Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Never-before-released TV Specials, unseen for decades!

From the 1950s through the ’70s Bing Crosby starred in 30 highly rated TV specials that featured a who’s who of guest stars. Bing’s groundbreaking broadcasts have never been available in one comprehensive collection—until now.

The Best of the Bing Crosby Specials DVD collection features all of Bing’s iconic hits, including “Pennies from Heaven,” “Swinging on a Star,” “Don’t Fence Me In,” “It’s Easy to Remember,” “Dina,” and of course, “White Christmas.”

You’ll get 26 Episodes on 11 DVDs, featuring the very best of Bing’s acclaimed specials, along with hours of bonus features. Highlights Include:

Bing’s good friends Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Dean Martin appeared on multiple specials, and Bing’s shows also featured Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Pearl Bailey, Jack Benny, Carol Burnett, Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como, Jackie Gleason, Robert Goulet, Peggy Lee, Patti Page, Bernadette Peters, Debbie Reynolds, Flip Wilson and many others!

Bing’s first TV special from 1954, featuring good pal Jack Benny.

Bing’s last TV special, featuring an unlikely guest, David Bowie. This is the 1977 program that yielded what may be the most popular Christmas duet ever—Bing and Bowie’s recording of “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy.”

Happy Holidays with Bing and Frank—a rare special with Frank Sinatra that features the two legends singing classics in an intimate setting.

Bing’s 50th anniversary special, featuring Bob Hope, Rosemary Clooney, the Mills Brothers and others, and including a memorable Bette Midler.

Episodes of The Carol Burnett Show and the Bob Hope TV specials with guest shots by Bing.

Free bonus DVD—The Legendary Bing Crosby, a celebration of Bing’s life that includes rare performances, exclusive interviews with Bing’s family and friends, home movies and rare, behind-the-scenes material.

Exclusive 36-page book: Bing Crosby: A Life in Pictures, featuring rare photos, memorabilia, and behind-the-scenes snapshots from Bing’s 60+ year career...

Sunday, July 1, 2018


Bing's Boys Sing Out In Latin Quarter Debut

Music in harmony, clear and sweet and rhythmic, approached intelligently, often humorously and always with a timing that is a thing of beauty in itself, is the essence of an act starring Phillip, Dennis and Lindsay Crosby, three of Bing's sons, which E. M. Loew and Ed Risman presented last night at the Latin Quarter.

Advance notices from Las Vegas, where the boys were enthusiastically received, do not exaggerate. It is no fly-by-night act, built on a father's reputation. Rather, does it subtly recognize talent handed down to another generation that carries on in its own proficient way.

Much credit is due John Bradford and William Friml, who added some apt lyrics for the opening "This is a Lovely Way to Spend an Evening" and the following "You're a Good Group." The numbers are the boys' introduction of themselves to the audience, and they are solid.

The next two numbers "Mamselle" and "Dinah," are purely the harmony, indicating the range of each voice and pinpointing the personalities in little ways. There isn't a solo all night, but each boy takes a brief turn in introducing a segment or singing a few bars.

Charles O'Curran staged and produced this superior act of the Crosy Bros., Bill Thompson did the orchestration and vocal arrangements and drummer Lloyd Morales sat in with Joe Lombardi's orchestra as Fred Otis conducted from the piano.

A folk medley of "Scarlett Ribbons," "Little White Duck," "Old Dan Tucker," "Lil' David" and "Joshua" made up the second segment of the act, with each number interpreted in an original manner.

Then came the finale, as the boys did excerpts from about 30 songs made famous by their father. This could have been an ear-bending, wearying number without proper editing. As they present it, it is a closely woven tapestry of song and sentiment, bringing the past to the present with taste and skill.

As they closed, in tribute to Bing, with "The Blue of the Night," I felt deeply moved and awfully glad I attended the opening.

Earlier, before and during the show, I realized the familiar antics of Frank Libuse, the mad "waiter," as well as other variety acts and the beautiful girls in Fred Wittop's scintillating costumes.

The Crosby Bros. and the Latin Quarter have a rare treat for all comers.

Pictured above are the twins Phillip (top) Dennis (bottom) and Lindsay (the youngest). Eldest brother Gary is not with the group at this time...


Saturday, June 16, 2018


Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby, “White Christmas” and…March of Dimes?  The March of Dimes has been helping families by focusing on improving the health of babies and children for 75 years. We all aspire to provide the best care and comfort for our children.

