Sunday, September 12, 2021

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: BING AND DONALD O'CONNOR

 Bing's career crossed paths with dancer Donald O'Connor's path from time to time through the decades. The made two movies together: Sing You Sinners (1937) and Anything Goes (1956). They also recorded a couple of duets at Decca and appeared on radio together. Here are some nice photos of them together...















Friday, September 3, 2021

COMING SOON: THE EMPEROR WALTZ ON BLU-RAY

While 1948's The Emperor Waltz is not Bing's greatest movie, it will still be great to get it on Blu-Ray!

From Billy Wilder, the brilliant director of Five Graves to Cairo, The Lost Weekend, Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot and Witness for the Prosecution, comes this delightful musical comedy starring screen greats Bing Crosby (Road to Morocco, Going My Way) and Joan Fontaine (Kiss the Blood off My Hands, Suspicion). American gramophone salesman Virgil Smith (Crosby) wants to sell his wares in pre-WWI Austria. To get the ball rolling, he hits on the idea of going straight to the top and selling one to Emperor Franz Joseph (Richard Haydn, No Time for Love, The Sound of Music). First off, the palace guards think he’s carrying a bomb and he’s arrested. He subsequently meets Countess Johanna von Stolzenberg-Stolzenberg (Fontaine) and, after the usual misunderstandings, falls in love with her. She falls in love with his dog, Buttons. The relation is fraught with obstacles and the emperor thinks royal blood marrying a commoner is bad darts altogether—what is to become of Smith and his countess? Co-written by Wilder and his frequent collaborator Charles Brackett (A Foreign Affair, Arise, My Love), this charming farce garnered Oscar nominations for its wonderful score by Victor Young (The Paleface) and elegant costumes by Edith Head (Sabrina) and Gile Steele (The Heiress).


Blu-ray Extras Include:
-NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historian Joseph McBride, author of Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge
-Billy Wilder and Volker Schlöndorff Discuss THE EMPEROR WALTZ
-Trailers

You can order your copy HERE




Monday, August 9, 2021

BING WITH A BEAT

Bing with a Beat was Bing Crosby's seventh long play album but his first with RCA Victor. It was recorded at the Radio Recorders "Annex" Studio in Los Angeles and released on vinyl in September 1957. Bing with a Beat is a 1957 concept album where the songs feature "hot" jazz and dixieland arrangements by Matty Matlock, played by Bob Scobey's Frisco Jazz Band.

The album was issued on CD by BMG Music and Bluebird Records in 2004. Variety liked the album, saying, "Bob Scobey's Frisco Jazz Band has put Bing Crosby in one of his happiest and swingiest vocal frames. The evergreens are ever-bright when Crosby and Scobey match wits."

Record producer, Ken Barnes, wrote, "After his high-powered outing with Buddy Bregman, Bing probably felt a desire to get back to the roots of his singing style and this pleasantly swinging album with Bob Scobey's Frisco Jazz Band was probably the best artistic therapy for him at this point in his career. Bing always responded enthusiastically to a Dixie-style backing and with songs like 'Some Sunny Day', 'Whispering' and 'Mama Loves Papa' he is in top-notch form. Scobey plays some tasty trumpet and there are telling solos from others in the band - notably Ralph Sutton on piano. The cleanly crisp arrangements are by Matty Matlock and the album is almost a total joy from beginning to end. The only mild disappointment is a rather lack-lustre version of 'Mack the Knife' which should have been a standout.

The writer Will Friedwald, in his book Jazz Singing: America's Great Voices from Bessie Smith to Bebop and Beyond, commented, "Communicating the obvious joy the music arises in him, Crosby fairly oozes with charming insouciance above and beyond even the call of Crosby, expressed in semi-spoken asides and lyric alterations."

Track Listing:
1. Let A Smile Be Your Umbrella
2. I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter
3. Along The Way To Waikiki
4. Exactly Like You
5. Dream A Little Dream Of Me
6. Last Night On The Back Porch
7. Some Sunny Day
8. Whispering
9. Tell Me
10. Mack The Knife
11. Down Among The Sheltering Palms
12. Mama Loves Papa



