Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Here is an interesting review of Bing's movie Going My Way (1944)...

A church, a broken window, some piano playing, singing, and two priests not getting along so much. That about explains the 1944 Best Picture winner Going My Way, starring Bing Crosby, and it was JUST AS EXCITING AS IT SOUNDS!!!!

Crosby plays Father Charles “Chuck” O’Malley, a young up-and-comer (if priests can even be referred to as “up-and-comers”) heading to a new congregation for his new post. Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald), the old school Elder Priest or something, disagrees with O’Malley’s ways, which really just includes real, grounded friendships, playing golf, and teaching children how to sing (The horror!). Fitzgibbon’s disapproval doesn’t really make any sense, but neither does religion sometimes. OH SNAP! A scandalous blog I lead, I know. Other characters float in and out, like a girl who ran away from home, some kids O’Malley teaches to sing, and a few others, but they don’t really matter too much because there isn’t really much of a plot and the film’s pieces rarely connect the puzzle. The movie was well-paced though, (which as you know by now is so crucial to me when I’m watching older, black and white films), and enjoyable enough.

Fun Fact: This movie won a helluva lot of Academy Awards (7!) and was the first and only time an actor was nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. Fitzgerald lost to Crosby for Actor, but then snagged the Best Supporting trophy.

But before I start sounding like a Negative Nick about Going My Way, we should all hail the mighty Crosby – whose trademark bass-baritone made him a star on screen, in the recording industry, and on radio (he has three stars on the Walk of Fame to prove it). Some of these old-timer films simply exist as a vehicle for a super-mighty-talented guy to show off his super-mighty-talented talent, and Bing Crosby is “a dreamboat,” as one of my Facebook friends leisurely commented one day. The guy has mad skillz and no one can argue with that. Listening to the movie’s songs make it worthy of a watch, but negative points for yanno, the stuff I said above. The relationship between O’Malley and Fitzgibbon does progress nicely though, and by film’s end it’s kind of nice. Said the worst description of a movie ever.

To conclude with this conclusion, Going My Way is to Bingy as An American in Paris is to Gene Kelly: The movie was just OK for me, but the talented singing man keeps it out of C-territory.

Grade: B-


Friday, March 22, 2013


Universal Music Enterprises has entered into a worldwide arrangement to market and distribute Bing Crosby recordings that are overseen by HLC Properties, LTD, the administrator for the Crosby estate.

Ten Bing Crosby albums will come out through Universal Music Enterprises on March 19. The releases include several long-unavailable albums, and new compilations of unissued recordings spanning Crosby's five-decade career.

"Adding these rare Crosby recordings to the ones we already own on Decca gives us a comprehensive view of one of the giants of American popular music," said Universal Music Enterprises President/CEO Bruce Resnikoff. "We look forward to reintroducing the music and videos of this iconic figure to a brand-new audience."

Universal Music Enterprises and HLC Properties, LTD plan to release up to six new Crosby collections and a DVD every year. The archives include hundreds of previously unavailable recordings, including glass acetates and radio transcriptions from Crosby's early days as well as session tapes from the later period - many including unissued material from both the Decca era and Crosby's later period as a freelance artist.

"Having virtually the entire catalog under the auspices of Universal will help maximize our marketing and promotional opportunities with this remarkable catalog," said Harry Crosby, his eldest son, and one of the principals in managing the estate. "We look forward to a long and successful partnership together."

Before Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby was the biggest pop music star in the world. The most recorded artist in history, Crosby made over 2,000 recordings and 4,000 radio programs, as well as a sizable number of TV and movie appearances. He had 41 No. 1 records that collectively found him at No. 1 for 173 weeks. While reaching the charts almost 400 times, his releases hit the Top Ten 203 times. Humbly calling himself "an average guy who can carry a tune," Bing Crosby rewrote the history book for popular music, the first to use his regular speaking voice to express emotion within the context of a song.

Crosby's recording of "White Christmas" remains the best-selling recording of all time, having worldwide sales of more than 50 million, and it entered the pop charts 20 separate times. Clear Channel Entertainment iHeartRadio listeners voted Bing Crosby's White Christmas their all-time favorite holiday album in a recent HeartBeat survey.

Most recently, through the magic of modern technology, Crosby himself appeared to sing a duet with Michael Buble on his NBC-TV special, Home for the Holidays! Buble was inserted into a clip from Crosby's 1971 Christmas special to sing the Irving Berlin-penned holiday chestnut, "White Christmas."

