Friday, September 25, 2015


Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Bing Crosby's most frequent movie co-star Dorothy Lamour died on this day 19 years ago. It is hard to believe it has been so long...

Dorothy Lamour, 81, Sultry Sidekick in Road Films, Dies
Published: September 23, 1996

Dorothy Lamour, whose sarong-draped charms adorned many films of the late 1930's and 40's, especially the ''road'' pictures she made with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, died yesterday at her home in North Hollywood, Calif. She was 81 years old.

Miss Lamour, a comely brunette who was also a favorite pinup of thousands of G.I.'s during World War II, was in her heyday at a time when the major studios believed that certain actresses needed something of a signature. Veronica Lake peered out from behind the lock of hair that invariably hid part of her face; Miss Lamour had her trademark sarong. She wore that clinging garment in a series of films, from the 1936 ''Jungle Princess'' through such 1940's comedies as ''Road to Singapore'' and ''Road to Morocco.''

Miss Lamour appeared in seven of the road pictures, in which she was always the exotic but demure girl invariably won by a crooning Mr. Crosby at the expense of a more comedic Mr. Hope. On occasion, Miss Lamour would join Mr. Crosby in a ballad, such as ''Moonlight Becomes You'' or ''Constantly.'' By the late 1940's, her salary rose to a top of around $450,000 a movie.

But she had no illusions about either her acting or singing ability. Asked by an interviewer if she had ever studied acting or singing, she replied, ''No, can't you tell?''

During World War II, Miss Lamour was also known as ''the bond bombshell'' because of the volunteer work she did selling United States War Bonds. In tours around the country, she was credited with selling some $300 million of the bonds. So effective was she as a saleswoman that the Government put a private railroad car at her disposal when she decided to go on a bond tour.

She received a belated citation for her bond work from the Treasury in 1965, at which time William H. Neal, at that time the director of the United States Savings Bond Division, credited her with being the first star to offer her services to sell war bonds and the originator of the successful Government plan for payroll deductions for those who wanted part of their salaries set aside for war bond purchases.

Her contributions to the war effort did not stop there. She was frequently seen at the Hollywood Canteen, the nightclub for servicemen founded by Bette Davis and John Garfield, where she spent many hours talking to and dancing with G.I.'s.

Miss Lamour was born on Dec. 10, 1914, in New Orleans as Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton, the daughter of John Watson Slaton and the former Carmen Louise La Porte. Her father was a waiter. Her mother, who soon divorced her father, worked as a waitress.

Young Dorothy never finished high school. The family finances were so desperate that when she was 15, she forged her mother's name to a document that authorized her to drop out of school.

Later, however, she did go to a secretarial school that did not require her to have a high school diploma. She regarded herself as an excellent typist and usually typed her own letters, even after she became quite wealthy.

After she won the 1931 Miss New Orleans beauty contest, she and her mother moved to Chicago, where Miss Lamour earned $17 a week as an elevator operator for the Marshall Field department store on State Street. She had no training as a singer but was persuaded by a friend to try out for a female vocalist's spot with Herbie Kay, a band leader who had a national radio show called ''The Yeast Foamers,'' apparently because it was sponsored by Fleischmann's Yeast.

She left Mr. Kay's group and moved to Manhattan, where Rudy Vallee, then a popular singer, helped her get a singing job at a popular night club, El Morocco. She later worked at 1 Fifth Avenue, a cabaret where she met Louis B. Mayer, the Hollywood studio chief. It was Mayer who eventually arranged for her to have a screen test, which led to her Paramount contract in 1935.

When she was at her zenith as a star, her fans suggested that an agent had adopted her last name from the French word for ''love'' as a box-office ploy. In fact, the name was close to one in the family; Miss Lamour adapted it herself from Lambour, which was the last name of her stepfather, Clarence, to whom her mother was briefly married.

Miss Lamour's more than 50 films included ''Typhoon'' (1939), ''Johnny Apollo'' (1940), ''The Fleet's In'' (1941), ''Star-Spangled Rhythm'' (1942), ''Duffy's Tavern'' (1945), ''Here Comes the Groom'' (1951), ''Donovan's Reef'' (1962) and ''Pajama Party'' (1964).

The seven movies in which she appeared with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope were ''Road to Singapore (1940), ''Road to Zanzibar'' (1941), ''Road to Morocco'' (1942), ''Road to Utopia'' (1946), ''Road to Rio'' (1948) ''Road to Bali'' (1953) and ''Road to Hong Kong'' (1962). Although Miss Lamour worked closely with Mr. Hope and Crosby for many years, she said that she was not close to them personally.

After she retired from the movies, Miss Lamour remained active. In 1968, she starred in the national road show production of ''Hello, Dolly!'' And in 1969, she was named to the Civic Center Commission of Baltimore, where she then lived. She was active in various causes there for many years. In the 1980's, she worked the cabaret circuit, where she sang many of the songs she had sung in her movies.

In the 1987 film ''Creepshow 2,'' she played a sloppily dressed housewife who gets murdered. ''Well, at my age you can't lean against a palm tree and sing 'Moon of Monakoora,''' she said. ''People would look at that and say, 'What is she trying to do?' ''

While ''Creepshow 2'' was her only film role in two decades, she was frequently seen on television, doing guest shots such shows as ''The Love Boat,'' ''Murder, She Wrote'' and, naturally, a few Bob Hope specials.

She is survived by her two sons, John Ridgley Howard and Tom Howard; a stepson, William Ross Howard 4th; a grandson, and a granddaughter...