Sunday, July 25, 2021

BING ON FILM: ANYTHING GOES - PART TWO


At lot of movie studios when they are making a movie version of a Broadway show try to keep the musical score intact. However, Paramount Studios had a habit of chopping up a Broadway score and adding different songs to their movie versions. They did this to Cole Porter in 1936 for that version of Anything Goes, and supposedly it caused a rift between Cole and Bing Crosby. They kept a lot of Cole Porter’s songs in the film, but they also cut a few and added songs that were written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. Cahn and Van Heusen were good songwriters, but they were no Cole Porter. While we got to hear and to watch the cast perform great Cole Porter standards like “Anything Goes” (sung by Mitzi Gaynor), “You’re The Top” (sung by Bing, Mitzi, Donald O’Connor, and Zizi Jeanmarie), and “All Through The Night (sung by Bing), we also witnessed the hokey songs written by Cahn and Van Heusen for the film like: “You Can Bounce Right Back”, “You Gotta Give The People Hoke”, and “A Second Hand Turban”. At times it felt like there were two musical scores in the film. I am okay if Paramount wanted to punch up the score with different songs, but the Cole Porter songbook was vast, and they could have used dozens of other Porter songs. They even brought in a third songwriting team in Leo Robin and Frederick Hollander, and that duo wrote two other songs for the film that were not used called “Am I Awake” and “Hopelessly In Love”. Nothing against those other song writers but it was a slap in the face to Cole Porter.

The two best musical numbers in the film was the love song “It’s Delovely” which was performed by Donald O’Connor and Mitzi Gaynor. Their singing is charming and the dance number was definitely the best number in the film and probably one of the best numbers that Paramount filmed in the 1950s. The other number that I liked was the closing number “Blow Gabriel Blow” which was performed by Bing and the whole cast. Some people online had an issue with a man singing the song since Ethel Merman introduced and sang the song on Broadway, but it was a great huge Hollywood finale, and Bing did it justice. The song was a big send off to Bing who had helped to get Paramount out of near bankruptcy in the 1930s when he signed with the studio. I liked the number myself.


 The critics were mixed though when the film premiered in New York on March 21, 1956… The Variety reviewer said: "It’s a bright offering for Easter release, geared to play an engaging tune at the wickets. Male topliners Bing Crosby and Donald O’Connor go together as

though born to give the zip to what scripter Sidney Sheldon has concocted hereunder the stage title. While there are Cole Porter songs and the legit handle is still carried, that’s about all that remains of what went on behind the footlights, and there’s scant resemblance to Paramount's 1936 film version, in which Crosby also starred with Ethel Merman".

A H Weiler, writing for The New York Times, thought that, "For all its activity, Anything Goes is, in the main, standard musical comedy. Some of the principals are decidedly decorative and talented. The script, however, is transparent and fragile."

There are a couple of fun goofs in the film if you watch close enough and have seen the movie as many times as I have. During the "Ya Gotta Give The People Hoke" number Bing Crosby and Donald O'Connor go into a prop room, pick up a prop, go on stage, do a "bit" and go back to the prop room. About midway through, Bing comes out on stage wearing a Fireman's hat. There is a pile of brownish debris and several piles of white material that were not there a second before, indicating that one or more "bits" had been cut after filming. Also, during the "You're The Top" number Bing and Mitzi Gaynor are on the lifeboat deck on one side of a partition while Donald O'Connor and Zizi Jeanmaire are on the other side. All are singing yet, though the deck is open to the sky, no one hears the others. Also, there are no partitions on a lifeboat deck.

So even with the goofs and my complaining about the film, I think Anything Goes is a pretty good movie. The film was successful for Paramount, and it marked the end of Bing Crosby’s association with the studio. I do recommend this movie to any Bing Crosby fan, and the film overall is a good musical. It is a good musical by Paramount’s standards but maybe not by MGM standards. Just look at Bing’s first post Paramount musical – High Society for MGM later that year. That is how a musical should be made! Again you may not be blown away by 1956’s Anything Goes, but you will enjoy the film...


MY RATING: 7 out of 10




Saturday, July 10, 2021

A QUICK LOOK AT BING's RUN AT CAPITOL


 Here is another great article from our guest blogger ModernBingFan0377...


An overlooked aspect of Bing’s career is his short lived run at Capitol in 1956 and ‘57. 1956 marked the end of Bing’s exclusivity to Decca and would set the ball rolling for some of the best and worst years of recordings Bing had. In the first year or so, it seemed like he might’ve been going to Capitol Records. With the release of the High Society soundtrack on Capitol, it marked one of the first times he had recorded for a company other than Decca since 1934.

