Thursday, July 28, 2011


Today in Bing Crosby history, the world lost Bing's buddy in seven Road films...Bob Hope. Hope died of natural causes on this day in 2003. He was 100 years old.

Many veterans from World War II all the way up through the Gulf War share a common bond that goes beyond the battlefield: seeing USO performances by legendary entertainer Bob Hope. Hope, who hosted or performed in nearly 200 USO shows between 1941 and 1991, died today (July 27th) in 2003 at the ripe old age of 100.

Born Leslie Townes Hope on May 29, 1903, in Eltham, London, England, he immigrated to the United States in 1908 with his parents and siblings, settling in Ohio. Hope became a U.S. citizen in 1920, and somewhere along the line his first name changed from Leslie to Lester. He underwent one final name change in 1929, adopting “Bob” as his first name because (according to one account) it had a friendly feel to it.

Hope’s prolific career as an entertainer began in vaudeville and grew to encompass theatre, radio, television, and film. His appearances in the “Road” movies (such as “Road to Morocco” and “Road to Rio”) with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour made Hope a household name.

The trio made seven of these movies between 1940 and 1962, with an eighth, “Road to the Fountain of Youth,” planned for 1977. Unfortunately, Crosby died before the eighth movie could be filmed.

Offscreen, Hope mounted show after show through the USO, traveling throughout the world to bring much-needed entertainment and encouragement to the men and women of the military during both wartime and peacetime. In 1997, Congress and President Clinton honored Hope for his 50 years of service through the USO by naming him an honorary veteran.

Hope was the first person to be given this distinction and said it was the greatest honor he had ever received. This was quite a statement, as he received numerous awards and honors for his accomplishments within the entertainment field as well as for his philanthropy.

Hope was also a formidable golfer, often using a golf club as a prop during his stand-up comedy performances. He putted with a two-year-old Tiger Woods on The Mike Douglas Show in 1978 and played in a foursome with Presidents Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton during the opening round of the 1995 Bob Hope Classic, the professional golf tournament that bears his name.

Hope continued to perform into his 80s and 90s, even making a guest appearance as himself on an episode of “The Simpsons” in 1992. The episode garnered 11.1 million viewers, proving that even towards the end of his career, audiences couldn’t get enough Hope...


Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Here is an interesting article I came across. It was a review of an old Bing Crosby album - I actually had this in my collection until compact discs took over. Does anyone else remember it?

I fervently hope America's Public Library system prospers and grows! With Youtube, I usually look for what I know is good, while a good library has something to teach me. It can lead me to entire plateaus of information to appreciate.

A case in point: Had it not been for the Hennepin County Library, I still would doubtless associate Bing Crosby with "White Christmas" and the heyday of his Decca Records output in the forties and fifties. While making my weekly rounds, I found this gem (and later took it on as the library shed its long-playing records).

Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams is a collection of Crosby's work in the late twenties. These 78rpm transcriptions were from just a few years after Paul Whiteman discovered Crosby. The charismatic bandleader turned the young man from a brash "hot-cha-cha" song stylist to the romantic crooner we recognize. Five tracks on this album are with Whiteman's Orchestra. In the style of twenties pop music, there are several choruses before the vocalist even begins. And the instrumentalists are top-caliber: Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey.

The next organization Bing sang for was the house band here in Los Angeles at the Ambassador Hotel's famous star hang-out, the Cocoanut Grove. Gus Arnheim's somewhat smallish musical aggregation held sway two hours on radio nightly. Bing was beginning to become a star. Whereas the Whiteman songs are from 1927 and '28, the Arnheim ouvre is from 1930 and '31, after the start of The Great Depression. "The Little Things in Life" and, especially, "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams," take on the philosophical tone of the day, offering a salve to the hurting masses. The playfulness of Bing's Whiteman era is gone, but there is a depth and pathos that shines through.

I never tire of these recordings. The compositions, the arrangements, the performances, cooperate to conjure up dance music as good as any extant. Thank you, Hennepin County and your stellar libraries!


