Wednesday, August 27, 2014

BING CROSBY: THE SILVER SCREEN COLLECTION


From Universal Studios Home Entertainment: Bing Crosby: The Silver Screen Collection
FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, THE LARGEST COMPILATION OF BING CROSBY'S CLASSICS IN ONE TIMELESS DVD COLLECTION...

 
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif., Aug. 26, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Bing Crosby: The Silver Screen Collection presents the legendary performer in 24 of his most memorable films available November 11, 2014 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.



Bing Crosby was a superstar of movies, music, radio and television during a spectacular career that lasted over 50 years, earning over an astounding $1 billion in ticket sales. From his Academy Award-winning performance in 1944's Best Picture winner Going My Way to his series of classic comedic "Road" films with Bob Hope to entertaining musicals enlivened by his distinctive baritone, Crosby is featured in top form crooning some of his most memorable songs such as "June in January," "Swinging on a Star," Sweet Leilani," "I've Got a Pocketful of Dreams" and the evergreen "White Christmas" from Holiday Inn.

This timeless collection will entertain longtime fans and introduce a whole new generation to the legendary style of the most popular singing star of the 20th century in his most unforgettable roles and diverse performances from his early career in the 1930s to his superstar roles in the 1940s. The collection also features iconic screen legends Bob Hope, Fred Astaire, Carole Lombard, Donald O'Connor, Barry Fitzgerald, and many more. Bing Crosby: The Silver Screen Collection includes:

College Humor (1933)
We're Not Dressing (1934)
Here is My Heart (1934)
Mississippi (1935)
Rhythm on the Range (1936)
Waikiki Wedding (1937)
Double or Nothing (1937)
Sing You Sinners (1938)
East Side of Heaven (1939)
Road to Singapore (1940)
If I Had My Way (1940)
Rhythm on the River (1940)
Road to Zanzibar (1941)
Birth of the Blues (1941)
Holiday Inn (1942)
Road to Morocco (1942)
Going my Way (1944)
Here Come the Waves (1944)
Road to Utopia (1946)
Blue Skies (1946)
Welcome Stranger (1947)
Variety Girl (1947)
The Emperor Waltz (1948)
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949)

DVD Collection Bonus Features:

 American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered

A new feature-length PBS documentary on the life and career of Bing Crosby with new interviews, never-before-seen footage and photos by Emmy-winning director Robert Trachtenberg

Plus featurette, original theatrical trailers and more!

Friday, August 22, 2014

BEHIND THE SCENES OF BING AND BOWIE

BEVERLY HILLS, California (AP) — David Bowie's duet with Bing Crosby on the entertainer's 1977 Christmas television special left an indelible impression on Crosby's teenage children.
Harry, Mary and Nathaniel Crosby were on set when Bowie arrived to tape his appearance. The mash-up between the cardigan-clad singer known for "White Christmas" and the glam rocker who was in his Ziggy Stardust phase required some last-minute reworking of "The Little Drummer Boy."
The result was a new melody and lyrics called "Peace on Earth." The duet remains a holiday staple and a curiosity. Bowie was 30 and Crosby was 73 at the time. Crosby died of a heart attack a month after the taping in September 1977.
Mary Crosby remembered Bowie arriving on set.
"The doors opened and David walked in with his wife. They were both wearing full-length mink coats, they have matching full makeup and their hair was bright red," she told the summer TV critics' tour Wednesday. "We were thinking, 'Oh my god.'"
Nathaniel Crosby added, "It almost didn't happen. I think the producers told him to take the lipstick off and take the earring out. It was just incredible to see the contrast."
Watching in the wings, the Crosby kids noticed a transformation.
"They sat at the piano and David was a little nervous," Mary Crosby recalled. "Dad realized David was this amazing musician, and David realized Dad was an amazing musician. You could see them both collectively relax and then magic was made."
The Crosby siblings — now all in their 50s — and their 80-year-old mother, Kathryn, made a rare public appearance together Wednesday to discuss the American Masters episode, "Bing Crosby Rediscovered," airing Dec. 2 on PBS...


Thursday, August 14, 2014

JIMMY VAN HEUSEN: SWINGIN' WITH FRANK AND BING


When they talk about the great golden-age songwriters like Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and the Gershwins, they sometimes leave out Jimmy Van Heusen.

This delightful hour proves that’s a mistake.

