Thursday, November 14, 2019

BING ON FILM: HERE COMES THE WAVES - PART ONE

When World War II broke out, Hollywood did its part for the war effort. Many Hollywood stars from Jimmy Stewart to Tony Martin served bravely in the war. Other stars like Bob Hope and Der Bingle performed countless times for the soldiers and raised money for war bonds. Reportedly, Bing tried desperately to enlist. However, due to his age (Bing was 38 when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941) and color blindness, Bing was not accepted into the military. Unfortunately, Bing never really made an official “war” movie but I would say 1944’s Here Comes The Waves was probably the closest Bing ever came to making one.

The first thirteen minutes devotes itself to the Allison twins, Susan and Rosemary (Betty Hutton), sisters of very different personalities entertaining at New York City's Cabanna Club. Susan, a happy-go-lucky twin born 12 minutes after her dignified older sister, Rosemary, worships Johnny Cabot, a singing idol of millions. In spite of their popularity, Rosemary enlists in the Navy, with Susan following suit, each becoming members of the WAVES. Both girls going through their five month training process with other female recruits at the Naval Training School in the Bronx. While on liberty leave, Susan takes Rosemary to a movie theater, seated seated thousands of swooning teenage bobby soxers, attending the personal appearance of Johnny Cabot (Bing Crosby) following the release of his latest motion picture.


After the performance, Windy Windhurst (Sonny Tufts), Johnny's Navy pal, introduces him to his girlfriends from back home, who happen to be Susan and Rosemary. While Susan is overly excited seated next to her living legend, Rosemary snubs him. Because Johnny is tired of being chased by female fans, disguising himself to avoid being attacked, finds the serious-minded Rosemary a welcome change of pace, a girl who actually dislikes him. Initially rejected from Navy enlistment because of his color-blindness, Johnny gets his wish enlisting after the Navy requirements become less strict, stationed at a Navy Base in San Diego, California, leaving his thousands of swooning females fans behind him. With Johnny attempting to be a good a sailor as his father was during World War I, thanks to one of the Allison twins, also stationed in San Diego, does Johnny get himself involved in some theatrical project rather than fulfilling a personal obligation he's long wanted to do. Other members of the cast are: Ann Doran (Ruth); Gwen Crawford (Tex); Noel Neill (Dorothy); Mae Clarke (Ensign Kern); Harry Barris (The Bandleader), and in bit parts, Mona Freeman and Yvonne DeCarlo, among others...

TO BE CONTINUED...



Monday, November 11, 2019

DIXIE LEE HONORED


HARRIMAN, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Wilma Winifred Wyatt was born on November 4, 1909 in Harriman, Tennessee.

In 1928, she kicked off her stage career after winning a Chicago singing contest and changed her name to Dixie Lee after she joined Fox Film Corp. in 1929.

On November 8, 2019, more than 100 years later, the City of Harriman held a Dixie Lee Day to celebrate their most famous hometown girl.

The day featured a discussion of Lee's film career with radio host Bradley Reeves and Chris Hammond. Afterwards, attendees were treated to "Love in Bloom," arguably Lee's most famous film.

In 1930, Lee married Bing Crosby, and retired from acting in 1935.

She later died in 1952 of ovarian cancer.

Photo courtesy of Chris Hammond

Friday, November 1, 2019

THE PAIN OF LOSING DIXIE LEE

American singer and actor Bing Crosby was a devoted husband and father. However, despite his fame and success he never got over the death of his first wife, Dixie Lee. She died 67 years ago today on November 1, 1952. Despite almost divorcing twice, they were together until her death.

When the two first met Bing was immediately smitten. The couple met again at a party in Hollywood and this time, Dixie couldn’t resist Bing’s charm. They got married when the actress was 18 years old at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Hollywood.

Dixie died from ovarian cancer a week after Bing’s returned home from filming Little Boy Lost and three days before her 41st birthday. The actor and his wife were married for more than two decades. The couple had four children — Gary, Phillip, Dennis, and Lindsay.