Sunday, July 24, 2011


One of Bing Crosby's favorite singers of all time was Rosemary Clooney. I don't think Bing worked with any other singer as much. They made records together, they made a movie together, and they made countless radio shows together. When Clooney was getting back into show business after her break down in the late 1960s, it was Bing that helped her get back into the game. Clooney also performed with Bing during his last concerts before he died in 1977. They both had a great mutual respect for each other as these pictures show:

Friday, July 22, 2011


Our regular guest reviewer Bruce Kogan is at it again reviewing the technicolor Bing flick - Just For You. The movie is one of my personal favorites, and in a way the movie mirror's Bing's own career in show business...

This is the second of two films Bing Crosby partnered with Jane Wyman after their stunning success in Here Comes The Groom. This time Paramount gave them color and Ethel Barrymore and the results are a treat.

Bing's a successful stage actor who's about to marry his leading lady, Jane Wyman, when he discovers he's got a communication problem with his two kids. Daughter Natalie Wood wants to get into an exclusive girl's school and son Robert Arthur misreads some signals and starts crushing big time on Wyman.

Ethel Barrymore is headmistress of the school and she helps Crosby solve his daughter's problems. His son, after writing a love ballad for Wyman, is rebuffed and joins the Air Force. All is righted in the end and in the usual Crosby charming way.

Paramount gave Bing some good production numbers out of the Harry Warren-Leo Robin score. Bing sings I'll Si Si You In Bahia as a number from the show he's rehearsing and later sings The Live Oak Tree with the girls from the St. Hilary's School at their picnic. He also does a nice vaudeville patter number with character actor Ben Lessy called On the 10-10 from Ten-Ten-Tennessee.

The big hit is a duet with Crosby and Wyman called Zing a Little Zong which is a complete ripoff of the number he and Wyman did for Frank Capra in Here Comes The Groom. Well if they can't ripoff from themselves who can Bing and Jane ripoff from? The song was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to Do Not Forsake Me from High Noon.

Just For You is the title song and it's the one that Arthur writes for Wyman. A couple of numbers that Crosby recorded failed to make the cut, Spring Fever and A Flight of Fancy. The latter is heard as an instrumental background. It's one of my favorite Crosby songs and I wish it had been done in the film...

Thursday, July 21, 2011


They took planes, they took trains, they took cars -- especially limousines, lots of limos. Some of them probably came on rollerblades and skateboards. They heard Bing Crosby croon about where the turf meets the surf, and I'm sure they downed plenty of cold refreshments.

Del Mar's opening day crowd on Wednesday totalled 46,588, an all-time record that topped last year's previous high of 45,309. They bet, too, contributing toward total handle of $13,234,590, a 6.2% increase from the $12,461,600 bet in 2010.

The 72nd season of summer racing at Del Mar got started without me this year, my first opening-day pass in several years. There were some other regulars not attending opening day. No boycott or anything like that; more a matter of "been there, done that." Seen the funny, sometimes elegant hats, the beautiful women, the sports celebrities, the people more interested in being seen than seeing the races. But it's all part of what makes opening day at Del Mar so special.

It's not quite the place that's so crowded no one goes there anymore, but it's not a place for grumpy old men like me. That's why the Paulick Report sent out reinforcements to take my place this year in the form of my partner Brad Cummings and contributor John Scheinman, neither of whom has attended Del Mar previously. I'm looking forward to the video diary of their experiences at the seaside track and will be interested to see if their eyeballs popped out because of the attractive scenery.

As for me, I'll be there for the second week, when the form is a bit more established and the atmosphere is not quite so intense...


Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Here is a little paragraph I found about Bing and his visits to the Saratoga Springs race track:

I’m Dreaming of Bing Crosby
by Augie Jordan

I remember when I was a kid, in 1939, I used to sell programs on the side of the United States Hotel. Right at the side door. I sold programs to Bing Crosby. Most of the time, he would have a fella come down and pick up the program. But there were a couple of occasions where he would pass by and get them himself. You might sell them for 15 cents, but he would give you a buck for three of them.

Bing Crosby takes his seat in a Saratoga box seat in August, 1937. Sittting with the famous crooner is Mrs. Charles Howard. Her husband was the owner of the legendary Seabiscuit.

There was this place called the Adelphi Grill, right next to the Rip Van Dam Hotel. A lot of celebrities used to go in there.

