Wednesday, February 27, 2013

BING AND A MYSTERIOUS GOLFER

Legendary crooner Bing Crosby may have had a voice that was unrivaled, but it was a different story on the golf course. Crosby was no match for golf hustler John “Mysterious” Montague, even when given the upper hand. In 1937, the pair faced off in a match, in which Montague played with an unconventional set of “clubs,” including a rake, a shovel, and a baseball bat.

Montague was a happy and rotund man, who played golf and gambled with the celebrities of his day. He was the champion at Lakeside Club two years in a row, but he fervently dodged the limelight, hence his nickname. “Mysterious” Montague never discussed his past, career, and avoided getting his picture taken. On one occasion when he was likely to break the course record at Lakeside, he decided to bypass the last hole to escape the attention of the press.

Crosby, who was a five time champion at Lakeside himself, was amused when Montague suggested this off the wall bet. Bing and Montague agreed on a wager of $5 a hole, and Bing was confident that he would able to beat Montague’s equipment of junk with his seven-iron. The match ended when Montague hit the ball in with his rake for a birdie three.

Montague’s efforts to remain under the radar foiled after his triumph against Crosby. His photograph was published in the newspaper which the New Jersey police used to connect him with a 1930 roadhouse holdup. Montague was charged under his real name Laverne Moore and he was arrested. When he was on trial, his A-list buddies, including Crosby stuck by his side. Despite his swindling on the golf course, his friends argued that his clean criminal record in California showed that he had changed his ways and he was released.
After this fiasco, the golfer abandoned his mysterious and tricky ways. He continued to play golf with Bing, but stuck with regular golf clubs...


SOURCE



Friday, February 22, 2013

WHITE CHRISTMAS DANCER DIES


He teamed with Vera-Ellen in the Bing Crosby classic "White Christmas", with Cyd Charisse in "Meet Me in Las Vegas" and with Tybee Arfa in nightclubs and on television.


John Brascia, the handsome male half of three spectacular Hollywood dance teams in the 1950s and '60s, died Tuesday at a nursing home in Santa Monica following a 20-year battle with Parkinson's disease, his daughter said. He was 80.

Tony Bennett, who served as Brascia's best man at his wedding to actress-model Sondra Scott on New Year's Eve in 1970, called his longtime friend days before he died, Brascia's daughter, Christina McNown, told The Hollywood Reporter. Brascia tap-danced with and twirled the slim-waisted Vera-Ellen in the high-octane "Abraham" number in Michael Curtiz's White Christmas (1954) and with the sultry Cyd Charisse in Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956) in another famed number, "Frankie and Johnny."

In the Las Vegas scene, set in a nightclub and accompanied by the singing of Sammy Davis Jr., Brascia, who was dancing with another woman (Liliane Montevecchi), dies at the hand of Charisse. "He was her mate/but he couldn’t fly straight," Davis sings during the number.

Later, Brascia teamed with Tybee Arfa in the act Brascia and Tybee, with the pair appearing as the opening nightclub act for such stars as Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Dean Martin and George Burns and as regulars on television on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Jack Benny Show and The Hollywood Palace.

Brascia had met Arfa at the Stage Deli in New York City in 1957, and they married soon afterward. (In an uncredited role, Arfa would play a dancer in the wedding scene in 1972's The Godfather.)

Brascia, whose fans included Elvis Presley, also worked as an actor in non-dancing roles in such films as The Ambushers (1967), The Wrecking Crew (1968), Executive Action (1973), Walking Tall (1973) and The Baltimore Bullet (1980), in the telefilm Pray for the Wildcats (1974) and in the TV series S.W.A.T. and Joe and Sons.

Brascia also wrote and produced The Baltimore Bullet, which was inspired by his passion for the game of pool. The film about hustlers starred James Coburn, Omar Sharif and Bruce Boxleitner.

Brascia was born May 11, 1932, in Fresno, Calif., to Italian parents Caterina and Gaetano. He grew up in Colton, Calif., and attended Hollywood High School.

