Friday, April 18, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: COLLEGE HUMOR

Bing Crosby made quite an impact as a leading man in his first feature film The Big Broadcast in 1932. Paramount Studios quickly signed him up to a contract and next up for Bing would be the college musical College Humor. In this film at least they had the decency to cast 30 year old Bing as a professor. As students they had 30 year old Jack Oakie and 34 year old Richard Arlen! This film was basically a Jack Oakie movie with Bing thrown in for added appeal.

Barney Shirrel (Jack Oakie) starts his first semester at Mid West University and works his way up in the fraternity with the help of Tex Roust (Joe Sawyer) and Mondrake (Richard Arlen), an alcoholic college football star. Barney is passionate about engineering and the law, and between his varied studies, football, and the fraternity, he neglects his girl friend Amber (Mary Kornman).

In the next term, Mondrake gives his class sweater to Barney's sister Barbara (Mary Carlisle). His drinking problem intensifies, however, when he learns that Barbara is falling in love with Professor Danvers (Bing Crosby), the singing drama teacher. When Mondrake fails to show up at an important football game against a rival university, Danvers finds him in jail. With the school's reputation at stake, Danvers has him released and takes him to the football field in time to play in the game.


Afterwards, Danvers is called before the college president (Lumsden Hare). Although rivals for Barbara's affections, Danvers stands up for Mondrake. The college president expels Mondrake for drunkenness and forces Danvers to resign because of his involvement in the matter. Feeling guilty over causing Mondrake's expulsion, Barbara proposes marriage to him. Later, however, she admits that she is not in love with him, but with Danvers. Mondrake bows out of the relationship, and Barbara rushes to Danvers' side before he leaves.

During the next term, Barney has followed Mondrake's example and taken up drinking and smoking, which is not appealing to Amber. At the big football game, Barney is in sorry shape. Mid West is losing until he receives inspiration from Tex, who has returned to watch the game. After being knocked out, Barney recovers and wins the game for Mid West.


Some time later, Barney and Amber get married and they move to his father's dairy, where Barney works his way up from the lowest position. Barney and Amber enjoy listening to Danvers singing his song on the radio.

The best part of the film was Bing's singing, and he sang some good ones like: "Down The Old Ox Road", "Moonstruck", and "Learn To Croon". Another wonderful draw of the film is Mary Carlisle, who is with us as of this writing, at the age of 101. She is probably the last person alive who was involved in this 80 year old film. There was not enough Bing and Mary Carlisle, and too much Jack Oakie for my taste. The only movie I ever liked Oakie in was The Great Dictator in 1940. I loved my years in college, but I only remotely liked this collegiate offering. If it was not for Bing, this film would have been a horrible bomb...

MY RATING: 6 OUT OF 10

Friday, April 11, 2014

BING CROSBY: AT HIS PEAK

Here is a new Bing Crosby CD, from the label Sounds Of Yesteryear. Nothing really rare, but a great bunch of songs...


The year of Bing Crosby's peak of popularity was 1944. On this CD we have naturally included Bing's 1944 recordings but also his 1943 and 1945/6 recordings so that you can hear the build up to his peak and the slight slide in popularity too. We calculate that Bing had ten entries into America's popular music charts in 1943. He doubled that to twenty in 1944. His tally for 1945 was eighteen, a drop of only ten percent. Bing would often use other popular singers of the day to harmonize with him and that is the case on a lot of these recordings.

Also featured with him are: The Andrews Sisters, The Ken Darby Singers; Trudy Erwin and The Sportsmen's Glee Club; The Williams Brothers Quartet; Bob Hope; The Charioteers and The Jesters. The featured orchestras are Vic Shoen and His Orchestra, John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra, Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra; Les Paul and His Trio; Carmen Cavallero and His Orchestra and Bob Haggart and His Orchestra...


track listing:
1. Sunday, Monday Or Always
2. If You Please
3. People Will Say We're In Love
4. Oh! What A Beautiful Mornin'
5. Pistol-Packin' Mama
6. Victory Polka
7. Jingle Bells
8. San Fernando Valley
9. I Love You
10. I'll Be Seeing You/Swinging On A Star
11. Going My Way
12. It Could Happen To You
13. Too-Re-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (That's An Irish Lullaby)
14. Don't Fence Me In
15. Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate-The Positive
16. The Three Caballeros
17. You Belong To My Heart
18. If I Loved You
19. Along The Navajo Trail
20. It's Been A Long, Long Time
21. The Road To Morocco
22. I Can't Begin To Tell You
23. Aren't You Glad You're You?
24. In The Land Of Beginning Again
25. The Bells Of St. Mary's
26. McNamara's Band

