THE A-Z OF BING’S MOVIES
Prepared by Keith Parkinson and published in instalments in BING magazine from 1989 to 2011.
Keith offers his personal opinions on the various components of Bing’s career on the silver screen.
Amendments should please be notified to Malcolm Macfarlane.
ABEL, WALTER (1898-1987) Actor. He appeared in three Crosby movies in the early forties: Holiday Inn (1942) Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) and Duffy’s Tavern (1944). He was not a Paramount contract player but when he worked for that studio he was cast as a figure of authority. In Holiday Inn he was Fred Astaire’s manager, in Star Spangled Rhythm he was Frisbee, the studio head and in Duffy’s Tavern he was a film director. His screen career as a character actor embraces five decades. He made his debut in Liliom in 1930 and in the mid seventies he was still adding authority to films like the thriller Silent Night, Bloody Night (1974).
ABIE’S IRISH ROSE Released at the end of 1946, this was Bing’s second foray into movie production. In 1944 he formed ‘Bing Crosby Producers’ with other financiers with the intention of releasing feature films through United Artists. Abie’s Irish Rose followed The Great John L. which was released in 1945. Joanne Dru and Richard Norris co-starred and Bing appointed John Scott Trotter to compose the film’s score. The most accurate review of the film I have found is that written by Leonard Maltin: “Outdated when written in 1920s and even worse now.”
ABRAHAM Song. Music and lyrics were written by Irving Berlin and it featured in two of Bing’s films. In the 1942 Holiday Inn it was used to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in a sequence featuring Bing in black face supported by Marjorie Reynolds (with Martha Mears’ voice), Louise Beavers and Joan Arnold and Shelby Bacon. The latter two played the children of the cook, played by Beavers. The music only was used for a tap dance by Vera-Ellen and George Chakiris (then known as George Kerris) in White Christmas (1954).
ACADEMY AWARDS Bing won one such award, commonly known as an Oscar, for his part as Father O’Malley in Going My Way (1944). He sang four songs which won Oscars. These were “Sweet Leilani from Waikiki Wedding (1937) “White Christmas” from Holiday Inn (1942), “Swinging on a Star” from Going My Way (1944) and “In the Cool Cool Cool of the Evening” from Here Comes the Groom (1952). He sang the following Oscar nominated songs: “Love In Bloom” from She Loves Me Not (1935) which lost to “The Continental”, “Only Forever” from Rhythm on the River (1941) which lost to “When You Wish Upon A Star”, “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” from Here Come The Waves and “Aren’t You Glad You’re You” from The Bells of St. Mary’s both 1946 and losing to “It Might As Well Be Spring”. These were followed by “You Keep Coming Back Like A Song” from Blue Skies (1947) which lost to “On The Atcheson Topeka And The Santa Fe”, “Zing A Little Song” from Just for You (1955) which lost to “Do Not Forsake Me”, “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” from White Christmas (1955) which lost to “Three Coins In The Fountain”, “True Love” from High Society (1957) which lost to “Que Sera Sera” and “The Second Time Around” from High Time (1961) which lost to “Never On Sunday”. Other Oscar winners connected with Crosby films were:
· Herman Rosse for Art Direction, King of Jazz (1930)
· Barry Fitzgerald for Supporting Actor, Leo McCarey for Direction, Frank Butler and Frank Cavett for Screenplay, Leo McCarey for original story and also for best film, all for Going My Way(1944)
· Stephen Dunn for Sound Recording, The Bells of St. Mary’s (1946). Bing was also nominated as Best Actor for The Bells of St. Mary’s but failed to win the award.
AC-CENT-TCHU-ATE THE POSITIVE Song. This Johnny Mercer (lyrics) - Harold Arlen (music) number was written specifically for the Paramount picture Here Come the Waves but was also sung in the 1944 short film Sing with the Stars made for the U.S. Coast Guard as part of the Army-Navy Screen Magazine series. In the first film Bing duets with Sonny Tufts when they both appear in black face as part of a show mounted for service personnel. In the short film Bing sings the song solo, accompanied by the Band of the 11th Naval District Coast Guard. The song was nominated for an Academy Award but lost.
ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN Song. It is untypical of a Crosby song to begin with an opera singer practising scales but this happens when the song has its main showcase spot in Paramount’s Mr. Music (1950). Bing sings the song twice before he duets with Dorothy Kirsten at a show which is staged in order to attract financial backers. The writers were Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen who saw their royalties boosted when Bing recorded the song twice for Decca. In April 1950 Jay Blackton accompanied him duetting with Dorothy Kirsten and two months later he soloed the song accompanied by the Victor Young Orchestra.
ADAMS, ERNIE (1885-1947) Actor. By no means an actor of prominence. Ernie Adams was one of those reliable sub-character actors willing to accept assignments involving one or two days work. The best measure of the man can be gained from parts he played in his two Crosby movies: he was ‘A Sailor’ in We’re Not Dressing (1934) and ‘A Citizen’ in The Princess and the Pirate (1944) although his part in the latter was no briefer than Bing’s own fleeting appearance. His film career began in silent pictures and he died after a brief appearance in The Pretender, made in the same year as his death. In between times he also appeared in stage musicals and such series ‘B’ pictures as the Hopalong Cassidy westerns.
ADAMSON, HAROLD (1906-1980) Lyricist. Bing sang just one of his songs on screen. That was “We’ve Got Another Bond to Buy” which was featured in the short Hollywood Victory Caravan (1945). The music for the song was provided by regular collaborator Jimmy McHugh, who worked on 19 movies with Adamson. Some of the songs he wrote which became standards include “I Couldn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night”, “A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening” and “My Resistance is Low”.
ADESTE FIDELES Song. This traditional Christmas carol had been associated with Bing for ten years by the time he sang it in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945). In the film Bing sings it with a children’s choir. Together with “White Christmas” and “Silent Night” it is one of a trio of Crosby songs which became regularly featured on Bing’s radio and television shows each Christmas until the time of his death.
ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD, THE Film. Made in 1949 for Walt Disney, Bing narrated the story of Ichabod Crane in the first part of this animated feature. Since its theatrical release, the Disney Organisation separated the two segments which have since appeared on television as part of the Disneyland series. The Ichabod story was written by Washington Irving as ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ and Decca released the story on two 78s with Bing singing the three songs from the film: “Ichabod”, “Katrina” and “The Headless Horseman” .The original concept of the film was to be a combination of animation and live action along the lines of Song of the South which had been a popular success for the Disney Organisation two years previously. Early publicity for the film was under its working title of Two Fabulous Characters.
AFRICAN ETUDE Song. This was one of the five songs Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen wrote especially for the second ‘Road’ picture Road to Zanzibar (1941). It was never commercially recorded by Bing and to hear it you will have to seek out the “Going Hollywood” album series for the soundtrack version. It features twice in the picture, its strong jungle rhythm benefiting from the support the native bearers provide for Bing’s rendition.
AFTER ALL, YOU’RE ALL I’M AFTER Song. This was written for the film She Loves Me Not by Edward Heyman and Arthur Schwartz but was not used.
AFTER SUNDOWN Song. Nacio Herb Brown (music) and Arthur Freed (lyrics) were commissioned by M.G.M. to write the songs for Going Hollywood (1933) and “After Sundown” comes in the second half of the movie when Bing sings it off camera during a montage of romantic scenes involving himself and leading lady Marion Davies.
AFTER YOU Song. Towards the end of the Paramount film Double or Nothing the plot is heading towards a happy ending with a show which will raise money towards an “All lived happily ever after” conclusion. A scat version of this Sam Coslow - Al Siegel composition is rendered by Bing (as orchestra leader Lefty Boland), Martha Raye, France Faye and Harry Barris. Bing did not record the song for commercial issue.
AGER, MILTON (1893-1979). Composer. Ager was credited for original music together with Mabel Wayne for Universal’s King of Jazz (1930). It was his second film assignment coming shortly after he had written his most famous song: “Happy Days Are Here Again”. That song, written at the time of the Wall Street stock market crash, was a collaboration with Jack Yellen, who collaborated with Ager on all his major hits, including the King of Jazz score. Those songs, on which Bing performed, were “Music Hath Charms”, “A Bench in the Park” (Rhythm Boys) and “Happy Feet” (Rhythm Boys). In addition Bing recorded the Ager-Yellen composition “Song of the Dawn” for Columbia in 1930. Specifically written for King of Jazz it was sung in the film by John Boles because Bing was under-going a brief residence in the slammer following a drink-driving offence. The other film song by Ager came in 1932 in the Sennett short Blue of the Night. This was “Auf Wiedersehen, My Dear” which Ager co-wrote with Ed Nelson, Al Hoffman and Al Goodhart and which Bing sings at the beginning of the film in a night club setting. Bing also sang the song in the Paramount short Hollywood on Parade (No. 2 – 1932)
AHLERT, FRED E. (1892-1953) Composer. Ahlert’s main claim to fame was as part composer of Bing’s signature tune “Where the Blue of the Night”. It was sung by Bing in the Sennett short Blue of the Night (1932). Ahlert shared composer credit with Bing and Roy Turk.
AIN’T GOT A DIME TO MY NAME Song. One of four songs provided by Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen for Road to Morocco (1942). Bing sings it whilst wandering through the streets of a North African town.
AKST, HARRY (1894-1963) Composer. In Paramount’s The Big Broadcast (1932) Bing sings one of Akst’s most famous compositions, “Dinah” to the accompaniment of Eddie Lang’s guitar. Akst usually collaborated, and in the case of “Dinah” composer credits are shared with Sam Lewis and Joe Young. This one song is Akst’s only film association with Bing. He was mainly employed by Fox and Warner Bros. to provide songs for their contract vocalists such as Ted Lewis and Tony Martin.
ALADDIN’S DAUGHTER Song. Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen wrote this number for the 1942 Road to Morocco but it was not used.
ALBERGHETTI, ANNA MARIA (1936 - ). The fifteen year old singer/actress had a key role as a blind classical singer in Here Comes the Groom. She had arrived in the U.S.A. a year previously for a Carnegie Hall Concert and made her film debut in The Medium that same year. Her movie career lasted just ten years with her final appearance being in the Jerry Lewis comedy Cinderfella. The films in the intervening years are not memorable.
ALBERNI, LUIS (1887-1962). Ten years separated the two appearances this Spanish born actor made in Crosby films. He had the important part of the Marquis in the Sennett short I Surrender Dear (1931) but when he was in the more prestigious Road to Zanzibar (1941) he was seventh billed as ‘Native Shop Proprietor’. Alberni came to Hollywood in the silent era and he was appearing in small parts, usually as an excitable Latin, until his big screen retirement in 1952.
ALGAR, JAMES (1912-1998) Director. Algar was one of the three main animators on Disney’s cartoon feature The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) for which Bing narrated the Ichabod Crane segment. Algar spent his entire career with the Disney Organisation and was the Director of many of the acclaimed “True Life” Adventure nature features. His animation skills were used on such everlasting cartoon favourites as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Fantasia (1940) and Bambi (1942). He was also a screenwriter on such Disney films as The Legend of Lobo (1962) and The Incredible Journey (1963).
ALIAS JESSE JAMES (1959). Bing was one of many celebrities making fleeting appearances in a gun battle at the climax of this Bob Hope film made for United Artists. Those more qualified to tote a gun and who helped Hope in the final shoot-out alongside Bing, were Roy Rogers, Gary Cooper, Ward Bond, James Arness and Hugh O’Brian. The film had a title song which was recorded by Guy Mitchell.
ALL BY MYSELF Song. In Blue Skies Bing and Joan Caulfield sing this Irving Berlin composition whilst dancing at a party. Bing recorded the song solo for Decca in July 1946 to tie in with the film’s release.
ALL STAR BOND RALLY This was a short film made and released in 1945. It was produced by 20th Century-Fox on behalf of the U.S. Treasury Department. Its purpose was to promote the sale of the seventh issue of War Bonds and it is hardly surprising that Bing’s vocal contribution was the song “Buy, Buy Bonds”. Entertainers gave their services freely but also sparingly, as will be deduced from the roster of celebrities crammed into a running time of eleven minutes. Those appearing included Frank Sinatra (singing “Saturday Night Is the Loneliest Night of the Week”), Bob Hope, Betty Grable and husband Harry James, Harpo Marx and Linda Darnell. The short was supplied to cinemas free of charge for showing as a public service and Bonds could then be purchased at the cinema
ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT Song. One of the least hummable of Cole Porter’s compositions. It was sung by Bing in English and French to Zizi Jeanmaire in Paramount’s 1956 remake of Anything Goes.
ALL YOU WANT TO DO IS DANCE Song. The title of this song sums up Bing’s amorous frustrations at Mary Carlisle his leading lady who prefers the ballroom to his more romantic intentions in Paramount’s Double or Nothing (1937). It was written by Arthur Johnston (music) and Johnny Burke (lyric) especially for the film.
ALLEN, GRACIE (1902-1964). As far as Bing’s films are concerned, Gracie Allen was always one half of the Burns and Allen comedy partnership. Burns and Allen functioned as a team and they were always extra to the plot as far as their comedy film appearances were concerned. Remove Burns and Allen and the story would still develop. Between 1932 and 1935 Gracie was in five Crosby pics:
· The Big Broadcast (1932) as a receptionist
· Hollywood on Parade No. 2 (1932) A short for Paramount
· College Humor (1933) as a caterer
· We’re Not Dressing (1934) as a naturalist
· The Big Broadcast of 1936 (1935) co-inventor with husband George of a “Radio Eye”
George married Gracie in 1926 when both were popular in vaudeville. Radio, movies and television kept the team popular with Gracie appearing in only two films without her husband. In television’s first flush of greats in the 1950s the Burns and Allen Show will be in most top five lists for comedy.
ALLEN, JUDITH (1913-1996). Miss Allen shows us how fickle love can be. In Too Much Harmony (1933) she starts the movies as Jack Oakie’s fiancée and ends with Bing as husband to be. The following year, in She Loves Me Not, she begins the film as Bing’s betrothed and abandons him midway through the plot. Her adequate singing voice can be heard assisting Bing in Too Much Harmony with “Thanks” and “Buckin’ the Wind”. She was near her popularity peak when appearing with Bing, having been discovered by Cecil B. DeMille for his 1933 epic This Day and Age. By the end of that decade she was playing in cheap melodramas and westerns.
ALLEN, STEVE (1921-2000). When Bing’s Mack Sennett shorts were knitted into the compilation film Down Memory Lane, Steve Allen provided linking dialogue in the guise of a disc jockey presenting a television programme. This was type-casting at its best because Allen’s fame as a radio DJ turned to greater things in the mid-fifties when he presented the highly rated Steve Allen Show on American television. He has had occasional film parts, the most notable seeing him cast in the title role in The Benny Goodman Story (1956).
ALLISTER, CLAUDE (1893-1970). Bing’s early film appearance in Reaching for the Moon (1930) did not involve him in the plot of the film. The film’s story had Claude Allister playing Sir Horace Partington Chelmsford, and that character’s name tells us all we need to know about Allister. He was always the British accented dandy, probably most memorable as Ronald Colman’s sidekick Algy in Bulldog Drummond. His last film of any consequence was Kiss Me Kate (1953).
ALTON, ROBERT (1897-1957). As choreographer Alton staged the musical numbers on two consecutive Crosby pictures of the mid-fifties - White Christmas and The Country Girl. His career began on Broadway in the thirties but his most memorable career phase was his tenure at M-G-M between 1944 and 1953. That saw him contributing to some of Hollywood’s greatest ever musicals including The Harvey Girls (1946), Ziegfeld Follies (1946), Till the Clouds Roll By (1947), Good News (1947), The Pirate (1948) Easter Parade (1948), Annie Get Your Gun (1950), Show Boat (1951) and The Belle Of New York (1952). His brief stint with Paramount embraced the Bing assignments at a time when large scale M-G-M musicals were in decline.
ALWAYS Song. This strong Irving Berlin ballad was given scant Crosby treatment in the 1946 Blue Skies. Bing sang a few lines and then waited until the 1960s before committing it to wax.
AMOR AMOR Song. This popular 1940s song was featured in a 1944 Pathe Gazette which featured the opening of the Stage Door Canteen in London. Jack Buchanan introduced Bing to the servicemen assembled there on August 31, 1944 and Bing then proceeded to sing “Amor Amor”. The composer credits go to Ruiz, Mendez and Skylar.
AMOS ‘N’ ANDY Bing was in two films which featured this comedy duo, but never the trio shall meet because Bing played a guesting role in each. In Check and Double Check (1930) he was one of the Rhythm Boys whose voices were used in the “Three Little Words” number and in The Big Broadcast of 1936 (1935) his four minute vocal sequence was spliced into the movie. Amos ‘n’ Andy were two white men, Freeman F. Gosden and Charles Correll, who appeared in black face as two Negro comedians. They enjoyed enormous popularity on American radio and successfully transferred their humour to television in the 1950s for a series of 25 minute situation comedy shows. Their media popularity is spoken of in hushed tones in the 21st century because of the political incorrectness of their act.