Van Heusen, who borrowed his name from an ad for men’s dress shirts, wrote the likes of “Swinging on a Star,” “All the Way,” “High Hopes,” “Love & Marriage,” “Call Me Irresponsible,” “Come Fly With Me” and “Here’s That Rainy Day."

As that list suggests, he wrote a lot of songs that were scarfed up by his pal Frank Sinatra. Earlier he wrote a lot of songs that were recorded by another pretty good singer, Bing Crosby. Van Heusen composed “Moonlight Becomes You,” not to mention the songs for six of Crosby’s seven “Road” pictures with Bob Hope.

The special also touches on his reputation, apparently well earned, as what used to be called “a ladies’ man.” Specifically, someone cracks that Sinatra wanted to be Van Heusen.

For the record, Van Heusen eventually settled down, married and bought a horse ranch.

Most of the special focuses, though, on the music. As a composer, Van Heusen had a gift for irresistible melodies, plus the good sense, reputation and connections to work with lyricists like Sammy Cahn.

They often turned out songs on demand, which is how movie musicals, or movies with songs, used to work.

A childhood prodigy, Van Heusen switched coasts a couple of times, spending part of the ’50s with the New York nightclub crowd and eventually ending up closer to the film biz in L.A.

“Jimmy Van Heusen” leaves a clear impression, strongly supported by multiple clips of singers performing his songs, that no “great composers” sentence should omit his name.



Sunday, August 10, 2014

BING AND MARTIN MCQUADE

Martin McQuade, a Bay Ridge crooner who has performed songs made famous by the likes of Bing Crosby and Dean Martin, is paying tribute to the King.
McQuade’s new dinner show, to be presented at Hunters Steak and Ale House at 9404 Fourth Ave. on July 17, will honor Elvis Presley.
“I will perform a show honoring the 60th anniversary of Elvis Presley's very first recording session (July 5, 1954) as well as his first live professional appearance (July 30, 1954),” McQuade wrote in an email to the Brooklyn Eagle.
Pianist Pete Sokolow will accompany McQuade as the singer celebrates the milestones of Presley’s early career.
McQuade has dedicated much of his adult  life to the study and singing of American popular music. He has been regularly performing at restaurants in Bay Ridge for more than 10 years.
McQuade is a graduate from New York University, where he earned a BA in Cinema Studies. His radio series, “Going Hollywood,” appeared on WNYE-FM for many years. In 2002, Martin served as guest curator for Hofstra University’s conference, “Bing! And American Culture.”
From 2003 – 2008 he worked for Bing Crosby’s widow, Kathryn Crosby, serving as her special events coordinator. McQuade assisted her with the organization of several tributes and retrospectives honoring her late husband. Among the tributes was a 2004 New York Public Library series, “Celebrating the Crosbys.” McQuade also arranged several visits that Kathryn Crosby made to Brooklyn, including two visits she paid to the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton in 2005 and 2006.
McQuade is currently a consultant for Bing Crosby Enterprises. He has written liner notes on albums and served as production assistant for the company's recent CD and DVD releases. He is also a correspondent for Bing Magazine, published by the International Club Crosby.
Martin is writing the liner notes for a forthcoming deluxe Crosby jazz collection due to be released this fall.
Martin has also just completed a promotional campaign for a major Dean Martin exhibition held in New York in June...

Monday, August 4, 2014

SPOTLIGHT ON WILLIAM HOLDEN

William Holden was one of the biggest box office draws of the 1950s. A combination of good looks and acting ability made him a sought after actor. His association with Bing came in a few ways. He starred with Bing in the tense drama The Country Girl in 1954. Like Bing, Holden dated his co-star from the movie Grace Kelly. Then after Bing died in 1977, Bill Holden narrated a documentary on Bing a year later. Like Crosby, Holden was one of the leader movie actors. However, personal demons derailed his career in the 1960s and caused him to have a tragic end in 1981. 

Holden, eldest of three sons (brothers were Robert and Richard), was born William Franklin Beedle, Jr. in O'Fallon, Illinois on April 17, 1918, the son of Congregationalist parents Mary Blanche (née Ball), a schoolteacher, and William Franklin Beedle, Sr., an industrial chemist. Holden's first starring role was in Golden Boy (1939), in which he played a violinist turned boxer. That was followed by the role of George Gibbs in the film adaptation of Our Town.