They had these great, big pastrami sandwiches and a big helping of potato salad for 75 cents. It was a nice spot.

Celeste Holm used to play at the Little Theater (which is located near the Hall of Springs by the Gideon Putnam). She came in one night and I told her she was my favorite actress.

She said to me, ‘I bet you say that to all the actresses.’ I said, ‘No, just to you.’ So she came over and gave me a kiss. ”


Saturday, July 16, 2011


It is unfortunate that Bing did not make more concept albums. The few that he made in the late 1950s were out of this world. One of those such albums is one he made for Decca in 1956 called "Songs I Wish I had Sung". Recently online, a great discussion was sparked regarding this underrated album:

I have been listening to the LP of this album again, and to some extent re-evaluating it. When I first started to think about collecting most or all of Bing's albums, this was one of the first ones I added to my collection. Unfortunately, the copy I found was rather worn -- to a degree that the performances sounded less lustrous than I hear now on a much better copy I obtained a few months ago.

One of the things I liked from the beginning about this album are the notes on the back cover, which are attributed to Bing. Bing's recollections of recordings by Gene Austin, Russ Columbo (who he knew at the Coconut Grove), Louis Armstrong's performances of Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'," and other performers and songs are very fascinating to read.

As to the recordings of the individual songs, I find I like them better and better the more times I listen. For some reason I tried to decide on my favorite one (I'm usually not one for ranking songs), and found the process rather difficult. I finally settled on Johnny Mercer's "Blues in the Night," but "When My Baby Smiles At Me" was a virtual tie, and several others were strong contenders.

On my better copy of the record, I find the Jack Pleis orchestra quite swinging on the swinging numbers, and not too schmaltzy on the love ballads. Also, Jud Conlin's Rhythmaires are employed very selectively, and are used to very good effect. Considering this as one of Bing's earliest albums conceived for the LP format, I think it is very successful, holding together well and being very listenable.

It's not as groundbreaking as "Bing Swings While Bregman Swings," which followed it, but I have heard of a Crosby fan or two who find the Bregman arrangements a bit blaring in the brass and percussion. While I am a big fan of the Bregman album, I suspect that criticism would not be applied by many to the arrangements on "Songs I Wish I Had Sung...." Also I would suspect that fans who are less enthusiastic over Bing's 1950s albums backed by Buddy Cole and trio, finding that sort of backup to thin for Bing, might prefer the orchestrations on this album.

I understand that a CD of it was released in Japan at some point, but I don't know there has been another CD release.

The title implies that Bing had not recorded the songs before but Bing had a little bout of amnesia. In fact several had been performed on radio on many occasions. For example 'Blues In The Night' had been recorded for commercial release and (slightly stretching the point) so had 'My Blue Heaven' though that was admittedly as part of a vocal chorus with Whiteman.

A brief run down -

1 - April Showers had been in a Philco programme in 1947 with Al Jolson.
It was subsequently sung by Bing on a couple of TV shows and in the last recording session in 1977 - a considerably superior version - recently reissued on 'Seasons'

2 - When My Baby Smiles At Me first cropped up in parody form on KMH in 1938 and repeated a couple of times in 1938 and 1939. Oddly, it was recorded with Buddy Cole for radio in the same month as the recording with Jack Pleis. The Cole version was subsequently included as one of the Pete Moore stereo overdubs

3 - My Blue Heaven was one of the very early recordings with Paul Whiteman in 1927. It was included (in presumably a similar form) in an 'Old Gold' broadcast in 1929. Bing got round to a solo performance with Jimmy Dorsey on KMH in 1936 and it appeared in an AFRS broadcast with, of all people, Harpo Marx, playing, of course, his harp. It reappeared on radio in 1948, 1950, (twice) and was again included with the Buddy Cole radio recordings in 1955, in which form it was repeated on radio on many occasions. It also cropped up on TV.

4 - A Little Kiss Each Morning is known to have been included in an Old Gold broadcast with Whiteman in 1930 but I don't think it was otherwise performed by Bing.