AND YOU’LL BE HOME Song. In the film Mr. Music (1950) Bing sits on the edge of a stage and sings this accompanied by a chorus of students. In the plot this is a Paul Merrick (played by Crosby) composition. In reality it was written by the reliable Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen.
ANDERSON, EDDIE “ROCHESTER” (1905-1977). “Rochester” taught Mary Martin how to “sing jazz” in Birth of the Blues (1941). He appeared in two other Crosby films: Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) and You Can Change the World (1951) but he did not share the screen with Bing in either. Born to show business parents, he started his career in all-black revues and graduated to small roles in films in the early thirties when he was usually cast as a raspy-voiced banjo-eyed comic. Fame came in a big way on Easter Sunday 1937 because that was when he debuted on Jack Benny’s radio show. He was in a number of films with Benny (The Horn Blows at Midnight, Buck Benny Rides Again, The Meanest Man in the World) but his most significant appearance was playing the lead in the 1943 Cabin in the Sky. He followed Benny into television and was a mainstay in “The Jack Benny Show” as Benny’s manservant.
ANDERSON, JOHN MURRAY (1886-1954). Ignored by film reference works, Anderson was an early ‘talkies’ pioneer who worked on Bing’s first feature, King of Jazz as Director. It was his one cinematic moment of glory. Previously a stage director it was his lavish conceptions which have made King of Jazz timeless viewing in entertainment terms. At the time, Anderson’s apparent disregard of budgetary controls caused concern at Universal Studios and removed any prospect of the film making money for the studio.
ANDERSON, ROLAND (1903-1989). Art Director. Anderson worked exclusively for Paramount Pictures and always in collaboration. Up until 1950 he shared art direction credits with Hans Dreier, thereafter with Hal Pereira. His Crosby film credits are:
· Paris Honeymoon (1939)
· Holiday Inn (1942)
· Here Come the Waves (1944)
· Road to Utopia (1946)
· A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949)
· Just for You (1952)
· White Christmas (1954)
· The Country Girl (1954)
ANDRE, LONA [Laura Anderson] (1915-1992). Miss Andre began her supporting player career in 1933, the year in which she made brief appearances in her two Crosby films. In College Humor she was Ginger and in Too Much Harmony a chorus girl. She progressed through to the late forties as a minor leading lady and then retired to be a businesswoman. She was married for four days to actor Edward Norris, which probably provided a more interesting scenario than that offered by such of her films as Under the Pampas Moon (1935), Ghost Valley Riders (1940) and The Case of the Baby Sitter (1947).
ANDREWS SISTERS, THE (LaVerne, Maxene and Patty). Although frequent vocal companions to Bing during the 1940’s, the sisters made only one film appearance with him. That was in Road to Rio (1948) when they sang “You Don’t Have to Know the Language” with Bing at a ship’s concert. Their film career began in 1940 in Argentine Nights and they then made appearances in several Abbott and Costello comedies. The Poverty Row Studios claimed their services in the mid-forties for the likes of How’s About It (1943) and Moonlight and Cactus (1944). They were effective in providing the voices for two Disney cartoon features: Make Mine Music (1946) and Melody Time (1948). When LaVerne died in 1967, Maxene and Patty enjoyed a brief nostalgic revival with a ‘borrowed’ third sister.
ANDREWS, STANLEY (1892-1969) Character actor. You can tell the sort of parts Stanley Andrews played by his billing. He was in three Bing pictures. In Dixie (1943) he played Mr. Masters. He was “an official” in Road to Utopia (1946) and Captain Harmon in Road to Rio (1948). All could have been played by hundreds of similar bit part actors registered with central casting during Hollywood’s prolific 1940s decade. He ended his show business career with the sort of regular employment most actors strive for but never achieve: he played the old ranger host of television’s “Death Valley Days” from 1952 to 1965.
ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD An M.G.M. movie released in 1951 featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball team. Bing is seen on a golf course and he speaks briefly about angels.
ANGELS OF MERCY Both a one reel short film and its title song sung by Bing. It was released on all of America’s major film circuits at the end of 1941 to draw attention to the work of the American Red Cross. Irving Berlin wrote the song.
ANN-MARGRET (1941- ) Born Ann-Margret Olsson, this Swedish-born actress, singer, dancer was well established as an entertainer when she played the part of Dallas in the 1966 remake of Stagecoach. It was Bing’s last major film appearance. A-M’s first film was Pocketful of Miracles (1961) and she then made three musicals: State Fair (1962) Bye Bye Birdie (1963) and Viva Las Vegas (1964). Her strongest role was in the 1971 Carnal Knowledge and that film and the 1975 musical Tommy both resulted in Oscar nominations. She is married to TV actor Roger Smith, who, as her personal manager, guides her career with an increasingly strong bias towards a night club act and TV series.
ANSARA, MICHAEL (1922-2013). Ansara’s only appearance in a Crosby picture saw him eleventh billed as a guard in Road to Bali (1953). This probably tells us all we need to know about him. He is a swarthy character actor normally found halfway down the cast list. Although of Lebanese extraction he is often in Westerns as an American Indian. His career began in 1944 in the adventure film Action in Arabia. Highlights since have been in The Robe (his best part, as Judas), Julius Caesar, The Greatest Story Ever Told and Guns of the Magnificent Seven.
ANY BONDS TODAY (Song). One of the many American patriotic songs written by Irving Berlin. Bing sang this in Blue Skies (1946). The plot finds the Crosby character on a World War Two Bond raising tour and this song is aimed at boosting sales.
ANYTHING GOES (1936). The first of two versions filmed by Paramount and musically superior because of its strong score by Cole Porter, Leo Robin, Frederick Hollander, Richard Whiting, Edward Heyman and Hoagy Carmichael. The latter was added to the team because Bing was impressed by the song “Moonburn” and wanted it in the film. All the Porter songs were from his successful Anything Goes stage musical to which Paramount bought the rights in February, 1935, when the show had been running for four months on Broadway. Filming commenced in September, 1935, whilst the show was still playing at the Alvin Theatre. Ethel Merman was in the stage production and she was signed to reprise her role of Reno Sweeney after Paramount producer Benjamin Glazer negotiated a release from her theatre commitment. The original plot and dialogue were the work of P. G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton. Paramount assigned Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse to revise the show. Changes were necessary because the criminal element in the stage production was too sympathetic. Once that duo had toned down the glorification of crime Walter De Leon, Sidney Salkow, John Moffitt and Francis Martin worked on the film script. Jerry Tucker played Junior in the film and in a 1998 interview he explained that he was aged nine at the time of filming. His one lasting memory of making Anything Goes was tossing a football with Bing whilst waiting for the director to call action. The film casts Bing as Billy Crocker an accidental passenger on a ship bound for England. A series of mishaps involving gangsters, mistaken identities, disguises and Bing being jailed lead to the mandatory happy ending with enough opportunities along the way for Bing to sing five songs. The film has been retitled Tops is the Limit to avoid confusion with the 1956 re-make.
ANYTHING GOES (1956). Cole Porter’s score for this Technicolor remake was supplemented by three mediocre numbers from Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen. The start of shooting was delayed whilst Bing was hospitalised for the removal of a kidney stone and this enabled co-star Donald O’Connor to reschedule his own commitments in order to be in the movie. The plot of the 1936 version was totally rewritten with the one remaining similarity being the shipboard setting. In this one Bing plays Bill Benson, a musical comedy star travelling to England via Europe and back and singing five songs in the process. This film ended an association between Bing and Paramount which had lasted almost a quarter of a century.
ANYTHING GOES Song. A Cole Porter standard not sung by Bing in either of the film versions. This honour went to Ethel Merman (1936) and Mitzi Gaynor (1956). The latter version had uncredited lyrical alterations by Ted Fetter.
APALACHICOLA, FLA Song. Hope and Crosby sang this one in a carnival setting in Road to Rio (1948). Its purpose was to draw the crowds and it worked. Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen wrote the song and Bing and Bob interpolated a few bars from “Swanee River” and “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” when they delivered it in the movie.
APPLE FOR THE TEACHER, AN Song. This Johnny Burke - James V. Monaco composition was featured in two consecutive Crosby films. In The Star Maker (1939) it is part of a Broadway Revue with Bing duetting with Linda Ware and receiving support from a children’s’ chorus. The following year Bing, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour sing a few lines in Road to Singapore in order to gather an audience for the sale of ‘Spotto’ (a miracle liquid cleanser). The song surfaced again in 1947 when Gene Autry sang it in The Last Roundup.
APRIL PLAYED THE FIDDLE Song. A song about springtime romance is sung at a restaurant as part of a floor show to boost business in If I Had My Way (1940). Bing is supported on stage by The Six Hits and a Miss. Johnny Burke and James V. Monaco wrote the song along with most of the film’s vocal numbers.
A PROPOS DE RIEN Song. My schoolboy French tells me this song is about nothing. It is certainly less than memorable even though composed by those Crosby song tailors Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen. Nicole Maurey introduces the song in Little Boy Lost (1953) when she treats it as a nonsense number to amuse her son. It is crucial to the plot because its composer in the film is Bing who hopes it will trigger his son’s memory when he hears it crooned by Crosby. It does no such thing, even though Bing tackles it twice.
AREN’T YOU GLAD YOU’RE YOU Song. Although Burke and Van Heusen only composed one song for the film The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945), “Aren’t You Glad You’re You” received an Oscar nomination. Bing the philosopher sings it to teenager Joan Carroll in the film and we feel as uplifted as she does from the experience.
ARLEDGE, JOHN (1906-1947). In King of Jazz (1930) John put his vaudeville experience to work when he sang “Has Anybody Seen Our Nelly” as part of a quartet and danced “Rhapsody In Blue” together with assorted others. This early film role led to second lead and character parts. The latter embracing Gone with the Wind (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and I Wonder Who’s Kissing her Now (1947), his last film.
ARLEN, HAROLD (1905-1986) Bing sang songs by Arlen in eight films spanning his main movie career years. They were:
· Sing Bing, Sing (1932)
· We’re Not Dressing (1934)
· Star Spangled Rhythm (1942)
· Sing with the Stars (1944)
· Here Come the Waves (1944)
· Out of This World (1945)
· The Country Girl (1954)
· Pepe (1960)
Arlen wrote beautiful melodies and these attracted the most talented of lyric writers. His collaborators have included Johnny Mercer, Leo Robin, Dorothy Fields and Ralph Blane. Singing the songs on the big screen was a Hollywood’s Who’s Who of vocal talent such as Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Dinah Shore and Tony Martin. To keep this entry to a manageable length I will select what I consider to be his five most prominent non-Bing movies:
· Babes in Arms (1939)
· The Wizard of Oz (1939)
· Blues in the Night (1941)
· Cabin in the Sky (1943)
· A Star is Born (1954)
To prove he was no singer of his own compositions he made an album for CBS in the early 1960s: “Harold sings Arlen”. His movie career petered out at about the same time but by then Hollywood musicals had left their golden years far behind.
ARLEN, RICHARD (1899-1976). Arlen acted in just one film with Bing when he played “Mondy” Mondrake, a student to Bing’s drama professor Frederick Danvers, in the 1933 College Humor. By then Arlen had been in films for ten years and had taken lead roles as well as providing major support, as in College Humor. His peak as a silent star was in Wings (1927). From the 1930s onwards he alternated between hero parts in ‘B’ pictures and supporting roles in ‘A’ productions. In the latter category The Mountain (1956) and The Best Man (1964) stand out. He married and divorced Jobyna Ralston, his co-star in Wings. He worked in films up to the year of his death.
ARMETTA, HENRY (1888-1945). Halfway down the cast list of Too Much Harmony (1933) we find the part of Gallotti played by Henry Armetta. This is where he was usually found, invariably playing a comic, excitable, thickly accented Latin. He only made one film with Bing, finding most of his film opportunities away from Paramount. He is best remembered for his later film roles in The Big Store (1941) with the Marx Brothers, and Anchors Aweigh in the year of his death.
ARMSTRONG, LOUIS (1900-1971). One of the best known musicians of the twentieth century, Louis was instantly recognised vocally or visually. His career involvement with Bing extended beyond film work, although he left a lasting impression of his artistry on celluloid with his Crosby pictures. The first was Pennies from Heaven in 1936, followed fifteen years later with a guest spot in Here Comes The Groom as an airplane passenger joining Bing and others in singing “Misto Cristofo Columbo”. His last movie with Crosby was his most memorable, when he played himself in High Society (1956). He was born on Independence Day in New Orleans, the birthplace of Jazz. His trumpet playing made him famous long before his screen debut in Pennies from Heaven. Some twenty two films followed, the last being Hello Dolly in 1969. During the last twenty years of his life his appearance in a film usually lifted its entertainment quotient immediately he appeared. Parts in The Glenn Miller Story (1954) and The Five Pennies (1959) attest to this. A CBS TV documentary he made in 1957 sums him up quite well - it was called Satchmo the Great.
ARNHEIM, GUS (1897-1955). Bandleader/composer. It is in his capacity as bandleader that Arnheim is generally associated with Bing. He was active both on record and radio in the early years of Bing’s career. In that same era he also made one contribution to Crosby on film. That was as co-composer, with Harry Barris and Gordon Clifford, of “It Must Be True”, a song featured in the Mack Sennett short Dream House (1931). Bing enjoyed singing it sufficiently to record it on three separate occasions: 1930, 1939 and 1954. Two of his better known compositions are “I Cried for You” and “Sweet and Lovely”. It is interesting to note that he was employed by Stan Kenton as a pianist-arranger because Kenton’s music was far removed from the conventional style of Arnheim.
ARNT, CHARLES E. (1908-1990). For three consecutive years this small part character actor appeared in Paramount pictures with Bing. He will be best remembered as the lunatic Benny the Goof in Two for Tonight (1935) when he initiated a soda water fight with Bing in a scene at the Purple Cafe. Flanking that appearance were bits in Here Is My Heart (1934) and Rhythm on the Range (1936). He played a steward in the latter and then proceeded to be typecast for the next twenty five years as a meek busybody. He began his character role appearances in Hollywood movies in the early thirties and never made a major impact. Two of his bigger box office films prior to his retirement in the early sixties were Sitting Pretty (1948) and Wild in the Country (1961).
ARTHUR, JOHNNY (1882-1952). Jerry Colonna’s sidekick in Road to Singapore (1940) was Johnny Arthur in character as the aptly named Johnny Willow. Arthur was a small whining comedian in character roles from the early 1920s. His bread and butter acting came from numerous Our Gang shorts but he secured parts in ‘A’ pictures like Twenty Million Sweethearts (1934) and Stage Struck (1936), as well. Singapore was his only Crosby pic.
AS LONG AS I’M DREAMING Song. “The Doctor’s as good as Frank Sinatra” said a passenger on the sleigh on which Bing serenaded Joan Caulfield when he sang this song in Welcome Stranger. A Johnny Burke-James Van Heusen composition so typical of the work they wrote to order for Bing’s movies.
ASKIN, LEON (1907-2005). As Chief Ramayana, Head of the Headhunter Tribe in Road to Bali, Leon Askin was embarking on a Hollywood career which saw him typecast as the unpleasant foreigner well into the 1990s. As a nine year-old boy, he had recited a 17-stanza eulogy for Emperor Francis Joseph in front of the city hall of Vienna’s ninth district and he later emigrated to the USA. Not normally seen in black face, he was usually the heavyweight slavic type in movies such as Knock on Wood (1954), One, Two, Three (1961), The Perils of Pauline (1967) and Young Frankenstein (1974). He makes a contribution to some memorable “Road” confusion in Bali when Bing and Bob Hope both expect to be married to Dorothy Lamour. What the boys don’t know is that Ramayana intends marrying Dottie and killing his two American rivals. Leon Askin went on to be active in TV as General Burckhalter in the Bing Crosby Productions series Hogan’s Heroes.