He made his Broadway debut in February 1953 in Hazel Flagg, a musical from Jules Styne and Bob Hilliard that was based on the 1937 Carole Lombard screwball comedy Nothing Sacred. The production was choreographed by Robert Alton -- a major figure in dance choreography for Broadway and Hollywood musicals -- and Brascia received an Outer Critics Circle Award for his performance.

Alton was in charge of the musical numbers in White Christmas, starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, and he cast Brascia as the lead dancer in that movie.

In addition to Christina, his daughter with Scott, Brascia is survived by another daughter, Giavonna (from his marriage in 1986 to actress-model Jordan Michaels), and grandchildren John, Mary-Catherine and Arabella.

Christina, the wife of former UCLA star quarterback Cade McNown, told THR that Brascia was sued for "alienation of affection" by famed Spanish-American bandleader Xavier Cugat for "stealing" his wife, actress-singer Abbe Lane. (Cugat and Lane divorced in the early 1960s.)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

BING LEFT ME WANTING MORE

Here is an excellent editorial/appreciation written by Bing Crosby guru Steve Fay. He is the best friend a Bing fan can have...

The longer I am a Bing Crosby fan, the more this seems to be true. As I learn more about Bing's career--his recordings, movies, and contributions to broadcasting and culture--I not only want to keep listening, watching, and learning, I also and especially wish he could have been with us longer.

Bing died the same year Elvis did, Elvis who was one of those rock icons who shook up popular music threatening and displacing artists singing in styles popular in the 20s to mid-50s, but Elvis did not leave me wanting more. By the time I was in high school (late 60s) his career seemed mostly over and to put it kindly, with few exceptions, his movies were poor. But I felt a profound loss at the news that Bing died. At that time, really all I knew about Bing was his most popular movies, playing occasionally on TV, his occasional TV specials and other appearances I'd watched growing up, and a couple dozen of his 78s, part of a collection I expanded after restoring an old wind-up Victrola about my second year of high school.

Now, when I have most of his LPs and several LP and CD compilations of his work, as well as several of his movies on VHS and DVD, and when I have read much more about him, I can't help wishing he could have given us more songs, more movies (musicals and dramas and even thrillers), more broadcast appearances of many kinds, and even more Christmas specials and song recordings. I will hear some song from the decades since he died and think, "Bing could have done a great version of that one!" I will hear Tony Bennett doing more duet recordings and recall what a master of the duet Bing was, not only from films but from so many duets with guests appearing on his decades of radio shows! Had Bing been around another decade or more, how many fascinating and memorable duet collaborations might he have given us?


And then, when I think of "The Country Girl," "Stagecoach," and "Dr. Cook's Garden" (a still from which is now my computer wallpaper), I sometimes wonder if we only began to know Bing's potential range as an actor. It boggles my mind to imagine the sorts of non-singing dramatic roles, humorous character-actor roles, and even horror or sci-fi roles those three films begin to suggest might have been possible in a longer Crosby film career. Then, too, now when name film actors have started to disappear from the screen in droves to do cartoon character voice-over roles for Pixar and other studios, Bing might have excelled far beyond what he gave us in that area as well...had he stayed with us a dozen or so more years.

Then, also, I can't forget what was happening in Bing's recording collaborations with Ken Barnes at the time Bing died. To my ears, they were getting better and better. Where might that musical road have led with more time?

There is a maxim about how a great performer knows to leave the stage while the audience still wants more (rather than after they've had quite enough I suppose), but I rather think that Bing could have given us several more marvelous years, and I personally would have still wanted more, because who knows how much more potential and range those years might have begun to reveal. On the other hand, I don't want to sound ungrateful. I am very thankful for all the enjoyment Bing has given the world, me included. I am also grateful to the longer-term and more dedicated Crosby fans who have done so much to keep his legacy alive, who also have also done so much for so long to teach and foster newer and evolving fans like me...


