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...















Thursday, April 29, 2021

REMEMBERING BRUCE KOGAN (1947-2021)

 Many of my fellow blog readers will be familiar with the name of Bruce Kogan. He did the guest reviews for this blog and many others. He has countless review on IMDB. Being a movie lover, as well as a music historian, Bruce had a wide knowledge of the great world of nostalgia. Bruce died on April 26th, after a long and brave battle with cancer. He was 73.

Bruce Kogan was a powerhouse. He came to Buffalo (from NYC) to RETIRE - which says multitudes about him right out of the gate. He was a pit bull for justice to all in the Empire State, but especially LGBTQ New Yorkers. He was an advocate in Buffalo and anywhere his help was needed. His insights into the mechanisms of government, including but not limited to Law Enforcement, the Crime Victims Board, and countless policy issues were uncanny. Once he was involved with a case, he just couldn't do enough for you. And he did it with compassion.

Born in Brooklyn, Bruce Kogan spent his life in the service of others. In the late 1990s, Bruce moved to Buffalo and became a part of our family. During his career at the NYS Crime Victims Board, and his lifetime spent as an advocate of equality and justice for all communities, especially the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Bruce never gave up the fight. A former president of SDWNY who served our organization in many roles throughout the years, Bruce is forever an essential part of the work of SDNWY and all LGBTQ advocacy in WNY, across New York State and throughout our nation. With every meeting attended, lobby visit made and heart changed, Bruce helped bring about the monumental progress the LGBTQ community has made in the last decades. Whether LGBTQ youth protections, Marriage Equality, transgender civil rights and every issue that touched our community, Bruce was there. Every woman, man and child in our community is the better and more equal for Bruce and his life’s work.


A central passion of Bruce’s life was his advocacy for LGBTQ crime victims. Bruce never stopped being an advocate for those victims, and pressing the issue of their justice. Among his work on this issue, Bruce never stopped fighting for justice for Winthrop “Winkie” Bean, writing the play “Call Me Winkie,” which has been performed multiple times here in WNY. We commit now and every day to continuing that advocacy in Bruce’s name.

Our hearts and thoughts are heavy, are they are with Bruce, his family, friends and all who loved and knew him. There are no words that will ever properly thank Bruce Kogan for dedicating his life to making the world a better place, for more people than will ever be known. Thank you, Bruce. Happy trails.

I will miss you friend...




Wednesday, April 21, 2021

BING'S HOUSE FOR SALE


Bing Crosby's former California home has hit the market, and the stunning shots of the English manor-style mansion have us crooning — er, swooning.

Located on one of the most sought-after streets in Hillsborough, Calif. — a town midway between San Francisco and Silicon Valley — the famed property is being sold for $13,750,000, listed with Charles and Jane Griffith of Golden Gate Sotheby's International Realty, PEOPLE can confirm.

The legendary singer turned movie star, who died in 1977, purchased the 9,845-square-foot home in 1963, according to the Wall Street Journal, moving his family away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. At the time, he was married to actress Kathryn Grant, and they shared three young children: Harry, Mary and Nathaniel.

The stately home, built in 1930, certainly had enough room to accommodate the family of five. According to the current listing, it's set on three acres and has 10 bedrooms, 10 full bathrooms and one half bath.

The home features a ballroom, chauffer's apartment, library, and guest quarters, all boasting high ceilings and elegant design. The kitchen, bathrooms, mudroom and laundry room were all completely remodeled in 2014.

Outside, there's a sprawling lawn, a pool, surrounded by plenty of seating for soaking up the sun. A terrace provides the perfect place for entertaining, and the entire property is enveloped by lush greenery and mature trees.



The home's current owners, Paul and Suzanne Roche, bought the property in 2014 for $8 million, the outlet reports.

Suzanne told the publication that the home first caught her eye because it had belonged to the Crosby family. "I loved the idea of it being Bing Crosby's house, because I'm so into old Hollywood and the American Songbook," she said.