ASTAIRE, FRED (1899-1987). Actor, dancer, vocalist, composer and choreographer, although it’s the first two which concern us here in the context of Bing’s films. He took top billing with Bing in two of the biggest grossing musicals of the 1940s - Holiday Inn (1942) and Blue Skies (1946). In Holiday Inn he played Ted Hanover, part of a show business trio with Bing and Virginia Dale. His duets with Bing were “I’ll Capture Your Heart” and “Let’s Start the New Year Right”. In Blue Skies he was Jed Potter, an ex-vaudeville partner of Bing’s, with whom he sang “A Couple of Song And Dance Men”. It was as a result of carrying out a little on-screen hoofing with Crosby that he could tactfully answer “Bing Crosby” when asked to name his favourite dancing partner. He was born Frederick Austerlitz and built his career on a dancing partnership with his sister Adele which held together until the early thirties when she retired to marry Lord Charles Cavendish. That provided the spur to move into movies and it was in that medium that he found his greatest success. Adele was replaced by Ginger Rogers who was paired with him in ten films. Not wildly successful at the box office when they were released, they are now regarded as classics. The film Dancing Lady (1933) introduced him to picturegoers when he partnered Joan Crawford. That same year he began an unbroken run of fine films which took him to the end of that decade: Flying Down to Rio (1933), The Gay Divorcee (1934), Top Hat (1935), Roberta (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), Swing Time (1936), Shall We Dance (1937), A Damsel in Distress (1937), Carefree (1938) and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939). There is a theory that an entertainer’s peak years never extend beyond seven, and in Astaire’s case they are probably the 1930s. However the 1940s and 1950s saw him partnering such ladies as Rita Hayworth, Eleanor Powell and Cyd Charisse. In 1946 he announced his retirement but two years later he was enticed back with the opportunity to team with Judy Garland in Easter Parade. Some memorable movies from this twenty year time span include: You Were Never Lovelier (1942), Yolanda and the Thief (1945), The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), Royal Wedding (1951), The Band Wagon (1953), Daddy Longlegs (1955), Funny Face (1957) and On the Beach (1959). On the Beach was his first dramatic role and it signified the end of his musical career, with one minor exception. That exception was Finian’s Rainbow (1968) when he proved he couldn’t dance like his old self. In 1974 he took a more sedate turn round the dance floor with Jennifer Jones when he had a character part in The Towering Inferno. A tenuous link with Bing came with That’s Entertainment, also in 1974. He was one of the narrators for this assembly of notable musical items from M-G-M vaults, which featured some Bing clips from that studio. His last films included the forgettable Purple Taxi (1977) a French, Italian, Irish production and Ghost Story (1981). The last ten years of his life were devoted to public appearances and interviews which dwelt on his peak years and the magnificent contribution he made to the art of dancing in the twentieth century.
AT YOUR COMMAND Song. Bing sings the song over the radio in the Mack Sennett featurette I Surrender Dear (1931). It has special meanings for Marion Sayers, who has been kissed by Bing earlier in an episode of mistaken identity. When she hears the song, she is re-united with Bing and a happy ending is provided in the last two minutes of this one-reeler. The 1946 compilation Road to Hollywood also featured the song. Bing composed the song with ex-Rhythm Boy Harry Barris and established tunesmith Harry Tobias.
ATES, ROSCOE (1892-1962). Pronounced R-R-R-Roscoe Ates, because Ates’ movie career was built round his comic stutter combined with his rubber face and bulging eyes. In Hollywood on Parade No. 4 (1933) Bing is given the opportunity to sing “Boo-Boo-Boo” to girls on exercise machines because Ates’ stuttering puts them out of rhythmic-sync. His other bit in a Crosby picture was as the horse cab driver who over-charges in Birth of the Blues (1941). Ates entered films in 1929 following 15 years as a concern violinist with stage and vaudeville experience. He put his comic talents to work in Hollywood mainly as a sidekick to screen cowboys, although bigger budget efforts included Alice in Wonderland (1933) and The Errand Boy (1961), which was also his last film. He was in three serious dramas which proved he could turn his hand to less obvious comic parts: Gone with the Wind (1939), Chad Hanna (1940) and Come Next Spring (1956).
AUER, MISCHA (1905-1967). An alphabetical coincidence places Mischa after our previous entrant and serves to highlight a number of similarities. Both entered films in the late twenties, both were regarded as comic character actors and both made capital of a possible thyroid condition which gave them bulging eyes. Auer’s maternal grandfather was also a violinist and it was he who brought him to the States from Russia in 1920. His only Crosby film was East Side of Heaven (1939), when he was fourth billed as Nicky, Bing’s friend and room-mate. It was a cue from Auer that provides Bing with the opportunity to sing “That Sly Old Gentleman” to Baby Sandy, because Auer’s attempt at a Russian song has the opposite effect as a lullaby. Around this time Auer was also a guest on Bing’s weekly ‘Kraft Music Hall’ broadcasts. Mischa Auer appeared in more than sixty Hollywood films before settling in Europe in the late forties. His first truly memorable part was in the 1936 My Man Godfrey which won him an Oscar nomination and bigger supporting roles. His long, sad face and droll delivery enlivened such films as Three Smart Girls (1937), You Can’t Take It With You (1938), Destry Rides Again (1939), Hellzapoppin (1941), Lady In The Dark (1944) and Brewster’s Millions (1945). The European movies were no match for the Hollywood comedy production line and only Mr. Arkadin (1955) remains in the memory.
AUF WIEDERSEHEN, MY DEAR Song. In the early thirties Bing sang this Milton Ager, Ed Nelson, Al Hoffman, Al Goodhart composition in two shorts. In the Mack Sennett featurette Blue of the Night it wraps up his last appearance in a night club and in Hollywood on Parade No. 2 he sings it to Gracie Allen on learning she is married to George Burns. The Blue of the Night sequence was re-used in the 1949 compilation Down Memory Lane.
AVALON BOYS Only rarely do we find a Crosby film song not issued commercially. Such a one is “There’ll Always Be a Lady Fair”, a Cole Porter composition used in the 1936 Anything Goes movie. Bing sings this with the Avalon Boys and what superb harmonies ensue. The Avalon Boys were a quartet led by Chill Wills, a Hollywood character actor whose only Bing movie link is here.
AVE MARIA Song. One of those lump in the throat compositions that hits the soundtrack when the going gets simultaneously serious and sentimental. Written by Franz Schubert and sung by Father O’Malley and Genevieve Linden (Bing and Rise Stevens) in Going My Way (1944). The Robert Mitchell Boys choir adds a suitably celestial choral backing.
AYLMER, SIR FELIX (1889-1979). Actor in Bing’s only British movie, The Road to Hong Kong (1962). This oh so typically English actor played the Grand Lama in the sequence set in Tibet where Crosby and Hope are sent for a memory potion. Aylmer had distinguished himself as a stage actor in the twenty or so years preceding his film debut in The Wandering Jew (1933). His first love remained the theatre even when he was in demand for well written character parts. He also wrote plays and adapted several of them for the cinema. His main cinematic output has been in British productions, some of the better known being: Victoria The Great (1938), Night Train to Munich (1940), The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943), Henry V (1944), The Way Ahead (1945), The Wicked Lady (1945), Hamlet (1948), So Long At The Fair (1950), Quo Vadis (1951, Anastasia (1956), Separate Tables (1958) and Exodus (1960). The last four were made in the USA. His final picture was the British made Decline and Fall in 1968.
BABCOCK, EDWARD CHESTER (1913-1990) The real name of songwriter James Van Heusen, where a full entry will be found. In The Road to Hong Kong he was the name of Bob Hope’s character, as an in-joke.
BABY SANDY (1938 - ). If Sunday press exposes were short of copy in the late thirties they could have run the story “Baby Sandy is a Girl” because the baby boy character in the 1939 East Side of Heaven was the thirteen month old Alexandra Lee Henville. The film refers to him throughout and baby Sandy plays a pivotal role in the film’s plot. The film’s fade out shot is of Baby Sandy cradled in Bing’s arms as he sings East Side of Heaven. When a film career starts at the top it can only move in one direction. East Side of Heaven was followed by four ‘Baby Sandy’ films and then four indifferent features, the last one being Johnny Doughboy in 1942. She was a spent force by the age of five and went on to become a legal secretary.
BABY SITTER, THE Cartoon. Paramount’s cartoon unit quiet frequently promoted their own contract players. In the mid forties the “Saturday Evening Post” strip “Little Lulu” was brought to the big screen and in 1947 the cartoon The Baby Sitter was made. The story shows how Lulu is assigned as baby sitter and her attempts to keep baby in his cot leads to a dream sequence. This finds Lulu at the Stork Club [a night club for babies!] where the stage show features nappified versions of W.C. Fields, Bing, Bob Hope and Jerry Colonna.
BACON, IRVING (1893-1965) Character actor. Bacon lent his doleful simpleton-like presence to seven Crosby films. He popped up in minor roles in Crosby pictures over a twenty year period. He is seen first in the Mack Sennett short Sing, Bing, Sing (1932) when he is the disapproving father of Bing’s girl (Florine McKinney). He has bit parts as an announcer in Rhythm on the Range (1936) and as a lecturer on seals in Sing You Sinners (1938). He plays the taxi driver Gus in Holiday Inn (1942) and is next seen selling hamburgers in Riding High (1950). Also in 1950 he could be found selling jewellery in Mr. Music before bowing out of the Crosby film world the following year when he played Bates, the butler, in Here Comes the Groom. There was nothing flashy about the comic support Bacon provided in the thirty plus years he spent in films. He contributed to over 200 movies and was probably never out of work for more than a few hours.
BAGGOT, KING (1874-1948). Actor-director. A good example of how the mighty can fall. He popped up as a gambler in Mississippi (1935). He was a much in demand handsome leading man in silent films from 1911 (The Scarlet Letter) until 1923 (The Thrill Chaser). Then he became a director and in 1925 made Tumbleweeds, a critically admired western. Yet by the end of the 1920s he was all but forgotten and ended his career playing bit parts.
BAILEY, PEARL (1918-1990). Primarily a singer, Pearl Bailey made two strong impressions on me as a television performer. In the late 1950s she appeared drunk on a live “Sunday Night at the London Palladium” broadcast and in the mid-seventies contributed to that fateful Pasadena concert being recorded for television and at the end of which Bing fell. The celluloid link with Crosby was at the very beginning of her Hollywood career when she sang “Tired” in that compendium of Paramount talent, Variety Girl (1947). Her subsequent film output is not too lengthy to list in its entirety. 1948 - Isn’t It Romantic 1955 - Carmen Jones 1956 - That Certain Feeling 1958 - St. Louis Blues 1959 - Porgy and Bess 1960 - All the Fine Young Cannibals 1970 - The Landlord. Best known as a jazz singer she won a Tony Award as Dolly in the all-black production of “Hello Dolly!”
BALL, ERNEST R. (1878-1927) Composer. The Oxford Companion of Popular Music described him thus: “He is remembered best for a number of sham Irish (but unforgettable) songs”. Bing sang two of them in films. The first was “A Little Bit of Heaven” from I Surrender Dear (1931). The other was “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” from Top o’ the Morning (1949). Ball’s songs were favourites of John McCormack, who in turn was admired by Bing. He will go down in musical history as a founder member of ASCAP.
BARBIER, GEORGE (1865-1945) Character actor. He was Mr. Clapsaddle, the sponsor of the radio show in The Big Broadcast (1932), J. Thorval Jones, the film producer in She Loves Me Not (1934) and J.P. Todhunter, the company president in Waikiki Wedding (1937). From that trio of pictures we know he was often cast as an important personage with a slightly funny name. He was training for the priesthood when he was smitten by the acting bug. A successful ten year career on Broadway led to twenty years in films.
BARNES, GEORGE (1893-1953). American director of photography. He was the regular cameraman on Bing’s films from the late forties until the time of his death. The eight Bing films he photographed were: The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945), The Emperor Waltz (1948), Riding High (1950) [co-director of photography with Ernest Laszlo], Mr. Music (1950), Here Comes the Groom (1951), Just For You (1952), Road to Bali (1953) and Little Boy Lost (1953). In addition he was co-photographer on The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). He began his film career in 1919 and made the transition from black and white to colour successfully in the 1940s. The Technicolor richness of The Emperor Waltz attests to this. If you have seen some of the more popular films Barnes photographed you will have a memory of the impact his visuals made. A few with still lingering images for me are Rebecca (1940), Jane Eyre (1944), Spellbound (1945), Sinbad the Sailor (1947), Samson and Delilah (1949) and The War of the Worlds, his last film, shot in 1953. Trivia buffs need to know that he was married seven times, once to Joan Blondell from 1932 to 1936.
BARRAT, ROBERT (1891-1970) Tall, imposing character actor in over 150 screen roles. He was often cast as a foreigner and a heavy. He was in two consecutive Road films with Bing, Bob and Dottie: Utopia in 1946 and Rio in 1948. In the first he was Sperry who, together with colleague McGurk, is at odds with Hope and Crosby for most of the story. In Road to Rio he is Johnson of Johnson’s Mammoth Carnival where Bing and Bob perform their “Apalachicola” routine. Like all bit part players he had to take the rough with the smooth and go where the work lay. This is why the ‘A’ pictures like The Life of Emile Zola (1937) and Joan of Arc (1948) rub shoulders with such dross as King of the Jungle (1933) and Son of Ali Baba (1952).
BARRETT, JUDITH [Lucille Kelley] (1909-2000) Leading lady in 1930s ‘B’ pictures. Examples are Flying Hostess (1936) and Television Spy (1939). When she was offered the occasional bigger budget film she was lower down the cast list. Her one film with Bing was Road to Singapore (1940). She played Bing’s girlfriend Gloria Wycott. It was made as her career came to a sudden halt. She disappeared from the public eye, making no further films after 1940.
BARRIS, HARRY (1905-1962). For the purpose of tracing Harry Barris’ contribution to Bing’s celluloid career we need to put in three separate compartments. As a Rhythm Boy he appeared with Bing and Al Rinker in four films over a fifteen month time span. They were:
a) King of Jazz (1930)
b) Two Plus Fours (1930)
c) Check and Double Check (voice only) (1930)
d) Confessions of a Co-Ed (1931)
In b) they were augmented Rhythm Boys with Ed Deering and Spec O’Donnell joining the trio to receive billing as “The College Boys”. The songs from the four Rhythm Boys films were:
a) “Music Hath Charms”, “Mississippi Mud”, “So the Bluebirds and the Blackbirds Got Together”, “A Bench in the Park” and “Happy Feet”.
b) “The Stein Song”
c) “Three Little Words”
d) “Ya Got Love”
Phase two of the Crosby/Barris movie association is the use of songs co-written by Barris and featured by Bing in five films made between 1931 and 1933. The songs Barris helped write are:
i) “I Surrender Dear”
ii) “At Your Command”
iii) “It Must Be True”
Bing sang “I Surrender Dear” in the film I Surrender Dear (1931), One More Chance (1931), The Big Broadcast (1932) and College Humor (1933). He sang “At Your Command” in I Surrender Dear and “It Must Be True” in Dream House (1931).
The final phase of the association is the involvement of Barris in about one Crosby picture a year from 1937 to 1944. There is a strong probability that it was the Crosby muscle that secured these small acting assignments for Harry Barris and the studio played safe by casting him as a musician of sorts in all but one film. He also had the chance to sing once more with Bing in the first of these. It was Double or Nothing (1937) and he played an orchestra leader who joins Bing, Martha Raye and Francis Faye on the song “After You”. The other appearances are:
· Sing You Sinners (1938). A band leader.
· Rhythm On The River (1940) A saxophone player.
· Birth Of The Blues (1941) Suds, A jazz musician.
· Holiday Inn (1942) A musician.
· Dixie (1943) A drummer.
· Here Come The WAVES (1944) A club announcer.
BARRYMORE, ETHEL (1879-1959). Actress. In Just for You (1952) Miss Barrymore is cast as Allida De Bronkhart, the headmistress of St. Hilary’s School for Girls. It was a relatively small part for “The First Lady of the American Theatre” but she was past her acting peak. Bing observed: “I noticed that when Ethel was rehearsing for scenes apparently she was not concerned with her lines, the business or the props. But when Elliot Nugent, the director, finally said, “Let’s take it” her first take was perfect.” Nugent was unprepared for such perfection and kept requesting retakes, with Barrymore’s reading of the part deteriorating. Bing remarked, “Like any true champion she’d built herself up for one major effort and that was it.” Ethel Barrymore was a Crosby fan. “He doesn’t know it,” she said, “but the family and I love his stuff. We’ve got practically all of his records back to the time he was with Paul Whiteman.” In fact, Bing was aware of her feelings towards him. On August 15th, 1949, she had celebrated her seventieth birthday, which conveniently coincided with her fiftieth year as an actress. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had arranged their most ambitious taped radio programme up to that time. At 10.30 p.m., one hundred and fifty colleagues paid tribute to her, with Bing singing “Happy Birthday”. Ethel Barrymore had been in films since 1914 and saw films as a way of filling in time between theatrical engagements. She made her last silent film in 1919 - The Divorcee, and her talkie debut did not come until 1933 when she played the Czarina in Rasputin and The Mad Empress. Between that film and Just For You she managed to land solid parts in better movies, such as None But The Lonely Heart (1944), The Spiral Staircase (1946), The Farmer’s Daughter (1947), The Paradine Case (1948), Portrait of Jenny (1949) and Pinky (1949). After her Crosby picture she made only four more films, the best remembered of which is Young At Heart (1955).
BARTLETT, SY (1909-1978) Screenwriter/producer. Sydney S. Bartlett devised the story of Road to Zanzibar (1941) along with Don Hartman. It was his only involvement in a Crosby film although he was responsible for the story of The Princess and the Pirate (1944), a Bob Hope comedy in which Bing made a brief appearance. He wrote some good stuff once he left lightweight comedy assignments behind. Critical and box-office triumphs included 12 o’ Clock High (1950), The Big Country (1958) and Cape Fear (1962). He wrote the first two and produced the third. All of them starred Gregory Peck, with whom he formed a production company. He wrote and produced Che in 1969 and then retired.
