Monday, April 13, 2015

THE BING CROSBY COLLECTION AT GONZAGA

Bing Crosby began to donate items to Gonzaga University in preparation for the opening of the Crosby Library in 1957. Bing donated gold and platinum records, trophies, placques, and photographs to addorn the room. In addition to the generous donations of materials by Bing prior to his death, Crosby fans and family began to recognize the Crosby Library as the home of all things Crosby. In June 1993, the University received the entire collection from the Bing Crosby Historical Society in Tacoma, Washington. Additionally, several collectors have given major donations of Crosby recordings.

Today, the Crosbyana Room in the Crosby Student Center serves as a museum for Crosby fans. Each year over 2500 visitors sign the guest book in the Crosbyana Room. These visitors come from all fifty states and at least 20 foreign countries. Crosby fans recognize Spokane and Gonzaga as being his hometown and alma mater and make the trek to see the sites. Visitors can see approximately 200 items, including the duplicate Oscar he won in 1944 for "Going My Way". There are twenty-two gold and two platinum records from such titles as "White Christmas," "Silent Night", and “Swinging on a Star.” Also displayed are movie stills and photographs, record albums, books, and sheet music. There are many trophies and awards he received over the years from various organizations. There are also items from the Crosby Research Foundation, such as the “Trip Trap,” a mousetrap that the foundation invented. There is also a health device that Crosby endorsed called "Stretch to Your Health with the Stars.”

What you see today in the Crosbyana Room is just a portion of the total amount of trophies and citations that Bing won over the years. Space does not permit us to show all of his treasures. What is not on display is housed in the Special Collections vault in the Foley Center Library. This vault also houses the University’s Rare Book Collection, the University Archives, the Jesuit Oregon Province Archives, and other manuscript collections.

The Crosby Collection includes: approximately 1400 records and albums, 800 audio cassettes, 2000 discs of radio shows, 300 pieces of sheet music, and an extensive magazine and clipping file about Bing's life and career. There are numerous scrapbooks created by his adoring fans, Crosby's correspondence with Gonzaga, and hundreds of photographs depicting his high school, college, and career days. The collection also contains books by and about Bing and his contemporaries, and publications by various Crosby fan clubs from throughout the world.

A major donation to Gonzaga University from Bing Crosby in 1957 was the massive collection of his radio shows. Nearing 2000 discs, the collection contains “The Bing Crosby Show,” “Kraft Music Hall,” “Minute Maid Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice,” “Philco Radio Time,” and other titles. In all, this is a major holding of Crosby’s radio work from 1943 to 1954. What makes this collection even more impressive is the fact that these 16-inch discs are in excellent playing condition and they are fairly complete.

The Gonzaga Collection has a few of his personal effects. Some of these items such as his pipes can be viewed at the Crosby Alumni House. Located at 508 E. Sharp this building, which was Crosby's boyhood home, is open weekdays to the public free of charge...



Monday, April 6, 2015

BING AND HIS V-DISCS

The V-Disc was a product of the War Department of the U.S. government during World War II and for a short time afterward. They were performed by the biggest names in the entertainment industry supporting the military effort and were used extensively by the Armed Forces Radio Service. They were unique transcriptions, many from radio air checks and motion picture soundtracks. They were not made for the general public, and after they were deemed at the end of their usefulness they were ordered destroyed, which most of them were. Once in a while some are discovered and provide a wonderful snapshot in sound of a bygone era. They are sometimes saved for posterity as on a recent CD set of V-Discs by Frank Sinatra.

The Bing Crosby V-Discs are from a variety of sources, many from his transcribed radio broadcasts. A great source of the information used in this listing comes from the V-Disc Discography section in "The Road to Bing Crosby", a 4-volume work by Richard Harding, Fred Reynolds, Bob Roberts and Derek Parkes published in 1980 by Greenwood Press, and Richard S. Sears' book, "V-Discs: A History and Discography". Unless otherwise noted, the orchestra is conducted by Bing's long time musical collaborator, John Scott Trotter...


