Sunday, October 14, 2018

AUDIO ASPIRIN: ONCE IN A WHILE

Sunday, October 7, 2018

BING ON FILM: RHYTHM ON THE RANGE - PART TWO

Rhythm On The Range ambles along, and basically it was the story about a poor man falling for a rich socialite. Bing’s 1934 movie We’re Not Dressing had a similar plot. One of Rhythm On The Range’s most curious moments was the speech given by Lucile Gleason as Penelope 'Penny' Ryland, who owned the rodeo that Bing worked for. As an amazing coincidence, she was also the aunt of Frances Farmer’s character. The speech was about pioneer women and how women should have their own mind to make their own decisions. However, at the end of the movie when she thinks that her niece ran off with Bing, she chastises Bing for taking her niece away. I know that was 1936 and way before the #Me Too movement was even thought about, but as a viewer some 80 years later I find the whole scene annoying. It slowed down the film a bit and did not really further the plot. I have seen Lucille Watson in other roles, but in my opinion her role and acting in this movie was the worst part of the film.


As I wrote earlier, the music and the singing is the top draw of the film. Although for most musicals, only one songwriting works on the film, in Rhythm On The Range numerous songwriters contributed to the film. Three great songs that spotlighted Bing’s soaring vocals were written for the film: “I Can’t Escape From You (written by Richard Whiting and Leo Robin), “Empty Saddles (written by Billy Hill), and “Round Up Lullaby” (Gertrude Ross and Charles Badger Clark). Another great song that was a favorite song of mine for years was “I’m An Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande”, which was written by a young Johnny Mercer. It was one of Mercer’s first hits in Hollywood, and the version filmed for the movie was one of the most charming pieces of the film as the whole cast joined into the song. Martha Raye had a great solo effort with a song that became her signature tune until Ella Fitzgerald made it her own. "(If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)" written by Sam Coslow) was performed by Martha and accompanied by Bob Burns on his Bazooka, Louis Prima, and The Sons of the Pioneer. It was another high point of the film. Bing recorded most of the song for Decca Records, and there was even a song that Bing recorded called “The House That Jack Built For Jill” that was supposed to be in the film but was omitted from the released film.

Like some of the critics said in 1936, Rhythm On The Range was no western movie. John Wayne had nothing to be nervous about. However, the movie captured Bing really having fun. I have seen enough Bing Crosby movies enough times to notice what movies he had fun doing, and it really looked like Bing had fun on this flick. The movie was a great showcase for Bing’s talent, which was still being discovered in 1936. I highly recommend this breezy film for a fun afternoon viewing, and Bing Crosby definitely puts the rhythm into Rhythm On The Range!

MY RATING: 9 OUT OF 10





Friday, September 28, 2018

BING ON FILM: RHYTHM ON THE RANGE - PART ONE

Some of Bing Crosby’s movies from the 1930s are pretty forgettable. The plots are light and even the movie run times are short – some do not even surpass the 90 minute mark. We all know that the main draw of the films was Bing Crosby and his singing. It was singing that was new to popular music and new to movie musicals as a whole. Bing’s 1936 film Rhythm On The Range may not be an epic cinematic adventure, but it was enjoyable, fun, and it featured some great Bing moments! I had not watched the film in years, but I was home sick with a cold and figured it would be a great chance to revisit the movie.

Based on a story by Mervin J. Houser, the film is about a cowboy who meets a beautiful young woman while returning from a rodeo in the east, and invites her to stay at his California ranch to experience his simple, honest way of life. Rhythm on the Range was Crosby's only western film (apart from the 1966 remake of Stagecoach. Bing starred as Jeff Larabee, a simple man who would rather sleep under the stares than be burdened by city living. It was not really a stretch for Bing, because Bing loved the outdoors and western life that he even had a ranch built in Elko, Nevada in the 1940s. So basically, Bing played himself or at least one facet of whom he was.


In addition to Bing Crosby, troubled actress Frances Farmer was cast as Bing’s leading lady. Farmer played Doris Halliday. She was the daughter of a big New York millionaire who left her fiancĂ© at the altar, so she could try to live her life the way she wanted to. Things like that just did not happen in 1936! Frances Farmer was brought to Hollywood after having a successful Broadway career in the early 1930s. Frances soon found herself co-starring with Hollywood’s biggest star Bing Crosby and then loaned out for the Howard Hawks film Come And Get It (also from 1936), where she was given the challenging dual roles of mother and daughter. Hawks called her “the greatest actress I have ever worked with”. However, depression and alcoholism caused Farmer’s star power to fade, and she spent most of her later years in and out of mental hospitals. You would not think that Bing and Frances Farmer would be compatible as star and co-star, but they were very good together. They made the romance seem believable, even though I found Farmer’s acting to be somewhat wooden.

Rounding out the cast was comedian Bob Burns, who I have to say I never got. I did not think he was that funny or even interesting. Was he trying to replace Will Rogers as a “down home” comedian? I never was too sure. Bob Burns plays Bing’s best friend and fellow rodeo employee. Making her debut in the film was the great Martha Raye. Raye plays a woman that Bob Burns’ character meets on the train, and she instantly falls for him. Raye’s character is pretty forgettable, but she is really bubbly and enjoyable in this debut role. Bing worked well with Martha Raye’s comedy, and they would make a few movies together. (Martha Raye would also appear on Bing’s 50th Anniversary Special on television in 1977.) There are also great cameos in the film like musician Louis Prima, future singing cowboy Roy Rogers, and the singing group The Sons Of The Pioneers...