BARTON, JAMES (1890-1962) Actor. He was in one Crosby movie, Here Comes the Groom (1951). He played Pa Jones, the father of the Jane Wyman character. He was pleased when Bing married her because he was not happy having Franchot Tone (her other suitor) as his son-in-law. Although he was usually cast as a rough diamond his background equipped him to play just about any character part that came along. He’d been a straight actor in stock, played in vaudeville and burlesque as part of an act with his parents, tap danced and been cast in Broadway musicals. His film career began in the silent era and he continued appearing in Hollywood movies until the time of his death. His last part was in The Misfits (1961).
BE CAREFUL, IT’S MY HEART Song. Written for Holiday Inn (1942) by Irving Berlin, Bing sings it in a scene when he is rehearsing with Marjorie Reynolds for a St. Valentine’s Day night club appearance.
BEACH OF DREAMS This was a story written by Harry Hervey about missionaries on a tropical island. It was a serious tale owned by Paramount and it became the basis for the first Road film, Road to Singapore (1940). Frank Butler and Don Hartman re-worked it into a comedy classic.
BEAUTIFUL GIRL Song. If you want to know how easy it is to record a song, watch Bing at the beginning of Going Hollywood (1933) as he casually puts “Beautiful Girl” in the can before departing for Hollywood. Written by Nacio Herb Brown (music) and Arthur Freed (lyrics) it turned up later that year in the film Stage Mother and again in Singin’ in the Rain (1952) when Jimmie Thompson sang it. It was common for M-G-M and Freed to re-use compositions in this way.
BEAVERS, LOUISE (1902-1962) Actress. Typecast as usual as a cook, she played Mamie in Holiday Inn (1942) and joined in the singing of “Abraham” with other cast members. If she wasn’t playing a cook she was playing a housekeeper or maid. Her best performance came in 1934 when she played Aunt Jemima in Imitation of Life. She obviously did not object to the type of acting jobs she was given because a late career highlight was playing the title role in “Beulah”, a popular television show. Her Hollywood film career came to an end after appearing in the Bob Hope comedy The Facts of Life (1960)
BELASCO, LEON (1902-1988). Character actor. He was in two consecutive 1942 Bing films: Holiday Inn, as the owner of a flower shop and Road to Morocco as Yusef. The latter role was typical of the way Hollywood treated him because of his Russian origins. If a bit part player was needed to play an ethnic type Belasco was the man. He came to films from being a bandleader and must have been in at least a hundred films which allowed him to exercise his excitable personality in comic roles.
BELLS OF ST. MARY’S, THE Film. This was the Christmas, 1945, attraction at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, and Bing was at the premiere. The film was the most profitable film RKO ever made and took $8 million on its initial American release. It went on to make more money than its ‘inspiration’, the 1944 Going My Way. It would be unjust to refer to it as a remake of that film but Bing was still Father O’Malley and plot similarities were not too well hidden. The audience did not mind. It was a popular success in its own right and director Leo McCarey knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote it as soon as he had measured the success of Going My Way. As it is readily available to buy for home viewing it seems pointless reviewing the plot of this 126 minute sentimental drama. A one line attempt could read “Bing goes to the run down parish of St. Mary’s and Ingrid Bergman disapproves of his relaxed approach until he solves a few problems and converts a sourdough into a benefactor”. Ingrid Bergman was released from her David O. Selznick contract to make the film in return for the remake rights to A Bill of Divorcement and Little Women plus $175,000. She never really warmed to her leading man even though the atmosphere on the set become more friendly as shooting progressed. “I didn’t get to know Bing at all”, she wrote. “He was very polite and nice, and couldn’t have been more pleasant, but he was always surrounded by a little group of three or four men chattering away and protecting him from everybody else.” The clever critics disliked it. The one on the ‘New York Times’ wrote: “The whole storyline developed towards the wheedling of a building for the school is unconvincing and vaguely immoral.” James Agee, writing in ‘The Nation’, said “I find very objectionable the movies increasing recognition of the romantic-commercial values of celibacy.” Bing’s contract with Paramount was due for renewal at the time of the film’s initial release and brother Everett was in a strong position to negotiate a new deal with them that guaranteed Paramount Bing’s exclusive acting services for the next seven years.
BELLS OF ST. MARY’S, THE Song. This title song from the film was a 1917 composition by Douglas Furber and A. Emmett Adams. It was written for a musical comedy of the time. It is placed at the end of the film and Bing is accompanied by a chorus of nuns. As a piece of music it has been tackled in extremely different ways. Clyde McPhatter provided a soul interpretation in the fifties and Australian bushranger Slim Dusty did it his way in the sixties. Ice Cream van chimes and music box abbreviations confirm it is now out of copyright.
BELOIN, EDMUND (1910-1992) Writer of comedy screenplays. He had a hand in four which involved Bing. My Favourite Brunette (1947) was a Bob Hope script he co-wrote with Jack Rose that involved Bing in a gag sequence. He collaborated with Rose again for Road to Rio (1948) but took full credit for A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949). His final Crosby effort was a collaboration with Richard Breen for Top o’ the Morning (1949). His skill in developing comedy material was honed between 1936 and 1943 when he wrote for “The Jack Benny Show” on radio. Benny then used him as writer on a couple of his films. Most of Beloin’s work was for Paramount and he tailored later scripts for Jerry Lewis (The Sad Sack in 1957 and Don’t Give Up the Ship in 1959) and Elvis (G.I. Blues in 1960).
BENCHLEY, ROBERT (1889-1945). It was at the end of Benchley’s career that he brought his humorous style to bear on a couple of Crosby pictures. He played himself in Duffy’s Tavern (1945) when he is in a scene narrating a bedtime story to the four Crosby boys. The story happens to be about their dad, who makes a brief appearance. The following year he is used to great advantage in Road to Utopia (1946) which he introduces and then acts as occasional narrator. He is also glimpsed in the short Hollywood Victory Caravan (1945) in which Bing sings one song. Benchley was a literary man and pre-Hollywood he was a newspaper editor. He became Managing Editor of “Vanity Fair” and later on drama editor of “Life” and theatre critic for the “New Yorker”. He made his mark in films as writer/narrator/actor in a series of shorts made between 1928 and 1945. These were nothing more than ten minute lectures with self-explanatory titles like The Sex Life of the Polyp (1928), How to Sleep (1935), The Courtship of a Newt (1938) and Keeping in Shape (1942). At the time they seemed very funny. By the early thirties producers were conscious that Benchley could add value to their feature products, particularly as he often wrote his own material. This led to appearances in such as China Seas (1935), Foreign Correspondent (1940), The Major and the Minor (1942) I Married a Witch (1942) and Weekend at the Waldorf (1945). For many years he coped with an alcohol problem.
BENDIX, WILLIAM (1906-1964). Actor. Like Bing, a Paramount contract player, but it seemed as though the two were destined to appear in the same film without meeting. They avoided being in the same scene in three of Paramount’s all-star compendium films, Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), Duffy’s Tavern (1945) and Variety Girl (1947). When they were cast together it was perfect casting. It happened just once, in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949). Bing is Hank Martin who finds himself waking up in the year 582 AD by being prodded with the lance of Sir Sagramore (Bendix). Bing later prevents the execution of his friend and the good humour positively bubbles when they are joined by Sir Cedric Hardwicke for the “Busy Doing Nothing” sequence. Bendix made his Broadway acting debut as an Irish Cop in 1939. In 1942 he moved to Hollywood and was soon churning out a film every two to three months. He was one rung above character actor although type-casting usually saw him as a simpleminded soul. He proved a good foil for Alan Ladd in The Glass Key (1942) and The Blue Dahlia (1946). Whilst his film career was taking hold he went to the heart of the listening public with his weekly sit-com The Life of Riley. This was filmed in 1949 and then became a successful television series in the fifties. He was most at home in action/adventure pictures, hence Two Years Before the Mast (1946), Streets of Laredo (1949), Submarine Command (1951) Macao (1952) and The Deep Six (1958). He decided to transfer his film career to England in the late fifties and cheap but popular films like Idol on Parade (1958) and Johnny Nobody (1961) kept him in the public eye. His last film, released the year after his death, was Young Fury.
BENNETT, JOAN (1910-1990). Actress and leading lady to Bing in two consecutive 1935 movies, Mississippi and Two for Tonight. As is to be expected, Bing wound up with Miss Bennett in both films. Joan was the younger sister of actress Constance. She entered films at the age of six and became a “star” in 1929 when she was cast opposite Ronald Colman in Bulldog Drummond. By the time she was acting with Bing she was a box-office draw. She was acting in films until the late seventies and appeared in a fair number of clinkers. The few redeeming movies she made after the 1930s included The Woman in the Window (1944), Father of the Bride (1950) and We’re No Angels (1955). Towards the end of her career she was enticed to what was then the land of Hollywood has-beens (Italy) where she made a fairly impressive horror picture, Suspiria (1977). I do not know of any film in which she appeared which had a plot more intriguing than her own potted biography. The bare bones are this. She married at 16, became a mother at 17 and divorced at 18. Her second husband was producer-writer Gene Markey (married 1932, divorced 1937). Her next producer was Walter Wanger whom she married in 1940. That marriage lasted for a quarter of a century but had a strange interlude mid-way when Wanger was jailed for shooting Jennings Lang, Miss Bennett’s agent, when he was in a jealous rage. Her fourth marriage was in 1978 to movie critic David Wilde.
BERGMAN, INGRID (1915-1982). Actress who made one film with Bing, but it burnt itself into the cinematic memory. She was Sister Benedict in The Bells of St. Mary’s and although relationships on set were generally professional rather than overly friendly, the screen relationships of Father O’Malley and Sister Benedict were warm and endearing. Her film career began in Sweden and it was Hollywood producer David O. Selznick who was confident that he could make a lot of money out of her that resulted in her English speaking screen debut in Intermezzo (1940). There were more hits than misses in the early Hollywood years: Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), Casablanca (1943), Gaslight (1944), Spellbound (1945) and Notorious (1946). It was notoriety which saw her popularity instantly plummet when she left her husband for Italian director Robert Rossellini in 1949. It was not until she made Anastasia in England in 1956 that she began to prove her worth as a box-office draw once more. The successes were not as thick on the ground as during her Hollywood hey-day however, with only The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), Cactus Flower (1969) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974) standing out. By the 1970s she was in demand by directors for the art house cinema market and she was nominated for an Academy Award as best actress for her performance in Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata. She died of cancer.
BERLE, MILTON (1908-2002) Comedian. In Let’s Make Love (1960) he was one of the three tutors employed by Yves Montand to turn him into a polished entertainer. Bing was Montand’s vocal coach. Gene Kelly gave dancing lessons and Berle dispensed the finer art of comic delivery. Berle was treading the boards at the age of four and in silent movies at the age of eight. Adult movie roles began in 1937 but nothing memorable came out of Hollywood. It was television which made him famous. He hosted variety shows in the States from 1948 and when he was at his TV peak in the mid-fifties he was known as “Mr. Television”. However, by the late fifties America’s television love affair with ‘Uncle Miltie’ was on the wane and he took another stab at the big screen. By and large the parts were small but the films themselves had better production values than earlier. Titles such as The Bellboy (1959), It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World (1963), The Loved One (1965) and The Oscar (1966) are respectable contributions to his filmography.
BERLIN, IRVING (1888-1989). Composer who wrote the songs for three of Bing’s most popular films. His contribution to Crosby pictures is detailed below together with the songs which were sung by Bing:
1. Reaching for the Moon (1930). When The Folks High up Do the Mean Low Down (with Bebe Daniels and June McCloy)
2. Angels of Mercy (1941): Angels of Mercy
3. Holiday Inn (1942): I’ll Capture Your Heart (with Fred Astaire and Virginia Dale and reprised with Astaire, Dale and Marjorie Reynolds). Lazy; White Christmas (with Marjorie Reynolds); Happy Holiday (with Marjorie Reynolds); Let’s Start the New Year Right (sung twice, on the second occasion with Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds and Virginia Dale); Abraham (with Marjorie Reynolds, Louise Beavers, Joan Arnold and Shelby Bacon); Be Careful, It’s My Heart; Easter Parade; Song of Freedom; I’ve Got Plenty to Be Thankful For
4. Blue Skies (1946); I’ve Got My Captain Working for Me Now (with Billy de Wolfe); All by Myself (with Joan Caulfield); I’ll See You in Cuba (with Olga San Juan); A Couple of Song and Dance Men (with Fred Astaire); You Keep Coming Back Like a Song (sung twice); Always; Blue Skies; The Little Things in Life; Not For All the Rice in China; Russian Lullaby; Everybody Step; How Deep Is the Ocean; Getting Nowhere; Any Bonds Today; This Is the Army Mr. Jones; White Christmas
5. White Christmas (1954): White Christmas (sung twice, the second time with Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Gloria Wood); The Old Man (with Danny Kaye); Heat Wave (with Danny Kaye); Let Me Sing and I’m Happy (with Danny Kaye); Blue Skies (with Danny Kaye); Snow (with Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Gloria Wood); I’d Rather See a Minstrel Show (with Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney); Mandy (sung twice, first with Danny Kaye, then with Rosemary Clooney); Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep (with Rosemary Clooney); What Can You Do with a General; Gee, I Wish I Was Back in the Army (with Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Gloria Wood)
If it were necessary to have a claim to place Berlin amongst the top popular composers of the twentieth century it would be supported by these incontestable facts:
a) He wrote both words and music
b) His success spanned half a century
c) His songs had durability - many are now standards.
To see the man in action (he could only play and compose in the key of f) he was a most unassuming type. His singing talent was better left in the bathroom. Bing tellingly said: “You have to hug him to hear him.” His contributions to non-Crosby films provide a list of hit musicals including: The Jazz Singer (1927), Kid Millions (1934), Top Hat (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), On the Avenue (1937), Carefree (1938), Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938), This is the Army (1943), Easter Parade (1948), Annie Get Your Gun (1950), Call Me Madam (1953) and There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954). There was talk of a movie to be based on his life, appropriately titled Say it with Music. Berlin had little enthusiasm for the project and despite a proposed strong cast, including Bing, Sinatra, Dean Martin and Louis Armstrong, nothing materialised.
BESSER, JOE (1907-1988) Broad comedian who made occasional films. His one Crosby film link was as Joe Greb in Say One For Me (1959). He played the part of Robert Wagner’s theatrical agent. As an ex-vaudevillian Besser’s characterisations lacked subtlety. For that reason he was an ideal late addition to membership of the Three Stooges comic team when the death of one of the original Stooges created a vacancy in their act.
BEST, WILLIE (1916-1962). Black actor who played a steward in Dixie (1943). We could leave it there because Best was in films at a time when most black actors were stereotyped as wide-eyed comic dimwits. Like Stepin Fetchit and Mantan Moreland, Best was invariably found in self-demeaning roles. Thankfully there has been no place on screen for such performances since the middle of the last century.
BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA Song. Shoe-horned into the Sennett short Sing, Bing, Sing (1932) for no reason other than that it is a good song. Bing waited a quarter of a century before committing it to wax. Written by Ted Koehler and Harold Arlen, the song is rightly regarded as a standard for all middle of the road singers to tackle at some stage in their careers.
BEVAN, BILLY [William Bevan Harris] (1887-1957). There is a sequence in Too Much Harmony (1933) where a rehearsal for a Broadway show is taking place. Billy Bevan is seen directing the performers. It was a tiny part for an actor who had been starring in two-reel comedies some five years earlier. He made about 70 of them for Mack Sennett between 1920 and 1929. By the time of Too Much Harmony he was taking any bit part that kept him in the film business. For the next twenty years he popped up in character parts for most of the Hollywood studios. He retired from the screen in 1952.
BEWARE (I’M BEGINNING TO CARE) Song. Written by Johnny Burke and James V. Monaco as part of their score for East Side of Heaven (1938). It was recorded as a demo with Bing’s vocal being supported by John Scott Trotter, piano and Perry Botkin, guitar, but it was not subsequently used in the film.
BICKFORD, CHARLES (1889-1967). Actor. He was the tycoon J. L. Higgins in the Crosby picture Riding High (1950). As Bing’s boss in the film he orders Bing to get rid of the racehorse Broadway Bill. Of course Bing refuses, thereby rescuing the plot! Bickford arrived in Hollywood from Broadway at a time when stage actors were needed to cope with the demands of clear diction for the newly arrived talkies. He rarely starred in films, but his powerful screen presence meant that he quite often brought dignity to a part that wasn’t always worthy of his talents. I have indulged myself in selecting my personal favourite Bickford films from his output covering nearly forty years: The Farmer Takes a Wife (1935), High Wide and Handsome (1937), Of Mice and Men (1940), The Song of Bernadette (1943), The Farmer’s Daughter (1947), Johnny Belinda (1948), A Star is Born (1954), The Big Country (1958) and Days of Wine and Roses (1962).
