Tuesday, December 7, 2021

BING & BOB HOPE: CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD BFFs


Bing Crosby and Bob Hope worked together in Hollywood for a number of years, establishing status as one of showbiz’s most beloved duos. Though the two stars were “different” in some ways, Bing and Bob were extremely “close” and “loved each other” very much, author Richard Zoglin said.

In a scene from 1942’s Road to Morocco, Bing confesses his affection for his buddy Orville, played by Bob. “I guess in my own way, I sorta love you,” the crooner said just seconds before an amorous camel stretches through the shrubbery to plant a wet kiss on Bob’s cheek. “All right, but you don’t have to slobber all over me!” quipped Bob.

Before the word bromance or the rise of cinematic sequels, Bing and Bob starred in seven sweetly funny Road to … movies that made them two of Hollywood’s biggest stars. The films followed a formula: The pair would get into trouble, wisecracks would fly, Bing would sing, and Bob would talk directly to the audience. “They were the most lucrative franchise in movie history,” Gary Giddins, author of Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams and Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star, shares with Closer.

The pair met in New York when Bob, a then up-and-coming comedian, was invited to emcee one of Bing’s shows in 1933. “They hit it off and used to take breaks together where they’d trade jokes,” says Giddins. “They tried the best bits out on stage and became a big hit with the audiences.”


That chemistry was still intact when Paramount Pictures teamed them up for Road to Singapore, which became one of the biggest hits of 1940. But success didn’t make them immediate best friends. “They were very different men. Bing wasn’t gregarious and didn’t like the trappings of stardom, while Bob loved them,” says Richard, author of Hope: Entertainer of the Century. “I think, privately, Bob felt that Bing was a little aloof. He said, ‘Bing and his wife never even invited me and Dolores to dinner.'” On the set, there was also a friendly competition to come up with the best zingers. “They each had their own writers,” says Giddins, although “they never had a fight.”

It wasn’t until the filming of their last road comedy, 1962’s The Road to Hong Kong, that their friendship really blossomed. “They went to London to do the film and lived in the same house with their wives,” says Giddins. The costars began playing golf together. “Bob’s wife, Dolores, said that was when they first realized how much they really loved each other,” says Zoglin. “From that time on, they were very, very close.”

Bing and Bob had been discussing another movie, The Road to the Fountain of Youth, when Bing died of a sudden heart attack in 1977. “Bob was really broken up about it,” Zoglin says told us. Too emotional to appear on stage, he canceled his live performance that night for the first time in his career. “If friends could have been made for each other, I would have asked for one just like Bing,” Bob said. “I miss him.”




Monday, December 6, 2021

VIDEO: BING CROSBY - THE HOLLYWOOD YEARS episode 4

Part 4 of this excellent series by David Duncan...

    

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Friday, November 26, 2021

RHYTHM ON THE RANGE: A 1936 REVIEW

Here is the NY Times review of Bing's RHYTHM ON THE RANGE, which was made 85 years ago! Written by Frank Nugent, it appeared in the Times on July 30, 1936...

Bing Crosby rides a broncho, milks a wild cow, croons a lullaby to a 2,200-pound Hereford bull and has a box-car romance with a runaway heiress in his new picture at the Paramount. All of which may be interesting and amusing—in fact, it is—but we prefer to think of "Rhythm on the Range" as our screen introduction to Martha Raye. 

Miss Raye is a stridently funny comedienne with a Mammoth Cave, or early Joe E. Brown, mouth, a dental supply vaguely reminiscent of those frightening uppers and lowers they used to hang over the portals of painless extraction emporia, and a chest which, in moments of burlesque aggressiveness, appears to expand fully ten inches. It is entirely possible that she had several clever lines of dialogue in the picture; we wouldn't know, because every time she opened her mouth the audience started laughing. There remains, then, only the conviction that Hollywood has found a remarkable pantomimist, an actress who can glare in several languages, become lovelorn in Esperanto and register beatific delight in facial pothooks and flourishes. She sings, too; swing music in a voice with saxophonic overtones and an occasional trace of pure fog horn. Puzzling at first, but you grow accustomed to it.