5 - Prisoner of Love had not been performed by Bing previously but was sung in fragmentary form on the Hollywood Palace TV show iin 1965

6 - Ain't Misbehavin' popped up on radio in1931 (twice) and was again one of those recorded with Buddy Cole in 1954, being repeated in the radio shows on many occasions, and was also overdubbed by the Pete Moore Orchestra..

7 - Paper Doll first appeared on KMH in 1943 (three times), then 1944 (three), 1945, 1949 with the Mills Brothers (a superb version) and on TV in 1966 again with the Mills Brothers

8 - This Love Of Mine was another with almost no exposure - a fragment only on radio in 1943.

9 - Thanks For the Memory - 1938 (twice) 1944 fragmentary a cappela, 1948 (with Robert Taylor playing cello -quite funny) and subsequently several TV appearances.

10 - Blues in the Night was perhaps the most frequently performed. It was also one of the songs parodied by Bing on an 'African Safari' medley. Bing had previously recorded it for commercial release in 1942 and it was included in radio shows with some frequency in 1941, 42 and 43 on KMH and Victory Caravan shows. It was then put to sleep until the Jack Pleis recording.

11 - Mona Lisa was another parodied in 'African Safari' and otherwise appeared twice on the Chesterfield show in 1950 and on TV in 1967

12 - Memories Are Made of This - so far as I know the Jack Pleis recording is the sole example.

I know nothing about the Jack Pleis Orchestra but I suspect that like many others appearing on record it was drawn from jobbing musicians for the task in hand. Searches on the internet for such an orchestra and for Jack Pleis as a conductor or arranger throw up almost nothing apart from other recordings in which he was involved.

Personally I am not very keen on April Showers - it is overshadowed by the verve of the Jolson original and I suspect that the arranger was striving too hard to differentiate it from that version. I find the vocal backing here a little annoying - 'drip, drip'. Apart from that single negative comment all the tracks are quite entertaining with the qualification that it is sometimes difficult to 'forget' the well known originals - particulary so with 'Mona Lisa'. Of them all I particularly like 'Memories are Made Of This' - both for Bing's treatment (he almost seems to caress the words) and the orchestral arrangement.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


The song "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime" was nearly the national anthem during the Great Depression. No other song personifies what was going on during the 30s quite like that song. Written in 1931 by lyricist E. Y. "Yip" Harburg and composer Jay Gorney, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" was part of the 1932 musical New Americana; the melody is based on a Russian lullaby Gorney heard as a child. It became best known, however, through recordings by Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee. Both versions were released right before Franklin Delano Roosevelt's election to the presidency and both became number one hits on the charts. The Brunswick Crosby recording became the best-selling record of its period, and came to be viewed as an anthem of the shattered dreams of the era.

Although I think Bing's version is the best, but the following radio transcription by Al Jolson is a close second. Jolson's version contains all of the anguish and heartache that all of America was feeling at the time...

Monday, July 11, 2011


Bing Crosby is best remembered for his movie roles alongside such leading ladies as Grace Kelly and Rosemary Clooney. However, his co-star in the most films was the beautiful Dorothy Lamour. He appeared with Lamour in seven of the Road movies from 1940 to 1961 as well as the technicolor musical DIXIE in 1943. Lamour was one of the few actresses who could keep up with the comic styles of Crosby and Bob Hope.

Lamour was born Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1914, the daughter of Carmen Louise (née LaPorte) and John Watson Slaton, both of whom were waiters. Lamour had French Louisianan, Spanish and Irish descent. Her parents' marriage lasted only a few years, with her mother re-marrying to Clarence Lambour, and Dorothy took his last name. That marriage also ended in divorce when Dorothy was a teenager.

In 1935, she had her own fifteen-minute weekly musical program on NBC Radio. She also sang on the popular Rudy Vallee radio show and the Chase and Sanborn Hour.