Over half a century ago, when paralytic polio threatened our children, Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby projected a similar message to pitch for the March of Dimes. The photo above, with March of Dimes poster boy Delbert Dains, was taken on the stage set for the movie White Christmas, released in 1954. The song “White Christmas,” by Irving Berlin and which Crosby first popularized in 1942, remains the best-selling single of all time. That Bing Crosby was one of the three “ultra icons” of pop music (the others are Elvis Presley and the Beatles) is undoubtedly lost to most people today, but a person viewing this photo in 1954 might recognize a familiar set of associations typical of that era: a child disabled by contagious disease, the most popular singer of the age, and the nostalgic pull of the meaning of Christmas and the emotional security of home.

The March of Dimes message has evolved, just as our mission has evolved. Our fervent wish for “a fighting chance for every baby” is the bedrock from which all of our educational programs and scientific research are launched. From that perspective, and in the spirit of the season, we hope all the readers of News Moms Need will find that special place in the coming weeks “where tree tops glisten, and children listen.” As a sad postscript, Delbert Dains passed away in 1962...

Friday, June 1, 2018


King of Jazz: A 2018 Review

Criterion;Musical;$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray;Not rated.Stars Paul Whiteman, John Boles, Laura La Plante, The Rhythm Boys (with Bing Crosby). 

Even if all of them currently existed, at all or in ideal form, you likely wouldn’t have to sit through many of the early-talkie screen musical revues to realize that King of Jazz is the standout specimen from a discredited litter. And such faint praise, gotta say, prodigiously underrates the most bug-eyed time with a movie I’ve had in a while, thanks to what Criterion has done with this color/design landmark’s costly, long-gestating and almost full-length 4K restoration, which had already dazzled friends of mine in public showings. There was already enough interest in the film’s unearthing to inspire a 2016 coffee table book by James Layton and David Pierce (King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman’s Technicolor Revue), who also offer a history of this tangled Universal production in another of Criterion’s ultra-classy bonus sections (did someone also say Garry Giddins and Michael Feinstein just for starters? — Lordy).
I remember Whiteman well from my days as an inveterate boomer-kid TV watcher, but the truth is that he was semi-forgotten even then and his status as a jazz figure (much less jazz royalty) was very much in decline to anyone who was embracing all things Miles or Thelonious. He was still, however, a formidable physical presence, what with an offbeat mustache that would have disfigured even Clark Gable and physical heft directly out of the Oliver Hardy laboratory that had at one time (per Giddins) engendered major news stories whenever he attempted a diet. This made him as unlikely a bet for movie stardom as Kate Smith and Liberace later turned to be, and all the frittering around to find a format that could adequately present him on screen (there was a kind of revolving door of directorial possibilities for the movie as well) forced delays on production that indirectly resulted in the picture’s severe underperformance at the box office.
So rather than make him a romantic lead or a Cupid to younger lovers, this peer-respected orchestra leader — who had helped spur the first performance of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and included the young Bing Crosby with the Rhythm Boys as part of his lineup — ring-mastered a performance revue whose delights genuine and demented included a “Rhapsody” reprise; Bing’s very first screen appearance; the Russell Markett Dancers (who soon evolved into the Rockettes); and the first cartoon in Technicolor (by Walter Lantz) in a manner that might later have reminded people of a far more elaborate “Ed Sullivan Show” had the picture remained in circulation. To this was added the much celebrated stage director John Murray Anderson to film it (this should not have been his only movie); art/costume direction by Herman Rosse, who soon figured in some of Universal’s biggest horror staples of the early ’30s; and even a huge crane that had been previously purchased by the studio and must have made Busby Berkeley’s mouth water.