TO BE CONTINUED...


Friday, September 21, 2018

BING GOES TO PRISON

It was the night before the ‘Song of the Dawn’ was to be filmed that things went ‘a little awry’. Bing had developed a reputation within the Whiteman clan as a fun-loving boozer and womanizer – and this night he was arrested for drunken driving. Bing was jailed for 30 days and singer-actor John Boles – a Warner Brothers leading man – was brought-in to sing the part. However – for several of the other numbers in King of Jazz featuring the Rhythm Boys Whiteman arranged to have Crosby brought to the studio under police guard and returned to jail after each day’s shooting ended! When the film was completed Whiteman left Hollywood and went on a national tour.

The police experience had a sobering effect on the young Crosby and he began to take his career more seriously – particularly with regard to the potential of musical movies. The group went to work in the Cocoanut Grove nightclub with Gus Arnheim’s orchestra. There was also another reason for Bing to stay where they were – Miss Wilma Wyatt, a singer known as Dixie Lee! In September 1930 they married and their unity initiated some ‘interesting’ responses! News stories had comments such as ‘Rising young Fox star weds obscure crooner’ or, as Bing put it ‘Miss Big marries Mr Little’.


Dixie had played half-a-dozen movies for Fox but soon gave up that career and supported Bing in his. As a result he worked on improving his breath control and started singing fewer rhythmic numbers and more romantic ballads. Things now moved on at speed. He left the Rhythm Boys after he missed a show and the group were briefly put on the blacklist by the musicians union and CBS Radio heard him and offered Bing a network contract. Wife, brother and Bing moved to New York and, in September 1931 began a nightly 15 minute broadcast over the CBS Radio Network. As singer-pianist, author and record producer Larry Carr once so aptly put it:

“After six long years of learning and honing his craft, he was an overnight success!”

Friday, September 7, 2018

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: BING AND HIS TELEVISION FRIENDS

Bing Crosby started out in radio and movies, but when television became the most popular entertainment medium in the 1950s, Bing dabbled on it quite often. He had the opportunity to work with a lot of great people on television, and here he is with some of his television friends...

Carol Burnett


Julie Andrews

Engelbert Humperdinck


Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin

Perry Como

Flip Wilson

Monday, September 3, 2018

REST IN PEACE: GLORIA JEAN

Child actress Gloria Jean passed away on September 1, 2018.She was an American actress and singer who starred or co-starred in 26 feature films between 1939 and 1959, as well as making numerous radio, television, stage, and nightclub appearances.

After moving to Scranton, Pennsylvania, Gloria Jean sang on radio with Paul Whiteman's band. When she was 12, "she was engaged by a smallish New York opera company and became the youngest member of an opera troupe in the United States." Gloria Jean was being trained as a coloratura soprano, when her voice teacher, Leah Russel, took her to an audition held by Universal Pictures movie producer Joe Pasternak in 1938. Pasternak had guided Deanna Durbin to stardom, and with Durbin now advancing to ingénue roles, Pasternak wanted a younger singer to make the same kind of musicals. Up against hundreds of others, Gloria Jean won the audition.

Under contract to Universal, she was given the leading role in the feature The Under-Pup (1939) and became instantly popular with moviegoers. Universal's publicity department initially claimed the singer was 11 years old instead of 13; her actual age was not well known for many decades. For her next two vehicles, she co-starred with Bing Crosby in If I Had My Way (1940) and starred in the well-received A Little Bit of Heaven (also 1940), which reunited her with many from the Under-Pup cast. Her best-known picture is her fourth, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941), in which she co-starred with W. C. Fields.


Gloria Jean made a successful transition to young adult roles. Her dramatic tour de force, as a blind girl being menaced by an escaped killer, was filmed as one of four vignettes for Julien Duvivier's Flesh and Fantasy(1943). Her performance won raves at the film's advance preview, and her segment was the best-received of the four. However, Universal removed the half-hour sequence and shelved it until 1944, when it was expanded into a feature-length melodrama, Destiny. She co-starred with Olsen and Johnson in the big-budget Ghost Catchers (1944), and in her last two Universal features, released in 1945, she was teamed with singer-actor Kirby Grant.

She resumed her movie career as a freelance performer appearing in United Artists, Columbia Pictures, and Allied Artists productions, the best-known being Copacabana (1947) with Groucho Marx. Some stage and television work followed in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as four feature films. Wonder Valley (1953), produced on location in Arkansas, was Gloria Jean's first color movie and is now a lost film. Her next feature was Air Strike (1955), a minor military drama.


After Air Strike Gloria Jean was hired by the owner of the Tahitian restaurant in Studio City, California, as a hostess, greeting and seating dinner guests. She enjoyed the experience and occasionally ran the restaurant in her employer's absence. Show-business patrons were surprised that a film star was now involved in restaurant work, resulting in sympathetic feature stories in the national press. Veteran Hollywood producer Edward Finney, himself a Gloria Jean fan, saw one of these reports and hired her to star in the lightweight comedy Laffing Time (filmed in 1959, re-released as The Madcaps in 1964). Jerry Lewis also read that Gloria Jean was working in a restaurant, and signed her for a singing role in his latest production, The Ladies Man (1961).Lewis removed almost all of her footage from the finished film; she appears only as an extra and has no dialogue. It was her last theatrical motion picture.