Bing traveled a lot during their marriage and during that time, Dixie looked lost without him. The actress wrote letters frequently to let him know how much she had missed him. That’s so sweet and romantic! Whenever Bing returned home from travel, he and Dixie were inseparable. They enjoyed taking care of the horses at their home in Del Mar or Santa Anita. The actress on her part loved the Christmas holidays, as she used to spend months preparing for gift giving in advance.

Neither of them was of the opinion that marriage was a trap. Bing and Dixie got married because they were so in love and would not have allowed family and homes cage their love. He loved Dixie even after her death. His children and friends noted that the actor was really devastated by his wife's death, despite being close to getting divorced. Though he eventually remarried, others close to him say he never recovered from the death of Dixie.

When asked about coping with the loss of Dixie, he said:

"I will never talk about my grief at losing her. But in the years ahead I’m going to sorely miss her love, steadfast and constructive support."

Dixie Lee was definitely the woman behind the man....

Sunday, October 27, 2019

THE HUMAN SIDE OF BING

This is taken from the linear notes to the excellent Bing collection: Bing Crosby the Crooner The Columbia Years 1928-1934. The linear notes was by Michael Brooks, who was a very objective fan...

God, he must have been a complex personality. Here was a man who remained at the top of his profession for nearly half a century, with a vast fortune amassed by intelligence, guile and a hard-nosed awareness of his own talents, and still the public swallowed the whole lazy, 'call me lucky' routine. It must have amused him to project that image, yet I suppose there was enough of the mythical Crosby in the real Crosby to make it all believable.

"Then there are the stories of his extreme frugality, of his riding buses and subways when he could have hired a fleet of limosines. And the coldness he often showed towards his friends. Louis Armstrong once stated that in all the years he knew Bing, he was never once invited to his home, and it's almost mandatory to draw racial implications from that.

"But I believe that Crosby, unlike many people of his generation, was lacking in the more virulent forms of racial prejudice. Certainly he wouldn't have loved jazz the way he did and hold extreme views, yet he was an intensely private person. Cork O'Keefe, his former manager, and friend up to the time of his death, has a story to tell.


"Cork O'Keefe..'I was in Hollywood on business in the late 1930's and Bing invited me to his home. People couldn't believe it, because no one got to see him there. So I asked him about it and he said, 'You know, Cork, quite early on I made it a rule never to entertain friends at home. I work damned hard during the day and I want to rest and relax when I get home at night. Out here, all people want to do is party and socialize. It got so that I'd meet someone on the set for the first time and the next thing they'd be standing on my doorstep with a bunch of friends expecting to be invited in and entertained. So, my home's off limits to everyone. You're an exception because you're from New York and I know you won't abuse the privilege. But that's my general rule, and I'm sticking to it.' '

"Likewise, stories of his meanness are just that... stories! Bing never spent money for money's sake, on himself or on anyone else. He had more money than most people could ever hope to attain in the way of worldly goods, and he didn't see the point of adding to them just for the sake of acquisitiveness. But he did help a lot of people when they were in need: Mildred Bailey [Al Rinker's sister]; Jack Teagarden; Joe Venuti; Fud Livingston. And he contributed vast sums of money to deserving charities on the strict understanding that his actions receive no publicity.

"My own personal involvement with the great man was minuscule. I met him for the first and only time about a year before his death, and I was as nervous and excited as a kid chosen to present a trophy to a sports superstar. He was staying in New York just across from the Metropolitan Museum and as I waited for him in the lobby of his apartment building, I saw him come through the door. He was smaller than I expected and his face, though deeply lined, was instantly recognizable, right down to those icy-blue eyes. And, typically Crosby, he was carrying a bundle of dry-cleaning under his arm when the place was full of flunkies to execute such menial tasks.


"It was awful! I got the fish-eye treatment in spades.First of all, he denied knowing about the appointment though it had been set up in advance through his agent. Then he was utterly intransigent, blocking every one of my questions skillfully with 'No, I don't remember singing that song at all,' 'No, that was too long ago,' and 'No, I don't recall such a musician,' until my carefully planned interview lay in ruins and I cursed the day I went into a record store and vouth my first Crosby 78.

