Wednesday, March 20, 2019

BING AND FRED ASTAIRE: TOP BILLING

Here's a great article from Steve Lewis' "Bing Crosby Internet Museum"...

Virtually all the polls at the end of the 20th century placed Fred Astaire at the top or near the top of professional dancers.

Astaire made some 30 memorable movie musicals, including 10 highly-acclaimed films with co-star Ginger Rogers. The Astaire-Rogers collaboration included "The Gay Divorce," "Roberta," "Top Hat," "Follow the Fleet," "Swing Time," "Shall We Dance?," "Carefree," "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle" and "The Barkleys of Broadway."

Astaire's success in the movies seemed as improbable as Bing Crosby's. He had a face the shape of a bartlett pear, a beanpole figure and a weak voice. In his first attempt at a movie career a Paramount executive wrote that Astaire "Can't act. Can't sing. Balding. Can dance a little." Astaire succeeded nonetheless. He sweated his way to the top. "He was a dictator who made me work harder and longer than anyone," said Nanette Fabray, one of his female costars.


Astaire introduced 36 hit songs in his movies from 1929 through 1951. According to Joel Whitburn, author of Pop Memories, eight Astaire recordings topped the pop charts: "Night and Day," "Cheek to Cheek," "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket," "The Way You Look Tonight," "A Fine Romance," "They Can't Take that Away from Me," "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and "Change Partners."

In 1942 Astaire and Crosby were paired in the Irving Berlin musical Holiday Inn. In the movie Bing wins the girl (Marjorie Reynolds) to whom he sings what turned out to be the most successful movie song of the century, White Christmas. Bing also dances with Astaire, who later said that "Bing's the kind of dancer that I am a singer." Nevertheless, for many years Fred would answer "Bing Crosby" when asked to name his favorite dance partner -- to avoid alienating any of his female co-stars.

Astaire's best dance scene in Holiday Inn was not with Crosby but when he hot-footed alone on stage to the accompaniment of a 4th of July firecracker display. The famous scene took 38 takes during which Fred lost 14 pounds. The large number of takes were at Fred's insistance. According to Crosby: "Fred's a perfectionist .... Every step, every movement there was a firecracker let off. Some he'd throw down like torpedoes and some he'd kick-off. He had to be in certain positions all the time to hit the right firecrackers so he'd be on camera.... It was pretty elaborately contrivied and had to be done perfectly. I thought the first take he did was great. They all looked alike to me, but there was a little something he didn't like in each one. He about wore out the director and wore out the crew and the sequence took two or three days." (Thompson, pages 93-94)

The success of Holiday Inn led to another Astaire-Berlin-Crosby musical called Blue Skies in 1946. A third collaboration of the ABC boys was supposed to be White Christmas. But when Astaire read the script he found other work. Instead, Danny Kaye was hired to fill Astaire's dancing shoes. "White Christmas" became the leading box office attraction of 1954 and a perennial Christmas holiday tradition.


Astaire appeared several times on Bing's radio and TV shows through the years and they shared mutual interests in golf and horse racing. During World War II their paths crossed while entertaining the troops in Europe. At one point they feared for their safety when trapped for 45 minutes in a Glasgow railway baggage room while surrounded by 35,000 fans demanding a performance. (Crosby, 197-99)

Ken Barnes, Bing's last album producer, persuaded Bing and Fred to record an album of duets in London in 1975. Barnes later recalled the contrasting styles of the two stars:

"Once the material had been decided upon, we paid only one visit to Bing's house which consisted of one hour and a half around the piano during which time Bing would sing each song through no more than twice -- once for the key and then once again for the tempo.... That solitary visit to Crosby's house was in no way comparable to the nine visits we made to Fred's house, each lasting a minimum of three hours. Whereas Crosby would approach each song in a casual, seemingly off-hand manner, Astaire went to the other extreme. He would plan each song routine as though it were an intricate piece of choreography."


When Bing and Fred arrived in London in July, their contrasting styles posed a problem. According to Barnes:

I rang the Connaught and got through to Fred. His first question could not have been more direct. "What time do we meet with Bing tomorrow?" There was no beating around the bush with Astaire either and I plunged straight in. "Bing can't make it tomorrow. He's tied up all day." I waited for Fred's comment but there was only silence from the telephone. "But he'll meet you a half hour before the session," I went on, "and run down each of the songs individually."