For a company that markets the music of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Nat King Cole among many other great interpreters of the American songbook, Universal Music Enterprises is the perfect home for Bing Crosby's remarkable recorded legacy.

Titles available March 19:
Bing Crosby - A Southern Memoir, Deluxe Edition
Bing Crosby - Bing In Dixieland
Bing Crosby - Bing On Broadway
Bing Crosby - Bing Sings The Great American Songbook
Bing Crosby - Bing Sings The Sinatra Songbook
Bing Crosby - El SeƱor Bing, Deluxe Edition
Bing Crosby - On The Sentimental Side, Deluxe Edition
Bing Crosby - Return To Paradise Islands, Deluxe Edition
Bing Crosby - Seasons, Deluxe Edition
Bing Crosby - So Rare: Treasures From The Crosby Archive (2-CDs)


Thursday, March 21, 2013


Rise Stevens, the New York City- born mezzo-soprano who reigned at the Metropolitan Opera in the 1940s and 1950s and injected sensuality and dramatic fire into her signature role in “Carmen,” has died. She was 99.

She died yesterday at her home in Manhattan, the New York Times reported, citing her son, Nicolas Surovy.

Celebrated for her glamorous looks as well as her lush singing, Stevens delayed her debut at the Met to polish her skills in Europe, then dabbled in movies during her 23-year Met career. Lloyds of London insured her voice for $1 million in 1945.

Her specialties included playing male characters written to be performed by women, such as the title role in Christoph Willibald Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice.” She held “a near- monopoly” at the Met on the role of Octavian, the count who is a princess’s young lover in Richard Strauss’s “Der Rosenkavalier,” music critic Roland Gelatt wrote in 1959.

Still, it was the title role in Georges Bizet’s “Carmen,” the seductive and free-spirited female Gypsy, that defined Stevens’s career. She performed the role 124 times at the Met, including 10 for broadcast, according to Opera News Online.

“So far as America was concerned, during the 15 years following 1945, Rise Stevens and Carmen were virtually synonymous,” Clyde T. McCants wrote in “American Opera Singers and Their Recordings” (2004). “Stevens was Carmen in the opera house, on the concert stage, on recordings, on radio.”

Rise Steenberg was born on June 11, 1913, in New York City, the first child of Christian Steenberg, an advertising salesman, and the former Sadie Mechanic. Starting at 10, she sang on a children’s hour on New York radio station WJZ.

At 15, she changed high schools to enroll in a music program at Newtown High School in Elmhurst, New York. She changed her last name to Stevens about the time she graduated, according to John Pennino’s 2005 biography, “Rise Stevens: A Life in Music.”

While in Prague, Stevens met the Hungarian actor Walter Surovy, and they married in 1938. Surovy died in 2001. Their son, Nicolas, became an actor.

Stevens signed with the Met for the 1938-1939 season, which opened with a performance of “Rosenkavalier” in Philadelphia. The audience welcomed Stevens “with ovation after ovation for her spirited performance,” the New York Times reported.

Her Met debut in New York came in December 1938, in the title role of Thomas’s “Mignon.” In his review for the Times, Olin Downes called Stevens “a new debutante of unquestionable gifts, both vocal and dramatic,” whose voice “has unusual range, well-adjusted registers, and there are colors in it.”

She was among the opera stars recruited by movie mogul Louis Mayer, co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She debuted in the musical comedy “The Chocolate Soldier” (1941) with Nelson Eddy and also appeared with Bing Crosby in “Going My Way” (1944), which won seven Academy Awards, including best picture. She appeared often on television, including the “Ed Sullivan Show.” Stevens declined to commit exclusively to a career in Hollywood and returned to the Met between her movie roles...

Monday, March 18, 2013


The daughter of legendary entertainer Bing Crosby and a woman who lives near her in Malibu have tentatively settled a long- running lawsuit concerning the neighbor's right to traverse the actress' land to reach a federal park in order to ride horses there.

Lawyers for Mary Crosby and her husband, Mark Brodka, as well as the neighbor, Susan Demers, filed papers with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson last Friday stating that a resolution was reached subject to certain conditions that were unspecified in the documents.

