Sunday, May 8, 2022

BLUE SKIES ON BLU-RAY

 


I almost missed this one, but Bing's 1946 gem Blue Skies has been released on Blu-Ray...

Here is the Blu-Ray review:

Though it's not as sunny as its title might suggest, Blue Skies reunites Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in a meandering musical that features more than a dozen Irving Berlin tunes. The story of a hoofer and nightclub owner who vie for the same girl (Joan Caulfield) entertains in fits and starts, but can't come close to recapturing the magic of Crosby and Astaire's previous outing, Holiday Inn.

A brand new 2K master yields a glorious 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer that maximizes the impact of the lush Technicolor cinematography of Charles Lang and William Snyder. Superior clarity and contrast combine with beautifully resolved grain to create a vibrant, well-balanced, very film-like picture. The deep blacks of Astaire's trademark top hat and tails and bright, wispy whites of Caulfield's fur outfit grab attention, but it's those sumptuous Technicolor hues that make the visuals of this musical sing. The bold reds of lipstick, a blazing neon sign, and huge bouquet of roses; the subtle variations of green, from the pale tone of Olga San Juan's gown and matching boa to Billy De Wolfe's Irish-green hat; and an array of pastels, from Crosby's powder blue suit to various pinks and lavenders...all of them are perfectly timed so they never look garish or artificial. Several scenes are intentionally dark and even a tad murky, but excellent shadow delineation keeps the picture well defined. Flesh tones remain natural and stable throughout, sharp close-ups flatter all the players, and only a few errant nicks and marks dot the pristine source material. Kino has done a wonderful job revitalizing this 75-year-old classic, and fans of the film will be delighted by this top-notch presentation...

You can find a copy on Amazon - I ordered mine!



Tuesday, May 3, 2022

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BING!

Today marks what would have been the 119th birthday of the great Bing Crosby!

Crosby was born on May 3, 1903 in Tacoma, Washington, in a house his father built at 1112 North J Street. In 1906, his family moved to Spokane in Eastern Washington state, where he was raised. In 1913, his father built a house at 508 E. Sharp Avenue.The house sits on the campus of his alma mater, Gonzaga University. It functions today as a museum housing over 200 artifacts from his life and career, including his Oscar.

He was the fourth of seven children: brothers Laurence Earl "Larry" (1895–1975), Everett Nathaniel (1896–1966), Edward John "Ted" (1900–1973), and George Robert "Bob" (1913–1993); and two sisters, Catherine Cordelia (1904–1974) and Mary Rose (1906–1990). His parents were Harry Lowe Crosby (1870–1950), a bookkeeper, and Catherine Helen "Kate" (née Harrigan; 1873–1964). His mother was a second generation Irish-American. His father was of Scottish and English descent; an ancestor, Simon Crosby, emigrated from England to New England in the 1630s during the Puritan migration to New England. Through another line, also on his father's side, Crosby is descended from Mayflower passenger William Brewster (c. 1567 – April 10, 1644).

Wherever Bing came from, he certainly became a legend! Happy birthday Bing!



Monday, April 18, 2022

BING AND HIS THROAT AILMENT

When Bing Crosby came onto the scene in the 1920s he was an instant hit. The star released his first batch of singles starting in 1927, one of which hit number one in the USA (My Blue Heaven). By the 1930s he had become well known on the airways, but disaster struck once he booked his first-ever live radio performance.

Bing became incredibly sick and began suffering from laryngitis when he began to sing more often. He suffered a particularly bad bout of it just days before his debut radio show, meaning he was forced to push it back by two days. This continuous arrival of laryngitis in his talented throat started to become a problem for Bing when he started singing even more.

This strain is even evident in some of his records from the late 1920s and early 1930s. And further hoarseness can be heard during some extremely high notes in such songs as You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me.

Eventually, he figured out what was wrong.

In 1931 Bing went to his doctor to figure out why he kept suffering from laryngitis. After a few tests the doctor revealed to him the worst news imaginable for a singer: Bing had developed a vocal cord nodule.

A nodule – or node – is a hard blister that develops on the vocal cords in a similar way to a callus on a finger. These dampen the range of singers – and for Bing, that was a career-ending diagnosis.


After that, however, he resumed his busy schedule. Jazz critic Gary Giddins noted how, after this, Bing’s voice worsened in subtle ways.

Bing’s changing voice over the decades that followed forced him to alter how he performed certain songs.