"It took me months to get over the experience and come to the conclusion that Bing Crosby was a man, very human, and probably, when I saw him, very tired. But we elevate people of stature to the levels of gods, and while we fawn on them we demand total obedience, ordering them to smile and be gracious while we claw at them and bellow inanities in their ears. If they slip and allow themselves the luxury of telling some cretin to go f--k himself, we immediately howl that they have forgotten the public who made them. And I understand the sound common sense of his 'private person' philosophy, which probably extended his career and his life by decades."

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

NEW CD: BING AT CHRISTMAS

Yesterday, on the anniversary of the untimely death of the world’s first ‘multimedia’ star Bing Crosby, his longtime record label, Decca, together with his widow Kathryn and their children, Harry, Mary and Nathaniel Crosby, announced the brand new album Bing At Christmas, will be released on November 22nd.

Bing’s is The voice that is completely synonymous with Christmas. Now, Bing Crosby’s utterly distinctive original vocals are set to newly-recorded orchestral arrangements, performed by the UK’s most prestigious orchestra, The London Symphony Orchestra, on an album that breathes new life into the best Christmas songs in existence.

This album gives the world the chance to hear these beloved tracks totally transformed, with today’s technical advances. Bing At Christmas has a unique sound and warmth that sets it apart from past Bing Crosby releases and was produced by Nick Patrick, who was behind the hugely successful Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly orchestral albums.

Kathryn Crosby explained, “Hearing Bing’s voice with these completely new, beautifully recorded, orchestral accompaniments makes it seem as though he’s back after all these years. It’s magic.”

Bing At Christmas features fourteen classic Bing Crosby Christmas songs including his biggest hit, the 1942 Decca recording of ‘White Christmas’. This track is not only the epitome of Christmas in song, but the world’s best-selling single, with sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide and, more recently, achieving over 1.8 billion streams. It is also the most-recorded song of all time. Despite these staggering sales figures, the song has never been No.1 in the UK. This year, the Crosby family wants to change that and, in Bing’s memory, get this newly-orchestrated version to the top of the charts.

The song resonated especially strongly with listeners during World War II. It had a huge impact on their lives, both young soldiers serving in the forces as well as their families back home. Just after the attack on Pearl Harbour, Bing Crosby introduced a broadcast of the single on Christmas Day 1941, which led to The Armed Forces Network being flooded with requests for the song. At a time when people needed it the most, this simple song was extremely powerful in its healing qualities – and has continued to provide comfort to people all over the world for nearly 80 years.


Joining Bing on an additional, special version of ‘White Christmas’ is the multi-Grammy Award winning a cappella group Pentatonix, whose voices fit perfectly with Crosby’s.

Bing At Christmas also features exquisite arrangements of ‘Winter Wonderland’, ‘It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas’, ‘The Christmas Song’ and ‘Little Drummer Boy’, on which David Bowie joins in a duet recorded in September 1977, just a month before Bing died.

No-one has dominated the music scene for so many decades and touched so many people’s lives –and with the release of this record, which combines the authenticity of Bing Crosby’s original tracks with state-of-the-art recordings transforming his best-loved songs and bringing them back to the charts, no-one ever will.

The full tracklisting for Bing At Christmas is:
1. ‘It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas’
2. ‘Sleigh Ride’
3. ‘Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!’
4. ‘White Christmas’ (feat. Pentatonix)
5. ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’
6. ‘Jingle Bells’ (with The Andrew Sisters feat. The Puppini Sisters)
7. ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’
8. ‘Do You Hear What I Hear’
9. ‘The Christmas Song’
10. ‘Little Drummer Boy’ (with David Bowie)
11. ‘Twelve Days Of Christmas’ (feat. The Puppini Sisters)
12. ‘Winter Wonderland’
13. ‘The Christmas Song’ (feat. The Tenors)
14. ‘White Christmas’ (Bing solo)