In September, Johnson ordered Crosby and Brodka -- through a preliminary injunction -- to let Demers to cross the couple's land to reach a public area where the woman rides horses. Crosby -- who famously shot Larry Hagman's J.R. character in the original "Dallas'' series -- and Brodka also were told to give Demers a remote- control device to open a gate the couple relocated and modified along an access road in May 2011.

The preliminary injunction against Crosby and Brodka, an attorney, was good until April 15, when the judge was scheduled to hold a non-jury trial on the issues. Crosby, the 53-year-old daughter of Bing Crosby and his second wife Kathryn Grant, and Brodka began the litigation by suing Demers and her friend, Martha Gwinn, in December 2010.

Crosby and Brodka's suit asked a judge to determine whether Demers and Gwinn have any rights to cross over the couple's property.

The actress has lived in a rustic area on Barrymore Drive above Pacific Coast Highway since April 1982. Demers, a horse trainer, then countersued Crosby and Brodka.

Twice revised, Demers' complaint alleged nuisance, trespass, invasion of privacy and intentional interference with express easement. She also wanted a permanent injunction allowing her to continue crossing the couple's land, punitive damages and attorneys' fees.

Demers maintained that when she bought her property in 1987, it included easements giving her the right to pass over a part of the Crosby-Brodka property. But attorneys representing the actress and her husband said the easements were eliminated years earlier.

Crosby and Brodka maintained the land where Demers rides her horses is now federal park property and that the law required her to reach it through public access routes.


Friday, March 15, 2013


Returning from an evening out with Mona Freeman during which they attended Claudette Colbert's party on October 11, 1953, Bing had an automobile accident at 5 a.m. at the junction of Wilshire and Sepulveda Boulevards in Hollywood in his Mercedes Benz sports car and has a "severely wrenched back". He is taken to his home by a passing motorist and had to miss several days of filming.

Representatives of the State Highway Patrol say that Bing "showed no signs of being drunk and that there was no indication that Mr. Crosby was driving recklessly" when involved in the accident on October 11.

Hollywood -- Female autograph fans are ignored by singer Bing Crosby as he arrives at Los Angeles Superior Court to appear in connection with a $1,000,000 damage suit brought against him as the result of an auto accident. The suit has been settled for $100,000, Crosby's lawyers announced. $67,500 went to fireman Frank H. Verdugo, driver of a car which collided with Crosby's $12,000 sports auto early October 11th, 1953. Verdugo's wife, Lucy, got $27,500, and her brother Eulalio Perea received $5,000. Verdugo charged that the crooner's faculties the morning of the accident were impaired "by reason of being without a reasonable amount of sleep for an unreasonably long period of time." He also asserted that Crosby had been drinking and charged him with driving with "utter disregard for the life and safety of others."


Saturday, March 9, 2013


We all know that Bing Crosby professed his love of Minute Maid Orange in countless TV spots in the 1960s and 1970s, but Bing also hawked soda in the 1940s. Here is a print ad for RC Cola. I think they still make that soda. It looks like to be during the period that The Road To Utopia was coming around 1946. Even with Bing advertising soda, I'll stick to water...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


It’s amazing how much you can learn about history from simply listening to a song.

Brother, Can you Spare a Dime was the Great Depression’s anthem. I’ve heard the title lines of that song sung in the past, but today is the first time that I’ve ever actually listened to the entire song. I’m not just impressed. I’m amazed.

Wikipedia describes Brother as follows:

“Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”, also sung as “Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?”, is one of the best-known American songs of the Great Depression. Written in 1931 by lyricist E. Y. “Yip” Harburg and composer Jay Gorney, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” was part of the 1932 musical New Americana; the melody is based on a Russian lullaby Gorney heard as a child. It became best known, however, through recordings by Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee. Both versions were released right before Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s election to the presidency and both became number one hits on the charts. The Brunswick Crosby recording became the best-selling record of its period, and came to be viewed as an anthem of the shattered dreams of the era.”

I’m amazed by the song’s startling honesty. ”Brother” is a powerful indictment of an economic and political system under which ordinary men were enticed into working for a dream–other people’s dreams, government’s dreams, rich people’s dreams–and then left penniless...