After her retirement from Redken, Gloria Jean lived in California with her sister, Bonnie. After Bonnie died in 2007, she moved to Hawaii, where lived with her son and his family. Very late in life she suffered health problems, including two serious falls that slowed her mobility, and an impaired heart condition. She died of heart failure and pneumonia in 2018.

Her authorized biography, Gloria Jean: A Little Bit of Heaven, was published in 2005. A tribute website, GloriaJeanSings.com, followed, again with Gloria Jean's cooperation. Her Internet presence includes a series of videos showing the actress as she appeared in recent years...


Friday, August 24, 2018

SPOTLIGHT ON BEVERLY WASHBURN

Here is a great story on child actress Beverly Washburn. She played the daughter of Bing in 1951's Here Comes The Groom...

Beginning her career as a talented child actress, Beverly Washburn appeared in some classic 1950s films including “Hans Christian Andersen” (1952), “Shane” (1953) and “Old Yeller” (1957) as well as dozens of classic TV shows. She also worked alongside Hollywood’s most popular actors and her list of favorites is long (see www.beverlywashburn.com).

While she appeared in several “Wagon Train” episodes, her favorite was The Tobias Jones Story where Lou Costello plays a drunk accused of murder – not only a rare dramatic role for the comedian but one of his final acting appearances.


“I was a big Abbott & Costello fan, so it was a thrill to work with Lou,” said Washburn from Las Vegas where she has lived for over 20 years. “I just loved him, he was such as sweet man. But he was so used to ad-libbing in the comedy routines that he actually found it hard to stick to the script. When he forgot a line, he would look into the camera and say, ‘So how are ya?’ which always made me giggle.”


Washburn recalls rehearsing a scene where she had to push Costello’s intoxicated character into a wagon. “He leaned back and said ‘push my biscuits’ (buttocks) into the wagon as hard as I could. I’d never heard that expression before! While he was a joy to work with, I do remember there was a kind of sadness about him which I only later realized was because he never really got over his young son drowning." Costello died a few months after filming.


In Here Comes the Groom (1951), Washburn plays Bing Crosby’s adopted daughter. “People always ask me was he mean because of the bad wrap he got over the years from the stories told by his son from his first marriage,” she said. “But he was so kind to me. He gave me a beautiful doll one Christmas and I was on his Christmas card list for years. He signed a couple of photographs for me and wrote ‘For Beverly, hope to play in your next picture’ on one and ‘To my co-star Beverly’ on another. Those are mementos from my career that I still treasure.”

She also appeared in episodes of the Warner Bros. ABC detective series, 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaiian Eye. She appeared twice on the CBS western series, The Texan starring Rory Calhoun, as Henrietta Tovers in "No Tears for the Dead" (1958) and as Greta Banden in "Badman" (1960). She appeared in the debut episode of NBC's Wagon Train but not in the lead role. Her episodes included the episodes "The Willy Moran Story" (1957), "The Tobias Jones Story" (1958), and as Milly Sharp "The Cassie Vance Story" (1963).


In the 1970s, she appeared in three episodes of Quinn Martin's The Streets of San Francisco crime drama with Karl Malden': "Most Feared in the Jungle" (1973), "Letters from the Grave" (1975), and as Michelle Rhodes in "Let's Pretend We're Strangers" (1977). One of her later television appearances was in the 1984 episode "Remembrance of Things Past" of CBS's Scarecrow and Mrs. King. Her most recent role was that of the character Brenda in the 2007 film Hard Four, which also features Ed Asner, Paula Prentiss, Dabney Coleman, and Ed Begley, Jr. In 2015, she appeared as Reyna Belasco Rosenthal in R. Christian Anderson's feature film When the World Came to San Francisco.

In her book, “Reel Tears: The Beverly Washburn Story, Take Two” re-released in 2013 by BearManor Media, Beverly shares many more stories from her career. She says she has been “blessed to work with so many wonderful people in the entertainment business.”

“It hasn’t all be roses, as I talk about in my book,” she adds, “but I have a lot of fond memories for sure.”



SOURCE

Friday, August 10, 2018

SR. HELEN CROSBY: A CROSBY NIECE


I have been trying to research Bing's family more extensively. With all of the siblings Bing had, he had an extended family that you never heard about. One example of that is Bing's one niece - Sr. Helen Crosby. Sr. Helen was the daughter of Bing's brother Edward (Ted) Crosby. Sr. Helen Dolores "Dixie" Crosby was born on May 18, 1934. She died on July 22, 2007. Here is her obituary, which was surprisingly pretty extensive:

Sister Crosby, a longtime educator, died of cancer in her convent home in Spokane. She was 72.
Sister Crosby, known as Dixie to her friends and family, grew up in Spokane, the niece of famed crooner Bing Crosby. When she and her twin sister were born, their dad sent Bing Crosby a telegram: "It takes three of a kind to beat two queens." A few months later, when Bing Crosby's twin sons were born, the singer sent a telegram: "A pair of kings arrived today."
After teaching in Spokane, Sister Crosby moved to the Seattle area, where she taught at Holy Rosary School in Edmonds and served as principal at Our Lady of the Lake School in Seattle and Immaculate Conception School in Everett.