SOURCE




Sunday, February 17, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: BLUE SKIES

For over two decades, Bing Crosby was the number one star at Paramount. He successfully rescued the studio from bankruptcy in the early 1930s. Despite that, Paramount rarely put Bing in a technicolor movie. However, when the studio did put Bing in a big budget musical, the result was always out of this world. That was the result of 1946's Blue Skies.

As in Holiday Inn (1942), Blue Skies is designed to showcase the songs of Irving Berlin. The plot, which is presented in a series of flashbacks with Astaire as narrator, follows a similar formula of Crosby beating Astaire for the affections of a leading lady. Comedy is principally provided by Billy De Wolfe.

Joan Caulfield was the protege of Mark Sandrich - who directed many of the Astaire-Rogers musicals - and who was originally slated to direct this film. He died of a heart attack during pre-production and Stuart Heisler was drafted in to replace him. Heisler wanted Caulfield replaced, but Crosby - who was reportedly having an affair with Caulfield - protected her. Stuart Heisler had never directed a musical, and Bing and the director did not get along. A year after Blue Skies came out, Heisler directed Susan Hayward in a movie called Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman, which was supposedly the life story of Bing's first wife Dixe Lee Crosby.

Tap dancer Paul Draper was the initial choice to partner Bing Crosby, however, during the first week of production Draper's speech impediment and his trenchant criticism of Caulfield's dance ability led Crosby to insist on his replacement by Astaire who, then forty-seven, had already decided that this would be his final film and that he would retire, having spent over forty years performing before the public. The film was billed as "Astaire's last picture" and its very strong performance at the box office pleased him greatly, as he had dearly wanted to go out on a high note.

The reasons for Astaire's (temporary) retirement remain a source of debate: his own view that he was "tired and running out of gas", the sudden collapse in 1945 of the market for Swing music which left many of his colleagues in jazz high and dry, a desire to devote time to establishing a chain of dancing schools, and a dissatisfaction with roles, as in this film, where he was relegated to playing second fiddle to the lead. Ironically, it is for his celebrated solo performance of "Puttin' On The Ritz," which featured Astaire leading an entire dance line of Astaires, that this film is most remembered today.


The story is told in a series of vignettes and musical numbers that serve to show events in flashback. Our narrative link is New York radio star Jed Potter, who once was a renowned Broadway hoofer. The conceit is that he is on the air, telling his life story... which does not yet have an ending. The tale starts just after World War I and centers around two men who became friends while serving in the Army: rising dancer Potter and the business-minded Johnny Adams. While young, hardworking Potter dreams of and works for stardom, the more laid-back and less disciplined Adams has hopes of becoming a successful nightclub owner.

In time, dancer Potter falls in love with a band singer, a "very pretty girl" named Mary O'Hara. He takes Mary to Adams' nightclub, and she takes a shine to Adams. Potter warns Mary that his old buddy is not the marrying kind. So, of course, she marries Adams. The union is not a happy one, despite the birth of a child. Adams' nightclub business is anything but a resounding success, and it turns out Potter was right: Adams is self-centered and unable to commit to his nightclubs, his marriage, or his daughter. The couple divorces, and Mary tries again with Potter. The two even become engaged. But Mary can't go through with the wedding and takes off. A devastated Potter turns to booze and subsequently suffers an accident that puts an end to his dancing career. He winds up behind a radio microphone, sharing his story with his audience, hoping that wherever Mary is, she can hear him.


Blue Skies was one of the biggest money makers of 1946. On a personal note, the film contains one of my favorite Bing songs "You Keep Coming Back Like A Song". The song was nominated for an Oscar for best song but lost to the Judy Garland song ""On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe" from The Harvey Girls (1946). Filmed in beautiful technicolor, it was a shame that the majority of Paramount's movies, even the musicals, were filmed in black and white. Bing Crosby's eyes never looked bluer than in this film. The movie  ranks as one of Bing Crosby's best movies for Paramount, and it is a shining reason why Paramount kept Bing under contract for nearly twenty-five years. The plot today may seem corny, but if you are sentimental as I am, you will still like the film. Definitely thouigh if you are a Bing Crosby fan and/or a Fred Astaire fan, then this movie is for you. Blue Skies has got it all...