For a moment I thought we had been disconnected but after a few seconds Fred spoke and his comments about Crosby were anything but complimentary. He accused Bing of being totally irresponsible and unprofessional, but eventually, after he had got the initial anger out of his system, Fred conceded that this was Bing's way of working and it was too late to expect him to change. "But," added Fred, "it's not my way of working. It may be OK for the great Crosby to stroll into a studio and turn on the magic, but I can't work that way. I've got to rehearse with somebody." (Barnes, pages 47-53)

The Crosby-Astaire duet album turned out to be a hit. Apparently, Astaire held no grudge against Bing, for he agreed to be Bing's guest on his 1975 Christmas TV special, recorded in November. The TV special would be the last time the two worked together. Fred died of pneumonia at age 88 in the wee hours of June 12, 1987, in a Los Angeles hospital, where he had been admitted 10 days earlier for a bad cold...



Friday, March 1, 2019

LINDSAY CROSBY: POOF IT'S GONE

Here is an interesting blog article I found. Some different info in it...

The youngest of crooner Bing Crosby's four sons by his marriage to jazz singer Dixie Lee (real name Wilma Wyatt) was born in Los Angeles on January 5, 1938. Lindsay first appeared on film with brothers Gary, Dennis, and Phillip as audience members in the 1945 movie Out of This Worldf featuring his famous father. In 1957, he made his television debut on The Edsel Show with his father and Frank Sinatra. A nightclub act with his three brothers called the Crosby Boys ran until 1959. Never steadily employed, Lindsay read scripts for his father while trying to carve out a place for himself in films. However, he only managed to land bit parts in low-budget biker, exploitation, and horror films like The Girls from Thunder Strip (1966), The Glory Stompers (1967), Scream Free! a.k.a. Free Grass (1969), and Bigfoot (1970). He also briefly appeared in two seventies films (The Mechanic; Live a Little, Steal a Lot,1972) before making his final film, Code Name: Zebra in 1984.


Lindsay was 14 when his mother died in 1952. A trust fund set up by Dixie Lee based on then booming oil investments yielded each of the boys a monthly four figure check. Big Crosby married actress Kathryn Grant in 1957 and the 73 year old was happily raising a second family when he died of a heart attack on October 14, 1977, on a golf course in Madrid, Spain. If Der Bingle's sons were expecting to immediately inherit chunks of their father's considerable fortune they were soon disappointed. Perhaps he knew them too well. Lindsay, like older brother Gary, was an alcoholic and manic depressive who had suffered a nervous breakdown in 1962. In addition to several arrests for drunken driving and battery, Lindsay had also logged an arrest for indecent exposure in Durango, Colorado, in 1977 for running naked around a motel pool. The boys were shocked when they learned their father had left them money in a blind trust that could not be touched until they reached age 65.


On December 1, 1989, attorneys managing Dixie Lee's trust fund informed the brothers that the recent glut in the world's oil markets had wiped out their investments. Eleven days after learning that there would be no more monthly checks forthcoming, Lindsay Crosby took his life on December 11, 1989.

The 51 year old was staying in an apartment in Las Virgenes in the 26300 block of Bravo Lane while undergoing treatment for alcoholism at a center in nearby Calabasas, California. Crosby was set to return home for the weekend to his second wife and family in Sherman Oaks when a friend found him on the floor of his den dead from a single gunshot wound to the head. A small caliber rifle lay close by. Marilyn Riess, spokeswoman for Lindsay's older brother, Gary, offered this explanation for the act: "You're dealing with a 51-year-old man who finds himself with a wife and four kids living in a fairly expensive home. He's under treatment for alcoholism, he's a manic depressive and then you throw a bomb at him. The one thing he could depend on was his mother, even when she wasn't alive. Then it (the inheritance) was gone....Poof, it's gone." Older brother Dennis Crosby took his life in an eerily similar fashion on May 4, 1991...

