Monday, May 22, 2023


The cast of Mr. Music was excellent. Bing Crosby and Charles Coburn had good chemistry together, and a decade earlier they had appeared together as father and son in 1940’s Road to Singapore. Character actor Tom Ewell was underused in this film. He played the role of Bing’s stressed-out butler and caddy Cupcake. I would say that the one item that was getting tough to believe at this point of Bing’s life that a young girl like Nancy Olson would fall in love with such a much more mature man as Bing Crosby. They worked well together, and he appeared later with Nancy in the made for television musical High Tor in 1956. Maybe it is just me, but by 1950 I feel that Bing was too old to be wooing college girls in his movies. In his next movies he would be wooing Jane Wyman, which to me was much more believable. Mr. Music, for the minor Paramount musical it was, boasted a great cast of special guests like Peggy Lee, Dorothy Kirsten, The Merry Macs, Marge and Gower Champion, and last but not least Groucho Marx. Bing and Groucho were long time friends, and they sang a version of “Life Is So Peculiar”. One of the funniest lines in the film was said by Groucho Marx, and I wonder if he ad-libbed it, but he was appearing in Bing’s new play at the college to try to raise awareness for a new producer, and Groucho says “I’m here to investigate the student body. I hope I don’t lose my faculties.” For some reason, I always laughed at that, even as a young teenager watching this movie and not fully knowing the humor that was Groucho Marx!

What baffles me about the movie were the songs that were written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke. They were catchy and enjoyable, and Bing was in near perfect voice when sang them, but none of the songs became big hits. Two songs written in for the movie, Bing never recorded. There was a title song “Mr. Music” that was only sung by a chorus and a song called “Wasn’t I There”, which Bing only sung a few lines of that he never recorded. Bing did record six of the songs for Decca Records and there were issued on a 78rpm titled ”Songs from Mr. Music”. My personal favorite song from the film was “Accidents Will Happen”. Bing sings this alone and again with Dorothy Kirsten. He also recorded two versions of this song. One version was a more of a slow solo ballad. The other recording was a duet between Bing and Kirsten that was truly dramatic and enjoyable. The song “Life Is So Peculiar” was probably the most successful song from the film, and Louis Armstrong recorded a nice version of it. Again, I think all the songs in the film were good, and they deserve to be remembered more than they are.

I enjoyed the film but the reviews at the time were a mixed bag:

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times in his review of December 21, 1950 wrote: "To brighten the Christmas season, our old friend, Bing Crosby, is in town in a role (and an entertainment) that fits him—and he it—like a glove. In Paramount’s Mr. Music, which came to the Paramount yesterday ... Mr. Music may not stack up with the best of the Crosby films, but it is certainly a contemporary achievement that the master may lean happily upon."

Variety concluded: "Despite a contrived story, the ingredients are sufficiently well mixed to make Mr. Music a box office winner”

I remember this movie fondly from my youth. My dad had it recorded on an old VHS tape, and before I had the recordings in my collection, I literally stuck a microphone to the television speaker and recorded the songs to my little portable cassette player. It is amazing how far my collection has come, but it would be fun to have those old cassettes tapes again. Not only did those amateur recordings I made include the soundtrack from the film, but probably my late father yelling or coughing in the background! Back to the film, Mr. Music is not Bing’s best film by any stretch of the imagination, but I really wish this film was released on DVD or Blu-Ray. There is a certain charm about the film. Even though Bing himself did not like the title of the film, because he thought it was too pretentious, Bing was Mr. Music for decades, and he continues to be for millions of fans everywhere...

MY RATING: 10 out of 10

Monday, May 8, 2023


I always get excited to watch a Bing Crosby movie, whether I have seen the film one or one hundred times! I was especially excited to watch the underrated musical, Mr. Music. Based on the play Accent on Youth written by Samson Raphaelson, the story was actually made into a movie three times. It was filmed in 1935 by Paramount with Hebert Marshall in the title role. Then after the Mr. Music version, it was also filmed again by Paramount in 1959. This time the film was called But Not for Me and starred Clark Gable. The filming of the Bing Crosby version took place from June to August in 1950 in Hollywood. The New York premiere would be at the Paramount Theatre on December 20, 1950. Directed by character actor Richard Haydn, Haydn also appeared as an eccentric millionaire in the film. Film audiences will know him best as the manager of the Von Trapp Family in 1965’s The Sound of Music. The choreography in Mr. Music was done by the great Gower Champion, who also appeared with his then wife Marge Champion in the movie.

The plot is not much, but Bing Crosby plays Paul Merrick, a once successful songwriter, who now prefers to waste time at the horse track and golf course instead of working and writing new songs. At the beginning of the movie, Bing is nearly broke, and he travels back to his old college with his long-suffering producer (Charles Coburn). Instead of working on their new play, Bing wants to go to the college to see them put on a production of an old show of his. Getting off the train at the station, Bing thinks the college crowd is there to see him, but they are there to greet the college hero (played by a young Robert Stack). Bing is greeted by a young lady that works for the alumni office (Nancy Olsen). She is prim and proper, and very structured. Nancy has Bing’s schedule down to the minute while he is there at the college. 

Charles Coburn gets a bright idea to hire the young Nancy to watch over Bing and make he writes his next play. She takes her job quite serious, and she interrupts Bing during everything that he constantly does besides working like horse racing, golfing, and his gold digger girlfriend. The last straw happens when Bing is golfing. He makes a bet with golfer he is playing with. If he wins the match, then he will disappear and never write the songs for the show. So, Nancy shines her pocket mirror in Bing’s way when he is putting, and Bing loses the bet. Bing gets enraged and fires Nancy. Nancy fights back and tells Bing that he just isn’t lazy he is afraid to continue writing, because Bing is afraid of failure and not matching his past successes. This makes Bing think and deep down he knows she is right. Charles Coburn talks him into giving her another chance, and Nancy inspires Bing to write his first song he had written in years. 

Realizing that he can still write, Bing starts writing the new songs one after one. He is so engrossed in writing that he does not realize that Nancy is starting to fall in love with him. Nancy and her Aunt Amy also have moved into the guest room at Bing’s house to keep a closer eye on him. Bing is falling for Nancy, but his ex-girlfriend (Ruth Hussy) keeps showing up, so Nancy starts dating the all-American college hero Robert Stack to make Bing jealous. A snag in the show happens when Charles Coburn runs out of money for Bing’s show, however Aunt Amy’s boyfriend (played by Richard Haydn) agrees to be another producer of the show. In the end, Bing gets the girl, returns to fame with a successful show, and everyone lives happily ever after...


Wednesday, May 3, 2023


Happy birthday Bing!