THE BIG BROADCAST Film released in 1932 and the first in the Paramount series. It was whilst filming this one in the summer of 1932 that Bing was signed to his initial Paramount contract. The plot capitalised on the current popularity of radio, the studio assuming that listeners would welcome seeing their favourites on the big screen. The action takes place at Station WADX which meant that Paramount cut costs and managed with one basic set. Top billed, Bing played himself and provided the vocal on “Where the Blue of the Night”, “I Surrender Dear”, “Dinah”, “Here Lies Love”, “I’ve Got Five Dollars” and “Please”. In the film his job is on the line because of his persistent unpunctuality. He is sacked and it is George Burns, the radio station manager, who persuades the station’s main sponsor to take Bing back. Speciality acts in the film included Kate Smith, The Mills Brothers, The Boswell Sisters and Arthur Tracy. Because so many of those acts were resident on America’s East Coast, Paramount re-opened its New York Astoria studio, situated on Long Island. Bing’s contribution was filmed in Hollywood, however. When the film was released in October, 1932, the critic for the “Hollywood Citizen News” summed it up nicely when she wrote: “(Frank) Tuttle has taken a weak romantic story, a rather appealing array of stars.....and produced an amusingly entertaining picture. By dint of his ingenuity and high appreciation of satire, Tuttle has made The Big Broadcast good film fare.” The film did only average business in the big cities. But its lack of sophistication made it a hit in the sticks and overall Paramount was satisfied with its performance.
THE BIG BROADCAST OF 1936 Paramount’s second big broadcast film released in September 1935. In this one Bing had a guest spot, singing “I Wished on the Moon”. It was the only Big Broadcast film to show a loss even though costs were kept down by director Norman Taurog. During the thirteen months the picture was being ‘assembled’ Taurog photographed stage acts as and when they passed through California. Amongst those captured on film are Richard Tauber, singing “Melody In F”, The Vienna Boys Choir, singing “Tales From The Vienna Woods” and Bill Robinson, dancing “Miss Brown To You”. The Ethel Merman performance of “It’s the Animal in Me” was a song sequence cut from the 1934 picture We’re Not Dressing.
BILLBOARD GIRL 1931 Mack Sennett short. The title refers to Margie ‘Babe’ Kane with whom Bing falls in love when he sees her picture on a billboard. Although she is in love with someone else, Bing wins her over in the closing minutes of this two-reel comedy. In 1935 Astor pictures acquired the rights to the Sennett library and issued an edited version of the film under the title “Bring on Bing”. In 1946 the same company used two Crosby vocals from the film in the feature compilation Road to Hollywood (1946).
BINDER, MAURICE (1925-1991) Title designer. You will only find one title designer in this A-Z. It was the credit Binder received for his work on The Road to Hong Kong (1962). His work on that one went unnoticed. That same year he was receiving plaudits for his opening credit sequence on the first James Bond film. The graphics for Dr. No let you know there was something a little special about the film that was about to unfold. The producers of the Bond films wisely employed Binder for the opening graphics on subsequent Bonds until his death at age 66.
BING CROSBY’S WASHINGTON STATE 1968 documentary short. The film was commissioned to promote the tourist attractions of Washington State. It was a 28 minute travelogue concentrating on the more scenic elements of that State. Bing was an obvious choice as narrator because it was the State of his birth. At the end Tacoma is visited and Bing refers to it as his birthplace.
BINGO CROSBYANA Cartoon. Warner Bros., the studio that first introduced Bing to animation enthusiasts, represented him in more than half a dozen cartoons. Not what you would expect of a rival studio to Paramount but cartoon Crosby was frequently in the company of Warner stars. The first Warner’s cartoon short I have traced is Bingo Crosbyana, directed by Friz Freleng for the “Merrie Melodies” series and released in the summer of 1935. The Bingo character is a bug who takes the part of a crooner-guitarist.
BING PRESENTS ORESTE Paramount trailer. At least I regarded it as a trailer when I saw it in 1956 as a ten minute promotion for The Vagabond King which was shown at my neighbourhood cinema the following week. The film turned out to be a bore and its star, Oreste Kirkop, went into instant retirement from movies. Paramount probably knew they had a dud on their hands when they prevailed on Bing’s goodwill to help give it some clout at the box-office. Filmed when Bing was making Anythng Goes in June 1955, his assignment was to introduce Oreste to an eager public and then the maltese operatic star was seen singing “Vesti La Giubba”, “Cara Mia” and “Begin the Beguine” accompanied by Victor Young and the Paramount Orchestra. A previous lost cause of a film was The Great John L. But when Bing contributed to radio promotional material for that box-office flop at least he had a good excuse - he was one of its backers when it was made in 1945.
BINYON, CLAUDE (1905-1978). Although Binyon directed films for five years from 1948 to 1953, it is as a screenwriter that he became involved with Crosby movies. His Crosby half dozen are:
· College Humor (1933). Screenplay with Frank Butler.
· Mississippi (1935). Adapted for the screen with Herbert Fields.
· Sing You Sinners (1938). Story and screenplay
· Holiday Inn (1942). Screenplay
· Dixie (1943). Adapted for the screen
· Pepe (1960). Screenplay with Dorothy Kingsley.
He signed with Paramount in 1932 and the first five films on the above list are typical of his work. Other so-so work includes If I had a Million (1932), Accent on Youth (1935), True Confession (1937), This is the Army (1943) and Incendiary Blonde (1954). His flirtation with directorial chores produced forgotten Paramount A-minus movies like Family Honeymoon (1953). He wisely returned to writing and rounded off his career with such films as Rally ‘Round the Flag Boys (1958), North to Alaska (1960) and Satan Never Sleeps (1962).
BIRDS OF A FEATHER Song. Written by Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen as part of the score commissioned by Paramount for the 1941 Road to Zanzibar, it was then used for its musical content only in a sequence where Hope and Crosby do impressions of two orchestra leaders meeting. The song itself was recorded by Bing in December of 1940 when it was part of a Decca recording session covering the songs from the film.
BIRTH OF THE BLUES Film. This 1941 Paramount production stands up well in the 21st century. At 85 minutes it is as compact as possible, it brims over with songs (fifteen, of which Bing sings on eight) and because it is set in the early jazz era it retains its period feel. The story covers the development of New Orleans Jazz at the turn of the century. Bing plays Jeff Lambert who leads the band, thwarts a gang of villains led by J. Carrol Naish and conducts a romance with Mary Martin. Things were less than comfortable with Miss Martin at the time as she was pregnant, and director Victor Schertzinger scheduled the shooting of the film in such a way that her contributions were filmed as hastily as possible. The musical content of the film is as strong as in any Crosby movie. As well as having a hit song written by Johnny Mercer - “The Waiter and the Porter and the Upstairs Maid” - it relied heavily on tried and tested jazz standards like “Birth of the Blues” and “St. Louis Blues” as well as evergreen standards such as “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” and “Wait till the Sun Shines Nellie”. Buddy de Sylva, the film’s producer was co-lyricist of the title song. The film can be said to be roughly based on the formation of Nick LaRocca’s Original Dixieland Jazz Band and supposedly the first white group to play black music.
BLACK MOONLIGHT Song. Stanley Green was right first time when he described this song as “a dolorous dirge of a suicidally inclined Harlem resident.” Although we closely associate this song with Bing it was introduced in the Paramount film Too Much Harmony by Kitty Kelly, who mimed to Barbara Van Brunt’s vocal. The film was made in June and July 1933 and Bing recorded it the following month. It would be reasonable to assume that he felt the song fitted him like a glove and committed it to wax at the first opportunity. The song’s composers, Sam Coslow and Arthur Johnson, wrote all the songs for Too Much Harmony.
BLACKMER, SIDNEY (1895-1973) Actor. Blackmer played the father of Grace Kelly in High Society (1956). In that film, his arrival on the scene required him to masquerade as “Uncle Willie” to mask an earlier deception. His first recorded role was in the silent serial The Perils of Pauline (1914). He was rarely off the screen for very long thereafter. He was a leading man who eventually settled for character parts in films like High Society. These supporting roles were quite substantial as evidenced by his last big screen appearance in Rosemary’s Baby in 1968.
BLAKELEY, JAMES E. (1910-2007). Film actor turned editor. It is Blakeley the actor that interests us here. He had been in films for a couple of years when he was cast as Buster de Costa in Two for Tonight (1935). Together with actor Douglas Fowley, he played one of Bing’s half brothers in that film. When America entered World War II he joined the Army Air Corps. He married Mary Carlisle in 1942. She had been one of Bing’s leading ladies and she was his only link with show business until the end of the decade. In 1950 he returned to films as an editor and served a further half century in Hollywood.
BLONDELL, JOAN (1909-1979). Actress who was in one Crosby film as his leading lady: East Side of Heaven (1939). She plays Bing’s fiancé Mary Wilson, to whom he is always about to get married but ... A bright, bubbly actress, Joan Blondell enlivened many a routine picture from her debut in the 1930 film Office Wife to her retirement half a century later with The Woman Inside. Joan Blondell made her name in the thirties as a wise cracking broad with a heart of gold. Her part in East Side of Heaven was untypical. At the time she was reaching the end of her Warner Bros. heyday where she had scored in such films as Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), Footlight Parade (1933), We’re in the Money (1935) and Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936). The next decade saw memorable performances in the likes of Topper Returns (1940), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) and Nightmare Alley (1947). In the nineteen fifties she concentrated on stage work. Her more memorable later films saw her assigned character parts in such as The Cincinnati Kid (1965) and Grease (1978). On the personal side she tried three show business marriages. They were to cameraman George Barnes (1933-35), actor Dick Powell (1936-45) and producer Mike Todd (1947-50). All failed, but provided her with a rich vein of material to mine for her semi-autobiographical novel ‘Centre Door Fancy’, which came out in 1972.
BLORE, ERIC (1887-1959) British born actor specialising in playing haughty characters. His part in his sole Crosby picture was as Charles Kimble in Road to Zanzibar (1941). He’s the swindler who sells the boys a diamond mine. Prior to that film appearance he was a regular in the Astaire-Rogers musicals made at RKO. And before he arrived in Hollywood in the 1920s he had worked as an insurance agent until show business claimed him for revues in London’s West End. It must have been quite a comedown for him to end his career by appearing in the Bowery Boys film Bowery to Bagdad (1955).
BLUE, BEN (1901-1975) Sad faced comic actor. He played the dim-witted Sitska in Paris Honeymoon (1939), whose drugging of Akim Tamiroff’s drink towards the end of that picture brought about a happy ending. He arrived in Hollywood from vaudeville where his speciality was eccentric dancing. Astute producers used him to provide comedy highlights in dozens of shorts and features. His last big screen appearance was in Where Were You When the Lights Went Out in 1968. Around the time of making that film he was forced to close down his California based nightclub because he couldn’t meet the tax demands of the Internal Revenue.
BLUE, MONTE (1890-1963) Romantic lead in the 1920s who settled for character roles in a couple of hundred films before deserting the movies all together in the 1950s to join a circus. He had minor roles in a couple of Road films. In Singapore (1940) he played a high priest and in Morocco (1942) he was one of Anthony Quinn’s henchmen. It is significant that his last film part was in Apache (1954) because he was part Cherokee Indian.
BLUE HAWAII Song. This song from Paramount’s 1937 Bing movie Waikiki Wedding was written by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger. After an earlier solo, Bing is joined by Shirley Ross for vocal honours in a sequence in the film where both are on a boat trip to a volcanic island. Lyric writer Robin had to persuade Rainger to write music to fit the words. Even when the composing task was completed Rainger thought it inferior and protested at its publication. Of course it went on to become a standard and Paramount got their money’s worth by using it as the title for a 1961 Elvis Presley vehicle with the star singing the song over the opening credits.
BLUE OF THE NIGHT (1932). One reeler made as part of a job lot for producer Mack Sennett in 1931/32. Six were shot in all, starting in the spring of 1931, and released by Educational Pictures over the next two years. Blue of the Night was the penultimate in the initial release pattern. In the twenty minute running time we have a great deal of plot plus four Crosby vocals. Bing plays himself, a famous radio singer. Leading lady Margie ‘Babe’ Kane boasts she is engaged to Bing, failing to recognise him when they both take a trip by train. Her husband to be, played by Franklin Pangborn, is annoyed at this betrayal/deception before denouncing Bing as an impostor. The film’s famous ending has Bing driving off with the girl and singing “Where the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day” as conclusive proof that he is that well known baritone. Bing’s other vocals are “Auf Wiedersehen, My Dear”, “My Silent Love” and “Ev’ry Time My Heart Beats”, none of which were recorded for issue on record. Various clips from this Sennett short were included in the 1949 compilation film Down Memory Lane.
BLUE SKIES Film. This 1946 Paramount Picture was stuffed with songs written by Irving Berlin, so it should come as no surprise that the idea for the picture was also his. Arthur Sheekman wrote the screenplay about two former song and dance men (Bing and Fred Astaire) who vie for the attentions of leading lady Joan Caulfield. You could say that Bing was undisputed winner as the plot allows him to marry her twice. The time span of the movie covers 1919 to 1946 and uses 17 old and 4 new Berlin songs in a series of settings of “theme” nightclubs. It was never intended that Fred Astaire should co-star with Bing. Dancer Paul Draper was signed up and then dropped when the studio discovered his acting skills were not on a par with his dancing technique. The film’s budget was $3 million and its world-wide rentals tripled that figure on its initial release.
BLYTH, ANN (1928- ). Bing’s leading lady in Top O’ the Morning (1949) who also appeared in the short film You Can Change The World, released the following year. She played Barry Fitzgerald’s daughter in the former, and as such was on the receiving end of a couple of love ballads from Bing. The question we have to answer is whether she is a singer turned actress or vice versa. Certainly her early career channelled her into light opera where she was a soprano with the San Carlo Opera Company. She played juvenile roles in Hollywood movies, making her presence felt in the Oscar nominated part of Joan Crawford’s daughter in Mildred Pierce (1945). Musical films which followed Top O’ the Morning include some memorable M-G-M starring parts in The Great Caruso (1951), Rose Marie (1954), The Student Prince (1954), Kismet (1955) and The Helen Morgan Story (1957). The last film marked her retirement from Hollywood. The movies had no further use for leading ladies with trained singing voices. Since then she has made infrequent forays into musical stage productions.
BOLAND, MARY (1880-1965) Actress. She was in two 1935 Paramount pictures which featured Bing. In Two for Tonight she was third billed as Mrs. J.S.K. Smythe, the debt ridden mother of the Crosby character. She followed that with a guest appearance in The Big Broadcast of 1936. Mary Boland made a name for herself playing tragic roles on the Broadway stage. Only when she entered films did she find her true forte playing scatterbrained wives and mothers. Her most famous role came the year before she filmed with Bing when she played opposite Charlie Ruggles in Ruggles of Red Gap. She retired from films when she reached her seventieth birthday.
BOLTON, GUY (1885-1979) Playwright, novelist and screenwriter. It is his skill as a playwright which earns him an entry in this A-Z. Along with P.G. Wodehouse he wrote the play “Anything Goes” which Bing filmed in 1935 and 1955 when it was revised for the screen by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse on the first occasion and Sidney Sheldon for the 1956 release. “Girl Crazy” and “Lady Be Good” are two of his works which will withstand revival for many years to come.
BONANOVA, FORTUNIO (1893-1969) Operatic baritone who turned to playing mainly comic supporting roles in Hollywood films. He made two appearances in Bing films. He had a bit part as a waiter in Dixie (1943) and a slightly more substantial part as Tomaso Bozanni in the following year’s Going My Way. Fortunio Bonanova flitted from film to film throughout the 1940s and 1950s. He’d frequently appeared on Broadway before making his first big screen appearance in 1932. However, it wasn’t until 1941 that he made an impact with audiences when he played the part of a singing tutor in Citizen Kane. Between film assignments Bonanova found time to write operettas, novels and plays.
BONNE NUIT Song. This was one of three Ray Evans-Jay Livingston compositions written for Bing to sing in Here Comes the Groom (1951). It won’t take a lot of guesswork to conclude that it is a lullaby. In the film Bing croons it to send a couple of children to dreamland.
BOO-BOO-BOO Song. A song tailor made for Bing by Sam Coslow and Arthur Johnston who were obviously capitalising on the myth that such phrasing cropped up in most of Crosby’s vocals. It was first tried out on audiences in a 1933 Paramount Hollywood on Parade short when the song’s two composers accompanied Bing, Jack Oakie and Skeets Gallagher. That appearance served as a publicity taster for Too Much Harmony, released later that year, when it became a Crosby solo. Bing never made a commercial recording of the song, presumably because it was not his type of material.