You can buy the CD HERE

Monday, October 14, 2019

BING: THE FINAL CHAPTER

Bing's recording output began diminishing dramatically in the late 1960s. From 1969 through 1974 he recorded only two albums. One was a Christmas album ("A Time to be Jolly") and the other was with Count Basie and his orchestra ("Bing 'n' Basie"). Moreover, by the end of 1973 Bing was not well. He suffered from chest pains and fever. On New Year's Eve he felt so ill that he consented to be hospitalized. Both Bing and Kathryn thought he had lung cancer. On Jan. 13 a tumor the size of a small orange was removed from Bing's left lung. But the tumor was not cancerous. It was the result of a rare fungal infection that Bing had probably picked up on an overseas safari the previous year.

Bing's recovery was slow, but when he did recover he returned with a renewed vigor. He recorded 10 albums the last three years of his life and began performing live concerts again, which he had not done since World War II. During one of these concerts, a nationally-televised celebration of his 50th anniversary in show business in March 1977, Bing fell backwards into an orchestra pit and ruptured a disc in his back. He was hospitalized for a month, but in August resumed a hectic schedule. He flew to Oslo, Norway, to do a concert, and then to England to tape his Christmas special, "Bing Crosby's Merry Olde Christmas," which included Twiggy and David Bowie as guests. On Sept. 12-14 he recorded his final album, "Seasons," with the Pete Moore Orchestra.


Bing's next stop was a two-week engagement at the London Palladium with his family, comedian Ted Rogers and Rosemary Clooney. Then he and his troup moved on to Brighton where they performed their final concert on Oct. 10 to a sold-out theatre. The next day he dropped by the BBC studios as a guest on the Alan Dell radio show. Here he sang 8 songs with the Gordon Rose Orchestra. His last song was the nostalgic "Once in a While." BBC Records later released these recordings on disc, "Bing: The Final Chapter" (BBC-22398). Later that day Bing posed for pictures for his "Seasons" album, including the photo shown here. The next day Bing flew to Spain to play golf...

Monday, October 7, 2019

GRANDSON OF BING HELPS DRUG ADDICTS

When people of a certain age hear the name Bing Crosby, what comes to mind is the multi-talented singer and actor with the greasy slicked back blond hair and an uncanny ability to land roles in movies between 1930 and 1960, especially the so-called “road pictures” with comedian and lifelong foil Bob Hope.

Bing Crosby had two families which gave him countless grandchildren, including another Bing Crosby who was bestowed with his grandfather’s name but never fell to the perils of addiction. However, he is a Crosby who decided to tackle the issue that caused his family and millions of other families a tremendous amount of pain.

“Alcoholism has run in my family for as long as I can recall,” he says. “Being the grandson of Bing Crosby, I’ve heard stories of how Bing, in his earlier years, drank a lot, which led into his wife Dixie. I heard she became an alcoholic because of him which led to her ovarian cancer.”

The younger Bing Crosby also recalls having friendships that were affected by addiction and talks about how many people he grew up with had substance abuse problems. One friend became addicted to pills for 10 years and spent a lot of his life in and out of jail. Crosby says another friend shot himself.

Yet, it was someone else who has been sober for 30 years that ultimately drove Crosby to South County’s New Method Wellness Center.

“It was my wife,” he says. “It was her dream to always own a rehab center. I kind of just tagged along for the ride, but now that I’ve got into it, it’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. The feeling you get helping others; there’s no better feeling than hearing the story of someone who lost everything and is back on track, back with their kids, back with their wives. It’s an unbelievable feeling. Once you feel that, it gets you.”

Ed and Susie Hopsom-Blum opened the clinic in 2006, and Crosby’s wife Deanna became the clinical director there. After her hiring, an opportunity arose for Crosby to become a New Method Wellness Center business partner, and he says he couldn’t turn his back on it considering his family’s and friends’ histories as substance abusers.

The facility began operating in the big Chase building in Mission Viejo, where about eight patients a month were served, but it later relocated to San Juan Capistrano, where 40 to 50 patients a month are being treated. Various communal homes house patients in the rehab so that their environment maintains the same atmosphere and doesn’t waver from the goal that everyone has toward recovery. From the live-in homes, where patients are separated by gender, they are dropped off every morning at the Wellness Center, where they spend days doing activities, building relationships and learn to live sober lives.


