Monday, December 28, 2015


It is understandable--if also unfortunate--that a man who once dominated American popular culture has largely faded from view.

For virtually any American over the age of sixty, Bing Crosby’s name is likely to evoke a wide range of memories. Though he was by far the best-known popular singer of the pre-rock era, Crosby was also a full-fledged movie star who won a best-actor Oscar for Going My Way (1944) and easily held his own opposite the likes of Fred Astaire and Bob Hope in such lighter fare as Holiday Inn (1942) andThe Road to Morocco (1942). His radio shows were no less successful, and with the arrival of TV in the 50’s, his face became as familiar a fixture in American homes as was his easygoing bass-baritone voice.

Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, the first installment of a two-volume biography by the jazz critic Gary Giddins, It contains a list of statistics conveying something of the extent to which Crosby once dominated American popular culture. According to Giddins:

He made more recordings than any other singer, of which 38 were number-one hits, more than any other popular artist. (The Beatles, by contrast, topped the charts only 24 times.)

By 1980, he had sold a total of 400 million discs.

He was one of Hollywood’s top ten box-office attractions in America in fifteen different years between 1934 and 1954.

His best-known radio program, NBC’s Kraft Music Hall, reached an audience of as many as 50 million listeners—at the time, well over a third of the entire U.S. population.

But Crosby’s fame did not long survive his death in 1977. Indeed, it is now difficult to find anyone under the age of forty who knows anything specific about him other than that he recorded Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” By and large his work is available only on hard-to-find CD’s released by independent European labels, while most of his films are long forgotten.

Though several other artists of his generation—Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman among them—continue to be widely recognized as key figures in American music, Crosby tends increasingly to be overlooked by critics and journalists. He was, for instance, omitted entirely from Ken Burns’s ten-part PBS series Jazz, and is mentioned only in passing in Geoffrey C. Ward’s companion volume to the series.

How could so bright a star have dimmed so fast? Was there less to Bing Crosby than met the ear? Gary Giddins thinks not, and in A Pocketful of Dreams he makes the case for Crosby in unprecedentedly rich and rewarding detail. Though certain chapters could have been trimmed to useful effect (many readers will feel, for example, that far too much space is devoted to Crosby’s less important films), the book as a whole is both finely written and thoroughly engrossing. Still, in telling the story of how Crosby became “a phenomenon in the cultural life of the United States,” A Pocketful of Dreams occasionally dwells on the phenomenon at the expense of the artist.

Giddins is not himself a musician, trained or otherwise; for all his evident appreciation of Crosby’s singing, he lacks the technical knowledge needed to explain fully what he is hearing. And though his discussion of the posthumous decline in Crosby’s reputation is plausible as far as it goes, he is similarly unable to supply a completely adequate musical explanation for why “the most influential and successful popular performer in the first half of the 20th century” should have faded into semi-obscurity a mere quarter-century after his death...

Monday, December 21, 2015


Even though I much prefer the earlier holiday themed musical Holiday Inn (1942), the musical White Christmas is remembered much more. Here are some fun facts about the 1954 movie that you might not know about...

1. White Christmas was intended to reunite Crosby and Fred Astaire for their third Irving Berlin showcase musical. Crosby and Astaire had previously co-starred in Holiday Inn (1942) (of which ‘White Christmas’ was a partial remake) and Blue Skies (1946). Astaire declined the project after reading the script and Danny Kaye would eventually take the role. Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney starred as the leading ladies.

2. Produced by Paramount Pictures, filming took place between Sep. and Nov. 1953. The movie premiered in October of 1954 and Paramount introduced a new mountain in their logo. That mountain would be in use for all Paramount films until the end of 1986.

3. The choreography was directed by an uncredited Bob Fosse. Fosse appears in three dance numbers including a riveting performance in the Abraham number.

4. Vera-Ellen’s singing was dubbed by Trudy Stevens. Clooney’s and Steven’s voices are what is heard in the film. However, when the time came to record the soundtrack album, Rosemary Clooney’s contract with Columbia Records made it impossible for her to participate. Thus, Peggy Lee stepped in. A soundtrack with Crosby, Kaye, Clooney, and Stevens was never made!