In 1936, she moved to Hollywood and began appearing regularly in films for Paramount Pictures. The role that made her a star was Ulah (a sort of female Tarzan) in The Jungle Princess (1936). She wore a sarong, which would become associated with her. While she first achieved stardom as a sex symbol, Lamour also showed talent as both a comic and dramatic actress. She was among the most popular actresses in motion pictures from 1936 to 1952.
She starred in the "Road to..." movie series with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in the 1940s and 1950s. The movies were enormously popular during the 1940s, and they regularly placed among the top moneymaking films each year. While the films centered more on Hope and Crosby, Lamour held her own as their "straight man", looked beautiful, and sang some of her most popular songs. Her contribution to the films was considered by the public and theater owners of equal importance to that of Crosby and Hope during the series' golden era, 1940-1952. The series essentially ended with the release of Road to Bali in 1952, with her career declining while co-stars Hope and Crosby remained major show business figures.
During the World War II years, Lamour was among the most popular pinup girls among American servicemen, along with Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner and Veronica Lake. Lamour was also largely responsible for starting up the war bond tours in which movie stars would travel the country selling U.S. government bonds to the public. Lamour alone promoted the sale of over $21 million dollars worth of war bonds, and other stars promoted the sale of a billion more.

Some of Lamour's other notable films include John Ford's The Hurricane (1937), Spawn of the North (1938; with George Raft, Henry Fonda, and John Barrymore), Disputed Passage (1939), Johnny Apollo (1940; with Tyrone Power), Aloma of the South Seas (1941), Beyond the Blue Horizon (1942), Dixie (1943; with Bing Crosby), A Medal for Benny (1945), My Favorite Brunette (1947; with Bob Hope), On Our Merry Way (1948) and the best picture Oscar-winner The Greatest Show on Earth (1952; with Charlton Heston). Her other leading men included William Holden, Ray Milland, James Stewart, Jack Benny, and Fred MacMurray.
Dorothy Lamour starred in a number of movie musicals and sang in many of her comedies and dramatic films as well. She introduced a number of standards, including "The Moon of Manakoora", "I Remember You", "It Could Happen to You", "Personality", and "But Beautiful".

Lamour's film career petered out in the early 1950s, and she began a new career as a nightclub entertainer and occasional stage actress. In the 1960s, she returned to the screen for secondary roles in three films and became more active in the legitimate theater, headlining a road company of Hello Dolly! for over a year near the end of the decade.

Lamour's good humor and lack of pretension allowed her to have a remarkably long career in show business for someone best known as a glamour girl. She was a popular draw on the dinner theatre circuit of the 1970s. In the 1960s and 1970s, she lived with her longtime husband William Ross Howard III (whom she married in 1943), in the Baltimore suburb of Towson, Maryland. He died in 1978. Lamour published her autobiography My Side of the Road in 1980, revived her nightclub act, and performed in plays and television shows such as Hart to Hart, Crazy Like a Fox, and Murder, She Wrote.
During the 1990s, she made only a handful of professional appearances but she remained a popular interview subject for publications and TV talk and news programs. Lamour died at her home in North Hollywood, California at the age of 81 from a heart attack on September 22, 1996. She was interred in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California...

Saturday, July 9, 2011


The Influence Of Bing
by John Bush

Bing Crosby was, without doubt, the most popular and influential media star of the first half of the 20th century. The undisputed best-selling artist until well into the rock era (with over half a billion records in circulation), the most popular radio star of all time, and the biggest box-office draw of the 1940s, Crosby dominated the entertainment world from the Depression until the mid-'50s, and proved just as influential as he was popular. Unlike the many vocal artists before him, Crosby grew up with radio, and his intimate bedside manner was a style perfectly suited to emphasize the strengths of a medium transmitted directly into the home. He was also helped by the emerging microphone technology: scientists had perfected the electrically amplified recording process scant months before Crosby debuted on record, and in contrast to earlier vocalists, who were forced to strain their voices into the upper register to make an impression on mechanically recorded tracks, Crosby's warm, manly baritone crooned contentedly without a thought of excess.

Not to be forgotten in charting Bing Crosby's influence is the music itself. His song knowledge and sense of laid-back swing was learned from early jazz music, far less formal than the European-influenced classical and popular music used for inspiration by the vocalists of the 1910s and '20s. Jazz was by no means his main concentration, though, especially after the 1930s; Crosby instead blended contemporary pop hits with the best songs from a wide range of material (occasionally recording theme-oriented songs written by non-specialists as well, such as Cole Porter's notoriously un-Western "Don't Fence Me In"). His wide repertoire covered show tunes, film music, country & western songs, patriotic standards, religious hymns, holiday favorites, and ethnic ballads (most notably Irish and Hawaiian). The breadth of material wasn't threatening to audiences because Crosby put his own indelible stamp on each song he recorded, appealing to many different audiences while still not endangering his own fan base. Bing Crosby was among the first to actually read songs, making them his own by interpreting the lyrics and emphasizing words or phrases to emphasize what he thought best.