SOURCE

Thursday, April 3, 2014

SPOTLIGHT ON EB LOTTIMER


Not many people know the name Eb Lottimer. I wanted to research him because he not only is interesting but he would go on to be Bing's first son-in-law. He married Bing Crosby's only daughter Mary Frances Crosby after Bing died, but he did meet Bing in 1976.

"I wasn't really intimidated at the prospect of meeting Mr. Crosby," Eb recalls. "But, legend that he was and because I myself was entering the music business, I would have liked to have gotten to know him a little better than I did. I mean, I respected the fact that he was very protective of his only daughter, but ...." "What happened," Mary says, interpreting her husbands tactfulness, "is Daddy came downstairs, said, 'How do you do?' then proceeded to turn on the baseball game -- which he watched all during lunch. The primo moment came when we were saying grace. There's Daddy, checking Eb out from the corner of his eye, making sure he's crossing himself."

Eb Lottimer was born on June 21, 1951 in Richmond, Virginia, USA as Edmund Lottimer. He is an actor and director, known for Fright Night (2011), Breakin' (1984) and Beyond the Call of Duty (1992). He was the son of a Virginia investment man and his landscape architect wife. He married Bing's only daughter in late 1978 and remained married to her until they divorced in 1989. They had one child together. On his former wife Mary Crosby: If my career were taking off at the same time as Mary's, I couldn't enjoy her success nearly as well". "This way, I am a part of her success, and when I hit, she will enjoy that with me."

He also wrote, produced and directed the indie film, Divorce: A Contemporary Western (1998), which is a somewhat autobiographical piece about his breakup with his ex-wife, Mary Crosby. Just Shoot Me! (1997) series regular, Wendie Malick, played the Mary equivalent in the film. Denise Crosby, daughter of Dennis Crosby also appeared in the film. It does not seem like he ever remarried, but I am not sure about that. He is currently a Filmmaker in Residence at the Florida State University school of Motion Picture, Television and Recording Arts....


Friday, March 28, 2014

BING CROSBY AND THE WALKING DEAD

One of the most popular shows on cable now is the zombie drama, The Walking Dead. Now there is a Bing connection on the show. Bing's grand-daughter, Denise Crosby, was just introduced as a new character. Basically the survivors find a so-called safe haven called Terminus, and Denise Crosby is the women who greets them there.

The season finale of The Walking Dead is on Sunday March 31st so check it out for the drama, the zombies, and Denise Crosby...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A BING SONG: THERE'S NOTHING THAT I HAVEN'T SUNG ABOUT


This song introduced the world to Bing the Rapper, long before Rap made its mark on the pop music scene. "There's Nothing" was originally written for Bing to sing on a 1969 guest appearance on Jackie Gleason's television show featuring The Honeymooners. Jackie tries to sell Bing a new song, but Bing responds musically that there "ain't nothin' I haven't sung about."

Surprisingly Bing did not record the song for commercial release until July 22, 1976, for Decca (then part of MCA) in London. He was backed by the Alan Cohen orchestra. The song was released that fall on his album "Feels Good, Feels Right." In England "There's Nothing" was also released as a single, backed by Bing's masterful interpretation of "As Time Goes By." Invariably, Bing included this song in his many concerts the last year of his life. The song jumps...

I've sung about the birds and bees
The daffydown dillies and the shady trees
I've covered mother nature inside out.
There's the old ox road, the old millstream
Pennies from heaven and darn that dream
Nothin that I haven't sung about.

I've sung some songs of sacrifice
I've even sung a few that offered good advice.
I've covered all emotions there's no doubt.
Like a fine romance, learn to croon
Sing you sinners, and love in bloom.
Nothing that I haven't sung about.

There's many a chorus
I've sang of Delores.
Remember Marquita, and sweet Riorita?
There's Mary and Sally, and Rose Mexicali.
From Emiline to Clementine
They all got equal time.

Yes, musically I've been around
I've covered almost every town
I've always been a vocal gadabout.
From the Swanee River, to Galway Bay,
Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe
There's nothing that I haven't sung about.