MY RATING: 10 OUT OF 10
 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

PHOTOS OF THEY DAY: BING CROSBY AND THE WOMEN IN HIS LIFE

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at pictures of Bing and some of the women in his life. Although Bing was strong willed and stubborn, he often surrounded himself with equally strong women. The pictures include his two wives, his mother, and a couple of his girlfriends he had in between marriages...

WITH FIRST WIFE DIXIE LEE CROSBY (1911-1952)

WITH HIS MOTHER CATHERINE HARRIGAN CROSBY (1873-1964)

WITH MONA FREEMAN (BORN 1926)

WITH GRACE KELLY (1929-1982)

WITH INGER STEVENS (1934-1970)

WITH SECOND WIFE KATHRYN GRANT CROSBY (BORN 1933)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

NATHANIEL CROSBY, HIS FATHER, AND GOLFING

Story by Steve Eubanks

There’s no better way to age yourself than to refer to this week’s PGA Tour event as the Crosby. It’s like saying a couple is “courting” or calling that team from New Jersey the New York Football Giants. Not only does nobody talk that way anymore, the youngsters in the crowd have no idea what those throwback terms mean.

But for men of a certain age, mentioning the Crosby opens a flood of fond memories from a time when tournaments carried celebrity instead of corporate monikers. There were the Rat Pack events -- the Dean Martin Tucson Open and Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open – and tournaments named after singers and dancers and actors like the Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open and the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic. Even Andy Williams, who passed away this year, carried the mantle for the Torrey Pines event for a number of years.

The godfather of them all, of course, was the Bing Crosby Pro-Am, an event Mr. Crosby created in 1937 as a California clambake, a party where his professional golfer friends could make a little money and rub shoulders with Hollywood’s elite.

Every February, the Crosby was introduced to viewers with Bing crooning “Straight Down the Middle” -- the first-ever golf song from the 1948 film “Honor Caddy,” that Bing starred in with Bob Hope, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. And every year stars like Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau teed off with Nicklaus, Palmer, Trevino, Miller and the like.



Bing flirted with scratch golf and played in the British Amateur at St. Andrews and the U.S. Amateur at Winged Foot (both appearances drew Tiger-like crowds). He received the USGA’s Bob Jones Award in 1970 and inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978, a year after passing away from cardiac arrest as he walked off the 18th green of a golf course in Spain. His last words were, “That was a great game of golf, fellas.”

In addition to being the creator of the modern-day pro-am, Crosby is remembered as being a world-class gentleman, the kind of guy who wore fame like a comfortable pair of shoes. He would strike up a conversation with anybody, and felt just as at ease riding the subway to baseball games in New York as teeing off with kings and presidents. He took Ben Hogan elk hunting and showed up in Dublin, Ohio in 1976 to help Jack Nicklaus launch his fledgling Memorial Tournament. He would grill steaks at his home for players and would wait in line at Candlestick Park for a hotdog and beer after singing the National Anthem.

In short, he was the most down-to-earth famous guy you’d ever want to meet. On that front, Bing’s youngest son didn’t fall far from the tree.

At age 51, Nathaniel Crosby still speaks of the game with a childlike enthusiasm reminiscent of his days as a top amateur and European Tour pro. Back then Nathaniel was considered the greatest quote in any field, a sound-bite machine who could tell first-hand golf stories about everyone from Fred Astaire to Randolph Scott.


A gracious and a breezy conversationalist, he still has a quick, self-deprecating wit. “I had back surgery, a discectomy, four years ago, and what they didn’t put in the brochure was that I would lose 50 yards off the tee,” he said. “My clubhead speed is hovering around 68 miles an hour. I’d love to play competitively again, but I’ve got 80-year-olds outdriving me now.”

Even though he was a tour player, an equipment executive at three different golf companies, and one of the pioneers of the golf infomercial, Nathaniel is still remembered for a tournament he won at age 19.