Before Grant, Crosby was married to Dixie Lee, an actress who died of ovarian cancer in 1952 at the age of 41. She and Crosby had four sons...

Monday, April 5, 2021

FLASHBACK: 1977

Veteran entertainer Bing Crosby, 73, went home on April 5, 1977 from Peninsula Hospital in Millbrae, after a prolonged treatment for a back injury. Bing has his arm around his wife Kathryn. (UPI Photo/Files)...




Monday, March 22, 2021

GUEST REVIEWER: THE ROAD TO RIO

Here is the return of Bruce Kogan as a guest review for one of the best Road movies ever released...

Another journey with Bob, Bing, and Dotty, this time the boys are escaping the law and a couple of shotgun wielding fathers in Bing's case. They stowaway on a boat bound for Rio De Janeiro and they meet damsel in distress Dotty with her "aunt" Gale Sondergaard and her two henchmen Frank Faylen and Joseph Vitale. Dragon lady Gale has been hypnotizing Dottie to force her into a marriage so that her inheritance can be swindled.


The Road pictures always had a usual pattern of songs. A ballad for Crosby, a ballad for Lamour, and some patter songs for Crosby and Hope. Crosby sings one of his nicest ballads with But Beautiful. Hope and Crosby do Appalachicola, Fla and Dottie does an unforgettable version of Experience accompanied by Hope playing a bubble blowing trumpet.

Bing Crosby's most frequent singing partners were the Andrews Sisters on record. They did enough material to fill more than three of those old fashioned vinyl LPs. But their only appearance in a movie with Bing is here and they sing You Don't Have To Know The Language with him as an extra treat.


See it and figure out for yourself what was in those "papers" that the world was better off in blissful ignorance of...

BRUCE's RATING: 8 out of 10
MY RATING: 10 out of 10



Monday, March 8, 2021

BING'S DISCOGRAPHY: August 8, 1934

 Here is a new feature where I spotlight an aspect of Bing's vast record career. This time around I am spotlighting August 8, 1934 - which marked Bing's first sessions with the newly created Decca label...


Date: 8 August 1934

Location: 5505 Melrose Avenue. Hollywood, Los Angeles, Calif
Label: DECCA (US)

a. DLA6-A I Love You Truly - 3:04(Carrie Jacobs Bond)

Bing Crosby (voc), Georgie Stoll and his Orchestra (orc)
JONZO (UK) CDJZCD-15 — THE CHRONOLOGICAL BING CROSBY VOLUME 15 (1997)
AVID (UK) CDAMSC 633 — BING CROSBY - YOU AND THE NIGHT AND THE MUSIC (1998)
b. DLA6-B I Love You Truly - 3:07(Carrie Jacobs Bond)

Bing Crosby (voc), Georgie Stoll and his Orchestra (orc)
ASV - LIVING ERA (UK) CDCD AJA 5043 — BING CROSBY - HERE LIES LOVE (1990)
JONZO (UK) CDJZCD-15 — THE CHRONOLOGICAL BING CROSBY VOLUME 15 (1997)
c. DLA7-A Just A Wearyin' For You - 3:13(Frank Stanton, Carrie Jacobs Bond)

Bing Crosby (voc), Georgie Stoll and his Orchestra (orc)
JONZO (UK) CDJZCD-15 — THE CHRONOLOGICAL BING CROSBY VOLUME 15 (1997)
d. DLA7-B Just A Wearyin' For You - 3:16(Frank Stanton, Carrie Jacobs Bond)

Bing Crosby (voc), Georgie Stoll and his Orchestra (orc)
ASV - LIVING ERA (UK) CDCD AJA 5043 — BING CROSBY - HERE LIES LOVE (1990)
JONZO (UK) CDJZCD-15 — THE CHRONOLOGICAL BING CROSBY VOLUME 15 (1997)
e. DLA8-A Let Me Call You Sweetheart - 3:11(Beth Slater Whitson, Leo Friedman)