Thursday, February 14, 2019

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: BING AND HIS LOVES

Bing Crosby had a hard time showing affection. Even in his movies, he rarely passionately kissed his leading ladies. In honor of Valentine's Day, here is Bing with some of the loves in his life.

with 1st wife Dixie Lee (1911-1952)


with mistress and co-star Joan Caulfield (1922-1991)


with girlfriend and co-star Grace Kelly (1929-1982)


with girlfriend Mona Freeman (1926-2014)


with girlfriend and co-star Ingrid Stevens (1934-1970)


with 2nd wife Kathryn Grant

Friday, February 1, 2019

JIMMY VAN HEUSEN: SWINGIN IN THE DESERT WITH FRANK AND BING

Jimmy Van Heusen: Swingin' in the Desert with Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

1:00 - 3:00 pm
Annenberg Theatre
Get Tickets Here $15





This composing genius created some of the most beloved melodies. Living in the desert for over five decades he played and collaborated with entertainment giants like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby creating classics such as "Swinging on a Star", "Love and Marriage", "Come Fly With Me" and "All the Way". Jimmy composed the songs for 23 Crosby movies and 76 songs for Frank Sinatra, more than any other composer.
Nominated 14 times Jimmy won 4 Academy Awards

Director Jim Burns, will introduce the film, Jimmy Van Heusen – Swingin’ with Frank & Bing, a documentary first aired on PBS, which looks at the life and music of the high-flying songwriter. Also shown will be a rare film tour of Jimmy’s mountaintop ranch near Yucca Valley from 1964.

The screenings will be followed by seldom-seen photos of Van Heusen enjoying the good life in the desert. A panel discussion moderated by Tracy Conrad, President of the Palm Springs Historical Society will follow the films.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

BING DESERVES A BIRTHDAY BASH

Here's an interesting article that I found online about how Bing deserve a birthday bash each year...

Yesterday was Elvis Presley’s birthday.

Because I once lived in Memphis, that sometimes makes me wonder.

Should Bing Crosby be a bigger deal in Spokane than he seems to be?

Oh, I realize Bing is and always will be an iconic figure here in the city where he grew up. Rightly so. He is a long, long way from being forgotten, here or elsewhere.

But here’s the thing. Elvis is practically an industry in Memphis. And though my memories of how that Tennessee city regarded the late singer are of the long-ago variety now, I remember that celebrations of his life were almost inescapable there.

Some of the reasons might be obvious.

Though both singers died in 1977, Elvis was much younger and closer to the height of his fame at that time.

His fan base was/is younger.

Though he spent a lot of time in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Elvis never stopped living in Memphis. Crosby had a lake place in Idaho, but Southern California was his adult home.

For those in Britain or Nova Scotia planning a pilgrimage, Memphis is easier to get to.

Because Elvis lived in Memphis as an adult, there are more people still alive there with relevant brush-with-fame stories.

And so on.

I’m not really sure what a heightened level of Crosby appreciation would look like here in Spokane. Beyond the acknowledgements our city already has in place, I mean. Everybody pretending to smoke a pipe on a designated Bing Day? Everybody dressing like Father O’Malley from “Going My Way”?

Maybe it would suffice if more people read the biography of the crooner by Gary Giddins. (The first volume has lots of Spokane stuff.)

Or perhaps we should just be satisfied to let time march on. Spokane has occasionally been accused of living in the past, after all...



Wednesday, January 2, 2019

NEW CD: HOLIDAY IN EUROPE AND POINTS BEYOND

The folks at Sepia Records have done it again. Another Bing CD is coming out on Feburary 8, 2019!




BING CROSBY: HOLIDAY IN EUROPE (AND POINTS BEYOND!)


An entertaining musical journey of 26 captivating Bing Crosby vocals from 1953-1961, including the complete stereo album 'Holiday in Europe'.Also included are some performances taped for his General Electric radio shows and new to CD, delightful collaborations about other locales with Louis Armstrong, Rosemary Clooney, and Bob Hope, and, as a final bonus, an endearing recording session rehearsal for the song C'est Si Bon (It's So Good).

Tracks:
1. April in Portugal
2. C'est Si Bon (It's So Good)
3. Never On Sunday
4. More And More Amor
5. Moment In Madrid
6. Morgen (One More Sunrise)
7. Two Shadows on the Sand
8. Under Paris Skies (Sous Le Ciel De Paris)
9. Domenica
10. Pigalle
11. My Heart Still Hears the Music (A Letter to Pinocchio)
12. Melancholie
13. Hawaiian Paradise
14. The Belle of Barcelona
15. Tobermory Bay
16. Along The Way To Waikiki
17. Down Among the Sheltering Palms
18. Road to Hong Kong
19. Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
20. Let's Sing Like a Dixieland Band
21. Paris Holiday
22. Medley: Pagan Love Song/Cuban Love Song
23. Medley: Down Argentina Way/What a Diff'rence a Day Made
24. Calcutta
25. Around the World
26. C'est Si Bon (It's So Good) (Rehearsal Track)

Check out the great Sepia website HERE

Sunday, December 23, 2018

BING ON FILM: WHITE CHRISTMAS - PART TWO


The song "Snow" was originally written for Call Me Madam with the title "Free," but was dropped in out-of-town tryouts. The melody and some of the words were kept, but the lyrics were changed to be more appropriate for a Christmas movie. The song "What Can You Do with a General?" was originally written for an un-produced project called Stars on My Shoulders.