The High Society soundtrack brought with it many good songs, and some staples as well. The Porter-penned soundtrack featured songs written for Bing like “I Love You Samantha,” “Little One,” “Now You Has Jazz,” and most importantly “True Love.” Bing’s duet with soon to be Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly would prove to be Bing’s last million seller, which it achieved in less than a year of its release. Another song recorded for High Society was “Well, Did You Evah” which featured the first commercially available duet between Bing and Frank Sinatra. “True Love” and “Well, Did You Evah” were invariably tied together by them being on the same single throughout most of its issuing, with “True Love” on the A-Side, effectively giving Francis Albert and the Princess of Monaco million sellers as well.

After recording these for the High Society soundtrack, Bing would make his first official recordings at Capitol Records, although for Verve. These consecutive sessions would end up producing the “Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings” as Bing’s response to the current popular records of the time, namely Sinatra’s “Songs For Swingin’ Lovers.” This album would become Bing’s most popular album of the ‘50s, with mostly positive reviews as well. Many people in the industry thought that songs from this album would produce Bing’s next hit, which sadly never happened. Despite never fully obtaining hit status, the album would continue to be issued over the years, and never was out of print for too long.


Then on March 15th, 1957, Bing would make his first commercial recordings with the matured Nelson Riddle on the songs “Man On Fire” and “Seven Nights A Week.” The single never became a hit, however Riddle’s arrangement style for Bing on Man On Fire would be carried on, only exoticized, to Bing and Nelson’s only album together, “Return to Paradise Islands.” “Seven Nights A Week” was a tongue and cheek parody of rock ‘n roll, while being somewhat of a rocker itself, being reminiscent of Nat King Cole’s “Mr. Cole Won’t Rock ‘n Roll.” The recordings on the single would fall into obscurity with “Man On Fire” living on somewhat by being used as the title theme of Bing’s 1957 film of the same name, and also being the only recording of the two to be officially released by Capitol on CD.

This would be the last time Bing would visit Capitol, and possibly even the last time Bing visited the Capitol Records studios for recording, until 1963 for the Great Country Hits album. Bing would go on to sell the stock of the Project Records label, and eventually some masters, to Capitol. His legacy at Capitol is not very big, but it does exist, and it started in the ‘50s, and we should remember that.



Thursday, June 24, 2021

BING ON FILM: ANYTHING GOES - PART ONE


For this latest review, I figured I would review 1956’s Anything Goes. Bing Crosby’s co-star in the film Zizi Jeanmarie passed away last year at the age of 96, so I figured it would be fitting to watch something she was a part of. This 1956 film would be the last film Bing would make for Paramount Studios after being with them for 24 years! It remains the second longest contract for any star with any studio, only exceeded by Robert Taylor with MGM. The musical Anything Goes was a superb Cole Porter Broadway show when it opened in the 1930s. Since its 1934 debut at the Neil Simon Theatre (at the time known as the Alvin) on Broadway, the musical has been revived several times in the United States and Britain and has been filmed twice. The musical had a tryout in Boston, before opening on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on November 21, 1934. It ran for 420 performances, becoming the fourth longest-running musical of the 1930s, despite the impact of the Great Depression on Broadway patrons' disposable income.

The movie was first filmed in 1936 with Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman, but it bared little resemblance to the Broadway show or this 1956 remake other than Bing in the film and a few Cole Porter tunes. The plot of this 1956 remake is also quite different than the Broadway show. The only that stayed the same was that most of the story takes place on a luxury liner. So the movie opens up with a veteran Broadway star (played by Bing) meeting an up and coming television star (played by Donald O’ Connor) at a party, and they decide it would be fun to star together in a Broadway show, with each guy thinking they are helping the other one’s career out. Donald O’Connor tells Bing that he doesn’t care who their leading lady is, but in reality, he does. Bing Crosby goes to see a blonde American who has been performing in Europe (Mitzi Gaynor), and he signs her to a contract. Meanwhile, Donald O’Connor takes it upon himself to sign a French ballet star (Jeanmarie). So, they now have two actresses signed for one role. For the rest of the film Bing and Donald try to figure out how to solve their problem. Donald falls in love with Mitzi, and Bing falls in love with the French ballet star. Then there is the typical movie twist where they lose the girl, and then Bing and Donald manage to get the girls back, revamp the plot of their show so they have two leading ladies, and live happily ever after.




