Saturday, October 30, 2021


Unfortunately, Rhonda Fleming is supposed to marry the brave knight Sir Lancelot (Henry Wilxocon). When Sir Lancelot finds out Bing is trying to steal his girl, he challenges Bing to a joust. Bing is good on a horse but no challenge to Sir Lancelot as a knight. Instead of Bing fighting him, he uses rodeo type triCks like knocking Sir Lancelot off his horse and embarrasses him instead of defeating him in a battle. Rhonda Fleming feels that Bing did not do the honorable thing and says she wants nothing to do with him. Meanwhile, there is a subplot where the king is out of touch with the people of his kingdom as they die in poverty of the plague. Bing suggests to the king that he should go see for himself how his people are living. They dress as peasants and travel the country. Merlin overhears their plans, and they are captured and sold as slaves in the market. Rhonda Fleming tries to save them and realizes that she loves Bing, but she is captured as well. Bing manages to overpower the guard with the aid of a magnet that he happens to have on him still. Merlin captures them again and decrees that under the law, the slaves attempting escape must be put to death. Reading his almanac, Bing realizes on that very day there was an eclipse. Pretending to possess magic, Bing calls on the total darkness of the world. Everyone is terrified by the darkness, and they are released. Rhonda Fleming, meanwhile is being held as a prisoner by Merlin, and as Bing frees Rhonda Fleming he is knocked unconscious by a guard and awakens to find himself once again in the year 1905. Bing relates this story to a lord who looks a lot like the king (also played by Cedric Hardwicke). The lord says that Bing’s story is remarkable but just then the lord’s niece comes by, and it is none other than Rhonda Fleming. They give each other a wink and a happy ending ensues.

The love story between Bing and Rhonda Fleming is well acted, and they had great chemistry. The film sort of drags on in the middle. I hate to say it but as I rewatched the movie now for this review, I found myself bored at parts, but when Bing and Rhonda Fleming (who was known as the Queen of Technicolor) are on the screen there was film magic. Rhonda Fleming gets to sing one of the songs written by Burke and Van Heusen called “When Is Sometime”. The song never became a hit, but it was quite pretty. Bing sings a song in the beginning as a blacksmith in 1905 called “If You Stub Your Toe on The Moon”. The song is forgotten today, but if you get a chance listen to the song in the movie or Bing’s Decca recording of it because it is really a great song. In 1949, Frank Sinatra recorded it for Columbia Records, and Tony Martin recorded it for RCA, but Bing’s version was the best. The main love song in the film was “Once And For Always” which I think holds up more than this movie does. Bing made a solo record of it, and also as a duet with Rhonda Fleming. It is one of the most beautiful love songs Bing sang in the movies in my opinion. The one other song in the film was “Busy Doing Nothing”. Bing sang it with William Bendix and Cedric Hardwicke, both who are non-singers, so the song was not given much of a chance to be remembered. Even though the great Victor Young conducted the music on the film, it seems like one other song was needed for the film.

Movie reviews were generally positive for “A Connecticut Yankee” with Bosley Crowther of The New York Times writing: "The solid, reliable humors of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which have already done yeoman service in two films and a Broadway musical show, have been given another going over—with eminently satisfactory results—in Paramount’s new film of the same title, which came to the Music Hall yesterday. And for this we can thank Bing Crosby, primarily and above all, because it is Bing in the role of the Yankee who gives this film its particular charm ... But it is still Bing’s delightful personality, his mild surprises and sweet serenities, and his casual way of handling dialogue that makes this burlesque a success. No one in current operation could qualify, we are sure, to play the Connecticut Yankee the way the old Groaner does.” Variety was not quite so enthusiastic: "Picture wears the easy casualness that's a Crosby trademark, goes about its entertaining at a leisurely pace, and generally comes off satisfactorily. It's not high comedy and there’s little swashbuckling.”

