Thursday, December 18, 2014

VERA-ELLEN AND WHITE CHRISTMAS

Along with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney - one of the most charming parts of the 1954 musical White Christmas was dancer Vera-Ellen. The movie was released 60 years ago, but since then rumors have persisted as to the health of Vera-Ellen during the making of the movie.


As you might notice, Vera-Ellen’s neck is covered in many pictures. In fact, her neck is covered up in the entirety of White Christmas. Vera-Ellen was an extremely thin woman who died in 1980 (at the age of 61). While never officially diagnosed during her lifetime (heck, the term itself was barely around during her lifetime), Vera-Ellen is alleged to have suffered from anorexia nervosa.
Anorexia nervosa is a mental illness pertaining to a distorted view of how skinny a person is that results in many different effects in people, most specifically, the physical problems of having their body waste away due to their belief that they are too fat.

Vera-Ellen was an EXTREMELY skinny woman for the rest of her life, and biographers of her have made it pretty clear that she suffered from the disease (it was perhaps exacerbated by studio weight requirements, something that afflicted Judy Garland, as well).

While it has not been proven, I do agree that the circumstantial evidence is probably there enough that I would tend to agree that she had SOME sort of eating disorder.


Bill Dennington, a friend of Vera-Ellen, had the following to say on the matter:
"Vera-Ellen was a friend for 20 years until her death. I was in L.A. and had lunch with her 2 weeks prior to her death. If you’ve read David Soren’s book Vera-Ellen: The Magic and The Mystery you would have seen my personal photographs of Vera-Ellen. The photographs were taken in the 60’s and 70’s and she looked fine. All of her life she wore something around her neck, a necklace,a choker, a scarf, a collar, etc., etc. It was her “trademark” like Van Johnson wore red socks. I saw her neck many times it was lovely…..like Audrey Hepburns. Hate that people think of her as “the dancer with anorexia” and not just the FABULOUS DANCER WHO HAS BEEN SO OVERLOOKED !!!!!!!!!!!!"
In any event, to the matter at hand – the story is that Vera-Ellen’s neck had to be covered up in White Christmas because the costumes were designed to cover her neck, which was aged beyond her years due to her eating disorder. If you search around, you’ll get that basic story in lots of places.

However, while I would agree that it seems to be too much of a coincidence that they happened to cover her neck in EVERY shot in White Christmas, I differ about the reason behind it. It may be none of our business what Vera-Ellen was suffering from, but regardless what is not disputed is that she was a wonderful and talented dancer...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

TELEVISION REVIEW: BING CROSBY REDISCOVERED


I was born in 1974, so my life was decades after the Great Depression and World War II. However, I learned to appreciate the music of that generation due to a close friendship I had with my Grandfather. He instilled in me a love of great music and more importantly a love of Bing Crosby. Young people today do not really know who Bing Crosby is. People in my generation barely know who he is. Thankfully PBS television on their "American Masters" program presented a great documentary on Bing called Bing Crosby Rediscovered. The documentary debuted on December 2nd, but it did not air in the Pittsburgh area until December 10th.

Of course the documentary presented the facts that Bing's fans have known for years: Bing Crosby was much more than the White Christmas crooner. Crosby established his name on radio and stage throughout the 1920s. By the early 1930s, he had become a superstar. For more than two decades, his name was at or near the top of record charts, radio ratings and the movie box office. He won an Academy Award as best actor for his performance inGoing My Way (1944). He received an honorary Grammy in 1963. His later career included a series of highly rated TV specials, a format he helped to pioneer.

Half way through the documentary, it gets very interesting as Bing's private life is examined. As the documentary tells it, Crosby and his wife, actress Dixie Lee, were alcoholics, and, although he managed the disease, she did not. She died at age 40 after a battle with ovarian cancer. Crosby wasn’t around much for his family because of work, but when he was present, he was a strict father. Six years after Crosby’s death, son Gary Crosby published the memoir Going My Own Way, which claimed that Bing beat his kids severely. It is a claim that Gary later recanted on his deathbed.

For fans of Bing, the music is all familiar, but what is even more fascinating is some of the photos of Bing Crosby that I have never seen before. Even my wife was amazed at how Bing looked without his toupee. There are even sad pictures of Bing at the funeral of his wife Dixie Lee, deep in mourning. I believe the death of Dixie was a turning point for Bing, both personally and professionally. 

