Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Of all the melancholy memories of Jan Hooks -- who died on October 9, 2014 at the age of 57 -- certainly none resonate more with me, and maybe you too, than this remarkable short film that aired during the ninth episode of the 14th season of "Saturday Night Live."

For "SNL," "Love is a Dream" was a departure -- and "SNL" has never quite "departed" in this way since. This short film -- which "SNL" fans will vividly recall also repeated as a tribute, following Hartman's death in 1998 -- was directed by Tom Schiller, a true "SNL" original (and, in fact, a member of the original writing team) who had created other short films/send-ups of classics like "La Dolce Gilda," or "Java Junkie" -- influenced naturally by "Reefer Madness."

This film is based on the cornpone weepy "The Emperor Waltz," a 1948 before-he-was-great Billy Wilder romantic fantasy starring Joan Fontaine and Bing Crosby, about a lovestruck Austrian princess, her dog and a salesman from Newark who wanted to marry her, but dear old dad -- the King, or whatever -- didn't think that was such a good idea. (For one thing, he didn't think they could live happily ever after in Newark...seriously, that was a reason.)

Here's what Schiller told Mike Thomas, as recounted in his just-published (and excellent) biography of Hartman, "You Might Remember Me": "Phil was a gentleman and she was a gentle lady. They weren't crass. They weren't showbiz types climbing to the top. That's why they had fun on the shoot, because it was away from Studio 8H, they got their own costuming, they were the stars. There was no one else telling them what to do. And it just wasn't for laughs every two lines." As it turns out, this short film, with principal photography by Neal Marshad, may well have been Hooks' finest moment on "SNL" -- and there wasn't a single laugh to be had...


Tuesday, October 21, 2014


"It's one of the best-loved scores ever," Gordon Greenberg says of Holiday Inn, the 1942 Bing Crosby-Fred Astaire musical film that launched the lives of now-classic Irving Berlin songs including "White Christmas" and "Easter Parade." Greenberg, the director and reinventor of musicals including Working and The Baker's Wife, is now helming the show in a new adaptation he coauthored with Chad Hodge. The world premiere production is currently running at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut, through December 7.

The classic film revolves around Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby's role, here played by Tally Sessions) and Tim Hanover (Fred Astaire on film, now Noah Racey), longtime vaudeville performers whose partnership comes to an end when Ted announces that he's going to run off with Jim's girlfriend, the dancer Lila Dixon (Hayley Podschun taking on Virginia Dale's screen role). Jim, using this as the impetus to retire, buys a New England farmhouse and converts it into an inn that is open to the public only on major holidays. It's a relatively quiet existence, until Ted returns and sets his sights on Jim's new lady friend, Linda Mason (Patti Murin, in the Marjorie Reynolds role).
Gordon Greenberg, director
For Greenberg, it was the opportunity to make the story that had a surprising mature subject matter (for a family film) just a touch more family-friendly. "In the original, it was a romantic triangle," he says. "Fred Astaire was literally stealing his best friend's fiancée. In this version, it's not about him stealing his best friend's fiancée, but instead offering her a golden opportunity in show business." It's an idea that he finds more contemporary — "the pull of accomplishment and success and how one defines that" — and one that he hopes will resonate with today's audiences. That's not the only thing that's been changed. The painfully dated blackface number "Abraham," presented in honor of Abraham Lincoln's birthday, has been excised completely, as it is when the film is broadcast annually on television.
Despite the presence of a cast of Broadway regulars and the backing of none other than the Universal Stage Productions division of Universal Pictures, a New York run isn't guaranteed. Still, the success of the stage version of Berlin's White Christmas, which toured the United States and Europe before landing on Broadway in 2008 and 2009, is encouraging. But the two shows couldn't be more different, at least in terms of becoming a holiday perennial. "The difference between that and this is that this is a musical in ten holidays, as we like to say. Christmas is only a small percentage of the show. We spend just as much time on Easter," Gordon says. "Just in terms of Americana, it probably has more in common with The Music Man than it does with White Christmas."


Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Thirty-seven years later Bing Crosby is still missed...


Friday, October 10, 2014


It is hard to believe that the 1954 musical White Christmas is turning 60 years old. It is all being reissued on DVD...

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas Diamond Anniversary Edition from Paramount celebrates the 60thanniversary of the holiday classic starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. The Blu-Ray Combo Pack arrives on October 14th and includes new special features, such as five classic Christmas television show appearances by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, including a virtual duet between Bing Crosby and Michael Bublé.
There’s also an exclusive twelve-song Christmas CD featuring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney, with guest appearances by Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and Judy Garland. The CD includes eight never- before-released tracks.
The release also celebrates the 60th anniversary of Danny Kaye’s appointment as UNICEF’s first Goodwill Ambassador, and The Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye Foundation and Paramount Pictures are proud to make a combined $100,000 donation to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to support UNICEF’s lifesaving work for children around the world. Danny Kaye received an honorary Academy Award for Assignment Children. The 1954 short film documented his world travels for UNICEF. Assignment Children – with a new introduction by Michael Bublé – is included among the bonus features of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas Diamond Anniversary Edition...

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Of all the new releases I am looking foward to this one most. I love this concept album Bing recorded originally in 1956. He was in great voice. This will be coming out on November 25th...

1. April Showers
2. When My Baby Smiles at Me
3. My Blue Heaven
4. A Little Kiss Each Morning
5. Prisoner of Love
6. Ain't Misbehavin'
7. Paper Doll
8. This Love of Mine
9. Thanks for the Memory
10. Blues in the Night
11. Mona Lisa
12. Memories Are Made of This
13. Thank Heaven For Little Girls - Previously unissued.
14. You'll Never Know - Previously unissued.
15. At Sundown - Previously unissued.
16. Cocktails for Two
17. Way Down Yonder in New Orleans - Previously unissued.
18. Mandy Make Up Your Mind - Previously unissued.
19. Deed I Do - Previously unissued.
20. Lady of Spain - Previously unissued.
21. Heart of My Heart (with The Four Aces) - Previously unissued.
22. A Kiss to Build a Dream On - Previously unissued.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Here are the track details for the new CD compilation of Bing singing Irving Berlin tunes. This comes out on November 25th...

