Saturday, April 4, 2020

THE ETHNICITY OF BING


Birth Name: Harry Lillis Crosby, Jr.

Date of Birth: May 3, 1903

Place of Birth: Tacoma, Washington, U.S.

Date of Death: October 14, 1977

Place of Death: Alcobendas, Madrid, Spain

Ethnicity: English, Irish

Bing Crosby was an American singer and actor. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Going My Way (1944).

His father, Harry Lillis/Lincoln/Lowe Crosby, was of English descent and his mother, Catherine Helen (Harrigan), was of Irish descent. Bing was raised Catholic.

Bing was married to actress and nightclub singer Dixie Lee, until her death, and to actress Kathryn Grant, until his death. He had four children with Dixie, and three children with Kathryn.

Actor and businessperson Harry Crosby is his son. Actress Denise Crosby is his granddaughter.

Bing’s patrilineal line can be traced to Anthony Crosby, who was born, c. 1545, in Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, Yorkshire, England.

Bing’s paternal grandfather was Nathaniel Crosby (the son of Nathaniel Crosby and Mary Lincoln). Bing’s grandfather Nathaniel was born in Maine, and was of English descent, from a family resident in New England since the 1600s. Bing’s great-grandfather Nathaniel was the son of Nathaniel Crosby and Ruby Foster; Ruby was the daughter of Chillingsworth Foster III and Sarah Freeman. Mary was the daughter of Isaac Lincoln and Mary Foster.

Bing’s paternal grandmother was Cordelia Jane Smith (the daughter of Jacob Smith and Priscilla Fearnley). Cordelia was born in Indiana. Priscilla was born in England.

Bing’s maternal grandfather was Dennis Harrigan (the son of Dennis Harrigan and Catherine Driscoll/Driscol). Bing’s grandfather Dennis was born in Williamstown, Northumberland County, New Brunswick, Canada, and was of Irish descent.

Bing’s maternal grandmother was Catherine Ahearn/A’Hearn (the daughter of John Ahearn and Ann Meighan). Catherine was born in New Brunswick, to Irish parents...

Friday, March 20, 2020

BING ON FILM: TOP O' THE MORNING - PART TWO


This would be the third pairing of Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald. They hit movie gold twice with their pairing as priests in the landmark film Going My Way in 1944, and as doctors in Welcome Stranger in 1947. Paramount figured that three times was a charm, but it was not exactly. The best part of the film was the interaction between Bing and Barry Fitzgerald, but the script did not allow for much of the friendly banter that was seen in their previous two films together. Personally, I feel they should have made Bing and Barry Fitzgerald both policemen – one young and one old – who had to settle the case of the missing Blarney Stone, using new techniques and old techniques of investigation to crack the case. I was not around in 1949, so Paramount was not able to ask me for my script recommendations!


Like many of Bing Crosby films, the singing was the major draw of the film. My favorite number was Bing singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”. Bing did not record the number for the movie soundtrack, but he did record it a few years before the film was made, on May 7, 1946. The songwriting team of Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke were commissioned to write new songs for the film, but only two songs were written. They wrote the title song “Top O’ The Morning”, which was my favorite song from the film. Bing must have liked the song too, because he sang it three times in the film. The songwriters also wrote a pretty forgettable ballad called “You’re In Love With Someone”, which Bing sang, and then it was sung later in the film as a duet with Bing and Ann Blyth. Rounding out the music were traditional Irish songs like “Kitty Coleraine”, “The Donovans”, and “Oh Tis Sweet To Think”.

Bing was in fine voice towards the end of the 1940s, and as always, he was his charming self in the movie, so he cannot be blamed for this misguided film. Bing did however personally selected David Miller as director of Top O’ the Morning.  Groucho Marx recommended him to Bing.  Miller had just completed what turned out to be the final Marx Brothers’ film.  It was Love Happy, the least revered of all the Brothers’ films. I think also movie audiences were changing as television was beginning to take hold.