Center activities revolve around therapy: not only traditional, one-on-one talk therapy but various forms of cognitive, emotional, psychological, holistic, art-based and environmental therapies.

New Method also provides physical therapy such as yoga or, in the great outdoors, surfing, horseback riding, which is referred to equine therapy, and wilderness therapy. These types of activities aim to produce natural endorphins that are vital to recovery because they bring the same joy that getting high brings, except in a natural and safe way.

The center is still expanding as another building adjacent to the one they’re using now was acquired. They plan on moving the clinical part of the center to the new building and keeping the administrative functions in the one being used now.

“We’re just going to keep rolling and see what comes next,” Crosby says. “Our next event we have is an alumni picnic in December. All of our alumni will come, we’ll get a taco truck, we’ll play games and have fun at the beach.”




Sunday, September 29, 2019

BING, SINATRA, AND JFK

In 1962 President Kennedy planned a weekend trip to Palm Springs, California, where he would stay at the residence of Frank Sinatra from March 24-26. As the weekend approached, Bobby Kennedy, the President's brother and attorney general, became concerned about Sinatra's extensive links to organized crime. He persuaded the President to cancel his stay with Sinatra, and Peter Lawford was given the assignment of informing Sinatra. Lawford  was both a member of Sinatra's Rat Pack and a Kennedy relative by marriage. When Bobby asked Lawford to inform Sinatra of the President's change in plans, Peter pleaded with Bobby to reconsider. The attorney general was adamant, however, that the President could not stay at the house of a man who also played host to hoodlums.

Lawford told Sinatra biographer Kitty Kelley: "It fell to me to break the news to Frank, and I was frankly scared. When I rang the President I said that Frank expected him to stay at the Sinatra compound, and anything less than his presence there was going to be tough to explain. It had been kind of a running joke with all of us in the family that Frank was building up his Palm Springs house for just such a trip by the President, adding cottages for Jack and the Secret Service, putting in 25 extra phone lines, installing enough cable to accommodate teletype facilities, plus a switchboard and building a heliport. He even erected a flagpole for the Presidential flag after he saw the one flying over the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport. No one asked Frank to do any of this, but he really expected his place to be the President's Western White House."

"When Jack called me, he said that as President he just couldn't stay at Frank's and sleep in the same bed that [Sam] Giancana or any other hood had slept in. 'You can handle it, Petah,' he said to me."

Lawford continued, "I made a few calls but in the end it was Chris Dumphy, a big Republican from Florida, who arranged everything at Bing Crosby's house for him. The Secret Service stayed next door at Jimmy Van Heusen's, and Frank didn't speak to him for weeks over that one, but I was the one who really took the brunt of it. He felt that I was responsible for setting Jack up to stay at Bing's -- Bing Crosby, of all people -- the other singer and a Republican to boot. Well, Frank never forgave me. He cut me off like that -- just like that."


Frank could not believe what Lawford told him: that the President was coming to Palm Springs but would stay at Bing Crosby's Rancho Mirage residence near Palm Springs because Bobby didn't want him to stay with Frank. Frank called the attorney general in Washington. Bob explained it was impossible for the President to stay at his house because of the disreputable people who had been his houseguests.

"Frank was livid," said Peter. "He called Bobby every name in the book, and then rang me up and reamed me out again. He was quite unreasonable, irrational, really. George Jacobs told me later that when he got off the phone, he went outside with a sledgehammer and started chopping up the concrete landing pad of his heliport. He was in a frenzy."

When the President arrived at the Crosby home, he called Sinatra to smooth things out and to invite him for a visit to Bing's place. Sinatra declined, saying he had to leave for Los Angeles. After the conversation, the President told Lawford, "He's pretty upset, but I told him not to blame you because you didn't have anything to do with it. It was simply a matter of security. The Secret Service thought Crosby's place afforded better security."

