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.”

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

HARRY CROSBY, HIS FATHER, AND WHITE CHRISTMAS

Here is a really nice article that was featured in the British newspaper Express. It was written by Deborah Collcutt...

Christmas Day is planned to ­perfection. Preparations don’t start too early – traditionally in mid-December – but no detail is too small to be considered. From the meticulously-selected Christmas tree decorations to the lunch menu of baked ham, everything is just right.

The highlight of the day is a rendition of Christmas songs, performed live by the ­children for assembled friends and family. All hardly surprising, perhaps, given the household in question is that of Bing Crosby’s son Harry, whose late father’s name encapsulates the magic of Christmas as much as Santa Claus himself. Bing’s grandchildren even perform their grandpa’s world-famous song White Christmas every year in tribute to the master crooner. “My son, Nicholas, and daughter, Thea, sing and play White Christmas on the piano for everyone,” says Harry, who lives in New York.

Harry, 61, continues: “It’s funny, I used to cringe at the idea of playing my father’s music but not now. People really love it – it’s a sustainable thing.”

Nearly 80 years after its 1942 release, White Christmas remains the world’s ­biggest-selling single – a whopping 50 million copies globally. Unsurprisingly, it remains a staple of radio and in-store music playlists over the festive season.

Now it is back in the Top 10 after 40 years and on course for a Christmas Number One after a new album, Bing at Christmas, a remastered recording with the London Symphony Orchestra, was released last month.


And the family is making a concerted effort to keep Bing’s memory alive and ­introduce him to new audiences. To that end, they are in talks about a dramatization of his life, along the lines of hit series The Crown on Netflix.

Harry was just 19 when his famous father died aged 74 on a golf course in Spain. At the time, Harry had been performing with Bing and singer Rosemary Clooney, aunt of movie star George, on an international tour, which had started in Britain.

“We had played several shows at the Palladium in London and were due to tour Japan and Australia but Dad wasn’t feeling well,” recalls Harry, who had classical ­training in piano, composition and orchestration.

“He terminated the tour because he wasn’t feeling up for stuff, travelling for six months over the world.”

Father and son closed the tour in Brighton on October 10, 1977 – Dame Gracie Fields was there to see the show – then went their separate ways. It was the last time Harry would see his father alive.

“I had just turned 19 and I decided to go back to school. I applied to Rada (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) and Lamda (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) to major in theatre and music but they were full up. The school year had started.

“I invited the dean of Lamda to come and see me perform at the Palladium with my dad. I sang a duet with Rosemary and I sang alone. Afterwards he said, ‘Start Monday!’

So I went to school during the day and ­performed with dad at night. I didn’t go out of my way to tell people who my dad was.

My objective was to ­assimilate as part of the group. But, of course, I couldn’t join them for a pint in the pub in the evenings because I was performing, plus Dad and I were living in an apartment in Mayfair.”


So Bing, who had been in generally good health according to his son, went to Spain on his own to play golf. Harry believes his father never ­recovered after falling off the stage seven months earlier at his 50th anniversary ­concert in California.

Having toppled 30 feet into the orchestra pit and ruptured a disc in his back, he spent a month in the hospital. In Spain, four days after their last concert, Bing collapsed and died of a massive heart attack at the end of his first day’s game of golf.

Harry, the only family member in Europe, had to fly home to California with his father’s body.

There his mother, Bing’s second wife, actress Kathryn Grant, now 86, his actress sister, Mary, and young brother Nathaniel, an amateur golfer, were waiting. After the funeral, Harry returned to Britain to ­continue his studies.

Harry Crosby says his father never pushed him into the music business.


“Certainly at that time I didn’t feel guilty that I wasn’t with him – you can’t change the outcome of things – but you grow up quickly when you lose a parent that young,” he says.

“Dad and I had a really strong ­relationship, both professionally and personally. As a father and a son, we were exceptionally close.”

Harry remains deeply saddened by ­comments made by his late half-brother, Gary – Bing’s eldest son from his first ­marriage to actress and nightclub singer, Dixie Lee – after their father’s death.