Some of the critics liked the film though:
Bing Crosby, after two lush Technicolored musicals, has been handed a light, frothy and more moderately budgeted picture by Paramount to cavort in, which should put him once more at the top of that studio’s breadwinning list.
      …Under David Miller’s light-handed direction, Crosby and the rest of the cast fall right into the spirit of the story. Groaner, despite his having to play to a gal (Ann Blyth) who is so obviously younger, is socko. His easy way with a quip, combined with his fine crooning of some old Irish tunes and a couple of new ones, is solid showmanship.
      …Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen have cleffed two bright new tunes for the film, both of which, with Crosby to introduce them, should get plenty of play. “You’re in Love with Someone,” a ballad, has the edge but the other, “Top O’ the Morning,” has the lilt that Crosby fans go for. Crooner also gets a chance to dispense a round of traditional Irish airs, ranging from “Irish Eyes” to the lesser-known but more sprightly variety.
(Variety, July 20, 1949)

In my opinion, Top O’ The Morning is not a great Bing Crosby movie, but even a bad Bing film is worth viewing. The last fifteen minutes of the movie is the best, and some of the plot is pretty sinister for a lighthearted Bing film. Bing and the cast does the best they could with the script, and this film is worth watching. My copy came from a showing on AMC Network in 1998, and now TCM has also shown the film, so if you get a chance check out this slight Bing film. The film was not great but pleasant enough..

MY RATING: 6 OUT OF 10




Monday, March 9, 2020

BING ON FILM: TOP O' THE MORNING - PART ONE

It is easy to review and write about High Society or Holiday Inn, but I wanted to look at a film that was not as remembered as other Crosby films. So that is why I picked Bing’s 1949 Top O’ The Morning. I have had the film on a bootleg DVD for years, but I just never could bring myself to watch the film. I am not sure why, but I finally viewed the film, and it is not too bad. It is not great either.

After making some great Technicolor vehicles like Blue Skies and The Emperor Waltz, Top O’ The Morning looks drab and boring in black and white. I don’t know how Paramount could make a movie about colorful Ireland without the film being in color. The plot is slight, and at times I surprisingly find the movie hard to follow. Although the film has a marvelous cast, it is only mildly entertaining, with the story stumbling along in fits and starts, though it does pick up speed in the last half.  Crosby plays a New York insurance investigator sent to Ireland to search for the missing Blarney Stone. Yes, it's been stolen! Barry Fitzgerald plays the ineffectual police sergeant in a nearby town, with Blyth playing his pretty daughter, Conn, and Hume Cronyn is his assistant, Hughie. John McIntire, who later appeared in Blyth's charming comedy Sally And Saint Anne (1952), plays a police inspector working on the case.


The original name of the film was supposed to be Diamond In The Haystack. Very little happens in this rather slow-moving film, which spends a great deal of time on the mysterious prediction of a townswoman (Eileen Crowe) regarding who will marry Conn; eventually, of course, the Blarney Stone mystery is solved and true love prevails. Even though I am of Irish decent, I did not really know what the Blarney Stone was. The Blarney Stone is a block of Carboniferous limestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle  about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from CorkIreland. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery). The stone was set into a tower of the castle in 1446. The castle is a popular tourist site in Ireland, attracting visitors from all over the world to kiss the stone and tour the castle and its gardens.

Back to the film, Bing Crosby looked quite bored in the film as if he was going through the motions of a substandard script. I do not know if it was because of the age difference of Bing and his co-star Ann Blyth, but their pairing did not seem to gel to me, and they did not seem to have too much chemistry. Bing Crosby had wanted Deanna Durbin to costar in this picture as well as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949). Miss Durbin, about to retire from the screen with the finish of her Universal-International contract on August 31, 1949, declined both offers from Bing. In place of Miss Durbin, Universal loaned Ann Blyth to Paramount for this film...

TO BE CONTINUED...



Friday, February 28, 2020

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: MORE MEMORIES OF DIXE LEE CROSBY

Almost eight years ago I published some great photos of the Bing's first wife Dixie Lee (1911-1952). Dixie was the love of Bing's life, and here are some more candid photos...















Friday, February 14, 2020

ST. VALENTINE'S DAY


Just in time for Valentine's Day, I wanted to spotlight a little compilation album that I used to have on an old 10 inch album. It was a cute album. St. Valentine's Day is a Decca Records compilation album of recordings by Bing. Bing Crosby had enjoyed unprecedented success during the 1940s, with his output including six No. 1 hits in 1944 alone. His films, such as Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary's, were huge successes as were the Road films he made with Bob Hope. On radio, his Kraft Music Hall and Philco Radio Time shows were very popular. Decca Records exploited this by issuing a number of 78rpm album sets, some featuring freshly material and others using Crosby's back catalogue. Ten of these sets were released in 1946, nine in 1947 and nine more in 1948. Most of these 78rpm albums were reissued as 10" vinyl LP's in subsequent years.