ADESTE FIDELIS (From 12-21-44 Kraft Music Hall).
Skitch Henderson, piano. Intro. by Bing and Ken Carpenter. Audience joins in on second verse. (From 12-25-46 Philco Radio Time)
ALEXANDER'S RAGTIME BAND Al Jolson, Intro. by Bing and Al. (From 5-7-47 Philco Radio Time )
ALL BY MYSELF (Film: Blue Skies). Al Jolson, intro by Bing and Al. (From 5-7-47 Philco Radio Time)
ALL YOU WANT TO DO IS DANCE (From 3-15-45 Kraft Music Hall).  
ALWAYS (Parody). Dick Haymes, Andy Russell, Dennis Day, Phil Harris Orch (From 3-16-47 Jack Benny Lucky Strike Radio Show)
AMOR (From 5-18-44 Kraft Music Hall)
ARTHUR MURRAY TAUGHT ME DANCING IN A HURRY Intro. by Bing and Ken Carpenter. (From 5/17/45 Kraft Music Hall rehearsal)
BLESS 'EM ALL (From 5-25-41 Kraft Music Hall)
BLUE HAWAII(Film: Waikiki Wedding). Intro. by Bing. (From 12-7-44 Kraft Music Hall)
BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON Charioteers, James Sherman, piano (From 4-15-43 Kraft Music Hall) 
BY THE WATERS OF THE MINNETONKA Community sing, with male chorus, piano and Hammond organ, led by Bing. 
CHRISTMAS SONG Skitch Henderson, piano, Intro. by Bing and Ken Carpenter. (From 12-25-46 Philco Radio Time)
CLEMENTINE Music Maids & Hal Hopper(From 6-14-41 Decca master DLA-2437)
COUNTRY STYLE (Film: Welcome Stranger). Chorus(From 5-7-47 Philco Radio Time)
DARLING, JE VOUS AIME BEAUCOUP (From 4-1-43 Kraft Music Hall)
DEAR OLD DONEGAL (From 3-14-46 Kraft Music Hall rehearsal)
DEAR OLD GIRL Charioteers, James Sherman, piano. Introd. by Bob Burns and Bing.
DOWN BY THE RIVER (Film: Mississippi). Henderson Choir(From 1-18-45 Kraft Music Hall)
DOWN THE OLD OX ROAD(Film: College Humor). Henderson Choir,(From 1-11-45 Kraft Music Hall)
EASTER PARADE (Film: Holiday Inn). Al Jolson,. (From 5-7-47 Philco Radio Time)
EMPTY SADDLES (Film: Rhythm on the Range)Ken Lane Singers Intro. by Bing. (From 12-28-44 Kraft Music Hall)
FOR ME AND MY GAL Community Sing, with male chorus, piano and Hammond organ, led by Bing. 



FRIEND OF YOURS (Source unknown)
GOING MY WAY (Film: Going My Way) (From 6-29-44 Kraft Music Hall)
I CAN'T ESCAPE FROM YOU (Film: Rhythm on the Range) Intro. by Bing. (From 12-28-44 Kraft Music Hall)
I PROMISE YOU(Film: Here Come the Waves). Henderson Choir (From 11-30-44 Kraft Music Hall)
I REMEMBER YOU Henderson Choir Intro. by Bing and Ken Carpenter. (From 5-17-45 Kraft Music Hall)
I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS Henderson Choir. (From 12-7-44 Kraft Music Hall)
I'LL GET BY, AS LONG AS I HAVE YOU Paul Weston O. (Source unknown)
I'M AN OLD COWHAND (Film: Rhythm on the Range)Intro. by Bob Hope and Bing. (From 12-28-44 Kraft Music Hall
IN A LITTLE HULA HEAVEN (Film: Waikiki Wedding). Henderson Choir Intro. by Bing. (From 12-7-44 Kraft Music Hall)
IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME Community Sing, with male chorus, piano and Hammond organ, led by Bing VP1235-D5TC188. V-Disc 203-A (Navy); 423-A
IN THE LAND OF BEGINNING AGAIN (Film: The Bells of St. Mary's). Henderson Choir Intro. by Bing. (From 2-14-46 Kraft Music Hall rehearsal)
IT AIN'T NECESSARILY SO Dinah Shore, Gordon Jenkins Orch ( Aug. 1943 Dinah Shore Program)
IT CAN'T BE WRONG (From 6-24-43 Kraft Music Hall)
IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU (From 5-18-44 Kraft Music Hall)
IT'S A LONG WAY TO TIPPERARY Dinah Shore, Gordon Jenkins Orch (2-24-43 Command Performance No. 54)
IT'S EASY TO REMEMBER (Film: Mississippi). Henderson Choir(From 1-18-45 Kraft Music Hall)
I'VE GOT MY CAPTAIN WORKING FOR ME NOW (Film: Blue Skies). MGM Orch (From film soundtrack)