I found a million dollar baby in a ten cent store
A pockeful of dreams and plenty more
Since anything goes I pick Sweet Sue
Spose that's the natural thing to do.

We began the beguine and I could feel it start
I said please be careful that's my heart!
In the cool of the evening 'neath the autumn leaves
We call for music, maestro please!

There's a great temptation as we cuddle near
And I whispered I surrender dear.
The bells of St Mary's rang in the steeple
For all the dear friends and gentle kind of people.

I said babe I got you under my skin
It had to be you 'cause love walked in.
From here on in you'll be going my way
Til the blue of the night meets the gold of the day.

I've sung about Dolly, my Rosie of Tralee
I've sung of Chicago, and that song from Zhivago.
The old Mississippi and Tintipitipi.
The winter, summer, spring and fall
I've covered one and all
And I love 'em one and all!

I've tried to sing these modern songs
I just can't figure where that style belongs
The mad rock, acid rock, country, western, soul.
But when I try to sing 'em I ain't nowhere
I ain't got the clothes and I ain't got the hair
But I'll keep tryin' til there is no doubt
There ain't nothing, really nothing,
That I haven't sung about!

Friday, March 14, 2014

BING BIOGRAPHER BOB THOMAS DIES

He was the institutional memory for the movies at The Associated Press and a passage for the world to a Hollywood both longed for and long gone.

Bob Thomas, who died Friday at his Encino, Calif., home at age 92, started reporting when Clark Gable was a middle-aged king, Bette Davis was in her big-eyed prime, and Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall were emerging stars. "Independent" movies were a rarity during the studio-controlled era and celebrity gossip was dispensed by rival columnists Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons rather than Internet sites.

Younger reporters knew the names and the credits, but Thomas knew the people and lived the history. He could tell you what Jack Lemmon liked to drink at parties or recall Marilyn Monroe's farcical inability to show up on time, or speak fondly of his times with "Greg" Peck.

Around the country, and beyond, at least one generation of movie fans learned the latest about Hollywood by reading Bob Thomas. He interviewed most of the great screen actors of the 20th century, among them Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Bing Crosby Humphrey Bogart, Jack Nicholson, Julia Roberts and Tom Cruise.

When a story ran, Thomas often heard directly from the stars. Soon after her marriage to actor John Agar in 1945, Shirley Temple wrote: "John and I want you to know that we are very grateful to you for the manner in which you handled the story on our wedding."

A postcard from Rita Hayworth passed on regards from Orson Welles. Bing Crosby shared warm thoughts about Bob Hope. Groucho Marx noted that Thomas' interview with him had been syndicated in 400 newspapers. "But as faithful as I am to you in my fashion, I read them all," Groucho wrote to him.

Thomas worked well into his 80s, covering a record 66 consecutive Academy Awards shows, beginning in 1944. During his nearly seven decades writing for the AP, Thomas reviewed hundreds of films and television shows and wrote numerous retrospective pieces on Hollywood and how it had changed.

Thomas was also the author of nearly three dozen books, including biographies of Bing Crosby, Walt Disney, Brando and Joan Crawford, and an acclaimed portrait of studio mogul Harry Cohn, "King Cohn." He wrote, produced and appeared in a handful of television specials on the Academy Awards and was a guest on numerous TV news and talk shows, including "The Tonight Show," ''Good Morning America" and "Nightline." His biographies of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes and the comedy team of Abbott and Costello were made into television movies.

He is listed twice in Guinness World Records: for most consecutive Academy Awards shows covered by an entertainment reporter and for longest career as an entertainment reporter (1944-2010). In 1988, he became the first reporter-author awarded a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the AP, worked with Thomas in the Los Angeles bureau in the early 1980s. "Bob was an old-fashioned Hollywood reporter and he knew absolutely everyone," she said. "He had a double-helping of impish charm with the stars, but back at the office, he was the quiet guy who slipped into a desk at the back and poked at the keyboard for a while, then handed in a crisp and knowing story soon delivered to movie fans around the world."

Monday, March 10, 2014

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: BING AND HIS MOVIE POSTERS

Classic Hollywood is better than present Hollywood in so many ways, and I think the artwork on movie posters is an example. I love old movie posters, and their artwork is so crisp and vivid. I figured it would be interesting to take a lot at a few movie posters of Der Bingle. Afterall, he was Paramount's biggest star from 1932 to 1956...