Lawford told Kelley: "That's the excuse we used -- security -- and we blamed it all on the Secret Service. We'd worked it out beforehand, but Frank didn't buy that for a minute, and, with a couple of exceptions, he never spoke to me again. He cut me out of all the movies we were set to make together -- Robin and the 7 Hoods, 4 for Texas -- and turned Dean [Martin] and Sammy [Davis] and Joey [Bishop] against me as well."


Not only did Sinatra cut Lawford from his upcoming Rat Pack movies, he rubbed salt in his wounds by persuading Bing Crosby to play the role of Alan A. Dale intended for Lawford in Robin and the 7 Hoods!

The President used his stay at Bing's home to party with Hollywood celebrities. Bing was not present. Mimi Alford, a White House "intern" and presidential playmate, recalled the events in her 2012 book:
"The next day, we headed out to Bing Crosby's house in Palm Springs, where a large festive crowd -- many from the entertainment industry -- had gathered to greet President Kennedy. I felt like I'd been admitted into some wonderful, secret club.

But then the evening turned into a nightmare.

Crosby's house was a modern, sprawling single-story ranch in the desert, and the party was raucous. Compared to what I'd seen in Washington, this was another planet. There was a large group of people, a fast Hollywood crowd, hovering around the President, who was, as always, the center of attention. I was sitting next to him in the living room when a handful of yellow capsules -- most likely amyl nitrite, commonly known then as poppers -- was offered up by one of the guests. The President asked me if I wanted to try the drug, which stimulated the heart but also purportedly enhanced sex. I said no, but he just went ahead and popped the capsule and held it under my nose. (The President, with all his ailments, was accustomed to taking many medications and was reported to rely on amphetamines for energy. But he didn't use the drug himself that evening: I was the guinea pig.) Within minutes of inhaling the powder, my heart started racing and my hands began to tremble. This was a new sensation, and it frightened me. I panicked and ran crying from the room, praying that it would end soon, that I wasn't about to have a heart attack. Dave Powers, bless him, ran after me and escorted me to a quiet corner in the back of the house, where he sat with me for more than an hour until the effects of the drug wore off.

I didn't spend that night with President Kennedy. He was staying in a suite, now known as the Kennedy Wing, with its own private entrance on one side of the Crosby property. Was he alone? I do not know. For the first and only time since I met him, I was relieved not to see him -- and fell asleep in one of the guest rooms." (Alford, pages 80-81)JFK did not use Alford to satisfy his sexual needs at the Crosby mansion because he had a bigger conquest in mind -- Marilyn Monroe, who was an overnight guest. According to Monroe's biographer Donald Spoto, Monroe called her personal masseur, the actor Ralph Roberts, from the same bedroom where JFK was staying at Crosby's house. Roberts, JFK and Monroe then had a brief conversation about the President's back problems. Spoto later interviewed the masseur, who said Monroe told him that weekend at the Crosby home was her only sexual contact with the president. (Spoto, pages 487-505)

President Kennedy stayed one more time, Sept. 28-29, 1963, at Bing's Palm Springs home, after which he phoned Bing to thank him for the use of his home. Less than 2 months later the President was murdered in Dallas, Texas...

Saturday, September 7, 2019

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: MORE BALD BING

My daughter is six, and I have her fascinated with Bing Crosby. Afterall, she is named after the Bing song "I Love You. Samantha" from 1956's High Society. For some reason though she loves to look at pictures of Bing without his toupee. I originally did a photo story on Bing's baldness in 2011, which is one of the most popular photo blog entries I've done. So I combed my photos and found some more pics of a bald Bing Crosby...


Bing with Judy Garland



Bing with Grace Kelly



Bing with wife Dixie Lee

One of Bing's last photos on the day he died

You can see the original post here: PHOTOS OF THE DAY: A BALD BING

Friday, August 30, 2019

BING AND HIS GOLDEN GLOBE

Beginning in 1952 when the Cecil B. deMille Award was presented to its namesake visionary director, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has awarded its most prestigious prize 66 times. From Walt Disney to Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor to Steven Spielberg and 62 others, the deMille has gone to luminaries – actors, directors, producers – who have left an indelible mark on Hollywood. Sometimes mistaken with a career achievement award, per HFPA statute, the deMille is more precisely bestowed for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment”. In this series, HFPA cognoscente and former president Phil Berk profilesdeMille laureates through the years.