JINGLE BELLS Ken Lane Singers(From 12-21-44 Kraft Music Hall)
JINGLE BELLS Charioteers, Henderson Choir, Skitch Henderson, piano(From 12-25-46 Philco Radio Time)
JUNE IN JANUARY (Film: Here Is My Heart). Henderson Choir (From 11-30-40 Kraft Music Hall)
KENTUCKY BABE Charioteers, James Sherman, piano (From 8-26-43 Kraft Music Hall)
LAST ROSE OF SUMMER (Film: Dixie). Rise Stevens; intro. by Bing. (From 11-23-44 Kraft Music Hall)
LAST ROUNDUP Lennie Hayton Orch (From 9-27-33 Brunswick master LA-20)
LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW! (2-14-46 Kraft Music Hall)
LET ME CALL YOU SWEETHEART Community Sing, with male chorus, piano and Hammond organ, led by Bing. (From Army Signal Corps film soundtrack).
LET'S TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME (Film: Here Come the Waves) (From 1-4-45 Kraft Music Hall)
LOUISE (From 5-25-44 Kraft Music Hall)
LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER (Film: Here Is My Heart) Charioteers (From 11-30-44 Kraft Music Hall)
MOONLIGHT BAY Charioteers, James Sherman, piano. (From 8-5-43 Kraft Music Hall)
MR. PAGANINI. (Film: Rhythm on the Range). Charioteers(From 12-28-44 Kraft Music Hall)
MY HEART AND I (Film: Anything Goes) Henderson Choir (From 3-8-45 Kraft Music Hall)
ONE ALONE Trudy Erwin, Orch. (From 11-22-43 AFRS rec. session)
ONE I LOVE BELONGS TO SOMEBODY ELSE Al Jolson (From 1-15-47 Philco Radio Time)
ONE MORE DREAM Charioteers (From 3-21-46 Kraft Music Hall)
ONE, TWO, BUTTON YOUR SHOE (Film: Pennies from Heaven). Ken Lane Singers Intro. by Bing. (From 11-16-44 Kraft Music Hall)
ONLY FOREVER (Film: Rhythm on the River). Henderson Choi(From 1-18-45 Kraft Music Hall)
PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (Film: Pennies from Heaven). Tommy Dorsey Orch (From 6-18-44 All Time Hit Parade)
PLEASE (Film: The Big Broadcast of 1932) (From 7-29-43 Kraft Music Hall rehearsal)
POINCIANA (SONG OF THE TREE) (From 11-22-43 AFRS rec. session)
SHE'S FROM MISSOURI (Film: Dixie). Charioteers Intro. by Bing. (From 11-23-44 Kraft Music Hall)
SHOO FLY PIE AND APPLE PAN DOWDY Charioteers, Eddie Duchin, piano Intro. by Bing. (From 3-14-46 Kraft Music Hall rehearsal)
SILENT NIGHT Kraft Choral Club(From 12-21-44 Kraft Music Hall)
SILENT NIGHT Henderson Choir(From 12-25-46 Philco Radio Time)
SIOUX CITY SUE. Charioteers (Source unknown)
SKELETON IN THE CLOSET (Film: Pennies from Heaven). Charioteers, James Sherman, pianoIntro. by Bing, (From 11-16-44 Kraft Music Hall)
SMALL FRY (Film: Sing You Sinners). Tommy Dorsey Orch Intro. by Bing. (From 6-18-44 All Time Hit Parade)
SMALL FRY Johnny Mercer, Paul Weston Orch (From 7-27-44 Johnny Mercer's Music Shop)
SO DO I (Film: Pennies from Heaven). Eugenie Baird Intro. by Bing. (From 11-16-44 Kraft Music Hall)
SOMEONE STOLE GABRIEL'S HORN Dorsey Bros. Orch (from Brunswick master)
STRANGE MUSIC (From 12-28-44 Kraft Music Hall)
SUMMERTIME Dinah Shore, Gordon Jenkins Orch (From August 1943 Dinah Shore Program)
SUNDAY, MONDAY, OR ALWAYS (Film: Dixie) Intro. by Bing. (From 11-23-44 Kraft Music Hall)
SWEET LEILANI (Film: Waikiki Wedding). Henderson Choir Intro. by Bing. (From 12-7-44 Kraft Music Hall)
SWING  LOW, SWEET CHARIOT (Film: Dixie). Charioteers, Henderson Choir. Intro. by Bing (From 11-23-44 Kraft Music Hall
SWINGING ON A STAR (Film: Going My Way). Charioteers (Source unknown)
TANGERINE Intro. by Bing Crosby and Ken Carpenter (From 5-17-45 Kraft Music Hall rehearsal)
THAT SLY OLD GENTLEMAN (Film: East Side of Heaven). Henderson Choir (From 4-26-45 Kraft Music Hall rehearsal)
(THERE'LL BE A) HOT TIME IN THE TOWN OF BERLIN Andrews Sisters, Vic Schoen Orch (From 6-30-44 Decca master L-3449)
THERE'S A SMALL HOTEL Eddie Duchin, piano Intro. by Bob Hope. (From 2-28-46 Kraft Music Hall rehearsal)
THESE FOOLISH THINGS (REMIND ME OF YOU) Charioteers, Henderson Choir (From 2-7-46 Kraft Music Hall)
THESE FOOLISH THINGS (REMIND ME OF YOU) Frank Sinatra(from 11-16-44 Kraft Music Hall)
TOO-RA-LOO-RA-LOO-RAL (Film: Going My Way). (From 6-22-44 Kraft Music Hall)
TOO ROMANTIC (Film: Road to Singapore) Henderson Choir (From 3-22-45 Kraft Music Hall)
WAIT 'TIL THE SUN SHINES, NELLIE (Film: Birth of the Blues). Community Sing(From Army Signal Corps film soundtracks)
WAITER AND THE PORTER AND THE UPSTAIRS MAID (Film: Birth of the Blues) Mary Martin & Jack Teagarden with Jack Teagarden Orch
WHAT DO YOU DO IN THE INFANTRY? Chorus(From 8-5-43 Kraft Music Hall rehearsal)
WHITE CHRISTMAS (Films: Holiday Inn and White Christmas) (From 12-14-44 Kraft Music Hall broadcast)
WHITE CHRISTMAS (From 12-25-46 Philco Radio Time)
WITH EVERY BREATH I TAKE  (Film: Here Is My Heart)(From 11-30-44 Kraft Music Hall
YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE (From 2-24-43 Command Performance No. 54)
YOU CALL EVERYBODY DARLIN' Jud Conlon's Rhythmaires (From 11-3-48 Philco Radio Time)