None of this is to suggest that every number here is a winner, but even Jazz’s not infrequent wincers (or would-be wincers were it not for the harmonious components that combine for the presentation) are more riveting than not to watch because I’ve never seen any two-color Technicolor movie look this great. Even an otherwise leaden bridal number early on washes pleasantly over the viewer thanks to its cornucopia of visual cosmetics. And then, for a capper, we see this veil — which looks long enough to cover half the width of a small U.S. state and expensive enough by itself to have covered the cost of Lash La Rue’s total screen oeuvre.
Seeing Crosby with semi-rouged cheeks is an unusual sight, though when he and the “Boys” break into snippets of “Mississippi Mud” and “Happy Beat,” it’s so enthralling that these pink-ish cheeks recede to another part of the brain. Jazz was Crosby’s only color movie until Paramount’s Dixie in 1943 and one of the very few Bings from his home studio that controlling Universal hasn’t released in this country (there is an official Region 2 DVD). This is almost surely due to that biopic’s minstrel-show angle — and even despite its inclusion of “Sunday, Monday and Always,” one of his biggest hits the era. So seeing Jazz with Crosby in color here is a real gift that whets my appetite (not that any whetting could ever be needed) for the long awaited Vol. 2 of Giddins’ definitive Crosby biography, due in November.
When one of Bing’s many 20s benders (he later brought personal experience to The Country Girl) led to a car crash and a dress-down the judge in court, the singer probably dodged a career bullet when his intended big “gaucho” number went to John Boles — whose appearances for me are always complicated by Anita O’Day’s assertion in her autobiography that Boles raped her in her dressing room (she later backtracks or softens this a little, but still …). This splashy set piece is inevitably risible but is (again) put over by the color schemes, lighting and, well, total design. So the payoff is that when we really do have something to write home about content-wise — as with otherwise non-existent footage of violinist Joe Venuti and guitarist Eddie Lang playing up a storm together, or the finale that sends everyone home with a bang — this is a not inapt movie to be seeing just as 2001 celebrates its 50th anniversary because these scenes, at least, have a comparably hypnotic effect.
Unfortunately, there weren’t nearly enough patrons to go home with a bang or otherwise, because the delayed production landed Jazz at the end of an early-talkie-musical cycle that had already snapped viewer tolerance. This is a tragedy because, for all of its sporadic creakiness, this one’s incomparably better than MGM’s Hollywood Revue of 1929 (which is nowhere near as entertaining as its oft-excerpted two-color “Singin’ in the Rain” number might suggest) or Warner’s Show of Shows, which is instructional only as a primer in understanding just what it was that Show emcee and Bob Hope influence Frank Fay “had” (apparently, not much, said his onetime abused wife Barbara Stanwyck).

Jazz started to exist for modern-day audiences as something more than a rumor a few decades back, and Universal even released an official VHS in 1992 — a pre-restoration eyesore with inferior sound (I should have mentioned that the new Blu-ray is also easy on the ear) and a slightly shorter running time than the restoration print, which itself is missing relatively minor footage. And now for a story: A chuckling colleague of mine roaming the files during our AFI Theater days stumbled into a solid gold letter from MCA chief exec/CEO Lew Wasserman himself, whose chew-outs were legendary. Our then AFIT boss, possessed of certain genius but one for whom “right clearances” was not a middle name, had apparently run Jazz(this was before our time) when MCA-owned Universal had told him he couldn’t (God knows where he got the print). So here’s the Lew Wasserman letterhead across the top of a letter from possibly the most powerful person in Hollywood that begins: “Dear Mr. XXXX, I fail to understand … .” That’s an opening scarier than anything in a Universal horror movie from a guy that the late twinkle-eyed producer David Brown once speculated (in the 2005 documentary The Last Mogul) had had only one orgasm of his life reading the grosses on Jaws.
As for bonus goodies, we have Feinstein interviewed for a musical backgrounder; a couple germane Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons; a Whiteman performance short subject; deleted scenes; a jam-packed essay by the knowledgeable and verbally magnetic Farran Smith Nehme, who’s one of my favorite film writers of the impressive many who are 125 years younger than I; and a voiceover commentary by Giddins, critic Gene Seymour and (hold on) musician/bandleader Vince Giordano — each of whom can fill in the others’ infrequent blanks. This trio is full of all kinds of nuggets, including anecdotes about how blisteringly hot the Technicolor lights were when the entire Whiteman band had to play inside a way oversized piano — one out of the last reel of two from The Incredible Shrinking Man — in tuxes. And how big were the piano keys? About a foot long.
King of Jazz isn’t anywhere near perfect, but it is perfectly amazing, and so, again, is one of those discs that justify the invention of Blu-rays (don’t even think of talking to me of streaming, OK?). Along the way, Whiteman gets a little renewed overdue due. He didn’t really play jazz as we know it, but it wasn’t like what had come before amid a period of real pop-cultural flux. Next to the bridal number here, he really was out of a new century.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


This is a silly article, but it's nice to see Bing still getting press...

Hollywood — Legendary television producer Tom Werner announced this morning that, in light of Bill Cosby’s conviction for sexual assault, they are recasting “The Cosby Show” in an effort to salvage 197 episodes of syndicated programming. Because of advances in digital technology, they are replacing Cosby with the late crooner Bing Crosby.
“First off, it’s just an additional letter. And we’re getting an Academy Award-winning actor,” said Werner, “who looks fantastic in a sweater.”
Asked if it would seem strange to have Crosby surrounded by a wife and children of color, Werner said he saw it as an opportunity to push the concept of non-traditional casting to the next level. “Bing was very progressive when it came to race. We know he contributed to the defense of the Scottsboro Boys, and the things he did on behalf of Louis Armstrong are well documented.”
The only reporter in the room old enough to remember who Bing Crosby was asked if they had considered the unproven child abuse allegations from Bing’s late son, Gary, an impediment. “Oh heck, no. Dr. Huxtable was threatening to kill Theo every other week so we see that as a plus.”
Ricochet Entertainment contacted Phylicia Rashad who played Cosby’s wife, Claire, on what she felt about the new digital recasting. “Oh, baby, he can croon me good night any day of the week!”