His influence and importance in terms of vocal ability and knowledge of American popular music are immense, but what made Bing Crosby more than anything else was his persona -- whether it was an artificial creation or something utterly natural to his own personality. Crosby represented the American everyman -- strong and stern to a point yet easygoing and affable, tolerant of other viewpoints but quick to defend God and the American way -- during the hard times of the Depression and World War II, when Americans most needed a symbol of what their country was all about.

After Crosby hired his big brother Everett as a manager, he began recording consistently as a solo act with Brunswick Records in early 1931, and by year's end had chalked up several of the year's biggest hits, including "Out of Nowhere," "Just One More Chance," "I Found a Million-Dollar Baby," and "At Your Command." He appeared in three films that year, and in September began a popular CBS radio series. Its success was similarly unprecedented; in less than a year, the show was among the nation's most popular and earned Crosby a starring role in 1932's The Big Broadcast, which brought radio stars like Burns & Allen to the screen. By the midpoint of the decade, Crosby was among the top ten most popular film stars. His musical success had, if anything, gained momentum during the same time, producing some of the biggest hits of 1932-1934: "Please," "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?," "You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me," "Little Dutch Mill," "Love in Bloom," and "June in January."

"June in January," itself the biggest hit at that point in Crosby's young career, signaled a turn in his career. Brunswick executive Jack Kapp had just struck out on his own with an American subsidiary of the British Decca Records, and Crosby was lured over with the promise of higher royalty rates. Though his initial releases on Decca were recordings from his films of the year -- "June in January" was taken from Here Is My Heart -- Crosby began stretching out with religious material (such as "Silent Night, Holy Night," which became one of his biggest sellers, estimated at up to ten million). Late in 1935, he signed a contract for a radio show with NBC called Kraft Music Hall, an association that lasted into the mid-'40s. After his first musical director, Jimmy Dorsey, left, Crosby's songwriter friend Johnny Burke recommended John Scott Trotter (previously with the Hal Kemp Orchestra) as a replacement. Trotter quickly cinched the job when his arrangements for the 1936 film Pennies from Heaven produced the biggest hit of the year in its title song. (He would continue as Bing's orchestra arranger and bandleader into the mid-'50s.)

After the biggest hit of 1936, Bing Crosby followed up with -- what else? -- the biggest of 1937, just months later. "Sweet Leilani," from the similarly Hawaiian film Waikiki Wedding, showed Bing the direction his career could take over the course of the 1940s and '50s. Though he had recorded several cowboy songs earlier in the 1930s as well as the occasional song of inspiration, Crosby began covering everything under the sun, the popular hits of every genre of contemporary music. These weren't castoffs, either; many of his 1940s country & western covers were hits, such as "New San Antonio Rose," "You Are My Sunshine," "Deep in the Heart of Texas," "Pistol-Packin' Mama," "San Fernando Valley," and "Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy."

With the advent of American involvement in World War II, Bing Crosby entered the peak of his career. Arriving in 1940 was the first of his popular "Road" movies with old friend Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour, along with three of the biggest hits of the year ("Sierra Sue," "Trade Winds," "Only Forever"). Crosby and Hope had first met in 1932, when the two both performed at the Capitol Theater in New York. They reunited later in the '30s to open a racetrack, and after reprising some old vaudeville routines, a Paramount Pictures producer decided to find a vehicle for the pair and came up with The Road to Singapore.

More popular success followed in 1941 with the introduction of the biggest hit of Papa Bing's career, "White Christmas." Written by Irving Berlin for 1942's Holiday Inn (a film that featured a Berlin song for each major holiday of the year), the single was debuted on Bing's radio show on Christmas Day, 1941. Recorded the following May and released in October, "White Christmas" stayed at number one for the rest of 1942. Reissued near Christmas for each of the next 20 years, it became the best-selling single of all time, with totals of over 30 million copies. It was a favorite for soldiers on the various USO tours Crosby attended during the war years, as was another holiday song, "I'll Be Home for Christmas." Crosby's popular success continued after the end of the war, and he remained the top box-office draw until 1948 (his fifth consecutive year at number one).