Monday, March 30, 2015

BING'S MEMORABILIA


Bing Crosby wore this hat in the 1962 film The Road to Hong Kong, the last of the seven-film Road to… series starring himself and his longtime friend Bob Hope. Instead of Dorothy Lamour, Joan Collins starred in this film. Lamour appeared in a cameo. There was to be an eighth film, Road to the Fountain of Youth, but this was derailed by Crosby’s death in 1977.

This hat is a part of the Bing Crosby Collection at Gonzaga University in Washington.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF BING: NOVEMBER 10, 1959


On November 10, 1959 June Kuhn Crosby, the sister in law of Bing Crosby was arrested for trying to stab his band leader brother. I always thought the family life of  Bob Crosby (1913-1993) was happy.

He had three boys and two girls through his marriage to June Kuhn. The couple were married on October 9, 1938 when the bandleader was 25 and June was only 19. It was the second marriage for Crosby. The Crosbys stayed together until the bandleader's death in 1993. The marriage was seemingly happy, but there was a rough patch in the 1950s when the couple talked about divorce, and reportedly June has a few nervous breakdowns.

From the Los Angeles Times:
"Nov. 10, 1959: June Crosby stabs her husband, Bob, with a 10-inch letter opener during a fight.

She tells Beverly Hills police that she grabbed the letter opener to fight him off after he pushed her down during a violent argument. Her husband says she fell when they were struggling over the letter opener.

"We've had family arguments before," the bandleader says. "I guess this one just exploded. She seemed to go into a rage. She was so hysterical. The first thing I knew she came at me with both her fists.


Hopefully this was just a small rough patch of their marriage, and they remained happy for the rest of their lives together...


Monday, March 16, 2015

BING: AN IRISH HERO

Somebody just told me Bing Crosby was jailed for drunk driving in 1929. Right here in Hollywood even. I had no idea. 1929 was the middle of Prohibition. And Hollywood had been a dry town to begin with, before the movies came. So they hauled him in. They wouldn’t have dared a decade later, but this was 1929, and Bing was still a jazz singer then, and cops didn’t particularly like jazz singers. Or jazz trumpeters…the LAPD busted Louis Armstrong for marijuana possession a couple years later, in 1931. Vice cops were busy saving the city back then. They knew about Bing’s drinking back then. Who didn’t? But did they know that Bing and Louis would hang out smoking reefer in Chicago just a bit before? Probably not. That was a secret.