BOX OFFICE TOP TEN: PERSONAL & FILM RANKINGS The true measure of any Hollywood film star has nothing to do with critics and everything to do with audiences. The more often people visit a cinema to see an actor in a film the more popular he or she is in the eyes of the cinema owner. Every year in the U.S.A Quigley publications asks exhibitors to name box office stars based on ticket sales. Obviously a star who has three movies released in a year has an advantage. But in Hollywood’s peak years, when actors were on a roll the studios made sure they were never far away from the cameras. The list of the annual box-office top ten moneymakers is the best available measure of who pulls in the crowds. John Wayne appeared on these lists more often than any other star. Between 1949 and 1976 there were only three years he wasn’t cited. These are the full top ten listings which included a Crosby ranking:
1934: Will Rogers, Clark Gable, Janet Gaynor, Wallace Beery, Mae West, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, Shirley Temple, Marie Dressler, Norma Shearer
1937: Shirley Temple, Clark Gable, Robert Taylor, Bing Crosby, William Powell, Jane Withers, Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers, Sonja Henie, Gary Cooper, Myrna Loy
1940: Mickey Rooney, Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Gene Autry, Tyrone Power, James Cagney, Bing Crosby, Wallace Beery, Bette Davis, Judy Garland
1943: Betty Grable, Bob Hope, Abbott & Costello, Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper, Greer Garson, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Mickey Rooney, Clark Gable
1944: Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper, Bob Hope, Betty Grable, Spencer Tracy, Greer Garson, Humphrey Bogart, Abbott & Costello, Cary Grant, Bette Davis
1945: Bing Crosby, Van Johnson, Greer Garson, Betty Grable, Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart/Gary Cooper, Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien
1946: Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, Van Johnson, Gary Cooper, Bob Hope, Humphrey Bogart, Greer Garson, Margaret O’Brien, Betty Grable, Roy Rogers
1947: Bing Crosby, Betty Grable, Ingrid Bergman, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Bob Hope, Clark Gable, Gregory Peck, Claudette Colbert, Alan Ladd
1948: Bing Crosby, Betty Grable, Abbott & Costello, Gary Cooper, Bob Hope, Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman
1949: Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Abbott & Costello, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Betty Grable, Esther Williams, Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable
1950: John Wayne, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Betty Grable, James Stewart, Abbott & Costello, Clifton Webb, Esther Williams, Spencer Tracy, Randolph Scott
1951: John Wayne, Martin & Lewis, Betty Grable, Abbott & Costello, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Randolph Scott, Gary Cooper, Doris Day, Spencer Tracy
1952: Martin & Lewis, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, James Stewart, Doris Day, Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, Randolph Scott
1953: Gary Cooper, Martin & Lewis, John Wayne, Alan Ladd, Bing Crosby, Marilyn Monroe, James Stewart, Bob Hope, Susan Hayward, Randolph Scott
1954: John Wayne, Martin & Lewis, Gary Cooper, James Stewart, Marilyn Monroe, Alan Ladd, William Holden, Bing Crosby, Jane Wyman, Marlon Brando
Now to look at the box-office performance of the films in which Bing appeared. The following list shows every film in which Bing appeared which featured in the top ten money makers in the year of its release. It covers North America and the U.K. The sources of information are ‘Variety’ (USA) and ‘Kine Weekly’ (U.K.). Sixteen different movies registered. They are:
Year UK Ranking USA Ranking
1940 Road to Singapore *
1941 Road to Zanzibar *
1942 Holiday Inn 5 *
1943 Star Spangled Rhythm *
1944 Going My Way 4 Going My Way 1
1946 Bells of St. Mary’s 2 Bells of St. Mary’s 1
Blue Skies 3
Road to Utopia 4
1947 Blue Skies * Welcome Stranger 7
1948 Road to Rio 4 Road to Rio 1
Emperor Waltz 7
1953 Road to Bali 2
1954 White Christmas 1
1955 White Christmas 2 The Country Girl 6
High Society 4
1957 High Society 1
1962 The Road to Hong Kong *
Now and then films were not ranked according to box office takings. They were listed alphabetically and * indicates a place in the top ten.
If a comparison is made between Bing as a box-office draw and his films, the films cover a later time span. Bing first registered at the U.S. box-office in 1934 and made his final entry in 1954. The period for the films is about the same in length but several years later. One reason is that Bing was turning out a remarkable number of films by today’s standards and was competing with himself for most of the 1930s. Pre-1940 he was not in any film that could be regarded as sufficiently prestigious to appeal to those who went for the picture rather than its star. The Road series changed that and also drew in the Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour devotees. All but one of the Road films made the top ten in either the U.K. or the U.S.A. If I’d guessed at the one that didn’t make it I would have plumped for Hong Kong, yet it was Morocco. That was released in 1942 when the British and American lists were headed by Mrs. Miniver. My expectations were that a need for war time escapism plus the success of the first two Road pictures would have guaranteed it a placing but it failed to register. Looking at U.K. vs. U.S.A., Bing was more popular in his own country (13 entries as opposed to 9 in the U.K.). Quite often a place in the British lists was achieved a year after the film had been tabulated in ‘Variety’s’ list. That follows release patterns for American films which only became eroded towards the end of the twentieth century. The records for the last seventy years of going to the cinema on both sides of the Atlantic show that no film star has bettered Bing. His films have had a longer time span in the charts and featured more frequently than any other actor living or dead.
BRACKEN, EDDIE (1915-2002) Actor, born Edward Vincent Bracken, who never appeared on screen with Bing in three Crosby pictures. In Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), he played sailor Johnny Webster taking his friends on a tour of the Paramount backlot under the impression that his dad owned the studio. That film’s finale had Bing singing “Old Glory”. Two years later he appeared as himself in Duffy’s Tavern and then in 1945 he was in Out of this World. This was a Crosby non-picture in that Bing’s voice came out of Bracken’s mouth each time Eddie burst into song. The 1940s was Eddie Bracken’s decade and afterwards, although he remained in show business, he never enjoyed the fleeting popularity that came when America was at war. The hits during those four years were Caught in the Draft (1941), The Fleet’s In (1942), Sweater Girl (1942), The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944), Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) and Hold that Blonde (1945). By the early 1970s he had to content himself with scraps of film work such as providing a voice for the feature cartoon Shinbone Alley. Otherwise cabaret work and occasional TV appearances serve as the public’s only reminder of a promising newcomer of half a century ago.
BRADLEY, GRACE (1913-2010) Actress. She specialised in playing temptresses until she thought she was too old for that sort of role. Hence she retired from the screen at the age of thirty. The names of her characters in her two Crosby films give a good idea of the type of lady she was portraying. In Too Much Harmony (1933) she played Verne la Monte and for Anything Goes (1936) she was Bonnie La Tour. She was especially memorable in the latter film when her companion is the “Rev” Dr. Moon and her husband “Snake Eyes” Johnson, who is Public Enemy Number One. The year after making Anything Goes she married Bill Boyd who some years later guested on Bing’s radio show when his Hopalong Cassidy character was finding a new generation of Saturday morning matinee admirers.
BREEN, RICHARD L. (1919-1967) Screenwriter. He shared a screenplay credit with Edmund Beloin for Top o’ the Morning (1949), his sole contribution to the Crosby film library. That film was one of his first assignments after going to Hollywood following service in the Navy. Some of his better work still plays regularly on television, including his Oscar winning Titanic (1953). He was on a roll after that one and Dragnet and Pete Kelly’s Blues followed. The last work before his death was writing Tony Rome as a suitable vehicle for Frank Sinatra.
BRENDEL, EL (1890-1964) [Elmer G. Brendel] Actor usually using a Swedish dialect in comic roles. He was seen in a couple of one-reelers which featured Bing (Hollywood on Parade and Star Night at the Cocoanut Grove) but it was not until the 1940 release If I Had My Way that the two shared scenes on screen. Then Brendel was fourth billed as Axel Swenson, the construction worker who is a close friend of Bing. He graduated to films at the end of the silent era. Before then he had been in vaudeville and Broadway musicals. After If I Had My Way his film appearances became few and far between and by the time he called it quits he had gravitated towards such ‘B’ picture fare as Paris Model (1953) and The She-Creature (1956).
BRING ON BING Film released by Astor Pictures Corporation in 1935. It was a short short in that it was an edited version of the 21 minute Billboard Girl made for Mack Sennett in 1931. The two songs from that picture retained for Bring on Bing were “For You” and “Were You Sincere”.
BRITISH MOVIETONE NEWS carried the official opening of the Stage Door Canteen in Piccadilly, London. This was carried out by the Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden in August 1944. The newsreel then shows Dorothy Dickson introducing Bing, who sings “San Fernando Valley”.
BROOKE, HILARY [Beatrice Peterson] (1914-1999) Actress. Bing fans will remember her from Road to Utopia (1946) where she was cast as Kate, the girlfriend of the villainous Ace Larsen. Her job was to obtain the all important map showing the location of the goldmine from Bing and Bob. Before reaching Hollywood in 1937 she had been a model. She played prominent parts in major films such as Road to Utopia or took the female lead in low-budget films like Confidence Girl (1952). She remained in the public eye in the 1950s when she was a regular guest on the weekly television series “My Little Margie”. In 1960 she gave up show business to keep house for her new husband, Ray Klune, who was the general manager at M-G-M.
BROOKS, SHELTON (1886-1975) Vaudevillian who composed songs for his own use as well as the likes of Sophie Tucker and Al Jolson. His most recorded song was “The Darktown Strutters’ Ball” which he wrote in 1917 and which has its own separate entry in this A-Z. It was featured in The Star Maker (1939) and Little Boy Lost (1953). When vaudeville came to an end so did his songwriting success although he continued appearing in stage shows until the 1950s.
BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME Film released in 1975 which utilised Bing’s recording of the title song together with his first recording of “Where the Blue of the Night”. A caricature of Bing was also glimpsed when a segment of the early thirties colour cartoon Hollywood Steps Out was utilised. The 109 minute feature ‘Brother Can You Spare a Dime’ was a collection of clips documenting America from the depression to the bombing of Pearl Harbour.
BROWN, JAMES (1920-1992) Actor. He was in Going My Way (1944), his only Crosby film appearance. Bing as Father O’Malley is asked investigate what goes on when Ted Haynes Jnr. (James Brown) visits the apartment of Carol James (Jean Heather). Nothing untoward, of course, because James Brown specialised in playing stalwart, upstanding men. In the same year as Going My Way he played a young romantic lead in Our Hearts Were Young and Gay. His on screen image made him the ideal co-star for a faithful dog in the long running television series “The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin”. Although he didn’t forsake films until the 1970s, he launched a line of bodybuilding equipment in the 1960s.
BROWN, LEW [Louis Brownstein] (1893-1958) Lyric writer. Bing tackled two of his songs on film. He sang “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain” in the Sennett short One More Chance (1931) when Sidney Clare provided the music. Then in Birth of the Blues (1941) Brown co-wrote the title song with Buddy De Sylva and Ray Henderson. Brown is most often referred to in the middle of the De Sylva and Henderson musical sandwich. This is because a biopic of the threesome was the subject of a Hollywood musical in 1956: The Best Things in Life Are Free and also because Brown’s most famous songs were composed as part of that trio. Three of their successes that will forever be available are “Sonny Boy”, “I’m a Dreamer Aren’t We All” and “If I Had a Talking Picture of You”.
BROWN, NACIO HERB (1896-1964) Songwriter. The other musical Brown who impacted on Bing’s career was co-composer with Arthur Freed of the songs for Going Hollywood (1934). There were half a dozen, everyone a winner. As well as the title song Bing sang “Temptation”, “We’ll Make Hay While the Sun Shines” (with Marion Davies), “Our Big Love Scene”, “After Sundown” and “Beautiful Girl”. Brown waited until Hollywood found a voice before he quit work in real estate and joined M-G-M to contribute to that studio’s early foray into musicals. His best remembered work for that studio spanned nearly a quarter of a century. The Broadway Melody began it all in 1929 and Singin’ in the Rain ended his run in 1952.
BUCKIN’ THE WIND (Song). This Sam Coslow - Arthur Johnston opus was written for the Paramount production Too Much Harmony (1933). It is the finale piece in the movie and Bing is joined by Judith Allen and chorus. Paramount clearly saw it as a strong song and in a 1933 Hollywood on Parade short they had Bing sing the song as he drove to an automobile race. Curious, then, that Bing never made a commercial recording of this catchy number.
BUMSTEAD, HENRY (1915-2006) Production designer. Bumstead shared art direction credit with Hans Dreier on two Bing films. They were Top o’ the Morning (1949) and Little Boy Lost (1953). The shared credit was mainly because Dreier was head of the Paramount design unit but Bumstead was probably more than an apprentice. His sole designer credit came in 1956 with The Man Who Knew Too Much. Two years later his skills were acknowledged by his peers when he received an Academy Award nomination for his work on Hitchcock’s Vertigo. He subsequently won two Oscars, the first in 1962 for To Kill a Mockingbird and the second and last to date for The Sting (1973). He was still working at the end of the last century on such major films as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997).
BUONO, VICTOR (1938-1982) Well-built character actor. He was Sheriff Potts in Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), who ended up buried in the concrete cornerstone of a building. I first noticed Buono in his debut film, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962). He literally dominated the screen despite competing with the combined talents of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. He received an Academy Award nomination for his performance. By then he had come to the attention of Sinatra’s production company and he was cast in Four for Texas (1963) before moving on to Robin the following year. During the rest of the 1960s he received substantial supporting roles in several major films. Then he was suddenly out of fashion. He spent most of the 1970s in made-for-television movies. His last big screen appearance was in The Man with Bogart’s Face, released two years before his death.
BURKE, JAMES (1886-1968). Actor. A regular character actor for thirty years, with appearances in four Crosby pictures during the peak studio years. The part he played in a Bing picture which made its greatest impact with viewers was probably as one of three unsuccessful kidnappers in Rhythm on the Range (1936). Prior to that he was Cromwell Dexter in the 1933 College Humor. He was also the Riverboat Captain in Dixie (1943) and a policeman in Here Comes the Groom (1951). One additional Bing related appearance was as the Union Secretary in the Bob Hope comedy My Favourite Blonde (1942), in which Bing had a cameo role. Burke had character parts in about 150 films. He appeared regularly in the Ellery Queen ‘B’ picture series. Before his debut in College Humor he had spent 25 years in vaudeville. He was working well past retirement age, his last Hollywood bit part being in the 1965 release The Hallelujah Trail.
BURKE, JOHNNY (1908-1964). Lyric Writer. If you have a set of ‘Bing’s Hollywood’ LPs then the fifteen discs in that set will confirm the importance of Johnny Burke in Bing’s film career. Burke’s lyrics received the Crosby seal of approval. They were not overly sentimental and they promoted optimism. Burke was almost exclusively occupied in writing for Bing and his other work seems insignificant against his Crosby output. Here are the films where Bing sang a Johnny Burke lyric. Burke’s collaborators are shown after the film’s title.
· Pennies from Heaven (1936) (with Arthur Johnston). Pennies from Heaven; One Two Button Your Shoe; Let’s Call a Heart a Heart; So Do I.
· Double Or Nothing (1937) (with Johnston) The Moon Got in My Eyes; It’s the Natural Thing to Do; All You Want to do is Dance.
· Doctor Rhythm (1938) (with James V. Monaco) My Heart is Taking Lessons; On the Sentimental Side; This is My Night to Dream.
· Sing You Sinners (1938) (with Monaco) I’ve Got a Pocketful of Dreams; Don’t Let That Moon Get Away; Laugh and Call it Love.
· East Side of Heaven (1939) (with Monaco) Sing a Song of Sunbeams; Hang Your Heart on a Hickory Limb; That Sly Old Gentleman; East Side of Heaven.
· The Starmaker (1939) (with Monaco) A Man and his Dream; Go Fly a Kite; An Apple for the Teacher; Still The Bluebird Sings.
· Road to Singapore (1939) (with Monaco) Sweet Potato Piper; Too Romantic; An Apple for The Teacher (again); Captain Custard (with music by Victor Schertzinger).
· Swing with Bing (1940 Short Film) (with Monaco) The Little White Pill on the Little Green Hill.
· If I Had My Way (1940) (with Monaco) Meet the Sun Halfway; I Haven’t Time to be a Millionaire; The Pessimistic Character; April Played the Fiddle.
· Rhythm on the River (1940) (with Monaco) Only Forever; When the Moon Comes over Madison Square; Rhythm on the River; That’s for me; What Would Shakespeare Have Said.
· Road to Zanzibar (1941) (with James Van Heusen) It’s Always You, You Lucky People You; African Etude.
· Don’t Hook Now (1942 Short) (with Van Heusen) Tomorrow’s My Lucky Day.
· Road to Morocco (1943) (with Van Heusen) Road To Morocco; Ain’t Got a Dime to My Name; Moonlight Becomes You.
· Dixie (1943) (with Van Heusen) Sunday Monday or Always; She’s From Missouri; A Horse that Knows the Way Back Home; If You Please.
· Going My Way (1944) (with Van Heusen) The Day after Forever; Going My Way; Swinging on a Star.
· Here Come the Waves (1944) (with Van Heusen) Moonlight Becomes You (again).
· Duffy’s Tavern (1945) (with Van Heusen) Swinging on a Star (again).