The documentary lets viewers draw their own conclusions about Bing Crosby’s personal life.

But the film’s perspective on his professional legacy is clear: He was a landmark entertainer, a technological maverick, a colleague who stood up for pals in need. He came to the aid of such fellow performers as Judy Garland and Mildred Bailey. Back to his sons, there is also audio showing how concerned Bing was with his boys, and how they were basically out of control.

Does Bing Crosby need rediscovered? He certainly does. Without Bing Crosby even many of these so-called singers would not be around today. Bing Crosby may have been the most widely recorded human voice in the history of mankind! The statistics are mind boggling, and although it is hard to cover Bing's career in a 90 minute documentary, Bing Crosby Remembered definitely does Bing justice...

MY RATING: 9 OUT OF 10



Monday, December 8, 2014

BING'S TWINS AND FETAL INFANT ALCOHOL SYNDROME


But a new documentary called Bing Crosby Rediscovered – which aired on December 2nd at 8 p.m. ET on PBS as part of the American Masters series – sheds fresh light on Crosby's first family with Dixie Lee, a shy actress who drank herself to oblivion before succumbing to ovarian cancer in 1952 at the age of 41.

She and Crosby had four sons, two of whom were twins named Dennis and Phillip, who experts believe suffered from their mother's heavy drinking.

"I had been hearing about it and then the twins, they didn't look quite right," Robert Trachtenberg, the documentary's director, tells PEOPLE. "Something had told me that it was fetal alcohol syndrome, so I took existing photos of the twins and showed it to a couple of specialists at USC. When they’re born [with fetal alcohol syndrome], it affects their skull and their nose, and it manifests itself physically as well. The specialists looked at them and said 'Yeah, this is a like a textbook case of fetal alcohol syndrome.' "

It's not clear whether Crosby ever suspected that his first wife's drinking had an adverse affect on their twins, Trachtenberg admits. Dennis Crosby killed himself in 1991, and Phillip died of a heart attack in 1994. (The two other brothers, Gary and Lindsay, died in 1995 and 1989).


"I couldn't find anything where he blamed her," Trachtenberg says. "That's the other tragedy of this whole situation. She died at 41. Nobody really had any significant way to treat that. Kathryn, Bing's second wife, says in the film it was a terrible way to die. So to add insult to injury, you have this situation [with the twins] on the one hand and then she dies on the other. We could have done a whole other film just about that."

The rest of the documentary features interviews with Crosby's second family – including wife Kathryn and their daughter, Dallas actress Mary Crosby – and focuses on the singer's many contributions to the business, like how he revolutionized radio when he began taping his popular radio shows.

"I think people have this idea of him from those Christmas specials from the end of his life, which even Mary said was bad variety TV," Trachtenberg says. "But what they don’t remember was how cool he really was in the '30s and '40s and '50s. He is just so revered as a musician’s musician to this day … his timing, his phrasing. People still cite him as one of the most influential singers of the 20th century."


SOURCE

Monday, December 1, 2014

BING CROSBY MARIONETTE

Just in time for Christmas, this company in the Czech Republic is producing a Bing Crosby marionette!



I am trying to contact the company to get more info and inquire about the costs...

SOURCE

Monday, November 24, 2014

BING'S FIRST RECORD


Don Clark, a former member of Paul Whiteman's Orchestra, offered Bing and Al Rinker an opportunity to make their first record while they waited to join the Whiteman band. On October 18, 1926, Bing and Al recorded "I've Got the Girl" accompanied by Don Clark's Biltmore Hotel Orchestra in Los Angeles.

The song was recorded using an electrical, not acoustic, microphone. "I've Got the Girl" was released on a 78rpm disk as Columbia #824-D. On the flip side was Don Clark's instrumental version of "Idolizing." Two months later Bing and Al joined the Whiteman Orchestra in Chicago, where they cut their first records with Whiteman -- "Wistful and Blue" and "Pretty Lips" -- on Dec. 22.

If anyone has a 78rpm copy of this first record for sale, please contact me. I have been searching for it for my collection....



Monday, November 17, 2014

A TRIBUTE TO BING

Sadly the news of this show is a little late, but I am so happy that Bob Pasch is still going strong...