For example, instead of being able to perform tracks such as June In January and With Every Breath I Take in the key of F, he had then transposed down a tone to E Flat.

Although by 1940 and beyond Bing’s illness had levelled out, it never went away. But he learned to live with it as his unique voice became the calling card of the star. And it served him well, considering he recorded more than 1,600 songs, made more than 70 feature films, and more than 100 albums...




Monday, April 4, 2022

STORIES ABOUT BING: COLLEEN GRAY

Colleen Gray (1922-2015) starred with Bing in 1950's Riding High. Here is a story she had about Bing...



Bing was very relaxed, a little cool; not a gushy person. I noticed one day on the set, he was reading a book and I looked at the title. It was, 'NOTES TOWARD A DEFINITION OF CULTURE by T S Elliot. You know you don't think of Bing in those terms. The kindness and sweetness of this man was illustrated when we were to do the SUNSHINE CAKE routine, which was such a charming scene. It was a routine, involving a dance. I'm not a dancer. So I was coached by a man who shall remain nameless. He'd say 'You have to keep the arms down, the shoulders up, the fanny in, the bandy legs, and this and that, and now do it.' I'm working on this and that and get stuck, sort of. It didn't come naturally. So he says 'Oh, come on now damnit! You do it! You're making more money than I am, now do it!' Well I worked as hard as I could and, the day we shot the routine, I was still behind the scenes, trying to get this whole thing going, so, when it came time to do it, I became very apprehensive. I'm trying to smile and be funny and laugh and so forth, keeping my head up so that the tears would run down my nose rather than down my cheeks. Well, Bing saw this. He said 'Frank (Capra)? You know something, I don't feel quite relaxed in this. I think we need a little more rehearsal. Can we have some more rehearsal?' Capra said 'Of course' And so we rehearsed it some more, and that's all it took. I was so grateful to Bing for that and he made the routine such fun. You know, I hate to say it, but it was adorable'. (laughing)



Sunday, March 27, 2022

BING AND BBC BANNING

In 1942, Bing Crosby’s “Deep in the Heart of Texas” lodged itself deep in the hearts of Texans and just about everyone else. The horn-heavy ditty painted a pretty picture of the Lone Star State, with its “big and bright” stars at night and “wide and high” prairie sky; and the chorus even featured a few infectious hand claps. In fact, the song was so popular that it bordered on infamy.

“You don’t know your hymns like you ought to. You don’t try to know ’em,” a Tennessee pastor scolded his congregants in July 1942. “But every last one of you can sing with perfection ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas,’ hand-clapping and all.”

A decade later, the catchy track was still causing mild societal issues—this time, across the pond. When the BBC broadcast it during a “music-while-you-work” program, factory employees couldn’t resist the urge to partake in the clap-happy chorus.

“Some hammered enthusiastically with their tools on anything handy—generally expensive machinery. Others were so busy clapping they forgot to perform some essential operation as the assembly belt went by,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in November 1952.

To prevent such pandemonium from happening again, the BBC banned the tune from the program. “Deep in the Heart of Texas” wasn’t the only jaunty song added to that particular do-not-play list. In general, the BBC was exasperated with American songwriters for churning out so many hits with interactive elements—“whistles, shouts, shots, handclaps, and other effects”—that could harm workplace productivity...


Sunday, March 13, 2022

ST. PATRICK'S DAY ALBUM

St. Patrick's Day is a compilation album of phonograph records by Bing Crosby released in 1947 featuring songs with an Irish theme. This includes one of Crosby's most-beloved songs, "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral" which was number four on Billboard for 12 weeks, and topped the Australian charts for an entire month, on shellac disc record. This version, the 1945 re-recording, was released earlier in another Crosby album, Selections from Going My Way.

Billboard liked it:Aiming at maximum holiday sales, this package of five platters brings together 10 Erin faves cut at varying times by Bing Crosby, getting vocal assist on some of the sides from the Jesters and the King's Men, while the music making belongs to Bob Haggart, Victor Young and John Scott Trotter. Der Bingle in good Erin form for each of the sides and song selections are tops ... Photo of the smiling Bing on the album cover, with notes on the singer and the songs in the accompanying booklet.

Down Beat was not impressed however saying:Bing's album, despite his usual graceful ease of interpretation, lacks his old fullness of voice. If Crosby is going to keep on making records with his evident sloppiness and lack of interest, it would be better if he would stop now and let his millions of fans remember him by his older and far better discs.