Would I put this 1949 Bing effort among my favorite Bing films? I would say no, however despite any negativity I have about the film, it is still a worthwhile Bing film. Bing and the cast rise to the challenge of a silly script to put in some great performances. The high points of the film is always Bing’s singing and acting, but in this film look out for highpoints like the amazing beauty of Rhonda Fleming as well as the unstated comedic talent of William Bendix. The film is fun and enjoyable, and I am so glad Paramount spent the extra money to make it in technicolor. The movie is worth it alone to see Bing’s blue eyes and Rhonda Fleming’s red flowing hair...


Thursday, October 14, 2021


Since Bing starred in so many movies, it is always difficult to decide what movie to review next. Today marks the one year anniversary of Rhonda Fleming's passing, so I decided to review the one movie that they made together – 1949’s “A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court”. I had forgotten the story is based off of a Mark Twain novel that Twain wrote in 1889. A successful book, the story has been adapted many times for stage, movies, and even cartoons. The earliest film version was a silent film made in 1921 starring forgotten actor Harry Myers in the title role. In 1927, the novel was adapted into a stage musical with words and music written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. The score included many standards such as “My Heart Stood Still” and “Thou Swell”. Then in 1931 Will Rogers made another movie version which was an early hit for Rogers. Bing Crosby’s version would come next, and I have to admit the film has never been my favorite movie. Like the previous movie I reviewed, 1956’s “Anything Goes”, “A Connecticut Yankee” had a lot going for it, but it just falls short.

Bing’s version of the film had intended to use the Rodgers & Hart score from the Broadway version, but at the time MGM owned the rights to the songs. MGM was planning to make a biography on the life of Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart (The movie would be 1948’s “Words And Music”), so for Bing’s movie a new film score would have to be written. Bing’s chief movie songwriters at the time, Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen, wrote the new songs for the film. Tay Garnett would direct the film, and he was not known for making musicals. Before “A Connecticut Yankee”, Garnett had directed a lot of successful films like “Seven Sinners” (1940) starring John Wayne, and “The Postman Always Rings Twice” (1946) starring John Garfield. To me, he was an odd choice to direct a lighthearted Bing film, but he was a contracted director at Paramount from 1947 to 1954. The screenplay was written by Edmund Beloin. Beloin was a writer on Jack Benny’s radio program from 1936 to 1943, and he also wrote the screenplay for Bing’s “The Road To Rio” (1947).

The setting of the film is unique for Bing in that it is a period piece, as it takes place in the distant past. I much prefer a Bing in “contemporary times”. The movie first takes place in 1905. Bing plays a blacksmith whose profession is in jeopardy with the coming of the automobile. With horses on their way out as a mode of transportation, Bing tries to adapt by learning how to fix cars. He is riding his horse home, and Bing gets caught in a storm. The horse is spooked, and Bing falls off of the horse and is knocked out. When Bing awakes, a sword is pointed at his face by a knight (William Bendix), and Bing realizes that he is now in England in 528 AD. He is taken by the knight to the king (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) where he is being entertained in the court by his niece (Rhonda Fleming). William Bendix, in a comedic role of course, explains that Bing is an evil sorcerer and, Bendix claims that he used his power and bravery to capture Bing. The king’s sorcerer Merlin (Murvyn Vye) is instantly jealous and intimidated by Bing, so he convinces the king to put Bing to death. Right before Bing is supposed to be burnt at the stake, he amazes the courts with his feats of magic, which in today’s world are common parlor tricks like using a magnifying glass to start a fire. Bing becomes a favorite of the kingdom, where he befriends the king and wins the attention of his niece. She is amazed at Bing that he is some sort of a magician. He teaches her “modern” singing as well as how to wink...


Monday, October 11, 2021


Sepia Records have done it again with another great CD issue from Bing Crosby's radio days...

This 2-CD set features 66 of Bing Crosby's guest appearances on other people's radio shows and covers a time period of almost 20 years. Of particular historical significance are four tracks from the Allied Expeditionary Forces broadcast in London with Glenn Miller and his American Band of the AEF in 1944.