SHE LOVES ME NOT (1934)

DR. RHYTHM (1938)

DIXIE (1943)

TOP O' THE MORNING (1949)

MR. MUSIC (1950)

ANYTHING GOES (1956)

Monday, March 3, 2014

BING AND THE BEATLES

This past month marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan show. Their music caused such a revolution, just as Bing's music did three decades before that. Bing and The Beatles never worked together, but The Beatles were admirers of Bing.

Bing's 1932 recording of Please, which contained the plaintive plea "Please, lend your little ear to my pleas" was part of the inspiration for the Beatles first chart-topping hit, "Please Please Me," written by John Lennon in 1962. Lennon recounts the development of the song in Ray Coleman's 1984 biography, Lennon:

"In my auntie's house on Menlove Avenue, I heard Roy Orbison doing 'Only the Lonely' on the radio. I was also intrigued by the double use of the word 'please' in a Bing Crosby song. Lennon was a long-time fan of Bing's music, especially the early Crosby. In a 1980 interview a few weeks before Lennon's death, Coleman asked Lennon what music he was currently listening to. He said, "Hank Williams, Carl Perkins, John Gielgud reading Shakespeare and anything that Bing Crosby had ever done."

George Harrison developed an interest in Bing in the 1980s. On a nationally-syndicated radio show, Breakfast with the Beatles, Harrison remarked, "Bing Crosby was someone I discovered in my gardening period. He had a lovely voice, a presence that sort of crackles. He always remained popular over here [i.e., England]. I like his stuff very much."

According to Harrison's son, Dhani, quoted in the October 2002 issue of "Beatles Monthly" magazine, an album of recordings by Bix Beiderbecke and Bing (Bix 'n' Bing) was his dad's favorite in his later years.

There is no evidence that Bing met any of the Beatles, but he did perform several of their songs ("Fool on the Hill," "Obladi Oblada" ...) on his television shows. His only commercial recording of a Lennon-McCartney song was "Hey Jude," the Beatles' biggest hit, on Nov. 21, 1968. It became the title song of his next album, Hey Jude, Hey Bing!. Bing's version of "Hey Jude" was released on CD in 1997 by Rhino Records under the title "Golden Throats IV -- Celebrities Butcher the Beatles."

SOURCE

Monday, February 24, 2014

BING AND HIS ONLY DAUGHTER

An interview with Mary Crosby:
"My Father, Bing Crosby"
by Sheila Weller, McCalls, July 1980

"My one regret is that Daddy isn't here to share the tremendous joys of my life right now," says 20-year-old Mary Crosby, Bing's only daughter and a star of TVs top-rated Dallas. "But other than that" -- she instantly shifts from dreamy to direct -- "I am very clear on his death. Daddy died while he was still very much a man, while he still had control of the lives of the people he loved. If he'd lived much longer, he would have had great pain in dealing with the fact that his children were making choices he couldn't approve of."

My decision to live with the man I loved before committing my life to him in marriage is something that went against all Daddy's beliefs. He had painted himself into a corner by telling Barbara Walters he would disown me if I ever did that. I would have confronted him with my decision and, though I believe his love and trust would have eventually won out over his anger, it would have wounded his pride terribly to have had to give in. I'm grateful that I never had to use one of Daddy's greatest lessons to me -- that there is a time to be selfish -- in a way that would have hurt him, hurt us both, in those last years of his life."

This honesty -- the ability to confront conflicts and pressures with unequivocal clarity and grace -- is the first thing that strikes you about Mary Crosby. It seemed logical to expect something else: cautiously dutiful talk from the wide-eyed young girl you had watched for almost two decades singing "White Christmas" and extolling the merits of orange juice with her famous, perfect family.

"It was Daddy, really, who gave me the great sense of privacy that my life is all about. This house, for example." She laughs. "Even the people Eb and I invite over can't find it! Daddy raised my two brothers and me in Hillsborough (a San Francisco suburb) on purpose -- to protect us. His Hollywood days were over by then. Mostly, he did his hunting and his golfing and came home to be the man of the house -- and that house was ONLY family. He saw friends like Bob Hope -- oh, maybe once every three years. To this day, I have never been to a Hollywood party, though it would probably be good for my career. In fact, I was so sheltered that, when I first met Larry [Hagman, who stars as the suavely corrupt oil scion, J.R. Ewing in Dallas], I said, "Oh, and how did you get into the business?" She throws back her head and laughs again. "I didn't know he was Mary Martin's son!"


