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...


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