Ask anyone over 50 to name the two most memorable televised U.S. Amateurs and the answer will be: Tiger’s win over Steve Scott at Pumpkin Ridge and Nathaniel Crosby’s 1981 victory at Olympic Club in San Francisco. He was already a celebrity then, having appeared in 11 of his father’s Christmas specials over the years. And he was the family face of the Crosby Pro-Am after Bing’s death. So when Nathaniel wore Bing’s 1940 U.S. Amateur identification badge and rubbed it like Aladdin’s lamp during his dramatic 37-hole one-up victory over Brian Lindley, it was one of the most dramatic television moments in U.S. Amateur history.

Fans didn’t have to be swatted with cane poles to keep them off fairways as they were when Bing played at Winged Foot, but it was one of the largest amateur galleries on record and certainly one of the most enthusiastic.

The next year, Nathaniel won another USGA medal, edging out Corey Pavin for low amateur in the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach -- the one Tom Watson won with the famous chip-in at 17. After that, he played three years in Europe. It was then that his mom, Kathryn, got into a spat with the tour over invitations to the tournament. Bing’s name was pulled, and hasn’t been back since.

“It’s disappointing in a way that the original contributors get pushed aside in lieu of corporate title sponsors,” Nathaniel said. “To me Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Bob Hope and my dad, they’re all in the World Golf Hall of Fame, so I think that corporate sponsors would want to associate with those Hall of Fame legacies to add continuity and a sense of history to their event. But that’s not the way of the world right now.


“Dad still gets some recognition every year when the event rolls around. So, I think everybody is comfortable with that. I do think it’s a little harsh that the year Dolores (Hope) died, the Hope name came off what is now the Humana [Challenge], but I also understand the need for sponsors.”

No one has to explain the ways of business to Nathaniel. He ran Toney Penna Golf and then Nicklaus Equipment Company, growing that business from a start-up to $25 million in sales. But it was as CEO of Orlimar Golf where he became a bona fide player in the equipment business. After preaching the virtues of the televised infomercial like an evangelical revivalist, Nathaniel took Orlimar from $1.2 million to $103 million in sales in one calendar year.
“It was lightning in a bottle,” he said. “We shipped $93 million in product in six and half months. It was incredible being part of that experience, but I had to start experimenting with hard liquor to get through the days. I’d always been a beer drinker, but I thought, boy, I need something a little stronger to get through this. I had retailers calling me upset that they didn’t get enough or that Costco had just gotten the product. I had guards at my gate. It was an intense year, but I still have a passionate belief that direct-response advertising can work.”

He also has a passionate belief that his dad’s legacy will be revitalized as new generations discover Bing Crosby on YouTube, NetFlix, and Pandora. Hopefully that revitalization will carry over to the Crosby Pro-Am, even as the number of people who remember Bing’s sweet swing continues to dwindle.

“Dad subsidized (the tournament) for years, and when he died in 1977, the probate officers viewed it as a liability instead of an asset, which was unfortunate,” Nathaniel said. “The second we turned it over to the PGA Tour to finance, we lost ownership. We could have struck a deal for half the amateur spots back when it was sacrilegious to assume Dad’s name would not be associated with it, but that didn’t happen. Any time you get the wrong lawyers in a room at the wrong time, bad things come out of it.”

He will follow the event of course, although he hasn’t played since his back surgery. “I played for 23 years,” he said. “It’s time for other people to enjoy it rather than me.”

He still enjoys the game, though. A member at Seminole in Palm Beach and San Francisco Golf Club near his mom’s home, he is still one of the most affable golf partners at both places. "It’s one of my great privileges,” he said, completely obvious to the irony of his own words.

But then, humility is something to be expected. It runs in the family...


SOURCE

Friday, February 8, 2013

BING CROSBY BENEFIT CONCERT



Citizens Who Care presents its 21st annual benefit concert "Yes Indeed! The Great Songs of Bing Crosby," at the Veterans Memorial Center Theatre, 203 E. 14th St., Davis, in Woodland, California at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 23, and again at 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 24.