As with all the jazz-oriented stars of the first half of the 20th century, Crosby's chart popularity was obviously affected by the rise of rock & roll in the mid-'50s. The lack of chart success proved to be a boon: Crosby now had the time to concentrate on album-oriented projects and collaborations with other vocalists and name bands, definitely a more enjoyable venture than singing pop hits of the day on his radio show, ad nauseam. Inspired by the '50s adult-oriented album concepts of Frank Sinatra (who had no doubt been inspired by Bing in no small way), Crosby began to record his most well-received records in ages, as Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings (1956) and Bing With a Beat (1957) returned him to the hot jazz he had loved and performed back in the 1930s. His recording and film schedule began to slow in the 1960s, though he recorded several LPs for United Artists during the mid-'70s (one with Fred Astaire) and returned to active performance during 1976-1977. While golfing in Spain on October 14, 1977, Bing Crosby collapsed and died of a heart attack...


Thursday, July 7, 2011


by Betty Bunch

Would you like to swing on a star, carry moonbeams home in a jar, and be better off than you are, or would you rather be a mule, pig, etc.?

I think that's the definitive song of the '40s. We all loved Bing Crosby.

One of my dance class buddies, my best friend Carolyn, moved away from Austin, out to Midland, Texas, and invited me to come for a month. I was 14, so Mother said yes. I rode the Greyhound out to Midland, a horrible, dusty, lonesome ride. I felt bereft of civilization and so bored and hopeless that we would ever arrive that I almost cried. I'd brought only one book and finished it in the first two hours. Thelma, Carolyn's mother, who insisted I call her by her given name, immediately took us out for hamburgers and french fries, something I never got at home.

Carolyn's mother was very lenient, a real change from my mother. We slept until we woke up and had ice-cold Coca-Cola for breakfast, an unheard of luxury for me, an everyday thing for Carolyn.

There were movie magazines and fashion magazines all over the house. Mother didn't allow me to buy magazines and certainly not movie mags! I loved them, of course, and read all of Carolyn's. The Crosby boys were teenagers and got lots of press. They were incredibly handsome and glamorous, totally of another world.

Years later, when they were around the Moulin Rouge in Hollywood, dating several of the girls, I was married but still thrilled to meet them in person. They were allowed in the dressing room because we all knew them. Someone would call out, "Put on your robes, girls, the Crosbys are here!" Sometimes our current star would come up to see us. Jerry Lewis always did, Sammy Davis did. They usually wanted to thank us for something or invite us somewhere.

The Crosby brothers were singing at the Latin Quarter when Chris and I were in Tony Martin's act at the Copa in New York City and joined us after the show a few times.

When we got settled back in Hollywood, there was an audition for a movie at 20th Century Fox, "A Private's Affair," starring Sal Mineo and Gary Crosby. Chris and I both got the job, along with about 24 other movie gypsies. It was to be a huge dance scene.

Rehearsals turned into parties, jokes told, old dancer stories repeated. One of the boys, Sasha, was Russian and an Adelle Davis health food fan. He always had martinis with his yogurt, wheat germ and fruit for lunch. He converted all of us to health food, but I balked at liver for breakfast. I still love yogurt, which I'd never heard of before then (1959). Adelle Davis also touted the benefits of blackstrap molasses. I tried but couldn't stand that one.

Alex Romero, the choreographer, was my favorite choreographer in any medium. He was so kind and so masculine. When he wanted to move a girl to a different place, he put his arm gently around her or whispered to correct her. I loved that man. Male movie dancers tend to be masculine, unlike stage dancers, as I've mentioned before. The phrase going around gay dancers then was, "He's too gay for TV." And boy dancers learned to dance in a masculine way or didn't work.

Alex devised a charming number, high-energy jazz, and had an Army jeep drive onto the set, carrying Sal and Gary and one of the boy dancers on the back bumper. It screeched to a halt, the boys jumped off, joined us dancers, confetti was released overhead, and we did an armpit finish.