Assisting her in the genial task of stealing the picture from the laryngeal Mr. Crosby and the decorative Frances Farmer is Bob Burns, radio's monologist and bazooka player from Van Buren. Ark. Mr. Burns is tall, dry and drawling. A loquacious and philosophic humorist trained to the vocal requirements of radio, virtually his only concession to Hollywood is that he shifts from foot to foot as he talks instead of remaining rooted to a spot before a microphone. His foot-shifting is intricate, however, and his somnolent phrasing amusing, so we may bid him welcome too. And now we come to the plot, a small matter which would find an appropriate use for agate type. It deals with Mr. Crosby's participation in the rodeo at Madison Square Garden; his purchase of Cuddles, a prize bull, and his discovery of a smartly gowned stowaway in Cuddles's box car on the westbound trip. She, it develops, would rather be a pioneer woman than a polo player's bride; Mr. Crosby, it develops, would rather croon than give her a serious thought; their romance, it develops, develops. There is no point in being bitter about these things, sneering at Hollywood or chanting a disrespectful litany of "so whats?" A musical comedy story is a musical comedy story, and not many of them toss in a rodeo, a prize bull called Cuddles, a bazooka player and Martha Raye. Everything considered, Paramount has dealt fairly generously with us; of course, we could have had a mite more of Miss Raye. Still, it's something to anticipate later when her next pictures come along...





Tuesday, November 23, 2021

VIDEO: BING CROSBY - THE HOLLYWOOD YEARS episode 2

Here is episode two of this excellent series from David Duncan...



Monday, November 15, 2021

VIDEO: BING CROSBY - THE HOLLYWOOD YEARS episode 1

Bing Crosby fan David Duncan has created this excellent series! This series looks at Bing Crosby's extensive film career from 1933 through to 1957...


Saturday, November 13, 2021

BING'S DISCOGRAPHY: March 29, 1936

 Here are some early Decca recordings Bing made...decades and decades ago!




Date: 29 March 1936
Location: Los Angeles, Calif
Label: DECCA (US)



Bing Crosby (voc), Victor Young and his Orchestra (orc)
a. DLA322-A Would You? (Brown, Freed) - 3:09(Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown)
b. DLA322-B Would You? (Brown, Freed) - 3:07(Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown)

AVID (UK) CDAMSC 633 — BING CROSBY - YOU AND THE NIGHT AND THE MUSIC (1998)
c. DLA322-C test Would You? (Brown, Freed) - 3:07(Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown)
d. DLA323-A Robins And Roses - 2:53(Edgar Leslie, Joe Burke)
e. DLA324-A I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' - 3:15(DuBose Heyward, George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin)

READER'S DIGEST CDRDCD 122 — THE BING CROSBY YEARS -Vol. 2 Relax and Remember 1936 -1939 (1989)
MCA (US) CDMCAD4 10887 — BING - HIS LEGENDARY YEARS 1931 - 1957 Disc 1 (1993)
CHARLY RECORDS (UK) CDCDCD 1200 — BING CROSBY - MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU (1994)
UNIVERSAL INTERNATIONAL (Japan) CDUCCU 1155 — BING CROSBY SINGS GERSHWIN (2007)
Not Now Music CDNOT2CD740 — BING CROSBY SINGS THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK (2019)
f. DLA324-B I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' - 3:14(DuBose Heyward, George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin)
g. DLA325-A It Ain't Necessarily So - 3:06(Ira Gershwin, George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward)

UNIVERSAL INTERNATIONAL (Japan) CDUCCU 1155 — BING CROSBY SINGS GERSHWIN (2007)
h. DLA325-D It Ain't Necessarily So - 3:08(Ira Gershwin, George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward)
i. DLA326-Parody Robins And Roses - 1:29(Edgar Leslie, Joe Burke)

BROADWAY INTERMISSION (US) CDBRCD 134 — JUST FOR FUN (2000)
FOR COLLECTORS ONLY LP 12"FCO100B — BING CROSBY - FOR COLLECTORS ONLY
CURTAIN CALLS LP 12"CURTAIN CALLS 1002 — BOTH SIDES OF BING CROSBY (1974)

All titles on: JONZO (UK) CDJZCD-18 — THE CHRONOLOGICAL BING CROSBY VOLUME 18 (1999)