Bing Crosby (voc), Georgie Stoll and his Orchestra (orc), Joe Sullivan (pno)
ASV - LIVING ERA (UK) CDCD AJA 5043 — BING CROSBY - HERE LIES LOVE (1990)
AVID (UK) CDAVC 535 — THE IMMORTAL BING CROSBY (1994)
JONZO (UK) CDJZCD-15 — THE CHRONOLOGICAL BING CROSBY VOLUME 15 (1997)
f. DLA6-B Let Me Call You Sweetheart - 3:04(Beth Slater Whitson, Leo Friedman)

Bing Crosby (voc), Georgie Stoll and his Orchestra (orc), Joe Sullivan (pno)
SEPIA (UK) CDSEPIA 1296 — BING CROSBY - GOOD AND RARE VOLUME 3 (2016)
g. DLA9-A Someday Sweetheart - 3:13(John C Spikes, Benjamin Spikes)

Bing Crosby (voc), Georgie Stoll and his Orchestra (orc), Joe Sullivan (pno)
ABC RECORDS (Aus) CD836 172-2 — BING CROSBY IN DIGITAL STEREO 1927 to 1934 (1986)
BBC (UK) CDCD 648 — BING CROSBY - THE CLASSIC YEARS IN DIGITAL STEREO 1927-1934 (1987)
CONIFER (UK) CDCDHD 123 — BING CROSBY - REMEMBERING 1927-34 (1989)
ASV - LIVING ERA (UK) CDCD AJA 5043 — BING CROSBY - HERE LIES LOVE (1990)
MCA/DECCA/GRP (US) CDGRP 16032 / also GRD 603 — BING CROSBY AND SOME JAZZ FRIENDS (1991)
EMI (Australia) CD1572742 — BING CROSBY - 16 CLASSIC PERFORMANCES (1992)
CHARLY-AFFINITY (UK) CDCD AFS 1022 — THE JAZZIN' BING CROSBY, 1927-1940 Disc 2 (1992)
EPM MUSIQUE CD983002 — BING CROSBY GREATEST HITS 1934 - 1943 (disc 1) (1994)
JONZO (UK) CDJZCD-15 — THE CHRONOLOGICAL BING CROSBY VOLUME 15 (1997)
CASTLE PULSE CDPBXCD 471/2 — BING CROSBY - THE CENTENARY COLLECTION (disc 2) (2003)
METRONOME CDMET CD 2025 — CROSBY CLASSICS - 24 HITS 1931-40 - Classic Years in Digital Stereo (2003)
UNIVERSAL INTERNATIONAL (Japan) CDUCCC 3032 — BING CROSBY WITH JAZZ FRIENDS (2004)
h. DLA6-B Someday Sweetheart - 3:13(John C Spikes, Benjamin Spikes)

Bing Crosby (voc), Georgie Stoll and his Orchestra (orc), Joe Sullivan (pno)
SEPIA (UK) CDSEPIA 1192 — BING CROSBY - THROUGH THE YEARS Volume 10 (2012)
                                        


Monday, February 22, 2021

BING AND BANANA ICE CREAM

I wonder how this tasted? Here is an advertisement for banana ice cream. I am not sure of the date of the ad, but it mentions Bing's 20th year of performing so I would say around 1945-1947. Anyone up for a taste?




Monday, February 8, 2021

Monday, January 25, 2021

BING ON FILM: RHYTHM ON THE RIVER - PART TWO

Rhythm on The River
is full of great supporting actors who really add to the film. Character actor Charlie Grapewin plays Bing’s uncle. Fresh from his role as Uncle Henry in the Wizard Of Oz for MGM, he was loaned out to Paramount for this film. As I said earlier, character actor William Frawley appeared as a song publisher as well as Charles Lane, another familiar face in hundreds of movies. Former Rhythm Boy Harry Barris had a nice role as the band leader, although the band in the film was Wingy Manone’s band. Wingy Manone was a jazz favorite, but he had lost his had to a streetcar accident when he was young. He has a prosthetic hand and basically plays the trumpet with one hand. It is interesting to watch him in the few scenes he did have to see how he is always hiding his handicap. Also, Bing’s cohorts from his Kraft Music Hall radio show appeared in the film. His bandleader John Scott Trotter played himself, while his announcer Ken Carpenter played another announcer by the name of Teddy Gardner. 