Bing Crosby and Donald O’ Connor were great together, and they went back together to the 1930s when Donald played Bing’s younger brother in 1938’s Sing You Sinners. They had tried to reteam for 1954’s White Christmas, but O’Connor broke his ankle before filming could begin and was replaced with Danny Kaye. Mitzi Gaynor is also great with both Bing and Donald. It was weird though seeing Mitzi Gaynor and Donald O’ Connor as love interests since they played brother and sister in the earlier film There’s No Business Like Show Business! Phil Harris was also in the cast as Mitzi Gaynor’s gambling father. He was the reason why the two were on the run in Europe to begin with. Phil was great in his role, but it was kind of small. Being one of Bing’s few close friends in the real world, and since he had such a great relationship with Bing, I wish they would have performed a number together. The problem I have with the film is Zizi Jeanmarie as Bing’s love interest. I just did not feel any chemistry between the two. Zizi was a gifted ballet dancer, and she was mesmerizing in the 1953 Paramount film Hans Christian Anderson, but other than her musical numbers, she did not add much to Anything Goes. She was hugely popular in her home country of France and was married to the choreographer of the movie, Roland Petit. Whether she got him his job on the film or visa versa, I don't know. However, she was totally wrong as Bing's love interest. She was a fine dancer, but the Cole Porter song "I Get A Kick Out Of You" was wasted on her limited vocal ability. Bing Crosby, in his Paramount contract, had co-star approval so maybe he wanted to try to reach out to a different audience, but I think the pairing of Bing and Zizi hurt the movie...


TO BE CONTINUED...





Sunday, June 6, 2021

Friday, May 21, 2021

BING'S DISCOGRAPHY: May 26, 1941

Here are a few sides that Bing made 80 years ago. Unbelievable that they are that old...




Date: 26 May 1941
Location: Los Angeles, Calif
Label: DECCA (US)

a. DLA2411-A The Waiter And The Porter And The Upstairs Maid - 3:09(Johnny Mercer)


Bing Crosby, Mary Martin, Jack Teagarden (voc), Jack Teagarden and his Orchestra (orc)
EMI -AXIS (Australia) CDCDAX-701592 — THE STARS IN SONG (1990)
MCA (Japan) CDMVCM24004 — BING CROSBY - A MUSICAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY Disc 2 (1925-1942) (1993)
ASV - LIVING ERA (UK) CDCD AJA 5147 — BING CROSBY & FRIENDS (1994)
VOCALION (UK) CDCDUS 3000 — BING CROSBY AND FRIENDS (1999)
MEMOIR (UK) CDCDMOIR548 — BING CROSBY AND COMPANY (2000)
AVID (UK) CDAMBX 147 (AMSC 826) — BING CROSBY A MUSICAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY Disc 2 (2005)
RETROSPECTIVE CDRTS 4184 — BING CROSBY & BUDDIES - Gone Fishin' - His 53 Finest - CD1 (2011)
SOUNDS OF YESTERYEAR CD— BING CROSBY - IMMERSED IN MR. MERCER'S VERSE (2019)




b. DLA2412-A The Birth Of The Blues - 3:12(Buddy DeSylva, Lew Brown, Ray Henderson)

Bing Crosby (voc), Jack Teagarden and his Orchestra (orc)
JASMINE (UK) CDJASCD 121/2 — BING CROSBY - GOING HOLLYWOOD - Volume 3 1940 - 1944 CD1 (2001)
CASTLE PULSE CDPBXCD 471/2 — BING CROSBY - THE CENTENARY COLLECTION (disc 2) (2003)
RAJON CDCDR0046 — THE GREAT BING CROSBY VOLUME 2 (disc 2) (2003)
UNIVERSAL INTERNATIONAL (Japan) CDUCCC 3032 — BING CROSBY WITH JAZZ FRIENDS (2004)

Both titles on: PAST (Pavilion Records Ltd) (UK) CDCD 9784 — BING CROSBY - THE MOVIE HITS (1991)
MCA/DECCA/GRP (US) CDGRP 16032 / also GRD 603 — BING CROSBY AND SOME JAZZ FRIENDS (1991)
EMPRESS (UK) CDRAJCD 802 — BING CROSBY - ONLY FOREVER (1993)
EPM MUSIQUE CD983002 — BING CROSBY GREATEST HITS 1934 - 1943 (disc 1) (1994)
PROPER RECORDS (UK) CDP1235 — BING CROSBY: IT'S EASY TO REMEMBER (Vocal Innovators and the Jazz Connection) (2001)
JONZO (UK) CDJZCD-30 — THE CHRONOLOGICAL BING CROSBY VOLUME 30 (2003)

Monday, May 3, 2021

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: THE YOUNG BING CROSBY

 To celebrate Bing's 118th birthday, I dug up some photos of the young Bing Crosby. They are hard to find, but they are ranging from the age of a little boy to college. They are amazing memories of Bing...