So it was not, really, the fact that Mary was the daughter of one of the world's most beloved entertainers that shaped her intriguing blend of wholesomeness and savvy, idealism and precociousness. It was something else. This girl who looks so young, yet has matured so quickly -- who is equally sweet and strong -- became that way because that was the ONLY way you could turn out as the one daughter, among six sons, of a patriarch with very rigid ideas about morality and behavior, a man whose affection had to be deftly read between the lines, whose vulnerabilities were safely hidden for 70 years in his male-to-male exchanges and the shielding protocol that comes with being the older traditional husband to a younger traditional wife. There was only one person who could find the chink in Bing Crosby's armor, who could love him in a disarming new way that would teach him something, who had to gently fence with him to assert -- even find -- her true self. And that person was Mary.

"You know something? I don't think poor Daddy had the vaguest idea of what to do with a girl. He'd had four sons on his first marriage, and I was wedged between Harry and Nathaniel and was a terrible tomboy, beating both of them up until I was eleven -- when they started to beat ME up. Daddy would treat me like a boy -- teaching me to shoot, taking me on safaris to Africa -- and then turn around and get wonderfully befuddled by what he'd just done. 'Wait a minute, I can't take her duck hunting: she's a girl!' And 'What the heck is she doing out there playing football? Oh, yeah ... that's right ... I taught her.'

"But I had my special little-girl ways of showing my love for him. My mother was smart enough to say, 'I don't know how to cook' -- which of course wasn't true. So on the days the housekeeper was off I'd make Daddy's meals for him: burnt eggs, overboiled soup. I'd bring them to him on a tray while he sat watching the football game on TV. He never looked up from that game -- that was his style -- but I could FEEL his love.

"That's what my communication with Daddy was all about: We understood much more about each other than each of us ever let on: there was an awful lot of love there, but it was so unspoken. He'd been raised in a large family of staunch Irish Catholics. In contrast to Mother -- who is a soft, warm, affectionate Southern lady -- he was very uncomfortable with expressing his feelings. He'd use sarcasm or criticism to slip in a compliment upside down. Or we'd hear of his praise from other people. If I kissed him goodnight, he'd pull away. If I hugged him too long, he'd squirm. It was fun playing against his resistance, because I knew he secretly loved the tenderness he found so hard to express.

"Daddy was also not above emotional blackmail, but I could spar with him on that too. Because he was an older father [55 when Mary was born] there was a sense we all got from Mother that we had to protect him, that each day with him was precious. So when he wanted us to do something we didn't want to do, he'd moan, 'Look, I don't know how much longer I'll be around.' I'd just say, 'Hey, waaait a minute! I don't buy that garbage!' He was sly: he would try to have it both ways -- the patriarch and the martyr.

"But underneath all of that he was a lovely, honest, MODEST man who didn't consider himself a fount of wisdom, who understood his mistakes. He had been hurt by people he'd helped out over the years who never repaid him, and I got the sense that he would have wished more from his first four sons than he'd gotten. Maybe that's why he wanted perfection from the three of us."


When Mary was invited to spend her 13th year as an exchange student living in the home of a large Mexican family, Kathryn was delighted, supportive. But Bing was not.

"He got a little sulky about it. For four months all my letters and phone calls to him went unanswered. But I kept on writing, telling him about all I was learning and how I understood how he was 'too busy' to write. What I was really saying, between the lines, was, 'Look, I know you have to stay mad at me because you made a stand and you can't back down from it. I just want you to know I understand -- and if you do change your mind, I promise I won't call you on it.'"

Her veiled communiqué was answered when Bing phoned her one day, his voice shaking, "I'm about to have an operation," he said, "and I want to ask you a favor. I want you to come home."

"Of course I'll come home," I told him. Then he shocked me by saying 'I'm sorry about the way I acted, but that's just the way I am. I'm not going to change now. But I want you to know I really love you -- and I NEED you now.'" Mary's eyes mist at the memory. "That was such an incredibly hard thing for him to do -- apologizing like that, admitting his need."