St. Valentine's Day includes two of Crosby's No. 1 hits from 1944 – "I'll Be Seeing You" and "I Love You" – two other chart entries ("You and I" and "Miss You") plus re-recordings of the singer's first ever recordings for Decca in 1934 "I Love You Truly" and "Just A-Wearyin' for You".



Track Listing:
1. "I Love You Truly"
2.. "Just A-Wearyin' for You"
3. "The Sweetest Story Ever Told"
4. "Mighty Lak' a Rose"
5. "You and I"
6. "Miss You"
7. "I'll Be Seeing You
8. "I Love You" 

The album was also issued as a 10" vinyl LP in 1949 with the catalogue number DL 5039...


Friday, January 31, 2020

BING AND AN ADVERTISING COMPANY

Here is an interesting advertisement featuring a drawing of Bing from 1941 for the J Walter Thompson Company. J. Walter Thompson (JWT), incorporated by James Walter Thompson in 1896, in 2018 was "the biggest of five advertising holding companies that control a significant portion of the world's advertising, marketing and communications firms." It has been owned by WPP plc since 1987...








Saturday, January 18, 2020

SPOTLIGHT ON FLORENCE GEORGE

I originally published an article on Florence George to my blog back on December 5, 2010. I have since learned more about this beauty so I wanted to share to write a new article. She was a remarkable woman...

The opulent, vivacious blonde lyric soprano Florence George was given only two rather routine opportunities to stake her claim in films. As such, she was not given the chance to challenge the other glamorous film opera divas who were the rage of the day ('Jeanette Macdonald', Grace Moore, Susanna Foster, Lily Pons and Gladys Swarthout). Instead she remained focused on radio, concerts, recordings and the stage for the rest of her career.

The Ohio-born beauty came into this world as Catherine Guthrie on December 21, 1917, the daughter of Florence and George Guthrie (she took their first names as her professional stage moniker). Gifted musically and vocally, she attended Wittenber College and graduated with a degree in music at the Chicago Conservatory. She studied one-on-one with former Italian opera star Madame Amelia Galli-Curci (1882-1963) and earned a few radio singing spots before making her operatic debut in "Rioletto" at the Chicago Civic Opera House. A Paramount talent scout happened to catch one of her performances and set up a screen test.


Florence made a charming debut opposite John Payne singing with him "I Fall in Love with You Every Day" and "What Romeo Said to Juliet," her best moment came with her lovely solo on "Moments Like This". Instead of putting her in another showcase, the studio primarily had her do publicity sessions and radio spots. Her next movie would be the MGM loan out Tell No Tales (1939) in a supporting role. She also made some recordings for Decca Records from 1940 to 1949.

Florence married the much older Everett N. Crosby (1896-1966), Bing's business manager and older brother, in 1939. He proceeded to steer her career as well and would do so up until his death in 1966. Purposely guiding her away from films, he focused her on radio, recordings, concerts here and abroad, and the light operetta stage. In 1962, Everett bought Fair Acres, a farm estate in Connecticut where he and Florence raised Morgan and Arabian stallions. After his death from throat cancer, she married Andelmo Ortiz, a production manager for an advertising firm, in 1970, and retired to Maryland. Her second husband died in 1997. She died at age 80 on September 13, 1998...


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

THE BING CROSBY: A NEW YEAR'S DRINK

To celebrate the New Year and our favorite singer Bing Crosby, here is a drink called The Bing Crosby...


Like its namesake, this cocktail is light on its feet but also quite innovative. (Did you know that The Crosby Research Foundation held numerous patents related to TV and radio recording, including for the invention of the laugh track?) 
But don't let its bright demeanor fool you. This drink packs a punch. After one or two of these, you might find yourself crooning "White Christmas" with all the gusto of Der Bingle himself.

INGREDIENTS:

2oz Bourbon
1oz Classic Grenadine
.75oz Ginger Liqueur 
.75oz Fresh Lime Juice
.25oz Pimento Dram
Dash of Orange Bitters
Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a sugar-rimmed glass. Garnish with fresh cranberries and orange peel.
PRO TIP: When rimming a glass, use our Rich Simple Syrup instead of water to really make those fat sugar grains stick. Spin any excess sugar into the sink.