Like the majority of Bing’s lighthearted comedic romps, the music and singing were the main draw. This movie, while it had a compelling plot, was not different. For the film songwriters Johnny Burke and James Monaco wrote the score. The most successful song in the movie was “Only Forever”, the love song, and it would be big hit for Bing Crosby. Another song “That’s For Me” would be a minor hit for Bing. He also recorded the title song – “Rhythm On The River”. His commercial recording pales in comparison to the number he shoots in the movie. In the movie he is at the pawn shop, and he gets his friends’ band instruments out of hawk. Bing sings the song and has so much fun with it – even doing some decent drum work. It is one of the most carefree numbers I think Bing ever shot in the movies. It was and is a high point of the movie for me. Bing also sings two other songs “When The Moon Comes Over Madison Square” (a horrible song in my opinion) and “What Would Shakespeare Have Said” (which he never recorded commercially). Mary Martin got to sing two outstanding solo numbers. Director Victor Schertzinger wrote the torch song “I Don’t Want To Cry Anymore” which Mary sang exceptionally. It was also recorded by Billie Holliday in the 1950s. The other song, which Burke and Monaco wrote for her was the fun “Ain’t It A Shame About Mame”. That was another favorite of mine.

Author Gary Giddins in his second Bing biography “Swinging On A Star-The War Years” seems to enjoy Rhythm On The River, and remarks how the film was a turning point for Bing as an actor in the 1940s. More of Bing’s personality was rolled into his characters. Gary wrote that the movie began as a treatment written in Germany by Billy Wilder (Wilder was an admirer of Bing and directed him in 1948’s The Emperor Waltz). However, Wilder was crushed when Bing brought in his gag writer Barney Dean to punch up the script. In the end, even though Wilder got credit on Rhythm On The River, in later years he denied that he deserved even a writing credit on the film. 


Bosley Crowther of The New York Times enjoyed it: "It’s a very funny thing about this picture business—or this musical picture business, we should say. One producer may come along with a super colossal whopper, all dressed up in fancy pants and boasting a high-class score and folks will find themselves sitting watch on a dull and pretentious fizzle. And then along will come Paramount, say, with an entry such as “Rhythm on the River.” which opened at the Paramount yesterday—an after-you sort of entry which gives the odd impression of having been casually shot “off the cuff”—and, behold, it turns out to be one of the most like-able musical pictures of the season... What’s there to it? Well, there’s Bing, whose frank and guileless indifference, whose apparent dexterity with ad libs is, in this case, beautiful to behold. There is Miss Martin, who is ever so comfortable to look at and who sells a very nice song. There is also Oscar Levant, slumming from “Information, Please,” who makes up in bashless impudence what he lacks in looks, charm, poise and ability to act. There are Mr. Rathbone, Charley Grapewin and Wingy Manone, who plays a hot trumpet, and there are several tuneful numbers, especially “Rhythm on the River” and “Ain’t It a Shame about Mame.” Add them all up and they total a progressively ingratiating picture—one that just slowly creeps up and sort of makes itself at home. It’s a funny business, all right."