We didn’t know it, not in our family. Along with Jack Kennedy (or simply Jack), Bing Crosby (simply Bing) were icons in our house. Jesus and Jack on the wall, Bing on the Hi Fi. We didn’t know about the jailed for drunk driving, and we certainly know that he’d been a viper, getting high and cracking wise and singing with Satchmo…but we knew generally that he was quite the heller in his young days. That was a good thing, being quite the heller in your young days. It was expected. A drunk driving bust would have been perfectly understandable. Besides, the cops probably set him up anyway. That’s what we would have said. I don’t believe he was set up. I just think he was drunk. Bad luck. Somebody smacked into his car. Rear ended him. What can ya do? Looked it up–he was busted on Hollywood Blvd right there in front of the Roosevelt Hotel. No doubt I’ll think of that now every time I pass .Every time.

My mother called me the day he died. Bing died she said. It was like losing a grandfather’s brother, a relation you never saw in person, but knew all about. When my grandmother told my grandfather that Bing had died, my grandfather went pale. You aren’t gonna die on me too now, she asked. He recovered. No, No, I’m not going anywhere. But he did not long after.


There’s never been Irish Americans as important to American Irishmen since Jack and Bing. Jack’s story is too sad for words (and Bobby’s even sadder), but Bing’s ended just right. That was a great game, fellas. And it was.


SOURCE

Friday, March 13, 2015

THE BIG BROADCAST GETS A SHOWING

One of the most elusive Bing Crosby films to collectors and fans alike is Bing's first starring movie The Big Broadcast. If you live on the West coast, you will get a chance to see this rare 1932 film. It is part of a film showing presented by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. It will be shown at the Billy Wilder Theater at 7:30 on March 16th. The film is restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by The Packard Humanities Institute and Universal Pictures.

Here is what the UCLA Film & Television Archive writes about the film:

In the late 1920s, the talkies introduced a wave of all-star revues, such as MGM’s The Hollywood Revue of 1929 and Warner Bros.’s The Show of Shows (1929), which were inspired by the boisterous spirit of vaudeville. Paramount used this variety format as a vehicle to showcase a dazzling array of radio personalities—15 total—whose stardom was built on coast-to-coast radio programs, record sales and nightclub shows. Radio was in its golden age, and Hollywood had found ways to capitalize on its popularity.

The Big Broadcast stars Bing Crosby in his first major role in a feature. The crooner had made his screen debut in Universal’s King of Jazz (1930) as part of The Rhythm Boys trio. Crosby later signed with Mack Sennett, starring in a string of successful musical comedy shorts. In The Big Broadcast, Crosby portrays a radio heartthrob whose perennial tardiness—caused by Sharon Lynn’s vampy Mona Lowe (a play on the tune “Moanin’ Low”)—leads a sponsor to pull the plug on the WADX station. When Mona jilts him for another man, the inconsolable (and inebriated) Bing enters a suicide pact with newfound friend Leslie (Stuart Erwin), an equally lovelorn Texas oilman. In the sober light of day, Leslie resolves to set things right by buying the radio station and preparing the next big broadcast.

The loose narrative interweaves performances by each of the radio talents, among them the Boswell Sisters, Cab Calloway (who steals the show with “Kickin’ the Gong Around”) and the Mills Brothers. Burns and Allen make their feature film debut as the distressed station manager and his birdbrained stenographer. Director Frank Tuttle, who had been making comedies since the early 1920s, further animates the film by employing a number of delightful camera tricks that harken back to slapstick two-reelers. The film proved to be a hit, prompting Paramount to revisit the variety format with International House (1933) and three more Big Broadcast pictures in the 1930s. —Jennifer Rhee

Monday, March 9, 2015

SPOTLIGHT ON BILLY DEWOLFE

Not many people remember the funny chracter actor Billy DeWolfe. DeWolfe is basically forgotten now, except maybe his voice work in the cartoon FROSTY THE SNOWMAN. For years he was a dependable character actor though.

Born William Andrew Jones in the Wollaston neighborhood of Quincy, Massachusetts on February 18, 1907, DeWolfe was the son of a Welsh-born bookbinder who encouraged him to become a Baptist minister. Instead, "Billy" developed an interest in the theatre. He found work as an usher before becoming a dancer with a band. It was at this point that he changed his last name to De Wolfe, which was the last name of the manager of the Massachusetts theatre where he worked.