Trudy Stevens provided the singing voice for Vera-Ellen, who did not have a suitable singing voice. It was not possible to issue an "original soundtrack album" of the film, because Decca Records controlled the soundtrack rights, but Clooney was under exclusive contract with Columbia Records. Consequently, each company issued a separate "soundtrack recording": Decca issuing Selections from Irving Berlin's White Christmas, while Columbia issued Irving Berlin's White Christmas. On the former, the song "Sisters" (as well as all of Clooney's vocal parts) was recorded by Peggy Lee, while on the latter, the song was sung by Rosemary Clooney and her own sister, Betty.

Berlin wrote "A Singer, A Dancer" for Crosby and his planned co-star Fred Astaire but when he was unavailable, Berlin re-wrote it as "A Crooner – A Comic" for Crosby and Donald O'Connor, but when O'Connor left the project so did the song. Another song written by Berlin for the film was "Sittin' in the Sun (Countin' My Money)" but because of delays in production, Berlin decided to publish it independently.] Crosby and Kaye also recorded another Berlin song ("Santa Claus") for the opening WWII Christmas Eve show scene, but it was not used in the final film. Their recording of the song survives though, and the song is cute but not great.


One of the greatest moments of the film is a bit Bing and Danny Kaye did off the cuff. According to Rosemary Clooney, Bing and Danny’s “Sisters” performance was not originally in the script. They were clowning around on the set, and director Michael Curtiz thought it was so funny that he decided to film it. In the scene, Crosby’s laughs are genuine and unscripted, and he was unable to hold a straight face. Clooney said the filmmakers had a better take where Crosby didn’t laugh, but the version with Crosby laughing was one that they used.

I find myself always comparing White Christmas to Holiday Inn, and I think that is unfair. The movies were done a decade apart and movie musicals were much different in 1954 than 1942. I prefer Holiday Inn, but I have a much better appreciation for White Christmas now that I have seen the film in a move theater. From the understated performance of Dean Jagger as the retired general to the superb dancing of Vera-Ellen to the banter of Crosby and Kaye, White Christmas is really a great film. Yes, the film is sentimental and cheesy at times. While I went to see the film in a theater my wife and kids ran errands, and I am glad. I had tears in eyes at the end when the general was recognized and realized he was not forgotten. I think that is a sign of a great movie that a movie made more than 60 years ago can still evoke emotion in 2017. At the end of the movie screening, the audience stood up and applauded, and I smiled to myself and thought of what a great Christmas gift this film was and is. Thanks again Bing!

MY RATING: 10 OUT OF 10






Tuesday, December 11, 2018

BING ON FILM: WHITE CHRISTMAS - PART ONE

I had the the great opportunity to see 1954’s White Christmas in a movie theater a couple of days before Christmas in 2017. I actually fulfilled one of my bucket list items by seeing a Bing Crosby movie in a theater. I had never had the pleasure of seeing one like that before. I have to admit that White Christmas has never been my favorite Crosby film. I thought the story was contrite, and I did not care for the pairing of Bing with funny man Danny Kaye. However, upon seeing this movie in the theater, I have a completely new appreciation for the film.

The beloved classic that everyone watches during the holiday season is a lot different from what was proposed in the beginning. At first, Bing Crosby turned down the role due to the recent death of his wife Dixie Lee. However, Bing knew working on a musical with Irving Berlin tunes was destined to be a hit so he signed. Bing had co-star approval, and had wanted Fred Astaire for the role of his Army buddy. Crosby and Astaire had previously starred in Holiday Inn (1942) and Blue Skies (1946) earlier. Astaire read the script, but he then turned it down. The last movie that Astaire had made for Paramount was the 1950 disastrous musical Let’s Dance with Betty Hutton, and by 1954 Astaire was really being choosy on what roles he was accepting at that point. Next Bing wanted to work with dancer Donald O’ Connor again. Donald had played Bing’s younger brother in an earlier Paramount musical Sing You Sinners in 1938, and Bing and Donald had work together on radio shows since then. O’Connor was all set to be in the film, until he broke his ankle right before film rehearsals were set to begin. This sent Paramount scrambling, and they came up with the idea of pairing Bing with comedian Danny Kaye.