1. Alexander's Ragtime Band (with Connee Boswell)
2. Call Me Up Some Rainy Afternoon
3. When the Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabam'
4. When I Lost You
5. Tell Me Little Gypsy
6. All By Myself
7. Always (with Eugenie Baird)
8. Let's Start the New Year Right
9. Abraham
10. Kate (Have I Come Too Early, Too Late?)
11. Blue Skies (featuring Les Paul)
12. I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
13. I Got the Sun in the Morning
14. Easter Parade (with Trudy Erwin)
15. Some Sunny Day
16. Call of the South (with Gary Crosby)
17. Play a Simple Melody (with Dick Powell)
18. There's No Business Like Show Business (with the Andrews Sisters and Dick Haymes)
19. Puttin' on the Ritz
20. A Man Chases a Girl (Until She Catches Him)
21. The Song is Ended (But the Melody Lingers On)
22. White Christmas (with Michael Buble)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Here are the track details for the 60th anniversary issue of the Some Fine Old Chestnuts album. The reissue comes out November 25th...

1. Do You Ever Think of Me
2. I Never Knew (That Roses Grew)
3. Somebody Loves Me
4. After You've Gone
5. Sleepy Time Gal
6. Dinah
7. I Never Knew (I Could Love Anybody)
8. I Can't Give You Anything But Love
9. In A Little Spanish Town
10. Honeysuckle Rose
11. Ol' Man River
12. Swanee
13. Painting the Clouds with Sunshine - Previously unissued
14. Bright Eyes - Previously unissued
15. Avalon Town - Previously unissued
16. Sometimes I'm Happy (with Helen O'Connell) - Previously unissued
17. I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me - Previously unissued
18. Hallelujah - Previously unissued
19. I Can't Give You Anything But Love (Rehearsals) - Previously unissued and never broadcast.
20. I Can't Give You Anything But Love - Previously unissued
21. I Never Knew (I Could Love Anybody) (take 2) - Previously unissued
22. I Never Knew (That Roses Grew) - Previously unissued and never broadcast.
23. After You've Gone (take 2) - Previously unissued and never broadcast.

Friday, September 26, 2014


You often hear about Bing Crosby - the crooner, the hunter, the movie star, the golfer - but you never really hear or see stories about Bing reading. I looked through the picture files and found some great photos of Bing reading. He read a lot from sheet music to the newspaper...


With Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland


With Gary Crosby

Friday, September 19, 2014


Here is some exciting news from the Bing Crosby Archive and Universal Music. It is a good time to be a Bing Crosby fan...

American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered – The Soundtrack includes several previously unissued recordings of songs heard in the film, and is one of four new CD releases coming on November 25th from the Bing Crosby Archive and Universal Music Enterprises.

Also coming, Bing Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook, a brand new compilation featuring familiar classics from Bing’s Decca catalog alongside rare previously unissued recordings. The album features the first ever CD release of the 2012 Michael Bublé – Bing Crosby duet of “White Christmas.”

Expanded reissues of two classic Decca Crosby albums, Songs I Wish I Had Sung the First Time Around (Deluxe Edition) and Some Fine Old Chestnuts (60th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) also feature previously unissued recordings, as well as newly remastered versions of the albums taken directly from the original master tapes, which had been stored in the Crosby archive for decades.


Thursday, September 18, 2014


The singer-actor-entrepreneur purchased a stake in the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1946; years after his death, a pristine recording of what's been called The Best Game Ever — the seventh game of the 1960 World Series — was found in his cellar...

Bing Crosby ranked among the wealthiest entertainers of his era and was an early, highly successful multihyphenate.
The singer-actor-entrepreneur sold a half-billion records; did a string of hit movies withBob Hope; won a best actor Oscar for 1944'sGoing My Way; and in 1948 invested in a "fast freezing" process that paid off handsomely when it became Minute Maid. By the late 1950s, his wealth was estimated at up to $130 million in today's dollars. But the investment that got the most attention was his 1946 purchase of a 25 percent stake in the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The total price for the team was $2.25 million ($29 million today). Crosby always had been interested in baseball (he'd played semipro ball in his youth), but since 1937 he'd owned part of the Del Mar racetrack in Southern California.
At that time, the baseball commissioner was the formidable Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who prohibited anyone involved in what he considered the shady world of horse racing from becoming involved in Major League Baseball. When Landis died in 1944, the door opened for Crosby.
Arguably the biggest effect the singer had on MLB history was in preserving what's been called The Best Game Ever, the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, in which Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski hit a game-ending home run to beat the Yankees 10-9 after the lead had changed four times. Crosby, who had a passionate interest in videotaping -- Ampex, an early tape-recorder manufacturer, was another of his investments -- believed he'd be a jinx to the Pirates since they'd lost a number of games he'd attended, so he arranged for a kinescope (a pre-videotape recording process) of the last game to be made. Crosby died at 74 in 1977, and in 2010 the pristine copy of the NBC broadcast was found in his wine cellar.
"There's no replays or no nothing except the actual play," says 1960 Cy Young Award winner Vernon Law, now 84, who pitched the game's first seven innings for the Pirates. "I could remember every pitch I threw to every hitter. I remember those things like it was yesterday." Nine years after Crosby's death, the team was sold to a group of Pittsburgh businessmen...