He signed with Paramount Pictures in 1943 and became a reliable comedian. His pencil-mustached and often pompous character contrasted humorously with the films' romantic leads.  His best-known role of his Paramount tenure is probably the ham actor turned silent-movie villain in the fictionalized Pearl White biography The Perils of Pauline. De Wolfe became known for his portrayal of fussy, petty men ("Never touch!," he would say imperiously whenever someone accosted him physically).


His connection with Bing Crosby were large roles in two of his Paramount movies. In the movie Dixie (1943), Bing played actual songwriter Dan Emmett, Wolfe played his rival and protaginist. He schemed Bing at every turn, and he stole Dorothy Lamour away from Bing. (However, Bing was actually in love with Marjorie Reynolds in the movie). The second movie they appeared in together was Blue Skies in 1946. It was one of Bing's musical film masterpieces, and this time around Billy played a more likeable character. Billy was Bing's right hand man who stuck by him through the years. While Bing and Fred Astaire fought over Joan Caulfield in the movie, Billy got another girl - Olga San Juan.

After his Paramount contract lapsed, DeWolfe returned to the stage. He appeared in the revue John Murray Anderson's Almanac in 1953 and 1954, and starred in the last edition of the Ziegfeld Follies, in 1957.

Generations of TV viewers know Billy DeWolfe only by his voice: his is the voice of the frustrated magician in the Christmas perennial Frosty the Snowman. DeWolfe gave the role his usual fussy diction: "Mes-sy, mes-sy, messy! Bus-y, bus-y, busy!"

He died from lung cancer in 1974 in Los Angeles, California...

Monday, March 2, 2015

GUEST REVIEWER: WE'RE NOT DRESSING

Here is one of the great Bing Crosby guru Bruce Kogan with another Bing movie review. This time reviews the 1934 classic We're Not Dressing...

For those who've never seen Carole Lombard, but have heard about her genius for screwball comedy, go check out We're Not Dressing. Simple plot, Bing's a sailor on the Lombard yacht and he, Lombard, her uncle Leon Errol, her friend Ethel Merman and two princes/gigolos, Ray Milland and Jay Henry are shipwrecked after a drunken Leon Errol runs the yacht up on a reef. In order that they survive the sailor has to take charge and does. Oh, and also surviving is Lombard's pet bear, a creature named Droopy.

Droopy comes pretty close to stealing the picture, especially after Leon Errol persuades Crosby to put roller-skates on him while they're still on the ship. He also has another trick, he won't hear any other song but Goodnight, Lovely Little Lady one of the songs written for this film by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel.

Gordon and Revel's best known numbers from this are "May I" and "Love Thy Neighbor" which sold a few platters for Bing back in 1934. Soon after writing a score for another Crosby picture Two For Tonight, they moved over to 20th Century Fox where they scored some of Alice Faye's films.


Ray Milland in his autobiography "Wide-eyed in Babylon" recounts a tragic story during the filming of We're Not Dressing. The bear trainer gave specific instructions that any women whose time of the month it was were not to be on the set that day. One of them lied and the trainer was badly injured and later died of those injuries sustained at the paws of a super hormonally charged bear. He also said that Paramount signed him to a long term contract on the strength of that film.

The six castaways were not quite alone on the island. Burns and Allen were there also with their brand of surreal comedy. Hollywood never knew quite what to do with them. God knows they were funny as all get out, but rarely were asked to carry a whole film. 


Ethel Merman was another problem. Like her famous Broadway rival Mary Martin, she never quite made it in Hollywood. Her biggest success was always on Broadway. During the 1930s she would support, Crosby, Eddie Cantor, and most memorably Ty Power and Alice Faye and Don Ameche in Alexander's Ragtime Band. Her number "It's The Animal In Me" was cut from the picture, although it's briefly sung at the end. Paramount saved it and put it intact into their Big Broadcast of 1936 the following year.

At the time We're Not Dressing was shooting, Carole Lombard was romantically involved with Bing Crosby's singing rival crooner Russ Columbo. Columbo visited the set often and he and Crosby were friendly rivals and were known to do some impromptu singing during breaks. If only some sound man had left the microphone on. Columbo later died that year of a gunshot wound from an antique dueling pistol, a case that a lot of people felt was never satisfactorily solved.

So with Crosby, Lombard, Burns and Allen, Ethel Merman, Leon Errol just the sound of that casts spells some wacky wonderful fun...

BRUCE'S RATING: 8 OUT OF 10
MY RATING: 9 OUT OF 10


Monday, February 23, 2015

THE TRAGIC LIFE OF DENNIS CROSBY

Of all Bing Crosby's sons from his first marriage to Dixie Lee (1911-1952), there is the least information on the one twin - Dennis. In the new documentary on the legendary crooner, it is reported that twins Dennis and Phillip Crosby might have suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome due to their mother's alcoholism, which was common knowledge to Hollywood insiders in the 1930s and 1940s.