Friday, March 1, 2013


In an article I published awhile ago, I spotlighted some of the kind words that other singers had to say about Bing Crosby. I figured it would be interesting to see what the Crosby family had to say about their most famous family member. It is very enlightening to read what the people who knew him best had to say:

Gary Crosby:
"It took me a long time to get through my noggin that the hours we [Bing and Gary] spent together weren't so awful. Eventually, though, I began to notice that he didn't seem to be coming down on me anymore. He wasn't acting so cold and disapproving. He wasn't lecturing me about all the things I was doing wrong. He seemed to be accepting me for pretty much what I was. I suppose to his way of thinking he no longer had that much to bitch about. I had stopped drinking and using. I had married a good Catholic woman he liked. I was raising a son and not doing too bad a job of it. I wasn't carrying on like a maniac when I worked. I looked halfway responsible to him, and now that I was a lot closer to what he wanted, he was able to let up. Most likely he was sick and tired of the fight anyhow. I began to realize he probably hadn't been fighting me for years, but because no truce had been called I'd been keeping the war going all by myself. (Going My Own Way, p283)"

Gary Crosby:
"The old man [Bing] believed what he believed, and he thought he was doing right. He wasn't any tougher than a lot of fathers of his generation. And a lot of kids can handle that kind of upbringing without any difficulty. It was too bad that my brothers and I didn't buy it and turn out the way he wanted. That would have made it very comfortable for everyone. But whatever the reasons, we didn't. Linny and the twins clammed up like a shell. I bulled my neck and fought him tooth and nail all the way down the line. To my own destruction. The discipline just didn't work with us. (Going My Own Way, p285)"

 Barbara Crosby: (Gary's first wife): I do not know if what's in the book ("Going My Own Way") is true but he never said anything to me about whippings. I think it all got a little out of hand. I certainly never witnessed anything between him and his father. I couldn't believe it when I read the book because it just didn't sound like Gary. (STAR, March 29, 1983, p18)

 Phillip Crosby: My dad was not the monster my lying brother said he was, He was strict, but my father never beat us black and blue and my brother Gary was a vicious, no-good liar for saying so. I have nothing but fond memories of dad, going to studios with him, family vacations at our cabin in Idaho, boating and fishing with him. To my dying day, I'll hate Gary for dragging dad's name through the mud. He wrote it [Going My Own Way] out of greed. He wanted to make money and knew that humiliating our father and blackening his name was the only way he could do it. He knew it would generate a lot of publicity and that was the only way he could get his ugly, no-talent face on television and in the newspapers. My dad was my hero. I loved him very much. And he loved all of us too, including Gary. He was a great father. (GLOBE, 1999, interviewed by Neil Blincow)

 Lindsay Crosby (1975): I know the older boys got it a little worse than I did. I was the last one, so I kind of got away with murder. They had to be in bed pretty early, compared to other kids, and as I look back on it now I can see that it all makes sense and Dad did it for a reason. I know if I had something to do he'd let me do it, but he wanted me home at a reasonable hour. (Thompson, p155)
Larry Crosby: I don't think anything has been a struggle for Bing. Everything comes easy, but he's not a detail man. Here at the office he thinks we can do everything in one day, when actually it takes weeks. He wants it right now! He's a pretty good boss, but I think he listens to too many people. (Thompson, p100)

Bob Crosby: In 1934, I formed my own band. As it was customary then ... I started with road hops. But before long, we stopped hopping. No more dough! In desperation, I wired Bing for funds -- and was turned down cold! But just as I was ready to call it quits, I got the necessary money from a third party, who had been instructed by Bing to help me out, without letting me know where the help came from. He wanted me to learn to stand on my own feet, and to make it impossible for me to thank him. Bing was always hesitant to accept appreciation in any form. (Bingang, July '93, p11)

Everett Crosby: Seems corny to say of a fellow who's as much in the public eye as Bing has been for more than fifteen years, that he's shy; is bashful. But that's a fact -- except around close, very old friends. He HATES to have people come up and pat him o the back. On compliments, he chokes. Even if I should give him a pat on the back, tell him I think he's great -- which, very confidentially, I do -- he'd think I'd gone crazy. (Bingang, July '93, p8)

Mary Frances Crosby: In contrast to Mother -- who is a soft, warm, affectionate Southern lady -- he was very uncomfortable with expressing his feelings. He'd use sarcasm or criticism to slip in a compliment upside-down. Or we'd hear of his praise from other people. If I kissed him goodnight, he'd pull away. If I hugged him too long, he'd squirm. It was fun playing against his resistance, because I knew he secretly loved the tenderness he found so hard to express.