Whenever Franklin High School basketball coach Jason Kerr would send an e-mail to his beloved teacher, he would proofread it four times before sending it.

Sister Dolores Crosby "was better than spellcheck," said Kerr. "She'd never miss an opportunity to correct something we wrote." Kerr, who attended Lady of the Lake, said he remained friends with Sister Crosby until her death. "She had a big impact on my life, keeping me grounded," he said. "She ... had a big part in what I do."

Sister Crosby's twin sister, Katie Ferguson, who lives in Richland, said her sister always called her "womb mate" and the two were very close. When they were in grade school, the two sisters would be seated next to each other, and Sister Crosby would whisper the answers to her sister.

Throughout her career, Sister Crosby liked preparing her students for life beyond grade school, friends and family said. Longtime friend Marge Davis, who met Sister Crosby when she worked in Spokane, said, "Everything she did was such a joy. The kids loved her and would go back and visit her long after they graduated. I never met a person who could keep so many friends."

Sister Crosby was also a Seattle Mariners fan and was named a Seattle Times Fan of the Week in 2001. She could rattle off batting averages and pitching records. She carried her keys on a Joey Cora key ring, decorated the walls of her Brier home with baseball calendars and cooked from a Mariners cookbook.

Sister Crosby also is survived by brothers Howard, of Walla Walla, and Ed, of Spokane, and sister Antonia Crosby, of Peabody, Mass...



Wednesday, August 1, 2018

REST IN PEACE: MARY CARLISLE

One of Bing Crosby's earliest co-stars has passed away. Mary Carlisle made her last movie in 1943, but she was one of the most beautiful actresses of her time. She made three memorable movies with Bing, as he became a superstar in the 1930s.

She also appeared in Garbo's Grand Hotel and opposite the likes of Jack Benny, John Barrymore and Basil Rathbone.

Mary Carlisle, the lovely blonde actress who was the object of Bing Crosby's crooning affection in three breezy musical comedies of the 1930s, has died. She was 104.

Carlisle, who appeared in more than 50 films in the decade, died early Wednesday morning at the Motion Picture Television Fund retirement home in Woodland Hills, a spokeswomen for the home told The Hollywood Reporter.


Carlisle also played a giggling honeymooner in Greta Garbo's Grand Hotel (1932) and showed no favorites when it came to one of college football's biggest rivalries back then, starring in Hold 'Em Navy (1937) and then Touchdown, Army (1938).

The 5-foot-1 Carlisle displayed a cozy chemistry with Crosby in the Paramount movies College Humor (1933), Double or Nothing (1937) and Doctor Rhythm (1938).

In their first pairing, Crosby performed "Moonstuck" as she looked on, and in the second he employed shadow puppets as he sang "It's the Natural Thing to Do" to her. And in the last, Crosby serenaded a park statue with "My Heart Is Taking Lessons" as Carlisle watched on horseback nearby.


Carlisle's co-stars also included Jack Benny (It's in the Air), John Barrymore (Should Ladies Behave), Basil Rathbone (Kind Lady), Will Rogers (Handy Andy), Buster Crabbe (The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi), Maureen O'Hara (Dance, Girl, Dance) and Lloyd Nolan (Tip-Off Girls).

After appearing with George Zucco and horror-film icon Dwight Frye in Dead Men Walk (1943), she retired from the movies.

Carlisle was married to James Blakeley — an actor and later a film editor and head of postproduction at 20th Century Fox, where he worked on such series as Peyton Place and Batman— from 1942 until his death in 2007 at age 96.


Born Gwendolyn Witter in Boston on Feb. 3, 1914, she was brought to Hollywood by her widowed mother. At age 14, while they were having lunch at the Universal commissary, the blue-eyed girl was spotted by producer Carl Laemmle Jr. and given a screen test, though she did not sign with the studio.

After completing high school, however, Carlisle met a casting director at MGM, then showed up in uncredited roles in such films as Madam Satan (1930) — as Little Bo Peep — The Great Lover (1931) with Adolphe Menjou and then Grand Hotel.


In 1933, Carlisle received a big career boost when she was selected as a "Baby Star" — a young actress thought to be on the threshold of stardom — by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers. (Others picked that year included Gloria Stuart and Ginger Rogers.)

After she was finished with acting, Carlisle managed an Elizabeth Arden beauty salon in Beverly Hills.

Survivors include her son, James Blakeley III, and two grandchildren...



Wednesday, July 25, 2018

GUEST REVIEWER: THE EMPEROR WALTZ

Our resident reviewer Bruce Kogan is back to review Bing's 1948 film The Emperor Waltz. I have to admit it's not one of my favorite films, but I might have to give it another viewing soon...

According to a new book out on Billy Wilder, Wilder had a much different film in mind than what emerged here. He was a contract director for Paramount at the time this was made with a few hits under his belt. And he was assigned to direct this film with Bing Crosby who was the biggest name in movies when this came out.

Crosby had a whole different film in mind and what Bing wanted Paramount gave him at that point. Wilder wanted a biting satire on the Franz Joseph court and he also wanted a the killing of the puppies, the offspring of Crosby's and Joan Fontaine's dogs to be an allegory for genocide. Crosby knew what his audiences expected from him and he opted for a lighter treatment.