Sadly, Dennis ended his life. Bing Crosby's 56-year-old son Dennis turned a 12-guage shotgun on himself following a drunken night of heartbreak just two weeks after his divorce became final.

"It was drink and the disease of alcohol that caused him to do this," Dennis' ex-wife Arlene told STAR in an exclusive interview.

"Over the years, I'd urged him to go to Alcoholics Anonymous, but he had gone only a couple of times. Someone has to decide for themselves that they are going to make the effort to stop drinking."

The May 4, 1991  tragedy in a California boarding house where Dennis had been living mirrored the suicide of alcoholic younger brother Lindsay, who ended his life with a single shotgun blast to the head in 1989.

Arlene says Dennis moved to Novato, Calif, 18 months ago. She admits he walked out on her because she was "difficult to live with," but insists that her only desire had been to encourage him to stop boozing.


"I think he had his own pain about him," she says. "But you will not find anyone who would say a bad word about him. He was sweet, kind, gentle and a wonderful father. He had a wonderful sense of humor.

"But Lindsay's suicide devastated him. He was very close to him. For the last two years, he's been distraught. Everything builds up on him. His trust fund also ran out two years ago and he had been living on very little money."

According to Marin County Sheriff's Lt. William Donovan, Dennis was found late that Saturday night by his roommate. Arlene identified the roommate to STAR as Peter Murphy.

"They were old army buddies," she says. "They had been best friends since serving together in Germany."

Arlene met Dennis in 1963 when he worked for Bing Crosby Productions in Los Angeles. She was a secretary at the time. "We fell in love and married," she says. "We had been married for 27 years."

Dennis also had three daughters - who are now are 53, 47, and 43 respectively.

Arlene last saw Dennis a couple weeks before his death: "We had lunch together just one and half weeks ago, and he was saying how very glad he was that our three children were doing so well. But it was clear that, like me, he was also very sad about our divorce.

"It's very sad. I think we both felt alone, although we still saw each other and he knew that I would always be there to support him."

In addition to his three daughers with Arlene, Dennis was the father of Denise Crosby, 56, who played Security Chief Tasha Yar in the syndicated TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation.


On May 4, 1958, Crosby married Pat Sheehan, a Las Vegas showgirl and model who had once dated his father. She was also Miss San Francisco of 1950, Playmate of the month of October 1958, and part-time actress. Within days, Crosby was sued by another woman, Marilyn Miller Scott, over the paternity of her daughter, Denise Crosby. The sensational lawsuit lasted three years and ended with Dennis being ordered to pay Scott child support and legal fees. This and the marriage to Sheehan and other details caused deep embarrassment for both him and his famous father. Although Bing died when his granddaughter was 19, the two reportedly never met.


Crosby and Sheehan had two sons: Dennis Michael, Jr., and Patrick Anthony. In 1963, while working in Los Angeles for Bing Crosby Productions, he met Arleen Newman. On July 3, 1964, Crosby and Sheehan were divorced. Later that year, Crosby married Newman, with whom he had three daughters, including Kelly Lee Crosby and Erin Colleen Crosby. Dennis was the second of four sons born to the legendary crooner and his first wife, Dixie Lee Crosby. The quietest of the four, Dennis joined his brothers in a nightclub act during the late Fifties, often appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show.

But Dennis always had trouble coping with showbiz. "I guess I wasn't cut out to be an entertainer," he once acknowledged. "I was always painfully self-conscious out here in the spotlight with my brothers."

Bing Crosby died on October 14, 1977, at the age 74 while playing golf in Spain. On January 14, 2006, Dennis's former wife, Pat Sheehan, died at the age of 74. Their son Dennis Michael Crosby, Jr. died on January 15, 2010, and the other son, Patrick Anthony Crosby (born New Year's Eve 1960), died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, on September 19, 2011, after a lengthy illness. He was 50. Of all the Crosby sons, I think Dennis Crosby was probably the most tragic of all of them. They all deserved happiness in their life, but the shadow that Bing Crosby cast was impossible to overcome especially when you mix in depression and alcoholism...


Monday, February 16, 2015

BING ON 78

Here is a great story written by Bing Crosby guru, Steve Fay. Well written and well said...