5.  The photo Vera-Ellen shows of her brother Benny is actually a photo of Carl Switzer, who played Alfalfa in The Little Rascals, in an army field jacket and helmet liner.

6. At 18 Vera-Ellen was one of the youngest Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, although she was not tall. During the 1950s, she was reputed to have the “smallest waist in Hollywood” and is believed to have suffered from anorexia nervosa. Rumours of her high necked, long sleeved costumes being designed to hide her neck and arms still run rampant. She retired from the screen in 1957 and became more reclusive when her 3 month old daughter Victoria died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1963.

7. White Christmas was enormously popular with audiences, taking in $12,000,000 at the box office, making it the top moneymaker for 1954 by a wide margin. Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep won White Christmas an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song...

Monday, December 14, 2015


Even to people that watch old movies, dancer Vera-Ellen is mostly known to the world as the younger sister of Rosemary Clooney in the movie WHITE CHRISTMAS(1954). However, she was a great dancer who had many demons that 1940s and 1950s audiences never knew.

She was born Vera Ellen Westmeier Rohe on February 16, 1921 in Norwood, Ohio , an enclave within Cincinnati, to Martin Rohe and Alma Catherine Westmeier, both descended from German immigrants. She began dancing at age 10 and quickly became very proficient. At 16 she was a winner on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, and embarked upon a professional careerIn 1939, Vera-Ellen made her Broadway theatre debut in the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein musical Very Warm for May at the age of 18. She became one of the youngest Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, although she was not tall. This led to roles on Broadway in Panama Hattie, By Jupiter, and A Connecticut Yankee, where she was spotted by Samuel Goldwyn, who cast her opposite Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo in the film WONDER MAN(1945).

She danced with Gene Kelly in the Hollywood musicals WORDS AND MUSIC(1948) and ON THE TOWN(1949), while also appearing in the last Marx Brothers film, LOVE HAPPY(1950). She received top billing alongside Fred Astaire in Three Little Words and The Belle of New York (1952). Then came co-starring roles with Bing Crosby in the blockbuster hit WHITE CHRISTMAS(1954). The warm and fuzzy yuletide favorite WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) is usuallly considered her best-remembered movie in which she played one-fourth of a glamorous quartet consisting of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and (sister) Rosemary Clooney.

Musicals went out of vogue by the late 50s and, as Vera-Ellen was practically synonymous with musicals, her career went into a sharp decline. During the 1950s, she was reputed to have the "smallest waist in Hollywood", and is believed to have suffered from anorexia nervosa. She retired from the screen in 1957. Guest appearances on the television variety shows of Dinah Shore and Perry Como in 1958 and 1959 were among the last of her entertainment career.

Vera-Ellen was married twice. Her first husband was fellow dancer Robert Hightower (from 1941 to 1946).Her second husband, from 1954 to 1966, was millionaire Victor Rothschild. Both marriages ended in divorce. While married to Rothschild, she gave birth to a daughter, Victoria Ellen Rothschild, who died at three months old of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1963. Following the death of her child, Vera-Ellen withdrew from public life and never recovered from it. She died of cancer in Los Angeles, California in 1981...

For more on Vera-Ellen's later years go to this article:

Monday, December 7, 2015


Bing Crosby worked with everyone, and I mean EVERYONE in the business in his fifty years of entertaining. However, there are some people Bing did not really work with in the business much, and these pictures show some interesting pictures Bing took with other stars...

Bing with Dean Martin and Groucho Marx

Bing with Dinah Shore

Bing with Oliver Hardy

Bing with Marlene Dietrich

Bing with Gary Cooper

Bing with Cary Grant

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Join us as we ring in the New Year with a four part series called "Whatever Happened To Bing Crosby". The series will examine Bing's impact on the entertainment industry and take a look at why he is not remember today as he should be...