The album quickly reached No. 3 in Billboard's best-selling popular record albums chart in March 1947 and was still selling well the following year when it reached No. 1 in the same chart on 20 March 1948. It was 18th in the annual chart of top selling record albums for 1948.
Original track listing

These previously issued songs were featured on a 5-disc, 78 rpm album set, Decca Album No. A-495.

Disc 1 (23495):
A. "McNamara's Band"
B. "Dear Old Donegal" 

Disc 2 (23786):
A. "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" George L. Giefer December 6, 1945 the Jesters, and Bob Haggart and His Orchestra 2:27
B. "It's the Same Old Shillelagh" Pat White December 6, 1945 the Jesters, and Bob Haggart and His Orchestra 2:44

Disc 3 (23787):
A. "Did Your Mother Come From Ireland?" 
B. "Where the River Shannon Flows" 

Disc 4 (23788):
A. "The Rose of Tralee" 
B. "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" 
Disc 5 (23789):

A. "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral" 
B. "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" 




Saturday, March 5, 2022

BING AND BASEBALL HISTORY


According to The Hollywood Reporter, Crosby played semipro baseball as a young man, and that enduring love of the game manifested as a $2.25 million buy-in for a 25% stake of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1946. (He likely would have become a baseball owner years earlier; 1944 marked the death of baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who steadfastly refused to allow anyone from horse racing, which he considered shady, from getting involved.)

The biggest moment in Crosby's tenure: The Pirates played in the 1960 World Series, which they stretched to a seventh and decisive game. Crosby, who had a knack for attending games that the Pirates lost, considered himself something of a curse on the team, so he skipped Game Seven and asked an employee to make a kinescope (a pre-videotape recording method) of the game. The Pirates won when Bill Mazeroski hit a home run at the very end of what's been nicknamed "The Best Game Ever," and no recordings of it were thought to have survived ... until 2010, when that well-preserved kinescope was found in the wine cellar of Crosby's old estate...

Sunday, February 27, 2022

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: BING AND SHEET MUSIC

 I feel a dying form of art in the music world is sheet music. Some of the sheet music from the 1930s and 1940s were really beautiful. I don't actively collect sheet music, but I keep some sheet music of Bing Crosby handy. Here are some sheet music covers from songs that Bing made famous...



















Tuesday, February 15, 2022

BING ON FILM: THE STAR MAKER - PART TWO

 

The plot was slight, but the original story was much more different than what was filmed. According to Gary Giddins in his Bing Crosby biography “A Pocketful of Dreams”, Gary writes “The script somehow devolved from the story of Edwards to the story of Bing. By the time it was ready to shoot, The Star Maker so little resembled Edwards and his career that the name of the protagonist was changed to Larry Earl”. Bing himself would go on and comment about the film in 1976 that it was the most difficult film he had ever made because the director Roy Del Ruth wanted to film the original story, but he disliked what was done with the script. Roy had go ahead with the movie, but he was not happy.

Like most Bing movies of the day, the audience was not there for the plot but the music. Bing got to sing some older Gus Edwards composed songs like “If I Was A Millionaire”, “Sunbonnet Sue”, “In My Merry Oldsmobile”, and my personal favorite “School Days”. I taught my 8-year-old daughter to sing the song when she was five, and she still sings it now! Most if the songs that Gus Edwards wrote were written around the turn of the century, so they were pretty old when this movie was coming out in 1939. Some more contemporary songs were written for the film as well by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen like: “Go Fly A Kite”, “A Man and His Dream”, “An Apple for The Teacher”, and my favorite song of the film “Still the Bluebird Sing” which is pretty forgotten today. Bing recorded these new songs for Decca, and his biggest hit was “An Apple for The Teacher” which he recorded as a duet with Connee Boswell.



The rest of the cast was great in The Star Maker. Bing’s leading lady as mentioned earlier was Louise Campbell. Campbell did not have much to do in the movie but frown when Bing made bad decisions. Louise never became a big star and only made movies for a decade between 1937 and 1947 before retiring from movies. Character actor and comic crabby Ned Sparks is a great comic foil in the movie, and he appeared with Bing earlier at MGM in 1933’s Going Hollywood. Some other great character actors appear in the film like Laura Hope Crews, Thurston Hall, Billy Gilbert, and Clara Blankdick – who would be appearing that year as Aunt Em in MGM’s The Wizard Of Oz. The Star Maker also tried to make a star out of newcomer Linda Ware. Billed third, Paramount was hopeful that Linda be their answer to Universal’s Deanna Durbin. Linda Ware was likeable in the movie, but she was involved in a custody case between her parents which would ruin any chances she had for stardom. She made a total of two movies, and then faded into obscurity.