He was the personification of the laidback, the unflappable, Mr. Cool.

For twenty years Bing Crosby was the world’s most popular actor, even during World War II, when he was affectionately known as Der Bingle by the Germans, a name that caught on in the States once the war ended.

But long before he received his Cecil B deMille award in 1960 Crosby had proved himself as both a crooner and an actor without peer.

He started out as part of a singing trio but eventually went solo with big bands: Paul Whiteman and Jimmy Dorsey. For decades he was the biggest name in music and in one year commanded 60% of all record sales. In fact, his “White Christmas” remains the biggest selling single of all time.

He soon became a fixture in radio and had the top-rated shows on the airways for decades. He even conquered television in later years.

But it was his film career that earned him cultural immortality. His first feature-film role, after having done a number of short subjects, was The Big Broadcast for which he was given top billing. He continued to get top billing at Paramount for 30 years. (The one exception was playing opposite William Randolph Hearst’s mistress Marion Davies in his second feature Going Hollywood.)

Among actresses acquiescing to second billing in those early movies were Joan Bennett, Carole Lombard, Miriam Hopkins, Merle Oberon, Ethel Merman, and Frances Farmer. During his first decade between 1933 to 1939, he starred in twenty movies, all box office successes. The ’40s, however, were his greatest years. In 1940 he made the first of his now-classic road movies, The Road to Morocco, with Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. It was so successful the second, Road to Zanzibar, followed the next year. Even today these road movies are considered worthy successors to the Marx Brothers classics.

By 1943 he was the world’s most popular actor and in fact held that title for five years as Hollywood’s top box office draw. During that period he experienced his first blockbuster and first collaboration with Irving Berlin: Holiday Inn. This time his second-billed costar was Fred Astaire.

But it was Going My Way, in 1944, which established him as a Hollywood icon, winning him a Best Actor Academy Award. After that, his reputation was sealed.

The following year, in a rare loan out to RKO. he reprised his role of Father O’Malley in The Bells of St Mary’s opposite Ingrid Bergman. The two became the world’s most popular actors, and the film the year’s biggest box office hit. Unfortunately Paramount didn’t know what to do with him. He was assigned top directors (Billy Wilder, Frank Capra) but nothing really clicked, although Capra’s Riding High is a fun ride. His last commercial success for Paramount was Irving Berlin’s White Christmas which was 1954’s biggest moneymaker.

But then he was given the dramatic role of his career playing the alcoholic husband in The Country Girl. Grace Kelly, playing his long-suffering wife, got all the plaudits but it was Crosby who gives the film’s great performance. She won the Best Actress in a Motion Picture Golden Globe, Crosby wasn’t nominated.

Six years later he received his first Hollywood Foreign Press honor, the Cecil B. deMille Award for lifetime achievement. He was 57 at the time.

Country Girl was Crosby’s swansong at Paramount and from then on he freelanced. The highlight of this period was Cole Porter’s High Society for MGM, teaming him for the first time with fellow crooner Frank Sinatra. Grace Kelly was again his costar. During the filming, he pursued her ardently, but she ran off and married Prince Rainier ending her Hollywood career.

Which segues into the only blot on his hallowed career, his conduct as a husband and father. He was married to singer Dixie Lee for over 20 years before her death. She was an alcoholic and the mother of his four sons. For much of that time, they were estranged but as a good Catholic, he stayed by her side. Their eldest son Gary wrote an autobiography detailing the cruel punishments inflicted upon him by his father. Despite his high expectations, none of his kids amounted to much, although Gary had a short career as a juvenile in teenage movies.

After Dixie died Crosby married actress Kathryn Grant, 30 years his junior. They had three children.

Sadly, Crosby died suddenly on a golf course in Spain at age 74.

As a Hollywood icon, he has few equals...