In a highly critical memoir, Going My Own Way, Gary depicted Bing as cruel, cold, remote, and physically and psychologically abusive.

But it is a description that Harry does not recognise. “I don’t know where it came from. I only know my own experience with my dad which was one of love, ­support, friendship and respect,” he says.

“My dad never pushed us into music or entertainment – we were exposed to it and I loved working together.


“We went fishing together and golfing and he was able to impart on us not just that we were loved but also the rules of the road – the way to behave. So I was sad to read those things.”

But there have been disputes between Bing’s two families dating back to Dixie’s death from cancer in 1952 when she left her share of their estate in trust to her sons.

Bing left his estate to Kathryn, and HLC Properties, Ltd was formed to manage his interests. In 1999, the families settled a ­dispute over the estates for a reported £1.2million. Now Harry and descendants of his half-siblings no longer see each other.

“It’s sad. I wish we did but we were raised in a different town and we never did see much of each other because of the age difference.

While Bing dedicated his life to singing –he didn’t play an instrument, apart from drums early on in his career – he also helped develop recording equipment so artists didn’t always have to perform live to ­preserve their voices.


After Bing’s death, Harry went into banking.

He studied business after a spell writing jingles for commercials but he maintains a passionate interest in music and he and his Croatian wife, Mihaela, support the performing arts Lincoln Center in New York.

These days, Harry plays at home for ­pleasure with Nicholas, 15, and Thea, 11, and loves the anonymity living in New York affords him.

“Mihaela is from Zagreb and her background is in microbiology,” he says.

“It was a joy she didn’t know who my father was,” laughs Harry.

“When we met, she said, ‘I love the fact your dad likes music, like you. Can I meet him?’”

The Crosby and Clooney families remain close although Harry hasn’t seen George for some time.

Now Harry is preparing to start his Christmas shopping, always a ­poignant moment because it means going into a mall where a certain song is always playing.

But while his younger sister Mary, says she found White Christmas heartbreaking to listen to after their father’s death, it’s always been a pleasure for Harry.


“It’s always wonderful to hear, it makes me feel good,” he says. “Mind you Little Drummer Boy is great, too.”

Bing recorded the latter as a duet with David Bowie in London a month before he died for a television ­special, Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas, which was to be his last. It was broadcast posthumously on Christmas Eve 1977.

“They just banged it out. They were going to cover it as a duet and then it turned into a single,” says Harry.

“They barely rehearsed but they were both such pros and of course they had a lot of respect for each other.”

But if he had to choose one festive single to save from the waves on a desert island? “White Christmas. Absolutely. Game over"...

Sunday, December 8, 2019

AUDIO ASPIRIN: CHRISTMAS STAR

Sunday, December 1, 2019

GUEST REVIEWER: HOLIDAY INN

Bruce Krogan is back to kick off our Christmas season with a review of the popular 1942 Bing flick Holiday Inn...

Finally Paramount gave Crosby a big budget musical and didn't rely on his charm and personality to carry the film. The budget went to hire such outside talent as Fred Astaire and Irving Berlin. And none of them disappoint.

In the first of two films Astaire and Crosby did together the characters are remarkably the same. Astaire is the elegant and charming show business professional who's ambitious for success. Crosby is the talented, but lazy partner who just wants a life of ease and comfort and not to work more than he has to. Small wonder that their double act broke up. But now enter a complication. They both get interested in the same girl who in this film is Marjorie Reynolds.

Crosby dreams up the idea of a nightclub/hotel called Holiday Inn where they only work on holidays. He wants Reynolds to help with the shows there. Astaire wants her for his act after his other girl partner Virginia Dale runs off with a millionaire. And the fun starts. Now since this was Crosby's home studio and he's first billed, just who do you think gets Reynolds in the end? As maid Louise Beavers put it, don't sit and mope because some slicker stole your gal.