Saturday, October 30, 2021

BING ON FILM: A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT - PART TWO

Unfortunately, Rhonda Fleming is supposed to marry the brave knight Sir Lancelot (Henry Wilxocon). When Sir Lancelot finds out Bing is trying to steal his girl, he challenges Bing to a joust. Bing is good on a horse but no challenge to Sir Lancelot as a knight. Instead of Bing fighting him, he uses rodeo type triCks like knocking Sir Lancelot off his horse and embarrasses him instead of defeating him in a battle. Rhonda Fleming feels that Bing did not do the honorable thing and says she wants nothing to do with him. Meanwhile, there is a subplot where the king is out of touch with the people of his kingdom as they die in poverty of the plague. Bing suggests to the king that he should go see for himself how his people are living. They dress as peasants and travel the country. Merlin overhears their plans, and they are captured and sold as slaves in the market. Rhonda Fleming tries to save them and realizes that she loves Bing, but she is captured as well. Bing manages to overpower the guard with the aid of a magnet that he happens to have on him still. Merlin captures them again and decrees that under the law, the slaves attempting escape must be put to death. Reading his almanac, Bing realizes on that very day there was an eclipse. Pretending to possess magic, Bing calls on the total darkness of the world. Everyone is terrified by the darkness, and they are released. Rhonda Fleming, meanwhile is being held as a prisoner by Merlin, and as Bing frees Rhonda Fleming he is knocked unconscious by a guard and awakens to find himself once again in the year 1905. Bing relates this story to a lord who looks a lot like the king (also played by Cedric Hardwicke). The lord says that Bing’s story is remarkable but just then the lord’s niece comes by, and it is none other than Rhonda Fleming. They give each other a wink and a happy ending ensues.

The love story between Bing and Rhonda Fleming is well acted, and they had great chemistry. The film sort of drags on in the middle. I hate to say it but as I rewatched the movie now for this review, I found myself bored at parts, but when Bing and Rhonda Fleming (who was known as the Queen of Technicolor) are on the screen there was film magic. Rhonda Fleming gets to sing one of the songs written by Burke and Van Heusen called “When Is Sometime”. The song never became a hit, but it was quite pretty. Bing sings a song in the beginning as a blacksmith in 1905 called “If You Stub Your Toe on The Moon”. The song is forgotten today, but if you get a chance listen to the song in the movie or Bing’s Decca recording of it because it is really a great song. In 1949, Frank Sinatra recorded it for Columbia Records, and Tony Martin recorded it for RCA, but Bing’s version was the best. The main love song in the film was “Once And For Always” which I think holds up more than this movie does. Bing made a solo record of it, and also as a duet with Rhonda Fleming. It is one of the most beautiful love songs Bing sang in the movies in my opinion. The one other song in the film was “Busy Doing Nothing”. Bing sang it with William Bendix and Cedric Hardwicke, both who are non-singers, so the song was not given much of a chance to be remembered. Even though the great Victor Young conducted the music on the film, it seems like one other song was needed for the film.


Movie reviews were generally positive for “A Connecticut Yankee” with Bosley Crowther of The New York Times writing: "The solid, reliable humors of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which have already done yeoman service in two films and a Broadway musical show, have been given another going over—with eminently satisfactory results—in Paramount’s new film of the same title, which came to the Music Hall yesterday. And for this we can thank Bing Crosby, primarily and above all, because it is Bing in the role of the Yankee who gives this film its particular charm ... But it is still Bing’s delightful personality, his mild surprises and sweet serenities, and his casual way of handling dialogue that makes this burlesque a success. No one in current operation could qualify, we are sure, to play the Connecticut Yankee the way the old Groaner does.” Variety was not quite so enthusiastic: "Picture wears the easy casualness that's a Crosby trademark, goes about its entertaining at a leisurely pace, and generally comes off satisfactorily. It's not high comedy and there’s little swashbuckling.”

Would I put this 1949 Bing effort among my favorite Bing films? I would say no, however despite any negativity I have about the film, it is still a worthwhile Bing film. Bing and the cast rise to the challenge of a silly script to put in some great performances. The high points of the film is always Bing’s singing and acting, but in this film look out for highpoints like the amazing beauty of Rhonda Fleming as well as the unstated comedic talent of William Bendix. The film is fun and enjoyable, and I am so glad Paramount spent the extra money to make it in technicolor. The movie is worth it alone to see Bing’s blue eyes and Rhonda Fleming’s red flowing hair...

MY RATING: 6 OUT OF 10





Thursday, October 14, 2021

BING ON FILM: A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT - PART ONE

Since Bing starred in so many movies, it is always difficult to decide what movie to review next. Today marks the one year anniversary of Rhonda Fleming's passing, so I decided to review the one movie that they made together – 1949’s “A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court”. I had forgotten the story is based off of a Mark Twain novel that Twain wrote in 1889. A successful book, the story has been adapted many times for stage, movies, and even cartoons. The earliest film version was a silent film made in 1921 starring forgotten actor Harry Myers in the title role. In 1927, the novel was adapted into a stage musical with words and music written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. The score included many standards such as “My Heart Stood Still” and “Thou Swell”. Then in 1931 Will Rogers made another movie version which was an early hit for Rogers. Bing Crosby’s version would come next, and I have to admit the film has never been my favorite movie. Like the previous movie I reviewed, 1956’s “Anything Goes”, “A Connecticut Yankee” had a lot going for it, but it just falls short.