Monday, September 14, 2015


Bing Crosby was as American as apple, but he is is promoting canned peaches from Canned Cling in 1949. He was doing this promoting while appearing in his newest film A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court...

Monday, September 7, 2015


It took the mainstream media a lot of time to report on the death of the great Ken Barnes, but finally here is a great article...

One of Britain's most accomplished record producers, film historians and writers, Ken Barnes worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. As a record producer he went between London, Los Angeles, Nashville and New York, recording such stars as Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, Slim Whitman, Frankie Laine, Connie Francis and Jack Jones, selling more than five million records and earning a string of silver, gold and platinum discs.

He enjoyed an enduring working relationship during Bing Crosby's final years, which came about because Crosby had liked the work he had done on two albums with the lyricist and singer Johnny Mercer. Barnes flew to California to meet Crosby at his sprawling Hillsborough residence. He was kept waiting before being shown into a room where Crosby apologised for the delay, explaining that he had been writing a foreword for a book on the songwriter, Harry Warren.

He asked Barnes, "Do you know of Warren's work?", which unleashed a torrent of song titles and knowledgeable facts about the composer, immediately cementing the relationship. Barnes produced Crosby's final six albums, one of which included the reflective song, "That's What Life Is All About" which he co-wrote with a contribution from Crosby.

Particularly adept at working with big stars, with their egos and peccadillos, he was able to bring out the best in them by subtly, but firmly, navigating potential pitfalls. When he was working with Fred Astaire, the record company wanted to include a few seconds of him tap dancing. Barnes said, "We'll clear a space and you can tap for a few seconds." Astaire politely but firmly replied, "No way am I dancing." Barnes tried with a shoe shuffle but it didn't sound convincing. So he told Astaire, "It's no use. But somebody's feet have got to be there. But if I get someone like Lionel Blair to do it, they'll have an after-dinner story of 'How I did Fred Astaire's dancing for him'." Astaire stared at him for a second and said, "You son of a gun. OK, I'll do it right now!"

During the same London sessions, Astaire was about to record the George and Ira Gershwin standard, "They Can't Take That Away from Me" and said to Barnes, "Let's do the alternate lyrics on the way out." Barnes told him that there weren't any so Astaire told him to come up with something. Barnes thought about it and suggested the couplet, 'The way you drove the car, when we were on a spree; No matter where you are – no, no, they can't take that away from me.' Astaire was delighted, exclaiming, "That's it! Wonderful! I'll record it."

Returning to the US, Astaire took an acetate of the recording to Ira Gershwin's home and, after playing the track, asked Ira what he thought of the new lyric. "What new lyric? Isn't that what I wrote?" Gershwin replied.

When Barnes had the idea of recording Astaire and Crosby together, there was a considerable mismatch of approaches to the sessions. Astaire arrived in London a week in advance expecting to be rehearsing with his singing partner. Crosby, meanwhile, was typically relaxed. Barnes eventually tracked him down to a Scottish golf course club house. "How many songs will we be doing?" he asked Barnes, who told him the usual dozen. Crosby replied, "That's a breeze; we'll just need 10 minutes round the piano". This made Astaire nervous, so with the singer Teddy Johnson Barnes recorded demos for Astaire to learn in advance.

Barnes' writing skills resulted in books like Sinatra and the Great Song Stylists, 20 Years of Pop and The Crosby Years, in addition to a recent novel, The Sea Dogs, inspired by the early swashbuckling movies, especially those of Errol Flynn.

He was also an accomplished scriptwriter, delivering nearly 100 scripts for the BBC, as well as material for Michael Parkinson's chat show and British comedians including Roy Hudd and Les Dawson. He also worked with Peter Sellers, producing an album of classic sketches, Sellers' Market.

A great admirer of Frank Sinatra, he went on to become European president of the Sinatra Music Society, and along with his close friend and colleague, Charles Pignone who runs Sinatra Enterprises in Hollywood, he worked on several Sinatra re-issue projects. This led to Pignone recommending Barnes to write the script for the Emmy-nominated TV biopic of Johnny Mercer, The Dream's On Me, produced by Clint Eastwood.

As a film historian, Barnes gave lectures at the National Film Theatre and UCLA in California, and it was his encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema, from silents to the present day, that provided another string to his bow. In 1995 he set up a film restoration company, Laureate DVD, predicting the massive interest in the format, especially restoring and preserving movies that were recorded on film with all its associated fragility. Laureate released the first special editions of Citizen Kane and Holiday Inn as well as box sets of the Marx Brothers, Cary Grant, and the classic collaborations of Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and Bob Hope and Crosby.

Born in Middlesborough in 1933, he was educated in Redcar before doing National Service in the Royal Corps of Signals. He trained as a draughtsman, but his early passion for music in the jazz/swing and Great American Songbook genres led him to London in the 1960s to work as a marketing executive for Polydor and Decca.

His last studio recording was an album in aid of the charity Help for Heroes, recorded in the studio on the RAF Northolt air base with the Royal Air Force Squadronaires and myself. Another recent project was writing liner notes for the 60-page booklet included with the recent four-disc box set, Sinatra In London. And for the Smithsonian Institute he wrote liner notes for a forthcoming album of Sinatra's work which will now be dedicated to Barnes' memory. At the time of his death he had just finished working with Peggy Lee's granddaughter, Holly Foster-Wells, on a CD/DVD box set, Peggy Lee In London, a collection of the recordings Barnes produced in 1997, which will be released later this year.