The result was a second rate Billy Wilder movie, but a first class Bing Crosby film. Unlike in the thirties when Paramount just depended on Crosby's personality to put over a film, they gave this one the full A treatment. The outdoor sequences were shot in the Canadian Rockies and they serve as a great Alpine background. Though its muted, Wilder still gets some of his cynical point of view into Crosby's phonograph salesman who woos a member of Viennese royalty played by Joan Fontaine. Roland Culver who is Fontaine's father is also pretty good as the impoverished count who is quite willing to sell his title in marriage to anyone who can afford him.

Great vehicle for the winning Crosby personality...

BRUCE'S RATING: 8 OUT OF 10
MY RATING: 7 OUT OF 10


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

REST IN PEACE: WAYNE MARTIN

A sad day for fans of Bing Crosby. Earlier this year Wayne Martin, the editor and vice-president of Club Crosby until 2003 died...



Wayne LeRoy Martin, 87 of Higginsville, Missouri died on Friday, February 23, 2018, at his home. Born Tuesday, March 11, 1930 in Corder, Missouri, he was the son of the late LeRoy Martin and the late Golda Belle Welliver. He married Sandra Hostetter Martin on July 16, 1974. She survives of the home. He was a Veteran of the Korean War serving in the United States Army. He received a masters degree in Library Sciences from the University of Colorado and a masters degree in English from Central Missouri State University.

He was a former editor for the Bing Crosby magazine and the Director of Libraries for Brentwood, Missouri school systems, retiring in 1989. He was a member of United Church of Christ in Kirkwood, Missouri prior to moving to Higginsville in 2011. Surviving are one daughter, Robin Teter and her wife, Sandra Martin. A funeral service will be held at 2:00 PM on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at the Hoefer Funeral Home with Rev. Dr. Tommy Faris officiating. Interment will be in the City Cemetery. The family will receive friends from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM on Wednesday, February 28, 2018, at Hoefer Chapel. Memorial contributions may be sent to Beacon of Hope in Oak Grove, MO...

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

COMING SOON: BEST OF THE BING CROSBY SPECIALS

Never-before-released TV Specials, unseen for decades!

From the 1950s through the ’70s Bing Crosby starred in 30 highly rated TV specials that featured a who’s who of guest stars. Bing’s groundbreaking broadcasts have never been available in one comprehensive collection—until now.

The Best of the Bing Crosby Specials DVD collection features all of Bing’s iconic hits, including “Pennies from Heaven,” “Swinging on a Star,” “Don’t Fence Me In,” “It’s Easy to Remember,” “Dina,” and of course, “White Christmas.”

You’ll get 26 Episodes on 11 DVDs, featuring the very best of Bing’s acclaimed specials, along with hours of bonus features. Highlights Include:

Bing’s good friends Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Dean Martin appeared on multiple specials, and Bing’s shows also featured Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Pearl Bailey, Jack Benny, Carol Burnett, Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como, Jackie Gleason, Robert Goulet, Peggy Lee, Patti Page, Bernadette Peters, Debbie Reynolds, Flip Wilson and many others!

Bing’s first TV special from 1954, featuring good pal Jack Benny.


Bing’s last TV special, featuring an unlikely guest, David Bowie. This is the 1977 program that yielded what may be the most popular Christmas duet ever—Bing and Bowie’s recording of “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy.”

Happy Holidays with Bing and Frank—a rare special with Frank Sinatra that features the two legends singing classics in an intimate setting.

Bing’s 50th anniversary special, featuring Bob Hope, Rosemary Clooney, the Mills Brothers and others, and including a memorable Bette Midler.

Episodes of The Carol Burnett Show and the Bob Hope TV specials with guest shots by Bing.

Free bonus DVD—The Legendary Bing Crosby, a celebration of Bing’s life that includes rare performances, exclusive interviews with Bing’s family and friends, home movies and rare, behind-the-scenes material.

Exclusive 36-page book: Bing Crosby: A Life in Pictures, featuring rare photos, memorabilia, and behind-the-scenes snapshots from Bing’s 60+ year career...

Sunday, July 1, 2018

THE CROSBY BOYS: A 1961 REVIEW

Bing's Boys Sing Out In Latin Quarter Debut

Music in harmony, clear and sweet and rhythmic, approached intelligently, often humorously and always with a timing that is a thing of beauty in itself, is the essence of an act starring Phillip, Dennis and Lindsay Crosby, three of Bing's sons, which E. M. Loew and Ed Risman presented last night at the Latin Quarter.

Advance notices from Las Vegas, where the boys were enthusiastically received, do not exaggerate. It is no fly-by-night act, built on a father's reputation. Rather, does it subtly recognize talent handed down to another generation that carries on in its own proficient way.

Much credit is due John Bradford and William Friml, who added some apt lyrics for the opening "This is a Lovely Way to Spend an Evening" and the following "You're a Good Group." The numbers are the boys' introduction of themselves to the audience, and they are solid.

The next two numbers "Mamselle" and "Dinah," are purely the harmony, indicating the range of each voice and pinpointing the personalities in little ways. There isn't a solo all night, but each boy takes a brief turn in introducing a segment or singing a few bars.

Charles O'Curran staged and produced this superior act of the Crosy Bros., Bill Thompson did the orchestration and vocal arrangements and drummer Lloyd Morales sat in with Joe Lombardi's orchestra as Fred Otis conducted from the piano.