Bing’s version of the film had intended to use the Rodgers & Hart score from the Broadway version, but at the time MGM owned the rights to the songs. MGM was planning to make a biography on the life of Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart (The movie would be 1948’s “Words And Music”), so for Bing’s movie a new film score would have to be written. Bing’s chief movie songwriters at the time, Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen, wrote the new songs for the film. Tay Garnett would direct the film, and he was not known for making musicals. Before “A Connecticut Yankee”, Garnett had directed a lot of successful films like “Seven Sinners” (1940) starring John Wayne, and “The Postman Always Rings Twice” (1946) starring John Garfield. To me, he was an odd choice to direct a lighthearted Bing film, but he was a contracted director at Paramount from 1947 to 1954. The screenplay was written by Edmund Beloin. Beloin was a writer on Jack Benny’s radio program from 1936 to 1943, and he also wrote the screenplay for Bing’s “The Road To Rio” (1947).


The setting of the film is unique for Bing in that it is a period piece, as it takes place in the distant past. I much prefer a Bing in “contemporary times”. The movie first takes place in 1905. Bing plays a blacksmith whose profession is in jeopardy with the coming of the automobile. With horses on their way out as a mode of transportation, Bing tries to adapt by learning how to fix cars. He is riding his horse home, and Bing gets caught in a storm. The horse is spooked, and Bing falls off of the horse and is knocked out. When Bing awakes, a sword is pointed at his face by a knight (William Bendix), and Bing realizes that he is now in England in 528 AD. He is taken by the knight to the king (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) where he is being entertained in the court by his niece (Rhonda Fleming). William Bendix, in a comedic role of course, explains that Bing is an evil sorcerer and, Bendix claims that he used his power and bravery to capture Bing. The king’s sorcerer Merlin (Murvyn Vye) is instantly jealous and intimidated by Bing, so he convinces the king to put Bing to death. Right before Bing is supposed to be burnt at the stake, he amazes the courts with his feats of magic, which in today’s world are common parlor tricks like using a magnifying glass to start a fire. Bing becomes a favorite of the kingdom, where he befriends the king and wins the attention of his niece. She is amazed at Bing that he is some sort of a magician. He teaches her “modern” singing as well as how to wink...

TO BE CONTINUED...




Monday, October 11, 2021

NEW CD: BING CROSBY - GUEST STAR TIME

Sepia Records have done it again with another great CD issue from Bing Crosby's radio days...

This 2-CD set features 66 of Bing Crosby's guest appearances on other people's radio shows and covers a time period of almost 20 years. Of particular historical significance are four tracks from the Allied Expeditionary Forces broadcast in London with Glenn Miller and his American Band of the AEF in 1944.



Track Listing:
Disc 1:

On Treasure Island
I’m Hummin’, I’m Whistlin’, I’m Singin’
Love in Bloom
Straight from the Shoulder
This Can’t Be Love
I Have Eyes
Don’t Let That Moon Get Away
I’ve Got a Pocketful of Dreams
Small Fry
Frenesi
My Melancholy Baby
The Birth of the Blues
My Old Kentucky Home
Winter Wonderland
Be Careful, It’s My Heart
Moonlight Becomes You
As Time Goes By
Old Glory
It Ain’t Necessarily So
You’ll Never Know
Memphis Blues
Basin Street Blues / Shine / The Birth of the Blues
Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
If You Please
She’s from Missouri
Sunday, Monday or Always
Dixie
Pennies from Heaven
I’ll Get By
Easter Parade
With a Song in My Heart
Long Ago (and Far Away)
Amor

Disc 2:

Swinging on a Star
Poinciana
San Fernando Valley
Parody Medley
Going My Way
Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral
You’re a Grand Old Flag
De Camptown Races
Home on the Range
When You Were Sweet Sixteen / The Band Played On
God Bless America
You Belong to My Heart
Red River Valley
Haunted Heart
The Bells of St. Mary’s
Buttons and Bows
A Little Bird Told Me
Road to Morocco
Friendly Mountains
Get Yourself a Phonograph
I Kiss Your Hand, Madame
The Kiss in Your Eyes
O Sanctissima
Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider
St. Louis Blues
Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie
The Waiter and the Porter and the Upstairs Maid
America the Beautiful
Sam’s Song
Anytime
To See You Is to Love You
Way Back Home