I feel the film is pretty much perfect, but there is one scene that bothers me. On Bing’s radio show he is always ribbing his bandleader John Scott Trotter about his weight. In the film, he meets John Scott Trotter in the song publishing office. Although he supposedly just met this famous bandleader, he starts making fun of the bandleader’s weight. If he had just met Trotter, he certainly would not make fun of him. It is a minor scene in the film, but one that has always bothered me. The pairing of Bing with Mary Martin was wonderful. They would appear together in one other film – 1941’s Birth Of The Blues, and they were supposed to make 1942’s Holiday Inn together until Mary got pregnant and had to withdraw from the film. They would go on to appear in numerous radio shows and television specials together. Rhythm On The River is often the forgotten movie in Bing’s filmography, but it is a fun movie to watch. Oscar Levant’s scene stealing moments alone are worth it! Add in a great supporting cast and the genius of Bing Crosby, and you have a wonderful movie...

MY RATING: 9 out of 10






Friday, January 8, 2021

BING ON FILM: RHYTHM ON THE RIVER - PART ONE

My favorite part of writing a review of Bing’s movies, is when I must pick which movie to watch next. It really is a dilemma as to which movie to choose. It is a good dilemma to have though! This time around I picked a film I had not seen in years – 1940’s Rhythm On The River. I forgot what a good movie it is! Rhythm On The River was the second movie Bing would work on in 1940. He had just completed another good film If I Had My Way, and he went right to work on this film. Filmed between May to July of 1940, the film’s New York premiere would be on August 28, 1940. Originally titled “Ghost Music” – I think the name Rhythm On The River was a much better title for a light hearted Bing Crosby flick.

The movie starts out with a successful Broadway songwriter (played brilliantly by Basil Rathbone) talking with his assistant (also played brilliantly by Oscar Levant) about how he had writer’s block and could not write his own songs anymore. For awhile he had been using ghost writers, because since the love of his life “died” he had been unable to write songs. Oscar Levant in his abrasive way reminds Rathbone that his love did not “die”. She ran out on Rathbone, got married, and just “got fat”. Rathbone uses this as an excuse not to write as well as to make others feel sorry for him. Bing Crosby is the melody ghost writer for Rathbone, who has little ambition to be a songwriter. Bing just wants to run a catfish boat. When Rathbone’s ghost lyricist writer dies, Basil finds a fan letter that an upcoming poet (Mary Martin) has written him, and he gets her to write lyrics for him. He has a deadline in three weeks to write the score for his next musical. Bing had completed the music, but Mary Martin was having trouble writing the lyrics. In her boarding house a band had taken up residence (a band led by Wingy Manone), and all they played was the “Tiger Rag”. So, Basil not thinking, sends Mary Martin up to Bing’s uncle’s inn to relax. Guess who is also there but Bing himself! 


At first Bing and Mary Martin clash. Mary thinks Bing has absolutely no ambition. Well, she is partially right but discovers Bing writes beautiful melodies. Together, in about two minutes they write a song (Only Forever). Bing begins to fall for Mary, but when he starts to sing a song that Mary thought Basil Rathbone wrote, she thinks Bing is a music thief, and she heads back to New York to confront Rathbone. Bing does the same thing, and they are surprised to find each other both in Rathbone’s office and realizes that Rathbone has been playing them both. He gives them a sob story about his love dying, and again Oscar Levant plainly tells them that she “just got fat”. Bing and Mary have fallen in love now, and they decide to go off on their own as a songwriting team. However, the public thinks that they are stealing from Basil Rathbone because the music sounds so much alike. They go to one song publisher after another. Finally, they go to one last one (played briefly by William Frawley), and he does not want their song but he likes Mary’s singing, and he wants her for nightclub work. At first Mary refuses. Broke, Bing gives Basil the song Only Forever, which he wrote with Mary Martin as security for him to write the score. Being the the type of man Rathbone was in the movie, when his Broadway backers want a sample of the score he is writing, he gives them Only Forever, which was not for him to publish. Bing and Mary confront Basil Rathbone, and Basil decides to do the right thing and although he does not admit to the public that they were his ghost writers, he tells everyone that they are his new proteges. Oscar Levant has a great line when Basil is announcing it and says, “He would stand up at his own funeral to get applause”. The film ends with Bing and Mary being announced as song writers as well as professing their love for each other and plans to marry...

TO BE CONTINUED...