· Road to Utopia (1946) (with Van Heusen) Sunday Monday or Always (again); Goodtime Charlie; It’s Anybody’s Spring; Welcome to my Dreams; Put it There Pal.
· The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945) (with Van Heusen) Aren’t You Glad You’re You.
· Welcome Stranger (1947) (with Van Heusen) Smile Right Back at the Sun; Country Style; My Heart is a Hobo; As Long as I’m Dreaming.
· Variety Girl (1947) (with Van Heusen) Harmony.
· The Emperor Waltz (1948) (with various, as noted) The Friendly Mountain (Joseph J. Lilley); The Kiss in Your Eyes (Richard Heuberger); The Emperor Waltz (Richard Strauss)
· Road to Rio (1948) (with Van Heusen) Apalachicola, Fla; But Beautiful; You Don’t Have to Know the Language.
· A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949) (with Van Heusen) If You Stub Your Toe on the Moon; Once and for Always; Busy Doin’ Nothing.
· Top O’ the Morning (1949) (with Van Heusen) Top O’ the Morning; You’re in Love With Someone.
· Riding High (1950) (with Van Heusen) Sure Thing; Some Place on Anywhere Road; Sunshine Cake; The Horse Told me.
· Mr. Music (1950) (with Van Heusen) And You’ll be Home; High on the List; Wouldn’t it be Funny; Accidents Will Happen; Wasn’t I There; Life is so Peculiar.
· You Can Change the World (1951 short) (with Van Heusen) Early American.
· Road to Bali (1953) (with Van Heusen) Chicago Style; Hoot Mon; To See You Is to Love You; The Merry-Go-Run-Around.
· Little Boy Lost (1953) (with Van Heusen) A Propos De Rien; Cela M’est Egal; The Magic Window.
· Pepe (1960) (with Arthur Johnston) Pennies from Heaven
Not at all a bad C.V. is it? Some of the 1950s songs didn’t seem as strong as his earlier work, but taken in total as an eighteen year career with three main partners, it is an extremely fruitful collaboration with the world’s greatest singer. There was one Academy Award for “Swinging on a Star”. Considering that he was working on one Crosby movie every eight months, it is not surprising that Burke had little involvement with non-Bing films. He started making a living as a dance band pianist and collaborated with Arthur Johnston on one film - Go West, Young Man (1936) - before establishing his Bing connection. In 1946 he worked with Jimmy Van Heusen on the British musical flop London Town. It was originally intended that Bing would appear in the film and the score written for it sounds tailor made for the Crosby style. Pepe apart, he ended his career after Little Boy Lost with one last Paramount picture. That was the forgettable 1956 musical The Vagabond King, when he provided lyrics for Rudolph Friml’s music.
BURNS, BOB (1893-1956). Actor. He is equally well known to Crosby aficionados as the regular comedian on Bing’s Kraft Music Hall broadcasts in the 1930s. It was whilst he was at his broadcasting peak that he appeared in two of Bing’s Paramount pictures: Rhythm on the Range (1936) and Waikiki Wedding (1937). He was Bing’s pal in both, taking third billing as Buck in Rhythm on the Range and Shad Buggie in Waikiki Wedding. Burns was born in Arkansas and built his persona round the naive country boy who talked common sense as a less topical Will Rogers. He was nicknamed ‘The Arkansas Philosopher’ and ‘Bazooka’. It was the bazooka that he blew quite regularly on the KMH and if anyone could claim to play the instrument as it was intended to be played it was Burns because he invented it. His popularity wavered after he left the Kraft show and he retired from movies in 1944 after appearing in Belle of the Yukon.
BURNS, GEORGE (1896-1996). One half of the comedy team of Burns and Allen as far as Bing’s movie career is concerned. Gracie Allen (1902-1964) was inseparable from her husband as an entertainer until the date of her death. Between 1932 and 1935 they shared the screen with Bing on five separate occasions:
· The Big Broadcast (1932) George was Radio Station Manager and Gracie his receptionist.
· Hollywood On Parade No. 2 (1932 short film) as themselves.
· College Humor (1933) as caterers at the College
· We’re Not Dressing (1934) as George and Gracie Martin, two desert island naturalists.
· The Big Broadcast of 1936 (1935) as joint inventors of a type of television receiver.
By the end of the 1930s Burns and Allen deserted movies and concentrated on radio. They had a popular half hour show - The Burns and Allen Show - and Crosby guested. Burns and Allen, in turn, appeared as guests on Bing’s shows. The show successfully transferred to television in the 1950s and became popular in the UK when transmitted by the BBC. Following Gracie Allen’s death, George continued with other female partners but none had Gracie’s innocent comedy charm. He appeared solo on television, in night clubs and variety before returning to films after a 35 year break in Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys (1975). It was a triumph and earned him an Oscar. Other comedy parts followed in the 1980s, including TV movies. In addition several ‘autobiographies’ conveyed his humour on the printed page. Forever the optimist, he booked the London Palladium for 1996 to celebrate his one hundredth birthday but sadly although he attained the 100 mark, he was not well enough to fulfil the engagement.
BUSY DOING NOTHING Song. If there were music videos in 1949 this Johnny Burke-James Van Heusen composition from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court would provide a good example of how sound and vision could complement each other. Bing, Sir Cedric Hardwicke and William Bendix perform the song as they journey to “meet the people.” Decca Records are to be congratulated in assembling their top singer and the two actors for a studio recording of the song.
BUT BEAUTIFUL Song. The obligatory film love ballad from Road to Rio (1948) Bing serenades Dottie behind a cinema screen on a ship bound for Brazil. Like most of Bing’s commissioned movie songs from this period it was written by Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen. Burke was covered a few entries ago, and Stanley Green in his ‘Encyclopaedia of the Musical Film’ analyses this song with the comment “a philosophical view of love.” That would seem to apply to all of Burke’s sentimental ballads written with the Crosby voice in mind.
BUTLER, DAVID (1894-1979) Actor turned director. David Butler’s first work on a Crosby picture was as co-author of the story on which East Side of Heaven (1939) was based, although he had directed the 1931 version of A Connecticut Yankee. He made his film debut as an actor in 1918 but by the time he directed his first Bing film, If I Had My Way, in 1940 he had spent well over ten years behind the camera. He was adept at comedy so it was no surprise to find him in charge of the third “Road” film, Road to Morocco (1942). His workmanlike direction kept him employed through to the 1960s although little of his later work stands the test of time. His last film was C’mon, Let’s Live a Little in 1967.
BUTLER, FRANK (1890-1967) Actor turned screenwriter. His work on Crosby pictures spanned twenty of Bing’s most popular years on screen. His first Crosby credit was as joint screenplay writer with Claude Binyon on College Humor (1933) and his last as co-story and co-screenplay writer on Road to Bali (1953). Between times he had helped devise the story and/or co-written the screenplay on Waikiki Wedding (1937), Paris Honeymoon (1939), and The Star Maker (1939). With Don Hartman he wrote the screenplays of all the Paramount “Road” films with the exception of Rio and Utopia. His best contribution to a Bing film was writing the screenplay of Going My Way (1944) together with Frank Cavett. The pair won an Oscar for their fashioning of Leo McCarey’s story. The first solo writing credit he earned on a Crosby film was for the slightly more serious Welcome Stranger in 1947. In that same year, he could be glimpsed on the Paramount set in Variety Girl. After his work on Road to Bali he worked on two further films, Strange Lady in Town (1955) and The Miracle (1959) before retiring at the age of seventy.
BUY, BUY BONDS Song. Bing sang this ‘commercial’ in the 1945 short All Star Bond Rally. Both the film and the song were an exhortation to support the U.S. Treasury Department’s Seventh War Loan. Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger wrote the song, which Bing never recorded for commercial release.
BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON Song. In Birth of the Blues (1941), Jeff Lambert (Bing) sings the song in a movie house in front of a lantern slide backdrop. A year after the film went into release it proved sufficiently popular for Bing to make a recording of the song for Decca. Edward Madden and Gus Edwards were its composers.
CABOT, SEBASTIAN (1918-1977) Actor. His only appearance in a Crosby picture was as Monsignor Stradford in Say One for Me (1959). Bing, as Father Conroy, arranged a television show with him. Cabot’s twenty stone frame made him instantly recognisable in the thirty years he spent in films from 1936 until he transferred his acting talents to television after appearing in the Jerry Lewis comedy The Family Jewels. London born, his first screen appearance was in Alfred Hitchcock’s Secret Agent. He moved to Hollywood in the mid-fifties and that was where he died of a stroke at the age of 59.
CAHN, SAMMY (1913-1993) Lyric writer. Between 1956 and 1964, Cahn wrote fourteen songs for Bing to sing in six movies. The music for them all was provided by James Van Heusen. They range from the instantly forgettable (“A Second Hand Turban and a Crystal Ball”) to the once heard, never forgotten (“Style”). The full tally is:
· Anything Goes (1956), Ya Gotta Give the People Hoke; A Second Hand Turban and a Crystal Ball.
· Say One for Me (1959), Say One for Me; I Couldn’t Care Less; The Secret of Christmas.
· High Time (1960), The Second Time Around.
· Let’s Make Love (1960), Incurably Romantic.
· The Road to Hong Kong (1962), The Road to Hong Kong; Teamwork; Let’s Not Be Sensible.
· Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), Style; Mister Booze; Don’t be a Do-Badder.
On several of the songs, Bing is joined by other vocalists. Full details will be found under the entries for each individual song. Cahn’s most fruitful collaborations have been with Van Heusen, although his first attempts at writing the words go back to the mid thirties. His first film hit came in 1942 with “I’ve Heard that Song Before” from Youth on Parade (1942) with “I’ll Walk Alone” from Follow the Boys coming two years later. He is most strongly associated with Frank Sinatra in terms of tailoring a lyric to suit the vocalist. Two Academy Award songs - “All the Way” from The Joker Is Wild and “High Hopes” from A Hole in the Head - illustrate this. Cahn also had the knack of writing a hit song from a film’s title and helping a mediocre movie to greater glory than it deserves. Some examples are Because You’re Mine (1952), Three Coins in the Fountain (1954) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). Other movies which contain Cahn songs include The Kid from Brooklyn (1946), Peter Pan (1953), Love Me or Leave Me (1955), The Court Jester (1956), Pal Joey (1957), Star! (1968) and A Touch of Class (1973). By the time he was writing for such dross as The Stud (1978) it didn’t matter anymore. By then he had written a successful autobiography of sorts, “Yes, I Cahn”, and also developed a one man show. The show found its way onto an album and is an enjoyable ego-trip for a self confessed non-singer.
CALHERN, LOUIS (1895-1956) American actor whose only appearance in a Crosby film also happened to be his last completed assignment. He died shortly after High Society finished shooting. In that film he brought his distinguished screen presence to the role of Uncle Willie to Grace Kelly’s Tracy Lord. His career began as a leading romantic lead in silent pictures. During the thirties and forties he was in such “serious” films as 20000 Years in Sing Sing (1933), The Life of Emile Zola (1937), Dr. Erlich’s Magic Bullet (1940) and Notorious (1946). By the 1950’s M.G.M. had got the measure of his capabilities and rewarded him with strong character parts. These began with the role of Buffalo Bill in Annie Get Your Gun (1950). The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Julius Caesar (1953), The Student Prince (1954) and The Blackboard Jungle (1955) followed. He went straight into The Teahouse of the August Moon immediately after he had completed work on High Society, only to suffer a heart attack on location in Tokyo.
CALL ME TONIGHT (Song). Harry Warren (music) and Leo Robin (lyrics) wrote this song for Just for You (1952). In the film’s plot it was written to be featured in a school show. One could shower praise on Warren and Robin for accurately gauging the amateurish quality necessary to typify the low standard appropriate for the event. In the film’s story Bing is passed the song by two schoolboys. As fictional composer/producer Jordan Blake he evaluates it by first of all singing it and then passing criticism. In reality, Decca must have held a low opinion of it as well. It was the only song written for Bing to sing in the picture which did not achieve permanency by way of a commercial recording.
CAMERON, ROD (1910-1987) Actor, although his one and only Bing picture appearance did not allow him much time to shine in the histrionics department. He is seen briefly as a petty officer in Star Spangled Rhythm (1942). But then Bing’s appearance in the same movie was not exactly padded out. He returns to prominence as far as Crosby followers are concerned during the early 1960s. The 20 minute weekday radio slots shared by Bing, Rosemary Clooney and Buddy Cole carried a number of advertising spots and Rod Cameron was often extolling the virtues of a lozenge that made breathing easier. His resonant tones were just right. As a film actor, Cameron never made the big time except as the star of low and medium budget westerns. Paramount first noticed him in the late thirties when he was doubling for Buck Jones and Fred MacMurray and by 1940 he had bit parts in such as Christmas in July and North West Mounted Police. 1950s titles such as Stage to Tucson (1951), Wagons West (1952), San Antone (1953) and Yaqui Drums (1956) attest to his cowboy interests. His career petered out in the seventies with Love and the Midnight Auto Supply (1978) being his last recorded screen appearance. Trivia collectors will remember how he fed the Hollywood scandal machine in 1960 when he divorced his second wife to marry her mother.
CAMPBELL, LOUISE (1915-1997) Actress. Bing’s forgotten leading lady. She was Mary, the wife of Larry Earl (Bing) in The Star Maker (1940). She started in films in 1937 and by the time she made The Star Maker her career was poised to take off. She was the type of attractive red head loved by the camera and yet she made three further films in 1940 and then disappeared from the screen. Thirty years later she began a second career in television commercials.
CAMPTOWN RACES Song. This Stephen Foster song was sung by Bing, Coleen Gray and Clarence Muse as they made their to the race course in the 1950 film Riding High. Bing had recorded the song for Decca some ten years previously and promoted it a couple of times on his Kraft Music Hall programme. It had found favour during the previous century when it was a staple of minstrel shows.
CANCEL MY RESERVATION (1973 film) One of Bob Hope’s latter-day comedies. Bing no doubt made an appearance as a favour to Hope. It languished on the UK distributor’s shelf for a year before being cut from 99 to 83 minutes and receiving a release on the bottom half of a double bill. Bing’s contribution was left intact but as he was only on screen a matter of seconds it would have made little difference to the film’s running time. The Crosby gag footage occurs during a dream sequence in which Hope imagines he is being lynched. Crosby’s ten second cameo went no way towards salvaging a sorry comedy.
CANTINFLAS (1911-1993) Mexican born actor whose real name was Mario Marino Reyes. Bing’s first cinematic involvement with Cantinflas came in 1957. The previous year the actor had shot to international stardom in the role of Passepartout in Mike Todd’s Around the World in 80 Days. The following year Columbia Pictures produced a documentary about Variety Clubs International called The Heart of Show business. Cantinflas was one of the celebrities appearing and Bing was one of the film’s narrators. Cantinflas’ only other American feature film was Pepe. He had the main part in that 1960 movie, playing the title role. Bing made a guest appearance when he sang snatches of three songs to Cantinflas, autographed the Mexican’s tortilla and drove away. Pepe failed at the box office and the actor returned to making films aimed at Mexican audiences.
CAPRA, FRANK (1897-1991) Director. Capra wanted to work with Bing before the two got together on the set. He sold Friendly Persuasion to Paramount Pictures in 1948 with the intention of Bing playing the male lead. Budgetary issues intervened and it was two years later before his Crosby ambition came to fruition with the release of Riding High, followed a year later by Here Comes the Groom. There was the prospect of a third film at the end of the ‘fifties - The Jimmy Durante Story - but difficulties arose which prevented the reunion. Capra’s career spanned five decades and almost everyone who went to the pictures before 1960 will have seen at least one of his films. He made popular silent shorts in the 1920s starring Harry Langdon. His first years of major popularity came in the 1930s, starting with It Happened One Night (1934) and continuing with Mr Deeds Goes to Town (1937) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). After making Arsenic and Old Lace (1940) he made what is now regarded as his best film: It’s a Wonderful Life (1947). By the time he was working with Bing, his style of hometown, honest sincerity plots was fast losing favour and he only managed another couple of films before his retirement. They were A Hole in the Head (1959) and Pocketful of Miracles (1961). His autobiography was published in 1971. It was called The Name above the Title, to remind us that he was the first Hollywood director whose name preceded the film title in the credits.
CARLISLE, MARY (1914-2018) Actress. Mary Carlisle was as good as typecast in two of the three films she made with Bing. She was his leading lady in a trio of Paramount pictures from the thirties: College Humor (1933), Double or Nothing (1937) and Doctor Rhythm (1938). In the first one she was a student being taught by Bing as Professor Danvers. In the other two she was a rich girl. In Double or Nothing she was Vicki Clarke, one of the beneficiaries under a strange will that would also bring riches to Bing if he could double $5000 within a month. As heiress Judy Marlow in Doctor Rhythm a chance meeting with Doctor Bill Remsen (Bing) leads to eventual romance and happiness. Her film career began in 1930 and a couple of dozen medium budget films later she retired when she married actor-socialite James Blakeley. In 1951, with show business well behind her, she took over the management of the Elizabeth Arden Beauty Salon in Hollywood.