After Columbia Pictures picked up half of his contract, he alternated between starring in several minor pictures for Paramount and Columbia before serving as a 2nd lieutenant in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, where he acted in training films. Beginning in 1950, his career took off when Billy Wilder tapped him to star as the down-at-the-heels screenwriter Joe Gillis who is taken in by faded silent-screen star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) in Sunset Boulevard, for which Holden earned his first Best Actor Oscar nomination.

Following this breakthrough film, he played a series of roles that combined good looks with cynical detachment, including a prisoner-of-war entrepreneur in Stalag 17 (1953), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, a pressured young engineer/family man in Executive Suite (1954), an acerbic stage director in The Country Girl (1954), a conflicted jet pilot in the Korean War film The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), a wandering braggart in Picnic (1955), a dashing war correspondent in Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955), an ill-fated prisoner in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and a WWII tug boat captain in The Key (1958).


He also played a number of sunnier roles in light comedy, such as the handsome architect pursuing virginal Maggie McNamara in the controversial Production Code-breaking The Moon is Blue (1953), as Judy Holliday's tutor in Born Yesterday (1950), as a playwright captivated by Ginger Rogers' character in Forever Female (1953) and as Humphrey Bogart's younger brother, a playboy, in Sabrina (1954), which also starred Audrey Hepburn.

Holden starred in his share of forgettable movies — which he was forced to do by studio contracts — such as Paris When It Sizzles (1964), also co-starring Audrey Hepburn. By the mid-1960s, his roles were having less critical and commercial impact. According to the Los Angeles County Coroner's autopsy report, on November 12, 1981, Holden was alone and intoxicated in his apartment in Santa Monica, California, when he slipped on a throw rug, severely lacerated his forehead on a teak bedside table, and bled to death. Evidence suggests he was conscious for at least a half hour after the fall but may not have realized the severity of the injury and did not summon aid, or was unable to call for help. His body was found four days later.

Holden dictated in his will that the Neptune Society cremate him and scatter his ashes in the Pacific Ocean. No funeral or memorial service was held, per his wishes...



Friday, July 25, 2014

DOUBLE BING

In this Stetson ad, you get two Bings promoting their line of hats. This ad came out when Bing was promoting his new film Emperor Waltz in 1948...



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

BLUE SKIES OUTTAKES


One of Bing Crosby's greatest musicals was 1946's Blue Skies. For sheer amount of songs alone, the film boasted over two dozen Irving Berlin songs. Bing recorded a lot of songs for the movie soundtrack in July of 1945, and many of them were short medleys. Some of the songs made it into the film and some did not. Here is a video with all of the medleys Bing recorded for the film...





Thursday, July 10, 2014

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: BING AND PHIL HARRIS

One of Bing Crosby's best friends - an even better friend than Bob Hope - was the great Phil Harris (1904-1995). Bing and Phil did not do a lot of professional work together, but from the pictures below you can see they shared a love of hunting. Phil was one of the few celebrities who was allowed to attend Bing's very private funeral and burial in 1977...










Bing and Phil with Jack Benny


Bing and Phil with James Garner and Randolph Scott

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A BING SONG: BALLAD FOR AMERICANS

During this 4th of July season, now more than ever, we need to listen to songs that really spotlight how great our Country was and could still be. One such composition is the beautiful “Ballad For Americans”. The song is actually an American patriotic cantata with lyrics by John La Touche and music by Earl Robinson.

Originally titled "The Ballad for Uncle Sam", it was written for a WPA theatre project called Sing for Your Supper. The show opened on April 24, 1939. Congress abolished the Project on June 30, 1939. The “Ballad of Uncle Sam” had been performed 60 times.Producer Norman Corwin then had Robinson sing “Ballad of Uncle Sam” for the CBS brass. CBS was impressed and hired Paul Robeson to perform the song. 

Corwin retitled the song “Ballad for Americans.” Robeson and Robinson rehearsed for a week. On Sunday, November 5, 1939, on the 4:30 pm CBS radio show The Pursuit of Happiness, Robeson sang “Ballad for Americans” (Time, November 20, 1939). Norman Corwin produced and directed, Mark Warnow conducted, Ralph Wilkinson did the orchestration (in Robeson's key), and Lyn Murray handled the chorus. Robeson subsequently began to perform the song, beginning with a repeat on CBS on New Year’s Eve. Robbins Music Corporation published the sheet music.