A Tribute to Bing starring Bob Pasch is heading to the Old Creamery Theatre for one show only on Saturday, November 15 at 2 p.m. A Dean Martin Tribute was originally scheduled at this time, however due to an emergency surgery he has had to cancel the show. The Old Creamery Theatre wishes him a speedy recovery. Lucky for you, we found an incredible Tribute to Bing Crosby to come to the Old Creamery Theatre!

Bob Pasch has delighted audiences for more than 30 years with his good, clean humor and his remarkable likeness in sound, appearance, and mannerisms to Bing Crosby. His tribute shows are endorsed by Kathryn Crosby, Bing’s widow, as well as all the major Bing Crosby fan clubs.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $18 for students. Reservations are recommended. Call the box office for tickets and information 319-622-6262 or visit us online at www.oldcreamery.com.

SOURCE

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF BING: JULY 10, 1944

July 10, 1944...
Bing Crosby was the headline attraction at the Super-Star Bond Show held at Atascadero Golf Club. Bing played the crowd of 600 bond buyers at the microphone and then played the course in a nine-hole exhibition. He was one of the best golfers. After the war his golf tournament, the Crosby Clambake, up in Carmel would become famous.
Other celebrities included golf trick shot artist "Mysterious" Montague, welterweight boxer Jimmy McLarnin, heavyweight boxer Jim Jeffries and football player Bronko Nagurski...


Read more here: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2014/07/21/3162092/bing-crosby-plays-golf-in-atascadero.html#storylink=cpy

Saturday, November 8, 2014

MY NEIGHBOR BING

 
Allison Schuster remembers when Bing Crosby built a summer home next to her family’s place on Hayden Lake.

She was married with young children of her own at the time. She’s 93 now.

She saw the Slice question about how many around here can say they knew Crosby.
“He was always friendly,” she said. “He always waved.”

She said you could always tell when his friend Phil Harris, also an entertainer, was visiting for the week. “You could hear him laugh.”

Today Schuster occasionally encounters people who don’t recognize the name Bing Crosby. “Can you imagine that?”

SOURCE

Saturday, November 1, 2014

IAN FRASER, BING'S LAST MUSICAL DIRECTOR DIES


Ian Fraser, whose 11 Emmy Awards and 21 additional nominations made him the most-honored musician in television history, died of complications from cancer Friday morning at his home in Los Angeles. He was 81.

All of Fraser’s Emmy noms and wins were in the music direction category, for supervising and conducting television specials, including 14 of the annual “Christmas in Washington” events over the past 30 years.

Fraser was also in his 10th term as a governor of the Television Academy. He conducted the 1984, 1993 and 2002 Emmy shows, as well as the 1984 Oscar telecast, and served as musical director for many of the TV Academy’s Hall of Fame ceremonies.

He was also nominated for a 1970 Oscar for adapting Leslie Bricusse’s song score for “Scrooge.”

Fraser had long professional relationships with Bricusse as well as with Julie Andrews and with Anthony Newley.

Fraser was born in Hove, England, in 1933, and served in the Royal Artillery band and orchestra as pianist, harpist and military-band percussionist. In the late 1950s he worked as a pianist in London nightclubs and began a career as an arranger.

He first worked with singer-songwriter Anthony Newley in 1960, arranging his songs and adapting his theatrical ventures including, with Bricusse, “Stop the World — I Want to Get Off,” which he supervised and orchestrated for Broadway in 1962.

Also for Broadway, he later conducted Bricusse’s “Pickwick” in 1965 and Henry Mancini and Bricusse’s stage version of their film hit “Victor/Victoria” in 1995.

His film career began in 1965 as vocal supervisor for the musical “Doctor Dolittle” and as associate musical supervisor on “Goodbye Mr. Chips,” both of which sported Bricusse song scores.

Fraser’s professional association with Julie Andrews started with his work as vocal arranger for her 1972 ABC variety series. They later did five TV specials, two Christmas albums and two Broadway albums together, with Fraser arranging and conducting the music.

He served as musical director on dozens of TV specials beginning in the mid-1970s, many of them produced by the team of Dwight Hemion and Gary Smith.