Bing survived the operation -- the removal of a lung -- and though he pretended to continue to disapprove of Mary's time in Mexico, "after the year was up" -- she smiles cagily -- "he was bragging to EVERYONE that his daughter was bilingual." They were set in a pattern: he, keeping up his strict, taciturn facade; she, using her quietly learned empathy to help him keep up that front, despite her secret knowledge of his vulnerability.

As part of this pact of unspoken love through not one but two generation gaps, "Daddy and I never even tried to talk about me and boys. He just laid down his ultimatums and I didn't dispute them; it would have been ridiculous to try." Yet he did consent to Mary's going off to the University of Texas in Austin after she had graduated from high school at the tender age of 15. "But the funny thing is, I felt OLDER than my sorority sisters. I was always taking care of them. Underneath their sweet, innocent, Southern game, they were the biggest bunch of little drinkers I'd ever met in my life! They wanted four years of playing -- time enough to find husbands. That is not what I wanted. I wanted to act."

So after a few semesters she left -- for San Francisco's prestigious American Conservatory Theater, which was close enough to the Crosby home for Mary to commute, albeit inconveniently. "Daddy approved. But he also said, 'If you want to be an actress, I'm not going to help you. I want you to make it on your own.' and I said, 'Good. Because I wouldn't have it any other way.'"

During this period of Mary's budding independence, the Crosbys traveled together to New York to perform at the Uris Theater. "I remember one day walking with Daddy through the streets of Manhattan -- blocks and blocks and blocks. The whole time he was doing something he had never done before -- holding my hand. That little gesture meant so much to me because it had taken him so long to get there. And it made me think I might have even taught him something."

It was during the trip that Mary made friends with a young man, Barclay Lottimer, the son of a Virginia economist, who had a very strong hunch that she would get along with his brother Eb, a handsome young singer-songwriter who was finishing his classes at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

When Mary returned to California, Eb called and they had a "telephone relationship" for two weeks. "That was such a nice way to begin," Mary says. "We could debate, argue, discuss things -- without anything physical getting in the way. Those conversations just flew. He was funny, he was intelligent, he was creative; I was attracted to Eb before I even met him -- which was important to me, because I didn't want to waste my time on an unproductive, superficial relationship." That last thought is fascinating coming from a then-17-year-old girl. It's something you hear a lot of women in the 30s saying. "Well," Mary says when this thought is expressed, "you don't have to go through a lot of bad experiences to know you don't want them."

On January 14, 1976, Eb and Mary each set out for a stretch of beach that was exactly halfway between Santa Cruz and San Francisco. She had the picnic dinner, he had the wine. She was looking for a blue truck, he a silver Monza. "We pulled into the parking lot at exactly the same time," Mary remembers. "We were instantly keyed into each other's electricity," he recalls. "We fell in love."

The next step -- taken, judiciously, months later -- was telling Bing. By now, the news would come right on the heels of Mary's decision to move from her father's home to an apartment of her own, closer to her acting classes. "I just said, 'Daddy, I have a very special friend coming over for lunch today. PLEASE be courteous.'"

"I wasn't really intimidated at the prospect of meeting Mr. Crosby," Eb recalls. "But, legend that he was and because I myself was entering the music business, I would have liked to have gotten to know him a little better than I did. I mean, I respected the fact that he was very protective of his only daughter, but ...."

"What happened," Mary says, interpreting her husbands tactfulness, "is Daddy came downstairs, said, 'How do you do?' then proceeded to turn on the baseball game -- which he watched all during lunch. The primo moment came when we were saying grace. There's Daddy, checking Eb out from the corner of his eye, making sure he's crossing himself."

After lunch, Mary and her father set out to look at the apartment Bing had chosen for her. "It was classic: a dorm for older ladies with dowdy little rooms with mismatched '50s furniture and a huge mahogany dining room -- and waiters! I was trying so hard not to giggle. I looked at him and said, 'You've got to be kidding.' He just shrugged and said, 'Well, you can't blame me for trying.'"

On October 14, 1977, Mary was rehearsing in the A.C.T. production of Julius Caesar when an aide to the theater's director called her out of the chorus and told her the director wanted to talk to her. "I was the third lady of easy virtue to the left, so I knew it wasn't my performance he needed to discuss. I felt my throat tighten a little, and the minute I saw the man's face I felt sorry that he was the one who had to give me the news that my father was dead."