Irving Berlin writes a majority of new songs to supplement a couple from his vast trunk of songs mostly about our holidays. By that time Berlin had extracted an agreement which became standard for all the films he wrote for. Not one note of non-Berlin music is ever heard in a score he writes. Just listen to this and just about any other film Berlin is associated with. Even music in the background is his.

The hit song in this was supposed to be Be Careful It's My Heart, the Valentine's Day song, sung by Crosby and danced to by Astaire and Reynolds. It did have a good deal of success. But the success of White Christmas was exponentially phenomenal. It netted Irving Berlin his one and only Academy Award and for Bing Crosby his number one item on vinyl. In fact everyone's number one item on vinyl.

I don't know if Bing Crosby ever set out to become the voice of Christmas, but if he did he was a marketing genius. If he's known and appreciated for anything with today's audience, it's for that. White Christmas became the first Yule song he was identified with although he had recorded some Christmas material before that. After this he started doing the holiday music in serious. Just think, along around Columbus Day, record companies even now reissue his Christmas stuff every year and his totals as largest selling recording artist in history grow once again. That's why the Beatles and Elvis, etc. don't have a prayer of overtaking him.


In fact White Christmas's initial success was so great that Decca wore out the original master putting out records to meet the demand. So in 1945, Decca got Bing, the Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter to re-record it almost note for note. The original 78 had White Christmas with the flipside of Let's Start the New Year Right also from Holiday Inn. The newer version which most people hear has as it's flipside God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

I don't want to ignore Fred Astaire's contribution here. He does a nice comic turn with I Can't Tell a Lie, the Washington's birthday number where Crosby keeps changing the tempo to upset him and Reynolds. The Fourth of July yields a number for each. Reynolds is kept from the show by Bing's machinations and Astaire has to "improvise" something. He "improvises" Firecrackers and anyone who knows anything about Astaire knows how hard he worked to get that spontaneous feeling in his dancing. Bing sings The Song of Freedom, reminiscent of James Cagney's Grand Old Flag number from Yankee Doodle Dandy also out in 1942 and Song of Freedom is also reminiscent of what Paramount could have given Bing in the 1930s had they hired someone like Busby Berkeley to give Bing some of the production numbers that Dick Powell had at Warner Brothers.

So what more is there to say, but sit back and enjoy the fun...

BRUCE RATING: 10 OUT OF 10
MY RATING: 10 OUT OF 10


Thursday, November 28, 2019

BING ON FILM: HERE COMES THE WAVES - PART THREE

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote a very favorable review of Here Comes The Waves on December 28, 1944:

"Paramount and its favored son, Bing Crosby aren't going precisely the same way that they went in Mr. Crosby's last picture—and everyone knows which way that was—but they are taking an agreeable turn together in "Here Come the Waves," which trooped into the Paramount yesterday. They are ambling along that vein of comedy, with vamped-in music, that Mr. Crosby used to rove, and they have Sonny Tufts and Betty Hutton as convivial companions this time. Sure, the traveling is nothing like as charming as it was on that last prize-winning tour, but it offers a few attractive vistas and several gaily amusing jolts.

In this one our old friend, the Bingle, doffs mufti for nautical attire and plays a swoon-throwing crooner who becomes a member of Uncle Sam's fleet. As a gob he runs into Miss Hutton playing twin sisters, both of them Waves—one a dignified lady and the other a jive-happy chick. He also becomes somewhat violently involved with Mr. Tufts, who is likewise a side-wheeling sailor with a strong luff toward one of the girls. And, what with confusion of identities and a Wave recruiting show to put on, a plot of comic sorts is concocted and the musical numbers are hauled in. 




Mr. Crosby sings most of the latter, either solo or in company with his pals, and does very nicely by them, as he does by his droll and genial role. "Accentuate the Positive," which is sung with Mr. Tufts, is probably the best of the several Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer tunes. Miss Hutton, in her broader characterization—meaning that of the more rambunctious sis—is also terrific in a gag song called "Strictly on My Own Tonight." Regarding Miss Hutton's dual performance, it should not be mistaken for high art, but it certainly can be commended as very vigorous virtuosity. And Mr. Tufts is dry and diverting as a mildly disturbing element.