He won Emmys for “America Salutes Richard Rodgers,” “Ben Vereen: His Roots,” “Baryshnikov on Broadway,” Linda Lavin’s “Linda in Wonderland,” “SAG 50th Anniversary Celebration,” two of the “Christmas in Washington” specials, “Julie Andrews: The Sound of Christmas,” a “Great Performances” Julie Andrews concert, the “American Teacher Awards” and the “52nd Presidential Inaugural Gala.”

Fraser was the last person to conduct “White Christmas” for Bing Crosby, on Crosby’s final TV special in 1977. He also scored several films including “Hopscotch,” “First Monday in October” and “Zorro, the Gay Blade.”

Survivors include his wife Judee, three children, five grandchildren, a brother and a sister.

Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society or Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer...


BING'S MOVIES THAT DESERVE A DVD RELEASE

With new mammoth Universal box release of some twenty Bing Crosby movies on DVD, you would think that the loyal allegiance of Bing Crosby fans would be clamoring to buy the expensive and yet seemingly extensive collection of Bing films. However, I do not think it will be the case, because all of these films have already been issued on DVD – sometimes for the fifth and sixth time. It got me thinking of the countless Bing Crosby movies that have never seen the light of day. Here are five films that in my opinion deserve to be released:



1. THE BIG BROADCAST (1932)
It is really shocking that this early musical is not on DVD yet. It was never even been issued on video. It not only was Bing’s first feature film for Paramount Studios, but it also had a huge cast of radio superstars in addition to Bing like: George Burns, Gracie Allen, Kate Smith, The Boswell Sisters, and The Mills Brothers just to name a few. Bing gets so sing some great standards as well like: “Please”, “Here Lies Love”, and “Dinah”. The old days of radio may seem outdated these days, but it is fun to see how the most important medium of 1932 worked.


2. THE STAR MAKER (1939)
This forgotten film was Bing’s first movie where he played a character based on a real person. Bing played entertainer Gus Edwards (1879-1945). Edwards did not want his life made into a movie, so they changed Bing’s name in the movie to Larry Earl. The movie did not really touch upon the songwriting ability of Gus Edwards but more about his work as a child show producer. Bing sings some great vintage numbers like “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now” and “School Days” as well as singing some new songs like “An Apple For The Teacher” and “Still The Blue Birds Sing”. Again, it amazes me that such a cheerful and fun movie has not even been released on video, let alone DVD.



3. DIXIE (1943)
I do not think the film Dixie will ever see the light of day because of how racist blackface is viewed as. It is an outdated and sort of embarrassing genre of entertainment, but I believe it is a part of American history no matter how it is perceived now. Bing again played a real person, songwriter Dan Emmett (1815-1904) who wrote the popular song “Dixie”. This film was important because it was Bing’s first movie in color, and the story is actually pretty good. Aside from Bing trying to make it as a song writer and performer he had an interesting love triangle with Marjorie Reynolds and Dorothy Lamour. A nicely remastered version of this Technicolor film would be great to see.


4. MR. MUSIC (1950)
Of the five Bing films I put on this list, Mr. Music is the only film that was released on video. So it is a shame it is not on DVD. The movie is not great, and unfortunately the songs are not that memorable either, but Bing was in great voice. The film is the charming story of a lazy songwriter (another songwriting role) who is facing financial ruin if he does not start writing again. The cast included guest appearances by Groucho Marx, Peggy Lee, and Dorothy Kirsten to name a few. Bing and Kirsten duet on “Accidents Will Happen”, which is a sleeper favorite of mine, and Bing is great on the number “And You’ll Be Home”. The movie was no Holiday Inn, but it is a breezy fun movie in my opinion.



5. MAN ON FIRE (1957)
Man On Fire was one of the four films Bing made at MGM Studios. The other three were Going Hollywood (1933), High Society (1956), and That’s Entertainment (1974). This 1957 film is distinctive because it was one of the few movies Bing did not sing it. The film is a tense drama about a husband divorcing his wife and fighting for the custody of his only son. Many people do not like this dramatic side of Bing Crosby’s movie career, but I enjoy the film. TCM plays the movie from time to time, but it has yet to be released on DVD. Viewing this movie even makes me wish Bing would have done more dramas.


All five of these films are worthy to be released on DVD. Maybe in time they will be. Fortunately I have been able to get bootleg copies of all five movies, but again they deserve an official studio release…