkable woman...

The opulent, vivacious blonde lyric soprano Florence George was given only two rather routine opportunities to stake her claim in films. As such, she was not given the chance to challenge the other glamorous film opera divas who were the rage of the day ('Jeanette Macdonald', Grace Moore, Susanna Foster, Lily Pons and Gladys Swarthout). Instead she remained focused on radio, concerts, recordings and the stage for the rest of her career.

The Ohio-born beauty came into this world as Catherine Guthrie on December 21, 1917, the daughter of Florence and George Guthrie (she took their first names as her professional stage moniker). Gifted musically and vocally, she attended Wittenber College and graduated with a degree in music at the Chicago Conservatory. She studied one-on-one with former Italian opera star Madame Amelia Galli-Curci (1882-1963) and earned a few radio singing spots before making her operatic debut in "Rioletto" at the Chicago Civic Opera House. A Paramount talent scout happened to catch one of her performances and set up a screen test.


Florence made a charming debut opposite John Payne singing with him "I Fall in Love with You Every Day" and "What Romeo Said to Juliet," her best moment came with her lovely solo on "Moments Like This". Instead of putting her in another showcase, the studio primarily had her do publicity sessions and radio spots. Her next movie would be the MGM loan out Tell No Tales (1939) in a supporting role. She also made some recordings for Decca Records from 1940 to 1949.

Florence married the much older Everett N. Crosby (1896-1966), Bing's business manager and older brother, in 1939. He proceeded to steer her career as well and would do so up until his death in 1966. Purposely guiding her away from films, he focused her on radio, recordings, concerts here and abroad, and the light operetta stage. In 1962, Everett bought Fair Acres, a farm estate in Connecticut where he and Florence raised Morgan and Arabian stallions. After his death from throat cancer, she married Andelmo Ortiz, a production manager for an advertising firm, in 1970, and retired to Maryland. Her second husband died in 1997. She died at age 80 on September 13, 1998...


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

THE BING CROSBY: A NEW YEAR'S DRINK

To celebrate the New Year and our favorite singer Bing Crosby, here is a drink called The Bing Crosby...


Like its namesake, this cocktail is light on its feet but also quite innovative. (Did you know that The Crosby Research Foundation held numerous patents related to TV and radio recording, including for the invention of the laugh track?) 
But don't let its bright demeanor fool you. This drink packs a punch. After one or two of these, you might find yourself crooning "White Christmas" with all the gusto of Der Bingle himself.

INGREDIENTS:

2oz Bourbon
1oz Classic Grenadine
.75oz Ginger Liqueur 
.75oz Fresh Lime Juice
.25oz Pimento Dram
Dash of Orange Bitters
Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a sugar-rimmed glass. Garnish with fresh cranberries and orange peel.
PRO TIP: When rimming a glass, use our Rich Simple Syrup instead of water to really make those fat sugar grains stick. Spin any excess sugar into the sink.


Sunday, December 22, 2019

BING AND HIS CHRISTMAS DISCOGRAPHY

"White Christmas" was Bing's biggest holiday recording, but it was not his only one. Bing recorded more than 70 songs that fit in with the Christmas holiday season beginning in 1935 when Jack Kapp, the head of Decca, suggested that Bing record "Adeste Fidelis" and "Silent Night," Bing was reluctant, saying he did not want to record sacred tunes for commercial gain. Eventually Bing consented to recording them, after arrangements were made to donate the profits to charities.


Here is a list of Bing's winter holiday recordings. Der Bingle was definitely the king of Christmas...

1 9 3 5
Silent Night (recorded for private charitable distribution)
Adeste Fidelis
Silent Night

1 9 4 2
Happy Holiday
I've Got Plenty to be Thankful for
White Christmas
Adeste Fidelis
Faith of our Fathers
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Let's Start the New Year Right

1 9 4 3
Jingle Bells (with the Andrews Sisters)
Santa Claus is Coming to Town (with the Andrews Sisters)
I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Going My Way

1 9 4 5
Ave Maria from The Bells of Saint Mary’s
The Happy Prince (narrative)
The Sweetest Story Ever Told

1 9 4 7
White Christmas
Silent Night
The Christmas Song
Oh Fir Tree Dark
The Small One (narrative)

1 9 4 9
Twelve Days of Christmas (w Andrews Sisters)
Here Comes Santa Claus (w Andrews Sisters)
The First Noel
You're All I Want for Christmas
Deck the Halls / Away in a Manger / I Saw Three Ships
Good King Wenceslas / We Three Kings / Angels We Have Heard on High 


1 9 5 0
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
A Crosby Family Christmas -- Parts 1 and 2
That Christmas Feeling
Poppa Santa Claus (w Andrews Sisters)
Mele Kalikimaka (w Andrews Sisters)
Silver Bells (w Carole Richards)
Marshmallow World
Looks Like a Cold, Cold Winter

1 9 5 1
Christmas in Killarney
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

1 9 5 2
Sleigh Ride
Little Jack Frost Get Lost (w Peggy Lee)
Sleigh Bell Serenade (

1 9 5 4
White Christmas (w Danny Kaye, Peggy Lee, Trudy Stevens)
Snow (w Danny Kaye, Peggy Lee, Trudy Stevens)

1 9 5 5
Christmas is a Comin'
Is Christmas Only a Tree?
The First Snowfall
A Christmas Sing with Bing [CBS radio broadcast released on LP]

1 9 5 6
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

1 9 5 7
How Lovely is Christmas

1 9 5 8
Say One For Me
The Secret of Christmas
Just What I Wanted for Christmas

1 9 6 2
Winter Wonderland
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
What Child is This?
The Holly and the Ivy
The Little Drummer Boy
Holy Night
The Littlest Angel
Let it Snow!
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Frosty the Snowman 
I Wish You a Merry Christmas 
Pat-a-Pan
While Shepherds Watched their Sheep


1 9 6 3
Christmas Dinner Country Style
Do You Hear What I Hear?

