Monday, August 8, 2016


Legendary crooner Bing Crosby was offered a big solo number in his film debut. Instead, he ended up in jail for driving under the influence and getting into a car wreck during Prohibition.

“King of Jazz’’ (1930), which will be restored, is a super-lavish color musical revue presided over by the film’s namesake, Crosby’s then-employer, famed bandleader Paul Whiteman.

Crosby appears in four numbers with early partners Harry Barris and Al Rinker — they were jointly billed as the Rhythm Boys — and sings alone over the opening credits. The crooner was also assigned a solo production number, “Song of the Dawn.’’

That didn’t happen, partly because Whiteman arranged for his performers to all purchase discounted Fords — each including a spare tire on the rear emblazoned with a caricature of Whiteman — to drive around Los Angeles.

On Nov. 16, 1929, Crosby took time out from rehearsing his solo to attend a college football game.

“There was quite a shindig after the game in our studio bungalow, involving tippling, but not to excess,’’ Crosby recalled in an article he wrote for the Hollywood Reporter in 1955.

The accident occurred while Crosby was dropping a female guest off at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with his convertible.

“Bing made a left turn into an oncoming car with such force that he and his passenger were knocked over the windshield and onto the pavement,’’ writes Crosby biographer Gary Giddins. “He was fine, but the woman was bloody and unconscious.’’Modal Trigger

Police arrested Crosby and the other driver, “who in Bing’s account was ‘more drunk than he was,’ ” Giddins told the Los Angeles Times in 2007. Crosby “felt it was an injustice,’’ Giddins said.

A week later, Crosby showed up for his court appearance in golf attire, infuriating the judge, who sentenced the crooner to 60 days in the slammer. But the accident was never reported in the newspapers at the time and, after he became a star, Crosby’s arrest and court records vanished, the LA Times says.

Despite an incident that film historian David Stenn says “could have well ended Bing’s career,’’ Crosby went on to lasting fame and fortune as a singer and actor, recording the all-time classic “White Christmas’’ and winning a Best Actor Oscar for “Going My Way’’ in 1945.

Two decades before his death in 1977, the beloved performer came clean about the accident and was philosophical about losing his big number in “King of Jazz,’’ which went to singer John Boles.

“[Boles] had a bigger voice and a better delivery for that kind of song than I had, and I often wondered what might have happened to me if I had sung it,’’ Crosby wrote. “I might have flopped with the song. I might have been cut out of the picture. I might never have been given another crack at a song in any picture.”

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