Monday, October 3, 2016

SPOTLIGHT ON DIXIE LEE CROSBY

Born Wilma Winifred Wyatt, she adopted the professional name "Dixie Carroll" as a singer and showgirl. Winfield Sheehan of the Fox film studio changed the name to Dixie Lee, to avoid confusion with actresses Nancy Carroll and Sue Carol. She married Bing Crosby at the age of 18, and had four sons with him, all of them battled alcoholism as Dixie did.

Crosby's biographer, Gary Giddins, describes Dixie Lee as a shy, private person with a sensible approach to life. Giddins recounts that Dixie and Bing, as young marrieds, were often invited to parties where liquor was plentiful, and Dixie drank socially to keep up with Bing. She succeeded in curbing Bing's alcohol consumption, but ironically her own alcoholism worsened. She had a brief film career, starring in a few features for Bing's home studio Paramount Pictures in the 1930s; her most notable film is probably Love in Bloom (1935).

The two first met in November 1928 and Bing was immediately smitten. Dixie was a bit more hesitant. They met again at a party in Hollywood in early 1929 and the Crosby charm was too much to resist. The two married September 29, 1930, at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Hollywood. 


As Bing's stardom rose to superstar status in the 1930s, four boys arrived in the Crosby household. Gary Crosby arrived first in October 1933, the twins, Phillip and Dennis came along in 1934, and Lindsay rounded out the bunch in 1938.

However, despite her husband's fame and the four boys, Dixie was very tortured with what modern doctors would diagnose as depression. In the 1940s, Bing Crosby was one of the most recognizable men in the world, and with this fame he spent more and more time away from his family. As a result, Dixie was turning more and more towards alcohol.


In 1947, a movie came out called Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman starring Susan Hayward. It was a thinly disguised story based on the life of Dixie. It was directed by Stuart Heisler, who had directed Bing in Blue Skies the year before. Bing and Dixie were outraged at the film, and it further brought tension to their lives together.

Bing attempted to divorce Dixie following World War II to marry actress Joan Caulfield. The Catholic hierarchy denied Bing's request, and Caulfield was sent packing. In 1952 Bing learned that Dixie was dying of ovarian cancer while he was in France filming Little Boy Lost. She died Nov. 1, 1952, a week after his return home and three days before her 41st birthday. Bing's children and friends noted that Bing was devastated by his wife's death, despite their close encounters with divorce. Despite eventually remarrying in 1957, others close to Bing say he never recovered from the death of Dixie, who was there with him since the beginning of his rise to super stardom. Dixie Lee was definitely the woman behind the man, depite her demons...




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