Sunday, April 15, 2018


One of the last great old school MGM musical was 1956's High Society. The film had it all: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and a Cole Porter score among others. Grace Kelly was the love interest, but one of the most charming stars of the film was Lydia Reed.

Lydia Reed was born on August 23, 1944, and is an American former child actress best known for her role as Tallahassee "Hassie" McCoy from 1957 to 1963 in 145 episodes of the ABC situation comedy The Real McCoys, starring Walter Brennan in the title role of Grandpa Amos McCoy. Irving Pincus was the creator, and Hy Averback the first principal director.

An episode of the series that featured Reed was "Sweet Fifteen," which aired on April 9, 1959. It centers on Grandpa's determination to keep Hassie's looming fifteenth birthday party a secret.

After its five-year run on ABC, The Real McCoys switched to CBS for its final season in 1962-1963 without the services of Kathleen Nolan as Kate McCoy. Reed appeared less frequently in the final year, as did Michael Winkelman (1946–1999) as Little Luke McCoy, who played Reed's younger brother on the series.

Reed's first performances were in 1952 episodes of two NBC anthology series, Hallmark Hall of Fame (the second episode of the series entitled "Dr. Serocold") and Robert Montgomery Presents. In 1955, she played Mary Foy in the Bob Hope film, The Seven Little Foys. That same year, she played another "Mary" in the episode "Ride with the Executioner" of the anthology Jane Wyman Presents the Fireside Theatre. In 1956, she appeared in the role of Caroline Lord in High Society, with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Grace Kelly, and in the episode "Hit and Run" of the NBC series Big Town. Her last role other than that of Hassie McCoy was as Betsy Beecher in the horror film The Vampire (1957).

Reed left acting after her role on The Real McCoys ended and did not appear in a 2000 cable television reunion special (The Nashville Network) with Nolan, Tony Martinez, who portrayed farmhand Pepino Garcia, and Richard Crenna, who played the role of Luke McCoy, Hassie's older brother, for the entire duration of the series. After leaving "The Real McCoys" she left acting altogether. She has been married to Mario Rodolfo Travaglini since January 16, 1967. They have one child. She was previously married to Byron George Stiegemeyer. As of 2007, she was a wife and mother living in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, CA...

Sunday, April 1, 2018


When people think of Bing Crosby, they might think fondly of the classic film White Christmas, or his golden voice. He was arguably one of the most famous and successful entertainers of his era.

He was also a partial owner of both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Detroit Tigers.

His ownership stake in the Pirates is by far the better known of these two. As recently as 2010 it was found that Crosby — who helped pioneer and popularize making recordings of film — had one of the only recordings of game seven of the 1960 World Series. Crosby had actually asked his assistant to record the game from the TV broadcast, something that simply wasn’t a commonplace practice in 1960.

Crosby’s history as both a fan and integral member of the Pirates organization is a treasure trove of factoids. He purchased stock in the team in the late 40s, and maintained partial ownership into the 1960s. He served as the vice president and owned about 15 percent of the team.

His ownership in Tigers stock is barely a footnote, but on January 10, 1957, the then-commissioner of baseball, Ford Frick, determined that Crosby was allowed to keep his shares in the Detroit Tigers in spite of being a part-owner of the Pirates. According to Crosby’s obituary, his purchase of Tigers shares came after his purchase with the Pirates, and he owned about five percent of the Tigers franchise.

At the time, when Crosby was awaiting judgment from Frick, some suggested he might be forced to sell off stock in one of the teams. Crosby’s brother Larry apparently made it quite clear that if that were the case, Bing would keep his Pirates shares. This evidently became a moot point when Frick ruled in Crosby’s favor.

“Bing has only a token hold in the Detroit club. He made it just to be in on the thing with friends,” was Frick’s statement. Apparently, Crosby’s stock in the Tigers was worth less than $1000, which Frick didn’t feel violated the rule that no one person could own “substantial stock” in more than one major league team.