1 9 6 4
It's Christmas Time Again (w Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians)
Go Tell It On the Mountain (w Frank Sinatra and Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians)
The Secret of Christmas (w Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians)
Christmas Candles (w Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians)
We Wish You the Merriest (w Frank Sinatra and Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians)

1 9 6 5
The White World of Winter

1 9 7 0
A Time to Be Jolly
I Sing Noel
Round and Round the Christmas Tree
The First Family of Christmas
The Song of Christmas
A Christmas Toast
And the Bells Rang
Christmas Is
When You Trim Your Christmas Tree
Christmas is Here to Stay

1 9 7 3
Christmas Star

1 9 7 7
Peace on Earth / The Little Drummer Boy (w David Bowie)
On the Very First Day of the Year
Sleigh Ride


Sunday, December 15, 2019

THE MAKING OF WHITE CHRISTMAS

It took Hollywood nearly 15 years to craft the cheerful and unabashedly sentimental musical White Christmas out of Irving Berlin’s hit song. But the 1954 movie starring two of America’s most popular stars—Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye—was worth the wait, becoming the biggest box office hit of 1954 and to this day consistently ranking on lists of classic holiday movies.

Bing Crosby first performed the song “White Christmas” on his CBS radio show on Christmas Day in 1941. He reprised it in the 1942 film Holiday Inn, in which he starred with Fred Astaire, when his character impresses a love interest by crooning a new song he’d just written called “White Christmas.” It impressed the Academy too, winning the Oscar for Best Song. The song hit the charts and became the all-time best-selling single for over 50 years. (Until Elton John’s tribute to the late Princess Diana, “Candle in the Wind,” finally took that honor.)

So it seemed a no-brainer to build another movie around the hit song. Irving Berlin wrote new songs and repurposed some earlier ones, and a story was strung together featuring a male song-and-dance act and singing sisters on their way to a Vermont inn run by a general the men knew from the war. The set for the Vermont Inn appears in both Holiday Inn and White Christmas. By the time principal photography began, Paramount had acquired the new wide-screen Technicolor and VistaVision technologies, which would show off the song and dance numbers in vibrant color.


White Christmas was supposed to reunite Bing Crosby with Fred Astaire, who’d appeared together in both Holiday Inn and Blue Skies (1946). But there was a snag: Fred Astaire didn’t like the script and refused to participate. Paramount replaced him with Donald O’Connor (who’d later gain acclaim as Cosmo the piano player in Singin’ in the Rain), but when O’Connor fell ill right before production was to begin, he had to pull out. Desperate for a replacement, Paramount contacted Danny Kaye, who asked for, and received, a then unheard-of fee: $200,000 plus 10 percent of the gross.

“It is the first movie that I’ve been connected with since Holiday Inn that has the feel of a Broadway musical,” an excited Berlin wrote to his friend Irving Hoffman as production began.

As the song-and-dance team, Crosby and Kaye had fun together, improvising on set, as did the singing sisters played by Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney (yes, the cousin of George). The classic number “Sisters,” in which Crosby and Kaye vamp around waving blue-feathered fans, wasn’t even in the original story. But the actors were goofing around on set, and director Michael Curtiz found their capers so funny, he wrote them in. The actors kept cracking up during the take, but everyone loved the authenticity of the moment, so the laughter stayed. The scene where Crosby’s character tells Clooney’s his theory of what foods cause which dreams before launching into “Count Your Blessings” was almost completely improvised. Crosby even made up words like “weirdsmobile.”


Rosemary Clooney, a trained vocalist, sang her own songs in the movie, and sometimes those of her co-star Vera-Ellen. (The other vocalist covering Vera-Ellen’s songs was Trudy Stevens). Vera-Ellen came to White Christmas an accomplished dancer—at 18 she’d been one of the youngest Radio City Rockettes. Danny Kaye could cut the rug, but wasn’t nearly as nimble on his feet as Vera-Ellen, and toward the end of “The Best Things Happen When You’re Dancing,” he accidentally tripped her. (Luckily he caught her gracefully, saving the take.) Though he wasn’t the principal choreographer, Bob Fosse, who would go on to create the distinctive dance moves in Chicago, Cabaret, and All That Jazz, staged some of the dance numbers.

While the public adored the sweetly good-natured musical, some critics felt it was too saccharine. Bowley Crowther wrote a harsh review in The New York Times on October 15, 1954, saying, “The confection is not so tasty as one might suppose. The flavoring is largely in the line-up and not in the output of the cooks. Everyone works hard at the business of singing, dancing and cracking jokes, but the stuff that they work with is minor.”

But audiences didn’t care. White Christmas took in $12 million, the biggest box office hit of the year. And it endures as a heart-warming Christmas classic to revisit at this time of year. Even the New York Times admitted it was a good-looking film, saying, “The colors on the big screen are rich and luminous, the images are clear and sharp, and rapid movements are got without blurring.”