Victor Records decided to record and release the song. Robinson recommended the American People’s Chorus for the recording and he re-rehearsed them in Robeson’s key. (Robinson had written the song to the key of E.) Nathaniel Shilkret conducted the recording. Time Magazine mentioned the album on the May 6, 1940 issue. On May 14, 1940, a full page ad for the records (a four-sided album on 78 rpm records) appeared in the New York Daily News. Each side of the album ended with the lyrics “You know who I am.” By the end of 1940, the album had sold more than 40,000 copies.

On July 6, 1940, Bing Crosby recorded the song for Decca. It became a huge hit for Decca and rivaled Paul Robeson’s version of it. Bing’s version is a scaled down version, along with more wording to fit his personality. Decca released the song as a two doubled sided blue label 78rpms. MGM then included the song as the finale of the 1942 movie Born to Sing (choreographed by Busby Berkeley and sung by Douglas McPhail). Jules Bledsoe, James Melton and others also performed the song. Lawrence Tibbett performed it on NBC for the Ford Hour. The British premiere was in September 1943 with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hugo Weisgall.



In the 1940 presidential campaign it was sung at both the Republican National Convention (by baritone Ray Middleton) and that of the Communist Party. Its popularity continued through the period of World War II — in autumn 1943, 200 African American soldiers performed the piece in a benefit concert at London's Royal Albert Hall. After the war, Robeson transferred from Victor to Columbia Records. Victor responded by withdrawing Robeson’s Ballad from their catalogue. In 1966, Vanguard Records released Robeson’s recording on a 3313 rpm record. It has been periodically revived, notably during the United States Bicentennial (1976).

Invoking the American Revolution (it names several prominent revolutionary patriots and quotes the preamble of the Declaration of Independence), and the freeing of the slaves in the American Civil War (there is a brief lyrical and musical quotation of the spiritual "Go Down Moses"), as well as Lewis and Clark, the Klondike Gold Rush, and Susan B. Anthony, the piece draws an inclusive picture of America: "I'm just an Irish, Negro, Jewish, Italian, French and English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Polish, Scotch, Hungarian, Litwak, Swedish, Finnish, Canadian, Greek and Turk and Czech and double-check American — I was baptized Baptist, Methodist, Congregationalist, Lutheran, Atheist, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, Presbyterian, Seventh-day Adventist, Mormon, Quaker, Christian Scientist — and lots more."

If you want to listen to what America is and should be listen to Bing’s version and the other versions of “Ballad For Americans.” It will give you a lump in your throat and pride in your country. God bless America…

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

GUEST REVIEWER: MR. MUSIC


Bing Crosby guru Bruce Kogan is back to review another Bing film - Mr. Music. This forgotten 1950 film has always been a guilty pleasure Bing movie with me...

When this film first came out in 1950 it was like Babe Ruth hitting a double. The score by Burke-Van Heusen is serviceable for Crosby, a couple of nice numbers. In fact the best number in the movie is And You'll Be Home, sung at a college assembly by Bing who is later joined by the whole ensemble. Unfortunately it occurs in the first 20 minutes of the movie so then it's downhill.

Bing plays a golf loving composer who's lost his muse and would rather spend more time on the links and at the track then working. His producer, Charles Coburn, hires Nancy Olson who is a graduating student from Bing's alma mater as a secretary to keep Bing's nose to the grind- stone. That has complications for Bing's steady, Ruth Hussey and Olson's inamorata, Robert Stack. Suffice it to say that everyone winds up with someone in the end.


It's a show business story, but not one like those Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney let's put on a show. We got some sophisticated folks in this story, not the usual kind who Bing hangs around with in the normal course of his films. A whole lot of the film action takes place in Bing's Park Avenue penthouse and Crosby looks a little lost there. He has some funny moments with Ida Moore, Tom Ewell, and Richard Haydn.

Of course a show is the highlight of the film and one awkward moment comes when Charles Coburn is amazed at some of the show business types Bing's obtained the services for a preview of his new Broadway show. At one point Coburn remarks to Crosby, "there's Dorothy Kirsten of the Metropolitan Opera" like he doesn't know who she is. But the audience probably doesn't. Still it looks so phony when the next performer they run into is Groucho Marx. No one thought of giving Coburn a line like "there's Groucho Marx of the Marx Brothers."

Speaking of Groucho he and Crosby sing a duet of Life Is So Peculiar which Bing had sang earlier in the movie with Peggy Lee. The film should be seen for both versions of this number also.

If you love Bing as I do or if you want to see him sing with Groucho Marx and Peggy Lee by all means see this film...

BRUCE'S RATING: 5 OUT OF 10
MY RATING: 8 OUT OF 10