Interestingly, Crosby’s purchase of Tigers shares came roughly ten years after the 1947 acquisition of Tigers great Hank Greenberg by the Pirates. The Pirates acquired Greenberg for about $35,000, thanks to a snafu involving an old photo of Greenberg in a Yankees uniform that had been taken during the 1943 All-Star War Bond Game, where Greenberg had forgotten his Tigers uniform (he would be wearing an All-Star jersey for the game and hadn’t anticipated needing his team uniform for a public practice, so someone loaned him a Yankees uniform).

The revival of this photo riled up then-Tigers owner Walter Briggs. Rather than promote Greenberg to the general manager role as Greenberg had requested, Briggs sold his contract to Pittsburgh, and its new part owner: Bing Crosby...

Friday, March 23, 2018


Back to the movie BLUE SKIES though, here is what Bosley Crowther of the New York Times thought of the movie in his October 17, 1946 review:

So many screen exercises in the music-album line have been so cluttered up with "biography" that it is a pleasure at last to see one in which a tune-vender's life and his music are not mutually and mawkishly abused. Such a one is the Paramount's current and cheerfully diverting "Blue Skies," which catalogues some songs of Irving Berlin without catalyzing that gentleman's career. And with Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby as its bright particular stars, everyone's probity is honored by it—especially Mr. Berlin's.

There's a lot to be said for any picture in the musical comedy groove which adheres to the oft-forgotten dictum that a film should be seen as well as heard, that variety and vitality in the visual are the stuff of which musicals are made. And when the evidence of that adherence is so enthusiastically displayed as it is by Messrs. Astaire and Crosby in "Blue Skies," you may depend upon being entertained.

The story? Let's not argue about it. It's a standard and harmless little thing about the casual and genial competition between two song-and-dance men for a girl. One of them very soon gets her, but as he is a rolling stone, his interest is slightly sporadic. On that track, it ambles along. As a plot, it is no more elusive than the peg for "Holiday Inn," in which the two above-mentioned performers and Mr. Berlin's tunes were also combined. And the worst—or the best—to be said for it (you can tolerably take your pick) is that it does have a few soggy moments which are quickly and obligingly dismissed.

But it does serve as adequate hanger for some sparkling and stimulating turns of song, dance and general farcifying to Mr. Berlin's familiar tunes. Best of the lot, for our wampum, is Mr. Astaire's electrifying dance to that ancient and honorable folk-song, "Puttin' on the Ritz." Turned out in striped pants and top hat, Mr. A. makes his educated feet talk a persuasive language that is thrilling to conjugate. The number ends with some process-screen trickery in which a dozen or so midget Astaire’s back up the tapping soloist in a beautiful surge of clickety-clicks. If this film is Mr. A.'s swan song, as he has heartlessly announced it will be, then he has climaxed his many years of hoofing with a properly superlative must-see.

And that's not his only contribution. In company with the redoubtable Bing, he doubles in song while that nipper doubles in dance in a comedy gem, written especially for the occasion, entitled "Two Song-and-Dance Men." He also kicks his heels glibly in a fancy production of the torrid "Heat Wave," and trips through the plot and other numbers with the elasticity of a happy rubber man. Naturally, Mr. Crosby, as the rolling-stone character, has his share of the spotlight and holds it with aggressive modesty. He makes something lively, slick and novel of "Cuba," along with Olga San Juan, and groans with his customary competence a new hit "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song." Joan Caulfield, the "you" of this ditty, is loveliest and passive as the girl who stands none too seriously or firmly between Crosby and Astaire. And Billy De Wolfe, an obnoxious sort of person, is allowed only once to get too much in the way. For the rest, there are no less than twenty of Mr. Berlin's melodious tunes jammed here and there onto the sound-track, either as production numbers or incidental bits. And we must say that Robert Emmett Dolan has directed the music as distinctively as Stuart Heisler has directed the actors—or maybe more so. That's why they sound so good. Or maybe it's because they're used as music and not as milestones in somebody's awesome "life."    


When I showed my wife BLUE SKIES years ago, she thought it was corny but this movie has so much going for it. It features a unique time in American history – between both World Wars that is often over looked in film. The movie also paints a realistic portrayal of what a struggle marriage can be sometimes. Yes, the marriage of Bing and Joan Caulfield was a show biz marriage, but if you looked closely at what broke them up, it is the same problems that face married people even today – lack of communication and trust. For a 1940s musical this film deals with some serious subject matter, which you tend to overlook, because the star of the film is the Irving Berlin music, and the perfect performances of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire who were just a couple of song and dance men!


Friday, March 16, 2018


Here is my 5th episode of my You Tube web series. This time around I spotlight the songs of the great Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers. There's no Bing this time, butI hope you enjoy it, and please keep the requests and comments coming...