The pages of the new Wiggins-Reilly Crosby discography have me looking through my Crosby 78s again, handling them, peering at the labels, worrying about their fragility...and more and more dying to play them again. I recall that when I grew up the first records I ever remember seeing in our house were about 21 78s my brother was given by our maternal grandmother. These were perhaps half of the records my mother and her younger siblings had grown up with on a tiny farm about 20 miles from Quincy, Illinois, where they played what records they had on a wind-up Edison player.

At the time, we had a single-speed (78-only) electric record player. We didn't have a three-speed record player until around 1958 or 59 when my father made one for my brother's birthday present. My father did construction and steel fabrication, but as a hobby tinkered with electronics. Sometimes people gave him radios and other equipment that was broken. My brother's "new" record-player-am-radio combination was made out of parts from two units that my dad repaired an mounted together in a painted wooden case he designed for it. It had a flip-over cartridge, and as mentioned before three speeds, so now we not only could play those 78s, but my brother (who was about 12 or 13) could start to buy and play rock-and-roll 45s and Mom could get that Guy Lombardo LP she saw on the small record rack at the grocery store.

I was a bit too young and butter-fingered to handle the records at that time, but I remember that around the time I was about 11 years old, I had become very interested in those 78s again. The old single-speed record player had migrated to a little table in the basement of a different house, in a different town, and I recall spending hours sometimes playing through that stack of old 78s from the farm. At least one platter was a Crosby: "God Bless America"/"The Star-Spangled Banner." There were other pop tunes, as well as novelty tunes and some country-western. I would play through the stack in order, over and over, but sometimes I would play certain sides again and again before moving on. Then I found a dusty table top Victrola at a thrift shop. It was about 10 or 12 dollars. The spring was broken. It could only play part of a record before running down.


When I got it home and tried to wipe the dust off of it, I found that it wasn't only dust. The outside finish was so worn that it was gray. But when you opened the lid, the inside was nearly pristine. Opening the lid was as dramatic as the scene where Dorothy steps out of black-and-white photography into the technicolor of Munchkinland inThe Wizard of Oz. But, in this case, it was like opening the door on musical history. It took weeks, but I repaired the spring, which had become unrivited on one end inside of its drum, and I restored the outside finish, and I found where I could still buy steel needles for it. Now, I could hear what those old 78s sounded like down on the farm in the 1930s and 40s. When they are not terribly worn out, the richness of 78s played on totally acoustic equipment is surprisingly rich and impressive. And if you want more power, just open those two little doors on the front of the Victrola farther!

Around the time I got the Victrola and was a freshman in high school, I started actaully collecting records. Let me be clear, I had a very few rock-and-roll 45's and Lps, but I couldn't afford to collect them. My pocket change was what I saved out of my school lunch money. It would take weeks of savings to buy an LP. But I could often get a 78 for a nickel, sometimes less, at a thrift store or garage sale. The 78s collection grew. By the time I was out of college and married, people were giving me 78s rather than throw them away. How many total were amassed? 600? 1200? Do I even know? 


Was it a Bing Crosby collection? No, not at first, but there were nearly always Crosby records among the records available, wherever it was I was finding more 78s. And I did form the habit of looking for more records by artists I already had on 78 and liked. Because of Bing's popularity in the 78 era, merely that practice made the Crosby collection segment explode, compared to any other artist or group in this very, very eclectic collection. So, now, maybe there are 70-80 or even somewhat more Crosby disks, with of course some duplication and a few not really playable anymore. Not at all impressive, if I had been focusing only on collecting Bing, true, but it means a lot to me. And while, a number of his hits are included, it is remarkable how many of the sides are songs that never appear on the usual CD compilations. But, I think, listening to them is a little like what you would hear if you could randomly go back into mid-American households during any of the years between the mid-1930s and very early 1950s and hear what they had been buying and listening to. If Bing sang a song, it didn't always have to be a big hit for people to want to hear it again, and more often than they could hear it on the radio.

So, I've caught the 78 bug again, not the measles or the flu. I just ordered a new needle the right size for 78s for the cartridge I now want to keep on my turntable, which does have the 78 rpm speed. The needle will be here in a few days. I can hardly wait. Will the 78s be a little noisier than the LPs? Sometimes, yes. It is helpful to imagine that's just the sound of someone frying bacon while you're listening, or to hear what's in the background as a sound created by ordinarly people, not always replacing worn phonograph needles on their old Victrola or Philco, loving that song to death, playing it over and over. Not to worry, though--Bing's voice never fails to penetrate any background sizzle. It's not like Rudy Vallee's...