There are several scenes in the picture of Waves in training which are atmospherically good, and the settings contrived for the Wave show are well above regulation grade. Paramount, in short, has been generous to the service in every respect. But the humor is the best part of the picture—and the best part of the humor is that which has Bing crooning in travesty of a famous "swooner" who shall be nameless (just this once)”


A Variety review from December 20, 1944 was favorable as well:

"A kinda corny title, “Here Come the Waves” manages to surmount the handle and emerges as a tiptop film. Interspersed in Crosby’s nifty song logy, Johnny Mercer-Harold Arlen have supplied a set of excellent songs, including a dandy novelty in “Accent-Tchu-ate the Positive”; two corking ballads in “Let’s Take the Long Way Home” and “I Promise You,” the latter as a duet with Betty Hutton playing the alter ego...‘Old Black Magic’ is reprised in a delicious rib on Frank Sinatra. Crosby is cast as the new pash crooner, and his mike-clutching stance, accented by the whinnying dames, leaves no secret as to whom Der Bingle refers. It’s a dandy take-off on The Voice, but it’s not harsh; in fact, it’s a sympathetic salve for all out-of-service crooners..."


Like I said earlier I am not sure about the pairing of Bing and Betty Hutton, but they were two very popular stars in 1944. Hutton does a good job playing twins, and when I was younger and first saw the film I thought they were two separate people. Sonny Tufts was a good foil for Bing, but in his other movies I have always found Sonny to be a bit wooden. However, I don’t want to dwell on the negative, because this is really a great Bing Crosby movie. I enjoy it for Bing and the music, and I also enjoy it for how it shows how life was like during the war years. Yes, this is not a war movie on the lines of Back To Bataan or Destination Toyko, but Here Comes The Waves could be considered a little biographical in a way. It shows the emergence of the bobby soxer crazy, and it also shows a famous people who wants to do his part for the war effort, which is what Bing wanted to do. The film admittedly contains more than its share of enthusiastic flag waving, but it is a clever spoof of what life was supposed to be like for a popular crooning idol.

I have been starting to show my two younger children Bing Crosby movies, and I was going to show them this film, but my son said to me “I’m just not ready to see a black and white movie yet”, so I showed them High Society to them. This movie is on my list of Bing films I want to show them though. Like I said, Here Comes The Waves is not a 100% accurate portrayal of the war, but it is accurate at showing the amount of patriotism the country and the war had in 1944 as it fought the evil powers that were threatening the world. If you have not seen this movie in awhile, do yourself a favor and give the film a viewing. You may find yourself humming and dancing to songs that are over 70 years old, or it may just inspire you to join the navy...

MY RATING: 10 out of 10







Thursday, November 21, 2019

BING ON FILM: HERE COMES THE WAVES - PART TWO

Filmed in Hollywood from May to August of 1944, it was the first and only time that Bing was paired with musical dynamite Betty Hutton. It was an odd pairing since Bing was so laid back, and Hutton was a nervous ball of energy. Hutton at the time was the musical queen at Paramount Studios so it would be natural to pair them together. Bing by this time had approval of his leading ladies, but I had the opportunity to interview actress Marjorie Reynolds’ daughter Linda in the mid 1990s, and she says that Bing had wanted Marjorie for the role of the twins, but the studio insisted on Hutton. Suprisingly Bing and Betty had a good bit of chemistry in the movie. However, Betty Hutton was one of those stars that had good things to say about Bing in the 1970s, but as the years went by she changed her mind. It was also reported that Bing dated Hutton in the 1950s after Dixie Lee died, but I find that hard to believe with all the personal problems that Betty Hutton had.