A folk medley of "Scarlett Ribbons," "Little White Duck," "Old Dan Tucker," "Lil' David" and "Joshua" made up the second segment of the act, with each number interpreted in an original manner.

Then came the finale, as the boys did excerpts from about 30 songs made famous by their father. This could have been an ear-bending, wearying number without proper editing. As they present it, it is a closely woven tapestry of song and sentiment, bringing the past to the present with taste and skill.

As they closed, in tribute to Bing, with "The Blue of the Night," I felt deeply moved and awfully glad I attended the opening.

Earlier, before and during the show, I realized the familiar antics of Frank Libuse, the mad "waiter," as well as other variety acts and the beautiful girls in Fred Wittop's scintillating costumes.

The Crosby Bros. and the Latin Quarter have a rare treat for all comers.

Pictured above are the twins Phillip (top) Dennis (bottom) and Lindsay (the youngest). Eldest brother Gary is not with the group at this time...



SOURCE

Saturday, June 16, 2018

FLASHBACK: 1954


Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby, “White Christmas” and…March of Dimes?  The March of Dimes has been helping families by focusing on improving the health of babies and children for 75 years. We all aspire to provide the best care and comfort for our children.

Over half a century ago, when paralytic polio threatened our children, Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby projected a similar message to pitch for the March of Dimes. The photo above, with March of Dimes poster boy Delbert Dains, was taken on the stage set for the movie White Christmas, released in 1954. The song “White Christmas,” by Irving Berlin and which Crosby first popularized in 1942, remains the best-selling single of all time. That Bing Crosby was one of the three “ultra icons” of pop music (the others are Elvis Presley and the Beatles) is undoubtedly lost to most people today, but a person viewing this photo in 1954 might recognize a familiar set of associations typical of that era: a child disabled by contagious disease, the most popular singer of the age, and the nostalgic pull of the meaning of Christmas and the emotional security of home.

The March of Dimes message has evolved, just as our mission has evolved. Our fervent wish for “a fighting chance for every baby” is the bedrock from which all of our educational programs and scientific research are launched. From that perspective, and in the spirit of the season, we hope all the readers of News Moms Need will find that special place in the coming weeks “where tree tops glisten, and children listen.” As a sad postscript, Delbert Dains passed away in 1962...

Friday, June 1, 2018

KING OF JAZZ: A 2018 REVIEW

King of Jazz: A 2018 Review

Criterion;Musical;$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray;Not rated.Stars Paul Whiteman, John Boles, Laura La Plante, The Rhythm Boys (with Bing Crosby). 

Even if all of them currently existed, at all or in ideal form, you likely wouldn’t have to sit through many of the early-talkie screen musical revues to realize that King of Jazz is the standout specimen from a discredited litter. And such faint praise, gotta say, prodigiously underrates the most bug-eyed time with a movie I’ve had in a while, thanks to what Criterion has done with this color/design landmark’s costly, long-gestating and almost full-length 4K restoration, which had already dazzled friends of mine in public showings. There was already enough interest in the film’s unearthing to inspire a 2016 coffee table book by James Layton and David Pierce (King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman’s Technicolor Revue), who also offer a history of this tangled Universal production in another of Criterion’s ultra-classy bonus sections (did someone also say Garry Giddins and Michael Feinstein just for starters? — Lordy).
I remember Whiteman well from my days as an inveterate boomer-kid TV watcher, but the truth is that he was semi-forgotten even then and his status as a jazz figure (much less jazz royalty) was very much in decline to anyone who was embracing all things Miles or Thelonious. He was still, however, a formidable physical presence, what with an offbeat mustache that would have disfigured even Clark Gable and physical heft directly out of the Oliver Hardy laboratory that had at one time (per Giddins) engendered major news stories whenever he attempted a diet. This made him as unlikely a bet for movie stardom as Kate Smith and Liberace later turned to be, and all the frittering around to find a format that could adequately present him on screen (there was a kind of revolving door of directorial possibilities for the movie as well) forced delays on production that indirectly resulted in the picture’s severe underperformance at the box office.
So rather than make him a romantic lead or a Cupid to younger lovers, this peer-respected orchestra leader — who had helped spur the first performance of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and included the young Bing Crosby with the Rhythm Boys as part of his lineup — ring-mastered a performance revue whose delights genuine and demented included a “Rhapsody” reprise; Bing’s very first screen appearance; the Russell Markett Dancers (who soon evolved into the Rockettes); and the first cartoon in Technicolor (by Walter Lantz) in a manner that might later have reminded people of a far more elaborate “Ed Sullivan Show” had the picture remained in circulation. To this was added the much celebrated stage director John Murray Anderson to film it (this should not have been his only movie); art/costume direction by Herman Rosse, who soon figured in some of Universal’s biggest horror staples of the early ’30s; and even a huge crane that had been previously purchased by the studio and must have made Busby Berkeley’s mouth water.