To most Americans, Bing Crosby was the eternal crooner, a much-celebrated and beloved performer of unparalleled popularity. Yet he was far more than that. He was an architect of 20th century entertainment, a force in the development of three industries that barely existed when he came into the world -- recordings, motion pictures, and broadcasting.

Throughout much of his career, he dominated the music charts with nearly 300 hit singles to his credit. To this, he added stardom in movies, radio and television. His work helped to transform and define the cultural life not only of the United States, but of the world.

"Yes, Indeed! -- The Great Songs of Bing Crosby" captures the highlights of Crosby's unparalleled 50-year career, stretching from his early jazz roots with "Bix" Beiderbecke and Paul Whiteman, through his crooner years of the 1930s, his movie hits of the 1940s and 50s, and beyond.

Stephen Peithman tells the Crosby story with the help of performers Joe Alkire, Bob Bowen, Gwyneth Bruch, Martha Dickman, Paul Fearn, Lisa Derthick, and Lenore Sebastian, accompanied by musical director LuAnn Higgs and percussionist Jim Nakayama.

Songs include "Swinging on a Star," "Three Little Words," "Sweet Georgia Brown," "Brother Can You Spare a Dime," "It's Easy to Remember," "Don't Fence Me In," "Pennies from Heaven," "What's New?," "Yes, Indeed!," "Blue Skies," "Play a Simple Melody," "How Deep is the Ocean?," "Too Marvelous for Words," "Dear Hearts and Gentle People," "When Irish Eyes are Smiling," "Imagination," "The Second Time Around," "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," and "Star Dust," among others.

All proceeds will benefit Citizens Who Care, a nonprofit agency in Yolo County, dedicated to providing social support programs and respite services for the frail elderly and their family caregivers.

All seats are $35. For tickets and information call 758-3704 or go to www.citizenswhocare.us. Tickets are also available at the Citizens Who Care office, 409 Lincoln Ave., Woodland.

The Yolo County charity Citizens Who Care seeks to improve the quality of life for the frail elderly of Yolo County and their family caregivers through social support programs and services. Trained, caring volunteers, with the support of our professional staff, provide a variety of support and social programs...


SOURCE

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

BING AND 1926

No one in the entertainment business has real "overnight" success. It takes months and years to work on your talent, and even longer to make it big. Bing Crosby was no exception. It was hard for Bing to make it big with his childhood friend Al Rinker, but in 1926 they gave it their all. While Crosby and Rinker were completing their contractual arrangement with Paramount Publix, Don Clark, a former Whiteman sideman whose orchestra was playing at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, asked them to cut a record with his musicians. Music historians have speculated that news of duo’s agreement with Whiteman may have been the primary reason Clark sought out their services. As a result, Al and Bing sang on two songs recorded October 18, 1926 in the grant ballroom of the Biltmore. One selection, "Don’t Somebody Need Somebody?" was never released. The other, "I’ve Got the Girl," composed by Walter Donaldson, perhaps best known for pop standards such as "My Blue Heaven" and "Carolina in the Morning," was issued by Columbia backed by the instrumental, "Idolizing."

The release proved to be something of an embarrassment. According to Bob Osborn and Vernon Wessley Taylor, whose comments appeared along with a limited-edition, 7-inch LP issued by the Bing Crosby Historical Society of Tacoma in 1980, Columbia apparently thought that the master cut of the record was slow. In an effort to achieve a jazzier sound, the recording was speeded up when duplicated were cut for release. Both Al and Bing would later admit that they sounded like a pair of chipmunks chattering in the background.