Track Listing:
Disc 1:

On Treasure Island
I’m Hummin’, I’m Whistlin’, I’m Singin’
Love in Bloom
Straight from the Shoulder
This Can’t Be Love
I Have Eyes
Don’t Let That Moon Get Away
I’ve Got a Pocketful of Dreams
Small Fry
My Melancholy Baby
The Birth of the Blues
My Old Kentucky Home
Winter Wonderland
Be Careful, It’s My Heart
Moonlight Becomes You
As Time Goes By
Old Glory
It Ain’t Necessarily So
You’ll Never Know
Memphis Blues
Basin Street Blues / Shine / The Birth of the Blues
Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
If You Please
She’s from Missouri
Sunday, Monday or Always
Pennies from Heaven
I’ll Get By
Easter Parade
With a Song in My Heart
Long Ago (and Far Away)

Disc 2:

Swinging on a Star
San Fernando Valley
Parody Medley
Going My Way
You’re a Grand Old Flag
De Camptown Races
Home on the Range
When You Were Sweet Sixteen / The Band Played On
God Bless America
You Belong to My Heart
Red River Valley
Haunted Heart
The Bells of St. Mary’s
Buttons and Bows
A Little Bird Told Me
Road to Morocco
Friendly Mountains
Get Yourself a Phonograph
I Kiss Your Hand, Madame
The Kiss in Your Eyes
O Sanctissima
Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider
St. Louis Blues
Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie
The Waiter and the Porter and the Upstairs Maid
America the Beautiful
Sam’s Song
To See You Is to Love You
Way Back Home


Harry Crosby was 19 when his father, Bing, died in 1977. But when he goes to a shopping mall or party in December, there’s a strong chance he’ll hear his dad’s voice singing "White Christmas."

He and his family want to hear that voice more during the other 11 months, a desire that led to a deal being announced Monday to sell an equal stake in the rights to Bing Crosby’s estate to Primary Wave Music.

It’s another example of how the sale of catalog rights has become a booming business, with most involving rock artists who write their own music — Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Neil Young and Stevie Nicks are examples. The Crosby deal is the most prominent involving a pre-rock artist who primarily interpreted songs written by others.

The deal is estimated in excess of $50 million.

A younger generation knows Crosby best through "White Christmas" and the duet with David Bowie on "The Little Drummer Boy" made for a television special shortly before his death. Fewer people alive remember Crosby’s days as a major recording artist and movie star.

"There were things that became absolutely top hits in the ‘30s and ’40s, for a sustained period of time, and they just went away," Harry Crosby said. "People associate dad with Christmas, but in the ’40s and ’50s, they didn’t associate him with Christmas. They associated dad with tons of things, and that’s what I want to bring back."

 Some of his hit songs include "Pennies From Heaven," "It’s Been a Long, Long Time," "Don’t Fence Me In" and "Accentuate the Positive."

Crosby won an Academy Award for best actor for playing a priest in the 1945 film "Going My Way" and made seven "road" movies with his friend, comic Bob Hope. His association with golf is also remembered, as he created the first pro-am tournament and was reportedly a member of 75 golf clubs.

Crosby’s family, which includes his widow and two of Harry’s siblings, have been interested in a documentary series to tell Bing’s story.

Primary Wave’s first priority is to increase Crosby’s digital footprint, to boost his profile on Spotify and get his music added to playlists for a generation unfamiliar with it, said Larry Mestel, the company’s founder and CEO.

"We want to be in business and partner with the greatest of the greats, regardless of the genre, regardless of the era," Mestel said. Primary Wave also works with the estates of Count Basie and Ray Charles.

 The challenge lies in infiltrating a new youth culture with the work of a mature artist, he said. Unlike many of the rock-era artists involved in such deals, Crosby obviously isn’t around to perform or promote his work.

But while song publishing is at the heart of many such deals, Mestel said Primary Wave takes a broader look at ways to get an artist’s name out there and, of course, make money off his likeness or work. He sees enormous potential in Crosby’s film properties.

"The way I view dad is not just through the prism of music and film," Crosby said. "He was a pioneer in all the different mediums and all the things that came out of that — technology and music and golf, sportsmanship and hunting. There are a lot of different things that describe the human being."

The times that he hears "White Christmas" while out in public brings a smile to Crosby.

"I miss him a lot," he said. "It’s a time of reflection. It’s not painful, it’s inspiring. It’s reassuring that with all of the things he did and as hard as he worked, that he’s being recognized again and again."