None of this is to suggest that every number here is a winner, but even Jazz’s not infrequent wincers (or would-be wincers were it not for the harmonious components that combine for the presentation) are more riveting than not to watch because I’ve never seen any two-color Technicolor movie look this great. Even an otherwise leaden bridal number early on washes pleasantly over the viewer thanks to its cornucopia of visual cosmetics. And then, for a capper, we see this veil — which looks long enough to cover half the width of a small U.S. state and expensive enough by itself to have covered the cost of Lash La Rue’s total screen oeuvre.
Seeing Crosby with semi-rouged cheeks is an unusual sight, though when he and the “Boys” break into snippets of “Mississippi Mud” and “Happy Beat,” it’s so enthralling that these pink-ish cheeks recede to another part of the brain. Jazz was Crosby’s only color movie until Paramount’s Dixie in 1943 and one of the very few Bings from his home studio that controlling Universal hasn’t released in this country (there is an official Region 2 DVD). This is almost surely due to that biopic’s minstrel-show angle — and even despite its inclusion of “Sunday, Monday and Always,” one of his biggest hits the era. So seeing Jazz with Crosby in color here is a real gift that whets my appetite (not that any whetting could ever be needed) for the long awaited Vol. 2 of Giddins’ definitive Crosby biography, due in November.
When one of Bing’s many 20s benders (he later brought personal experience to The Country Girl) led to a car crash and a dress-down the judge in court, the singer probably dodged a career bullet when his intended big “gaucho” number went to John Boles — whose appearances for me are always complicated by Anita O’Day’s assertion in her autobiography that Boles raped her in her dressing room (she later backtracks or softens this a little, but still …). This splashy set piece is inevitably risible but is (again) put over by the color schemes, lighting and, well, total design. So the payoff is that when we really do have something to write home about content-wise — as with otherwise non-existent footage of violinist Joe Venuti and guitarist Eddie Lang playing up a storm together, or the finale that sends everyone home with a bang — this is a not inapt movie to be seeing just as 2001 celebrates its 50th anniversary because these scenes, at least, have a comparably hypnotic effect.
Unfortunately, there weren’t nearly enough patrons to go home with a bang or otherwise, because the delayed production landed Jazz at the end of an early-talkie-musical cycle that had already snapped viewer tolerance. This is a tragedy because, for all of its sporadic creakiness, this one’s incomparably better than MGM’s Hollywood Revue of 1929 (which is nowhere near as entertaining as its oft-excerpted two-color “Singin’ in the Rain” number might suggest) or Warner’s Show of Shows, which is instructional only as a primer in understanding just what it was that Show emcee and Bob Hope influence Frank Fay “had” (apparently, not much, said his onetime abused wife Barbara Stanwyck).

Jazz started to exist for modern-day audiences as something more than a rumor a few decades back, and Universal even released an official VHS in 1992 — a pre-restoration eyesore with inferior sound (I should have mentioned that the new Blu-ray is also easy on the ear) and a slightly shorter running time than the restoration print, which itself is missing relatively minor footage. And now for a story: A chuckling colleague of mine roaming the files during our AFI Theater days stumbled into a solid gold letter from MCA chief exec/CEO Lew Wasserman himself, whose chew-outs were legendary. Our then AFIT boss, possessed of certain genius but one for whom “right clearances” was not a middle name, had apparently run Jazz(this was before our time) when MCA-owned Universal had told him he couldn’t (God knows where he got the print). So here’s the Lew Wasserman letterhead across the top of a letter from possibly the most powerful person in Hollywood that begins: “Dear Mr. XXXX, I fail to understand … .” That’s an opening scarier than anything in a Universal horror movie from a guy that the late twinkle-eyed producer David Brown once speculated (in the 2005 documentary The Last Mogul) had had only one orgasm of his life reading the grosses on Jaws.
As for bonus goodies, we have Feinstein interviewed for a musical backgrounder; a couple germane Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons; a Whiteman performance short subject; deleted scenes; a jam-packed essay by the knowledgeable and verbally magnetic Farran Smith Nehme, who’s one of my favorite film writers of the impressive many who are 125 years younger than I; and a voiceover commentary by Giddins, critic Gene Seymour and (hold on) musician/bandleader Vince Giordano — each of whom can fill in the others’ infrequent blanks. This trio is full of all kinds of nuggets, including anecdotes about how blisteringly hot the Technicolor lights were when the entire Whiteman band had to play inside a way oversized piano — one out of the last reel of two from The Incredible Shrinking Man — in tuxes. And how big were the piano keys? About a foot long.
King of Jazz isn’t anywhere near perfect, but it is perfectly amazing, and so, again, is one of those discs that justify the invention of Blu-rays (don’t even think of talking to me of streaming, OK?). Along the way, Whiteman gets a little renewed overdue due. He didn’t really play jazz as we know it, but it wasn’t like what had come before amid a period of real pop-cultural flux. Next to the bridal number here, he really was out of a new century.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

BING CROSBY TO REPLACE BILL COSBY

This is a silly article, but it's nice to see Bing still getting press...


Hollywood — Legendary television producer Tom Werner announced this morning that, in light of Bill Cosby’s conviction for sexual assault, they are recasting “The Cosby Show” in an effort to salvage 197 episodes of syndicated programming. Because of advances in digital technology, they are replacing Cosby with the late crooner Bing Crosby.
“First off, it’s just an additional letter. And we’re getting an Academy Award-winning actor,” said Werner, “who looks fantastic in a sweater.”
Asked if it would seem strange to have Crosby surrounded by a wife and children of color, Werner said he saw it as an opportunity to push the concept of non-traditional casting to the next level. “Bing was very progressive when it came to race. We know he contributed to the defense of the Scottsboro Boys, and the things he did on behalf of Louis Armstrong are well documented.”
The only reporter in the room old enough to remember who Bing Crosby was asked if they had considered the unproven child abuse allegations from Bing’s late son, Gary, an impediment. “Oh heck, no. Dr. Huxtable was threatening to kill Theo every other week so we see that as a plus.”
Ricochet Entertainment contacted Phylicia Rashad who played Cosby’s wife, Claire, on what she felt about the new digital recasting. “Oh, baby, he can croon me good night any day of the week!”