Sure, The Star Maker bore little resemblance to the life of Gus Edwards, but film biographies of the 1930s and 1940s were not made to accurately portray their subject, they were made to entertain. This film definitely is entertaining. From the first moment of the film when Bing is singing “Jimmy Valentine” to the orphans to the end of the film when Bing is singing “Still the Bluebird Sing” on radio with his kid stars, the 94-minute movie is extremely entertaining. In the beginning of the film, I was tired of Bing being the lazy non-working husband, but Bing always worked well with children, and in this movie he surrounds himself with dozens of them. This movie is not on video or DVD, so it is hard to come by other than a bootleg copy. However, the full fill is available for free on You Tube as of this writing. Do yourself a favor and check out this whimsical and fun musical that Bing ended the decade of the 1930s with! I’m glad I had the opportunity to watch The Star Maker again!


MY RATING: 10 out of 10  



Tuesday, February 1, 2022

BING ON FILM: THE STAR MAKER - PART ONE

 Bing Crosby made countless movies during his 40 plus years in the cinema, and some of his movies that were quite good seem to have fallen through the cracks of time. One such movie was his 1939 effort The Star Maker. Bing made the movie at the time when his stardom was rising and rising. The film was made in Hollywood from May to July of 1939, and it had a quick premiere on August 25, 1939. The film was directed by Roy Del Ruth with new music written by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen. The film was “suggested” by the life of Gus Edwards. Edwards was a German songwriter and vaudeville dancer who settled in New York and became a talent scout and produce of children’s revues. Among the children that Gus Edwards discovered was: George Jessel, Eddie Cantor, the Marx Brothers, and Eleanor Powell among countless others.

The movie opens at an orphanage which seems surprisingly happy. The kids are all happy because Bing (as Larry Earl) is there entertaining them with songs. He starts off the movie straight away by singing the song “Jimmy Valentine”. We find out he is there to woo one of the women that work there, played by Louise Campbell. For some reason to me, Campbell always reminded me of Mary Martin. After constantly asking her to marry him, she says yes. Little does she know what she is getting herself into. Bing, in strictly older days fashion, makes her quit her job, and yet he bounces around from job to job! Bing tries his hand at songwriting but that does not work out. Even with the young married couple not having any money, Bing still buys a piano they cannot afford.


His wife convinces him to go on a job interview finally, and as he is walking to the interview, he sees young children performing on the streets. Instantly Bing gets the idea to create a vaudeville act around the children. He brings all these children home without even going on his job interview. Bing tries to get an audition with a stage producer (Thurston Hall) but is unable to. Bing’s wife Mary is tired of him not getting anywhere so she takes it upon herself to hide in the car of the stage producer and talk to him. The producer is so impressed with Bing’s wife that he gives Bing and his kids a chance. On opening night, they sing the great song “Go Fly A Kite”. Bing and his troupe are a success. However, that is not enough for Bing. He is always thinking bigger and bigger!

Bing forms a production company and hires a publicity manager (Ned Sparks), who hates children. They get the idea to tour the country in a train and audition and set up acts all around the country. However, as Bing is reaching the apex of his career as a kiddie show producer, the Children’s Welfare Society gets involved. They will not allow children under twelves of age to perform after 10pm. The Society gets all his shows shut down, but Bing realizes he can use radio to showcase the talent of the children without the interference of the welfare group...

TO BE CONTINUED...




Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Saturday, January 8, 2022

PAST OBITS: CATHERINE CROSBY

 Here is the obituary of Bing's mother Catherine Crosby. It appeared in NY Times on January 8, 1964...


Mrs. Catherine H. H. Crosby, Mother or Singer, Was 90

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Jan. 7 (AP)—Mrs. Catherine Helen Harrigan Crosby, mother of Bing Crosby, died today in a rest home at the age of 90. She had lived with the singer in Holmby Hills since her husband died in 1949.

Mrs. Crosby was known to her friends as Kate and to her fam­ily as “The Boss.” She ruled her family with warm affection, but even Bing heard from her in no uncertain terms when a show, an associate or a song displeased her.

Surviving are four other sons, Laurence, Everett, Edward and Bob, the orchestra leader, and two daughters, Mrs. Catherine Mullin and Mrs. Mary Rose Pool...