After the first time through, Alex changed it slightly, having the three men grab a girl dancer and pull her into a sit-down on his knee. Alex had Gary pair with me, same armpit finish. Gary fumbled a little. Gary and I chatted easily.

Then at "take one" at the end, Gary blew the action, didn't get off the jeep bumper on the right count. The confetti was all over the set. The ADs had us break while the set was re-set, all the IATSE (union stagehands) grabbed brooms and helped the set director. The re-set took at least five minutes.

"Places" from the top. Same thing happened again. Another re-set.

Would you believe Gary blew 32 takes? He apologized charmingly every time. We were getting tired, the mistake always happening at the end. I asked Gary if there was anything I could help him with, he said no, he was just tired and would get it this time.

As the stagehands cleaned up the confetti for take 33, Frankie, the boy dancer who rode on the bumper with Gary, casually said, "Gee, Gary, I hope you blow this one, too. We're only five minutes away from 'golden time.' That's double time for all of us." Gary said, "Oh, yeah?"

The dear man did indeed blow take 33, gave us all a big grin, and we gave him a big cheer and sang, "For he's a jolly good fellow ..."

On the break, we all commented that it was partly his company producing, so the money probably would come out of his pocket personally. He was such a darling man. Rest in peace, Gary.

I would love to have a copy of "A Private's Affair" video. Anybody?


Sunday, July 3, 2011


Here is another review from the New York Times of August 7, 1947. The Times are usually hard on Bing's movies, but I think this review is mostly positive...

The news most moviegoers must be waiting to hear about the new Bing Crosby-Barry Fitzgerald picture at the Paramount Theatre is, "How does it compare with 'Going My Ways'?"

Well, it can be said that "Welcome Stranger" is as genial as the day is long—just the kind of picture that is nice to have around, even though it may not prompt one to shout huzzas. While it is not the intention to sell short this amiable comedy-drama about a pair of smalltown medical practitioners, the fact is that "Welcome Stranger" misses by a considerable margin the high mark in entertainment established by its distinguished predecessor.

Comparisons are, at best, invidious, but sometimes they are unavoidable. And certainly Paramount invited such when it consciously determined to capitalize on the phenomenal success of "Going My Way" by reuniting Crosby and Fitzgerald under circumstances not too dissimilar in "Welcome Stranger." This time the boys are joined by Hippocratic allegiance rather than ecclesiastical bonds, but the film still tells the story of a young man and his relationship with a crotchety elder.

It is an amusingly contrived story for the most part and gets off to a humorous start through a series of engaging misunderstandings between old Doc McRory, planning his first vacation from the good people of Fallbridge in thirty-five years, and his flashily dressed, tune-humming replacement. Jim Pearson's breezy mannerisms and the obvious play he makes for the pretty school teacher at a barn dance going-away party for Doc McRory cause the townsfolk to turn on their New England acerbity. And it is not until circumstances cause him to save the old Doc's life by performing an appendectomy with only the "teach" to assist that his medical ability is recognized.

Despite this blatantly raelodramatic device and the sentimental circumstance wherein Pearson helps McRory to outwit the Chamber of Commerce president, who would deny him the office of superintendent of the town's first hospital, the light bantering spirit of the film is never lost. Credit for this, no doubt, can be shared by Arthur Sheekman, who wrote the script, and Elliott Nugent, who directed, but we are inclined to give the lion's share to the Messrs. Crosby and Fitzgerald.

Both tower over the script through sheer personality, and especially is this true in Mr. Crosby's case, for Mr. Sheekman has not invested the character of Jim Pearson with much substance. Mr. Fitzgerald's Doc McRory is a more rounded individual, and he does have some quaintly flavorsome dialogue—"blatherskite" is one of his less endearing terms for the young assistant. Joan Caulfied is lovely and competent as the teacher and several lesser roles are well turned out, notably Percy Kilbride's taxi driver and Elizabeth Patterson's housekeeper.

Featured on the Paramount stage are Carmen Cavallaro and orchestra; Bob Allen and Leslie Long; Raul and Eva Reyes and Nip Nelson.