After a one-week engagement at Spokane’s Liberty Theater, from November 21 through November 27, accented by visits with family and friends, Crosby and Rinker headed to Chicago to meet up with Whiteman. Despite at least one awkward moment—a piano they were pushing offstage following their segment in one particular concert tipped over, requiring the combined efforts of Al, Bing, and Whiteman himself to get it back on its wheels as the audience roared with laughter—the duo continued to elicit a favorable response. During the three-theater run in Chicago, they had the opportunity to cut another record, "Wistful and Blue," recorded December 22, 1926 at the Concert Hall on Michigan Avenue. Whiteman also went out of his way to take them around town, introducing them to important people. Rinker would later recall, "Whiteman seemed to be quite proud of us. We were young and eager, and I think it was because we were fresh and very enthusiastic that he took more than a casual interest in us."

Crosby and Rinker’s success continued in the cities where Whiteman played enroute to the East Coast. Their New York City debut at the Paramount Theatre on Times Square in January 1927, however, brought them face-to-face with failure for the first time since they’d turned professional. By the time Whiteman opened his own club at 48th and Broadway in February 18, they had been reduced to performing during intermission; for most of the run they worked as stagehands. In 1980, Rinker offered the following explanation for their poor reception in the Big Apple:

"People didn’t seem to understand what we were doing! We’d go: bop-bop-de-do-do / de-doodle-eeaaaa [snapping his fingers while singing scat] and stuff like that. And they didn’t know what the hell we were doing! And now that I think about it, I don’t blame them. They were used to great entertainers of a certain tradition like Jolson, Cantor, and Sophie Tucker, who were belting out songs. [Imitating Jolson here] Mammmeee! Mammmeee! They really let you have it! But we were intimate. That wasn’t what they expected, and they didn’t like it"...

Friday, February 1, 2013

GUEST REVIEWER: SING YOU SINNERS

Bing Crosby guru Bruce Krogan is back for his usual excellent look at another Crosby film gem...

This is one of Bing Crosby's best films from the 1930s. It gave him a great opportunity to show off some dramatic ability and a couple of big selling hits one of which served as the title of the current biography by Gary Giddins.

Bing Crosby, Fred MacMurray and Donald O'Connor are the three Beebe brothers. And Bing is the source of much concern with mother Elizabeth Patterson. He's a lazy, shiftless, irresponsible and charming man who won't just settle down. The burden of supporting the family is left to brother Fred MacMurray who keeps postponing marriage to his long time sweetheart, Ellen Drew, until the family is all provided for. And finally kid brother Donald O'Connor idolizes Bing and wants to grow up just like him to the despair of Patterson and MacMurray.

Bing up and leaves the family, promising to go to Los Angeles, get into a steady business and settle down. Of course his idea of a steady business is to own a racehorse named Uncle Gus. He sends for Patterson and O'Connor and later MacMurray and Drew come and are all shocked.

The rest of the film is the usual run of movie plots where racehorses are concerned.

The Beebe brothers also have a singing act which MacMurray hates, but which brings in needed cash when the bills start piling up. That's where the musical score written by Jimmy Monaco and Johnny Burke comes in. Done as a trio number in the film, I've Got a Pocketful of Dreams became one of Crosby's biggest hits from the 1930s. Crosby's one solo number is Don't Let That Moon Get Away and in another trio number MacMurray is the lead singer in Laugh and Call It Love. Before he came to Hollywood, Fred MacMurray sang and played saxophone in various bands and also was in the original Broadway cast of Roberta. He had a pleasant, but thin tenor voice, but I don't think he'd have lasted in Hollywood if he had done musicals.

This was Donald O'Connor's first big break and he shows a hint of the dancing talent he had during the Pocketful of Dreams number. He and Crosby later re-united in the second version of Anything Goes in 1956.


One song was added into the score. Composed by Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser, Small Fry was done as a novelty number by the trio. However Bing recorded it with his good friend Johnny Mercer and that novelty song also became a monster hit.

Sing You Sinners should be seen back to back with the James Cagney/Pat O'Brien film The Irish in Us as they have very similar plot development and characters.

This was the first of two Crosby films with a racetrack background, the other being Riding High. Curiously enough they had opposite plot conclusions. No spoilers here though, see both films and see what I mean...