Sunday, April 15, 2018

SPOTLIGHT ON LYDIA REED

One of the last great old school MGM musical was 1956's High Society. The film had it all: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and a Cole Porter score among others. Grace Kelly was the love interest, but one of the most charming stars of the film was Lydia Reed.

Lydia Reed was born on August 23, 1944, and is an American former child actress best known for her role as Tallahassee "Hassie" McCoy from 1957 to 1963 in 145 episodes of the ABC situation comedy The Real McCoys, starring Walter Brennan in the title role of Grandpa Amos McCoy. Irving Pincus was the creator, and Hy Averback the first principal director.

An episode of the series that featured Reed was "Sweet Fifteen," which aired on April 9, 1959. It centers on Grandpa's determination to keep Hassie's looming fifteenth birthday party a secret.

After its five-year run on ABC, The Real McCoys switched to CBS for its final season in 1962-1963 without the services of Kathleen Nolan as Kate McCoy. Reed appeared less frequently in the final year, as did Michael Winkelman (1946–1999) as Little Luke McCoy, who played Reed's younger brother on the series.


Reed's first performances were in 1952 episodes of two NBC anthology series, Hallmark Hall of Fame (the second episode of the series entitled "Dr. Serocold") and Robert Montgomery Presents. In 1955, she played Mary Foy in the Bob Hope film, The Seven Little Foys. That same year, she played another "Mary" in the episode "Ride with the Executioner" of the anthology Jane Wyman Presents the Fireside Theatre. In 1956, she appeared in the role of Caroline Lord in High Society, with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Grace Kelly, and in the episode "Hit and Run" of the NBC series Big Town. Her last role other than that of Hassie McCoy was as Betsy Beecher in the horror film The Vampire (1957).

Reed left acting after her role on The Real McCoys ended and did not appear in a 2000 cable television reunion special (The Nashville Network) with Nolan, Tony Martinez, who portrayed farmhand Pepino Garcia, and Richard Crenna, who played the role of Luke McCoy, Hassie's older brother, for the entire duration of the series. After leaving "The Real McCoys" she left acting altogether. She has been married to Mario Rodolfo Travaglini since January 16, 1967. They have one child. She was previously married to Byron George Stiegemeyer. As of 2007, she was a wife and mother living in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, CA...


Sunday, April 1, 2018

BING AND THE DETRIOT TIGERS

When people think of Bing Crosby, they might think fondly of the classic film White Christmas, or his golden voice. He was arguably one of the most famous and successful entertainers of his era.

He was also a partial owner of both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Detroit Tigers.

His ownership stake in the Pirates is by far the better known of these two. As recently as 2010 it was found that Crosby — who helped pioneer and popularize making recordings of film — had one of the only recordings of game seven of the 1960 World Series. Crosby had actually asked his assistant to record the game from the TV broadcast, something that simply wasn’t a commonplace practice in 1960.

Crosby’s history as both a fan and integral member of the Pirates organization is a treasure trove of factoids. He purchased stock in the team in the late 40s, and maintained partial ownership into the 1960s. He served as the vice president and owned about 15 percent of the team.

His ownership in Tigers stock is barely a footnote, but on January 10, 1957, the then-commissioner of baseball, Ford Frick, determined that Crosby was allowed to keep his shares in the Detroit Tigers in spite of being a part-owner of the Pirates. According to Crosby’s obituary, his purchase of Tigers shares came after his purchase with the Pirates, and he owned about five percent of the Tigers franchise.


At the time, when Crosby was awaiting judgment from Frick, some suggested he might be forced to sell off stock in one of the teams. Crosby’s brother Larry apparently made it quite clear that if that were the case, Bing would keep his Pirates shares. This evidently became a moot point when Frick ruled in Crosby’s favor.

“Bing has only a token hold in the Detroit club. He made it just to be in on the thing with friends,” was Frick’s statement. Apparently, Crosby’s stock in the Tigers was worth less than $1000, which Frick didn’t feel violated the rule that no one person could own “substantial stock” in more than one major league team.


Interestingly, Crosby’s purchase of Tigers shares came roughly ten years after the 1947 acquisition of Tigers great Hank Greenberg by the Pirates. The Pirates acquired Greenberg for about $35,000, thanks to a snafu involving an old photo of Greenberg in a Yankees uniform that had been taken during the 1943 All-Star War Bond Game, where Greenberg had forgotten his Tigers uniform (he would be wearing an All-Star jersey for the game and hadn’t anticipated needing his team uniform for a public practice, so someone loaned him a Yankees uniform).

The revival of this photo riled up then-Tigers owner Walter Briggs. Rather than promote Greenberg to the general manager role as Greenberg had requested, Briggs sold his contract to Pittsburgh, and its new part owner: Bing Crosby...