Like so many musicals of the time, the music makes the movie. Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen usually wrote the songs for Bing’s movies, and they won an Oscar for their song “Swingin On A Star” for Bing’s last movie Going My Way. However, for Here Comes The Waves, Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen were brought in to write the score. The song “That Old Black Magic” was featured in the movie, but Mercer and Arlen had written the song in 1942. The song was first recorded by Glenn Miller & His Orchestra, and Mercer wrote the lyrics with Judy Garland in mind. Bing sings the song and makes it his own as he croons in a style of a young Frank Sinatra. I do not understand why Bing did not record this song in 1944, because it was the musical highlight for me in the film, but he did record it late in his career in 1976.

There are also two really underrated love songs in the movie that Bing sang with Betty Hutton, but he recorded them as solos for Decca-“Let’s Take The Long Way Home” and “I Promise You”. Probably the most notable song in the film was “Accentuate The Positive”. In the film Bing and Sonny Tufts sings the song in a blackface number (this would be the last movie in which Bing would appear in blackface), but Bing recorded the number commercially with the Andrews Sisters. The song would be nominated for Best Song in 1945, but lost to the ballad “It Might As Well Be Spring” from State Fair. Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer also wrote a song that was not used for the film called “My Mama Thinks I’m A Star”. I have never heard the song, but I am guessing it was written for Betty Hutton....

TO BE CONTINUED...



REMEMBERING: F.B. WIGGINS (1929-2019)

This is a huge loss to the world of Bing Crosby fandom...

Frontis Burbank (Wig) Wiggins, Jr., retired Foreign Service Officer and internationally recognized Bing Crosby expert, died on October 29, 2019, at his home in Arlington, Virginia at the age of 90.

He was born in Thomasville, Georgia, on April 7, 1929 to Frontis Burbank and Emma Louise (King) Wiggins and grew up in Albany, Georgia, where his father owned a small business. After earning an Industrial Engineering degree from Georgia Tech (1950), he attended the University of Birmingham, England, on a Rotary Club scholarship, leaving in 1951 with a Graduate Commerce (MBA) degree plus lifelong friendships with fellow students and a permanent disgust for Brussels sprouts. While working for Standard Oil in Baton Rouge in 1952, he was called to naval service. After the Korean War he entered the University of California at Berkeley on the GI Bill, earning a 1956 Master of Political Science for his thesis on the election dispute that in 1946 briefly left Georgia with 3 simultaneous governors.

He entered the Foreign Service in 1956 and served his country at home and abroad for nearly 35 years. His first posts were Kenya and Guatemala, followed by Indonesia, where in 1960 he married an Embassy colleague, Laura Ponnone of Farmington, Connecticut, and where their daughter Joanne was born. His next post, Italy, was the birthplace of his son, Frontis Burbank III. His next overseas appointment was Deputy Chief of Mission (and frequent ChargĂ© d’Affaires) for Malta. After serving on, then heading, the Board of Examiners (which selects new Foreign Service officers), his final post was U.S. Consul for Brisbane, Australia. He retired in 1991.

He loved music of all kinds, from Hot Jazz and the Weavers to opera and Broadway, but his favorite by far was Bing Crosby. He was a serious collector, serving for decades as the American Representative for the International Club Crosby. He developed enduring friendships with Bing enthusiasts all over the world and contributed to the preservation of Crosby’s musical legacy. His encouragement sustained John McNicholas’ mission to issue all Bing’s recordings via the Chronological Bing Crosby, AKA the Jonzo Series. In 2015, he and co-author Jim Reilly published “The Definitive Bing Crosby Discography: From 78s to CDs.” He was invited by MCA records to edit a series of re-issues of Bing’ recordings, and he selected the music for over a dozen CDs featuring Bing’s wide range, including 21 gold records, Hawaiian, Irish, and Western songs, and of course Christmas music, the genre Bing pioneered. He was also closely involved with Hofstra University’s 2002 “Bing! Crosby and American Culture” conference.

He lost his wife Laura in 2007 after 47 years of devoted partnership. He is survived by his brother, James Marvin (Adele Cooke), of Glen Eden Beach, Oregon, his daughter, Joanne (Shelley Platt), of Richmond, and his son, Frontis Burbank III, and grandson, Frontis Burbank (Primo) IV, of Fairfax...