Even though Kaye was third choice for the film, he had this to say about Bing:

"I loved to work with him. I had the feeling he was my close personal friend. The real truth is that everybody knows Bing, but no one knows him. Through the years, he has created a legendary character that is so vivid, no one knows where the legend begins and the real Crosby leaves off. I thought I knew Bing--thought I knew all about him until we started to make White Christmas. Then I realized I actually didn't know the man at all. The truth of the matter is, there isn't a lazy bone in Bing's body. He works harder than any man I've met--but he does it with an easy casualness that makes him look lazy." (The Danny Kaye Story pg 198).

The movie plot, as flimsy as it may be, does has some serious overtones. By 1954, World War II had been over for almost a decade, and the film touches on what happens to soldiers after the fighting is over. Like many of Irving Berlin’s movie musicals, the plot of White Christmas is basically a vehicle to move from song to song. Many of Berlin’s standards are present like “Blue Skies”, “Heat Wave”, “Abraham” and of course the title song that was sung in the first minutes of the movie by Bing, and then by the group at the end. The new songs that Berlin wrote for the film were good but not up to par with the songs he was writing two decades earlier. My favorite of these new songs was the torchy number “Love You Didn’t Do Right For Me” which was sung in the movie by Rosemary Clooney. Other new songs like “Snow” and “Sisters” have also become standards....  TO BE CONTINUED...


Friday, December 7, 2018

BING CROSBY'S MOST BELOVED YEARS

Bing Crosby was one of the most popular figures of the 20th century. His record sales were in the hundreds of millions, his movies were blockbusters, his weekly radio show topped the ratings. The way Crosby sang paved the way for Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Dean Martin and many others. A new biography called Swinging on a Star: The War Years 1940 -1946, out now, focuses on Crosby's life and career in the 1940s when the crooner's star shone the brightest. Written by jazz and film critic Gary Giddins, the book is the second in a multi-volume project chronicling Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby Jr.

Crosby was a singer first and foremost; his appeal started with his voice. "He had wonderful high notes. He had amazing low notes. He was like a cello when he was really in good voice," Giddins says.

Early in the decade, Crosby created the template for the multimedia entertainment superstar. He was seemingly everywhere, but despite the singer's enormous fame, he was humble and self-effacing, which made audiences embrace Crosby as one of their own.

"He really did come across as somebody — even though he's smarter than you are, and more talented than you are — as somebody that you really might know. As somebody who might live down the block," Giddins says. "That was one of the things he did on radio. He really gave the vernacular American voice back to Americans at a time when the networks wanted these mid-Atlantic 'How Now Brown Cow' kind of speakers."


In 1972, Crosby told a British television interviewer that when he began acting in movies, producers tried to improve his looks. They said that Crosby's ears stuck out too far, and got the makeup artist to pin them back with glue. Nevertheless, Crosby became a matinee idol. He won an Oscar for best actor in the 1944 film Going My Way. In the film, Crosby plays a parish priest in New York's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood who works miracles with the human heart, transforming a gang of street toughs into a boys' choir.

In his 1942 film Holiday Inn, Crosby sings an Irving Berlin song that would solidify his fame for years to come. "White Christmas," which remains the best-selling single of all time, struck a nerve with millions of Americans whose husbands, sons and lovers were fighting on a distant continent and dreaming of spending the holidays at home. Three years later, Crosby made a song, "It's Been A Long, Long Time," about the end of World War II, without explicitly mentioning war.


Crosby recorded between 50 and 70 singles per year in the 1940's. During World War II, he hosted golf tournaments and gave benefit concerts to sell war bonds and recorded special programs for the Armed Forces Radio Network. Just months after the D-Day invasion, Crosby traveled to France to entertain the troops wherever they were. Giddins says the singer's devotion to those fighting was tireless, and the public loved him for it. In a 1948 poll, Americans declared Bing Crosby the "most admired man alive."

"Nothing moved me more than when I was sitting in the Crosby house, going through his letters, and seeing how many parents, wives, siblings of dead soldiers felt they had to write to Crosby," Giddens says. "'How much my son or brother or husband loved you. How happy you made him when you went over there. I just want to say God Bless you.' Crosby was beloved."