Mary is hurt about stories that she and Eb moved in together right after Bing's death. "It didn't happen that way, not nearly that fast," she says. "And reading that publicity was hard on Mother. The stories came out negatively like, 'What kind of woman would raise a daughter to live with a boy?' It was very unfair. She had no defense. It caused a lot of unnecessary pain.

"I'm not saying that the publicity was the only thing that upset her. Our living together unmarried probably went against a lot of what she too was brought up to believe." Did they fight over it? "I'm an independent person, living my own life" is Mary's firm reply. "I don't think that's something my mother had too much to say about. I cannot speak for her, nor she for me. But," she hastens to point out -- softly now -- "she's always had a lot of faith in my judgment."

Still, Kathryn Crosby did NOT attend Mary and Eb's wedding, which took place Nov. 24, 1978, and was, as Mary puts it, "a joyous celebration of our love," with food she had been preparing for weeks, music by Eb's since-disbanded rock band, and the request that "our friends bring their presence, not presents."

Bing would be delighted at that. But then he would probably really be delighted -- albeit secretly -- with everything about Mary's life now. Even her decision to go against the Crosby grain and have "only one child -- I'm sure of that -- and then not for lots and lots of years." Why? "It's not rebellion; nothing in my life has been that. It's just that I have too much else I want to enjoy for a while. Daddy taught me that there is a time to be selfish. My parents also taught me -- really, through everything -- to be an individual, to make up my own mind."

POSTSCRIPT: Mary and Eb divorced in 1989. Mary married a lawyer, Mark Brodka, in 1998, with whom she has had 2 children...

SOURCE

Monday, February 17, 2014

GUEST REVIEWER: IF I HAD MY WAY

It's been awhile since we had a guest review from Bing guru Bruce Kogan. Here is his usual enjoyable review of the Bing film If I Had My Way (1940)...

If I Had My Way was the second of two films that Carl Laemmle acquired Bing Crosby's services for from Paramount, the first being East Side of Heaven from the previous year. Over at Universal Bing was surrounded with a cast of different contract supporting players than he usually had at Paramount. But the results were pretty good.

Crosby brought over his usual songwriters at the time from Paramount, Jimmy Monaco and Johnny Burke. The team wrote four songs for this film, April Played the Fiddle, Meet the Sun Halfway, I Haven't Got the Time to be a Millionaire, and The Pessimistic Character. There was also the title song which was written by James Kendis and Lou Klein.

April Played the Fiddle and If I Had My Way are good ballads sung solo by Bing on film. The other three while recorded solo by Crosby, in the movie they are duets with his adolescent co-star Gloria Jean. She was sort of bullpen Deanna Durbin that Universal had at the time. Later on Universal developed Jane Powell for the same purpose.

Bing had a genre of popular music all his own, the upbeat philosophical number which he alone seemed to sing on screen. That's what the Gloria Jean duets are here and her soprano in no way clashes with his crooning. One of the songs, Meet the Sun Halfway, is a personal favorite of mine. There's a line in the Johnny Burke lyric where it goes, "you know when you smile, you throw yourself a big bouquet." You listen to Crosby sing it on record and I swear the smile leaps right off the vinyl.

The plot is not too complicated. Bing Crosby, El Brendel, and Donald Woods are construction workers who are just completing the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Woods is a widower with a young daughter Gloria Jean who hangs out with the guys. The last night of the construction job, Woods is killed. So Crosby and El Brendel have to deliver young Ms. Jean to her family in New York whom she's never met.

Problem is there's a family feud going between her uncle Allyn Joslyn who's a real stuffed shirt and great uncle Charles Winninger who's a retired vaudevillian. But of course everything gets fixed up in the end.

Crosby was really developing as an actor by now. His scene where he tells Gloria Jean about her father's death is very moving. No one could have done it better than Bing, not even a Sir Laurence Olivier. Director David Butler got one of Crosby's best cinema moments. Four years later Bing would win the Best Actor Oscar.

If If I Had My Way seems a little familiar maybe it's because there's a lot of similarity between it and the earlier Pennies From Heaven where Crosby plays a similar footloose and fancy free character with a young adolescent girl that's come into his care. However here Universal did something somewhat daring, they didn't give Bing any romantic interest at all. Unusual to say the least, both then and now. But it's not something you really notice during the film. This is a must for true Crosby aficionados like your's truly...

Bruce's rating: 7 out of 10

my rating: 8 out of 10