CARMICHAEL, HOAGLAND HOWARD ‘HOAGY’ (1899-1981). Songwriter/Actor. Three of Hoagy’s compositions were in a similar number of Crosby pictures. Contrary to popular Hollywood practice, Carmichael was content to produce “one off” efforts. The quality of the longevity of his Crosby film trio is incontestable. With Edward Heyman he wrote “Moonburn”, which Bing sang in Anything Goes (1936). Two years later he collaborated with Frank Loesser on the catchy “Small Fry” for Sing You Sinners (1938). His crowning glory came with “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” which netted an Academy Award jointly with Johnny Mercer for Here Comes the Groom (1951). Hoagy was always the one who provided the tune. His friendship with Bing went back to Whiteman days, a time when his most famous composition “Stardust”, was written. He fondly recalled their relationship in his two autobiographies, “The Stardust Road” (1946) and “Sometimes I Wonder” (1965). On the odd occasion when Hoagy wrote both words and music, his own twangy nasal voice provided the definitive vocal interpretation.
CARROLL, JOAN (1931-2016). Actress. Carroll and her family moved to California in 1936 when she was 5 and she made her film debut in (1937) opposite Claire Trevor and later appeared in (1939), Basil Rathbone's (1939), (1940) and (1944). She played Garland’s younger sister Agnes, who pulls a dangerous prank with the youngest sister, Tootie (Margaret O'Brien), in (1944). Her connection with Bing came when she portrayed the struggling eighth-grade parish student Patsy who at first doesn’t get any sympathy from Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary's (1945). This was her last film but she also played the part of Patsy in radio versions of the movie with Bing in 1946 and 1947. She continued to live in Beverly Hills, married James Krack in 1951, had four children and then moved with her family to Colorado.
CARRY ME BACK TO OLD VIRGINNY Song. When James A. Bland wrote this song in the 1870s he possibly intended it to be a sentimental plea for Virginia’s expats to sing at pub closing time. That it turned up in two “Road” pictures shows how those intentions backfired. In Singapore (1940) Jerry Colonna managed to strip it of any nostalgic appeal and for Rio (1948) Hope and Crosby buried it in the song “Apalachicola, Fla.” as they attempted to attract punters at a carnival. Nor did Bing’s studio recordings of the song do it justice. It was part of the “Southern Medley” he recorded with Paul Whiteman in 1929 and it was similarly thrown away when it was part of one of the sing-a-long medleys made for Warner Bros. in 1960.
CARTOONS Bing has been depicted as a caricature in animated shorts since shortly after his name began to appear on 78 records. The first use of the Crosby voice in a cartoon can be traced to the 7 minute Vitaphone short Crosby, Columbo and Vallee. The Merrie Melodies short used the soundalike vocals of Bing, Russ and Rudy emanating from a radio as animals danced to the music. The cartoon was distributed by Warner Bros. in the spring of 1932.
On April 1st of that year Paramount released a short with the title Just One More Chance. It formed one of a series known as “Screen Songs” which were made by the Fleischer Brothers, Max and Dave. It featured popular songs of the day. Not surprisingly, Paramount arranged for as many of the song titles as possible to relate to songs featured in Paramount pictures. The series ended in 1938 but from 1934 onwards songs from Bing’s films were used on five occasions. They were:
· She Reminds Me of You Released 22 June, 1934 with vocals by the Eaton Boys
· Love Thy Neighbour Released 20 July, 1934 with vocal by Mary Small
· I Wished on the Moon Released 20 September, 1935 and performed by Abe Lyman’s Orch.
· It’s Easy to Remember Released 29 November, 1935 with vocal by Richard Himber
· I Can’t Escape from You Released 25 September, 1936 with vocal by Joe Reichman
It wasn’t until 1934 that the aptly named duo of animators Harman-Ising (Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising) put Bing in the musical cartoon picture. They were contracted by M-G-M to make a series of shorts called “Happy Harmonies” which were aimed at younger viewers. One seven minute cartoon was called Toyland Broadcast. It depicts a toy shop coming to life with a toy soldier acting as compere for the performances by the toys of radio station ABC. Bing appears as Jack-in-the box with the Boswell Sisters as the Doll Sisters in a performance of “Boop-oop-a-doo”. They are accompanied by Paul Whiteman as Humpty Dumpty conducting the clockwork Sambo Jazz Band.
Also from 1934 comes the
only Universal short that depicts Bing. Universal were attempting to
emulate the success of Walt Disney’s “Silly Symphonies” series by engaging
Walter Lantz to produce a number of “Cartune Classics”. Because Disney
had exclusive rights to use the recently perfected three colour Technicolor
process for cartoons Universal made the best they could of the two colour
process that they used for King of Jazz (1930). Lantz provided six
titles in the “Cartune Classics” series and the one which concerns us here is Toyland
Premier, released in the U.S.A. in time for Christmas, 1934. The
story has Santa in tears because he has no traditional red suit to wear, a
situation soon remedied by elves. To celebrate he throws a party and
invites Bing, Shirley Temple, Laurel and Hardy and others. The guests
have to perform a party piece. Bing “boo-boo-boos” and later serenades
Santa with a snippet about Christmas gift lists.
A Crosby caricature was featured in a "Silly Symphonies" short released on June 26, 1935, by United Artists, produced by Walt Disney and directed by David Hand. It was based on the nursery rhyme Who Killed Cock Robin? It was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Animated Short category. While Cock Robin (caricatured after Bing) serenades the Mae West-esque Jenny Wren, an unseen assailant shoots an arrow into Cock Robin's heart and he falls to the ground, giving the other birds in the tree the impression he has been shot and killed. An extract from the cartoon was featured the following year in Alfred Hitchcock’s Sabotage; the film's opening credits thank Disney for giving permission.
As you would expect, Paramount’s own cartoon unit quiet frequently promoted their own contract players. In the mid forties the “Saturday Evening Post” strip “Little Lulu” was brought to the big screen and in 1947 the cartoon The Baby Sitter was made. The story shows how Lulu is assigned as baby sitter and her attempts to keep baby in his cot leads to a dream sequence. This finds Lulu at the Stork Club [a night club for babies!] where the stage show features nappified versions of W.C. Fields, Bing, Bob Hope and Jerry Colonna. But Paramount’s star animated performer was a comic strip hero. From 1933, when he made his debut in Popeye the Sailor, until 1957, when the Paramount animation unit closed down, Olive Oyl’s hero was used to publicise Paramount’s contract players. In 1934 Popeye sang “June in January” in the short Shiver Me Timbers. Then, when the Crosby feature Double or Nothing was on release in 1937, Popeye’s animator Dave Fleischer made a Popeye short based on the song introduced by Bing, It’s the Natural Thing to Do. The title illustrates how Popeye and Bluto vie for the hand of Olive. They fight, that being the natural thing to do. In 1954 Paramount released Popeye’s 20th Anniversary. In it Bob Hope hosts a testimonial dinner and presents Popeye with an engraved cup. Seated round the table are Olive Oyl, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin and Bing. Bing is dressed in a loud shirt and wears a hat, smoking his trademark pipe.
Warner Bros., the studio that first introduced Bing to animation enthusiasts, represented him in more than half a dozen cartoons. Not what you would expect of a rival studio to Paramount but cartoon Crosby was frequently in the company of Warner stars. The "Merrie Melodies" series produced and released by Warner Bros. began in 1931. Initially black and white they went over to colour from the beginning of 1934. These shorts usually had a running time of less than six minutes and were initially intended to promote songs owned by Warner Bros. publishing arms. Two in the series with Crosby connections featured songs destined to become standards in the Great American Songbook. The first was I've Got to Sing a Torch Song. Released on September 30th, 1933 it depicts "Cros Bingsby" singing "Why Can't This Go On Forever" whilst lying in the bath covered in soap suds. The facial and vocal likenesses in the twenty second sequence make it unlikely viewers would fail to recognise Bing but just in case the glass panelled door to the bathroom bears the name Cros Bingsby. Three years later I Only Have Eyes for You came out. Released on March 6th, 1937 the cartoon bird Katy Canary listens to an anonymous crooner. On the wall are photograph type depictions of Bing, Rudy Vallee and Eddie Cantor. Between those two song titled shorts came Bingo Crosbyana, directed by Friz Freleng and released in the summer of 1935. The Bingo character is a bug who takes the part of a crooner-guitarist. Then, on 4th December, 1937, came The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos from Warners. It was about a radio show called “Woodland Community Swing” and included caricatures of radio stars doing their turns. Walter Finchell is commentator, Louella Possums the reporter and Fred McFurry, W. C. Fieldmouse and Bing Crowsby the performers. In What’s Up Doc (not to be confused with the 1971 feature film) Bing is seen alongside Edward G. Robinson, Jack Benny and Al Jolson. Edward G. Robinson was also depicted in What’s Cookin’, Doc which Bob Clampett directed for Warners in 1942. It cleverly blended live action with animation in an Oscar ceremony setting. Bugs Bunny is convinced he’ll be honoured as best actor and does imitations of Bing, Bette Davis and Edward G. But the winner is James Cagney, a Warner Bros. star. Then, in Curtain Razor, it’s Bing and Jolson again, this time with Frank Sinatra. Frank Tashlin, who found fame as a live action comedy director, served his movie apprenticeship in the Warner Bros. cartoon department. In 1938 he directed Wholly Smoke which featured cartoon regular Porky Pig. It had a half-hearted anti-smoking plot and a variety of celebrity caricatures including Bing, the Mills Brothers, Cab Calloway, Rudy Vallee and the Three Stooges. In 1944 Tashlin directed Swooner Crooner, which garnered an Academy Award nomination. It depicted Bing and Frank Sinatra as roosters and showed how singers could speed up production on the assembly line when American industry was geared up to boost output during wartime. In 1941, Hollywood Steps Out in the “Merrie Melodies” series depicted caricatures of Bing together with Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, the Three Stooges and other screen celebrities of the decade. The voice impersonations were impressive. The Crosby segment of the cartoon was utilised in the 1975 documentary feature Brother Can You Spare a Dime? Hollywood Canine Canteen was released by Warners on April 20, 1946. In it a group of celebrity dogs, led by an ‘Edward G. Robinson’ look-alike and including ‘Jimmy Durante’, decide that celebrity dogs need a nightclub of their own. What follows is very similar to Hollywood Steps Out, except that all the celebrities are drawn as dogs. A Bing dog (voiced by Richard Bickenbach) sings “When My Dreamboat Comes Home” but loses a girl to a pencil thin Sinatra dog singing “Trade Winds”. On June 22nd, 1946, Warners Bros. released Hollywood Daffy. Friz Freleng again directed. It starts with Daffy Duck walking onto the Warner Bros. lot and attempting to pass the studio guard by disguising himself as various actors. In the guise of Bing he puts a pipe into his mouth and croons “When My Dreamboat Comes Home”. Mel Blanc provided a very good Crosby impression but it doesn’t fool the studio gateman.
Columbia was not noted for its animation unit but it provided several Crosby related shorts. The first was a cartoon is its Scrappy series with the title Merry Mutineers. Released in the winter of 1936 it tells of two young lads who are sailing their toy boat when the boat’s crew comes to life. These piratical sailors are cartoon depictions of Bing, The Marx Brothers, W. C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy and Jimmy Durante amongst others. Columbia's A Color Rhapsody series (1934-49) included a Crosby caricature in Mother Goose in Springtime (December 1939). Another Columbia cartoon which was issued in the U.S.A on 6th November, 1947 was still in theatrical release twenty years later. It was Kitty Caddy. Cartoon depictions of Hope and Crosby as golfers show them painting old golf balls white and selling them as new for 25 cents.
CASS, MAURICE (1884-1954) Actor. Two For Tonight (1935) seems to be Maurice Cass’ first Hollywood film after appearing on Broadway for just short of thirty years. In a memorable sequence in that film Bing hides in a tree and sings to the music publisher Alexander Myers who is played by Cass. It is unfortunate that the publisher is deaf. From that debut until the shortly before his death he took on comedy parts in several films, concluding with We’re Not Married (1952).
CASTLE, NICK (1910-1968) Dance Director. The ten musical numbers in Paramount’s remake of Anything Goes (1956) were staged by Nick Castle. Castle spent most of the fifties at Paramount Pictures and the two films he made prior to Anything Goes also had memorable dance sequences: Red Garters (1954) and The Seven Little Foys (1955). They provide examples of his skills in drawing passable footwork performances from non-dancers (Guy Mitchell and Bob Hope respectively). He entered the movie business following a stint as a dancer in vaudeville. As a choreographer at Fox Studios he worked with Shirley Temple and Al Jolson in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) and Swanee River (1940) respectively. In 1941 he moved to Universal and met the challenge of working with Olsen and Johnson in Hellzapoppin (1941) and the Glenn Miller Orchestra in Orchestra Wives (1942). The main Hollywood studio for musicals was M-G-M and it was only natural that he should progress to that outfit for the likes of Summer Stock with Judy Garland in 1950 and Royal Wedding with Fred Astaire the following year. His swansong saw him back where he began, at Fox, for the neglected remake of State Fair (1962).
CAULFIELD, JOAN (1922-1991) Actress. The attractive Joan Caulfield appeared with Bing in Blue Skies (1946) and Welcome Stranger (1947). She also made appearances in two of Paramount’s “all star” movies to which Bing made slight contributions - Duffy’s Tavern (1945) and Variety Girl (1947). Her singing voice was dubbed by Betty Russell in Blue Skies. If I had to describe her in one word I would choose “beautiful” because I was quite enchanted by her looks at her peak in the 1940s and so was Bing! We won’t concern ourselves here with Bing’s rumoured off-screen romantic involvement with her. Suffice to say that she apparently expressed regret that Bing’s religion forbade divorce from Dixie in order to legitimise their relationship. Her popularity in the 1940s came from films such as Miss Susie Slagles (1946), Monsieur Beaucaire (1946) and Dear Ruth (1947). She married producer Frank Ross in 1950 and officially retired. Ten years later they divorced but Joan was then no longer a glamour-puss and her film career was barely rekindled by such ‘B’ westerns as Cattle King (1963), Red Tomahawk (1967), Buckskin (1968) and Pony Express Rider (1976). That was her last film. Considering her film career spanned thirty years, her infrequent stints in front of the cameras left us precious little to remember her by.
CAVETT, FRANK (1907-1973). Screenwriter. The only Crosby picture which Cavett worked on won him a well deserved Oscar as co-scriptwriter with Frank Butler. It was Going My Way (1944), arguably Bing’s best remembered screen role. There is another tenuous Crosby connection because he contributed to the story of Smash-up, the Story of a Woman (1947) allegedly based on Bing’s wife Dixie’s alcohol problems. Cavett’s writing career began in 1939 and peaked with his last assignment. That gained him a second Oscar for collaborating on the story of The Greatest Show on Earth (1952).
CELA M’EST EGAL Song. Bing sang this to his son at the French railway station in Little Boy Lost (1953). The English translation of the Johnny Burke-James Van Heusen song is “If It’s All the Same to You”, which does nothing to add to its appeal. It’s a fun song but considering it comes from the writers of “Swinging on a Star” if falls far short of the popularity that song enjoyed ten years earlier.
CHAKIRIS, GEORGE (1934- ). Actor/Singer/Dancer. It is the latter skill as dancer that links Chakiris with Bing at the outset of the former’s career. He began in movies at age fourteen singing in the chorus of Song Of Love. He then attended dancing school and his second screen outing as a dancer was in White Christmas (1954). His transition to dramatic actor was gradual but by 1961 he was Oscar nominated for his part in West Side Story. Decreasingly important roles followed and his screen career fizzled with his last role being as a vampire in Pale Blood (1990). In 1992 he could be seen down the road from me in Liverpool in a touring company revival of Oklahoma.
CHAMPION, GOWER (1921-1980) & MARGE (1919-2020) Dancers invariably billed as Marge & Gower Champion because Mrs. C came to the attention of filmgoers before her husband did. They were in one Crosby film - Mr. Music (1950) - and appeared immediately after Bing and Peggy Lee had duetted “Life Is So Peculiar” when they continued to dance to the music. The shapely Marge was chosen by Walt Disney as the model for Snow White and the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio. After Mr. Music they appeared together on screen in the likes of Lovely to Look at (1952) and Three for the Show (1955). When the public’s taste for musicals waned Gower turned to directing and made My Six Loves (1963) and The Bank Shot (1972) amongst others whilst Marge choreographed television shows.
CHAPLIN, SAUL (1912-1997) Composer, arranger, musical director and producer. Born Saul Kaplan, he’d been in show business for about twenty years before he first crossed paths with Bing. This was when he worked at M.G.M. and worked on the musical adaptation of High Society (1956) alongside Johnny Green. Exactly twenty years were to elapse before he used Bing’s “Now You Has Jazz” duet with Louis Armstrong from High Society as one of the musical clips featured in That’s Entertainment - Part 2. At that stage he was virtually retired but acted as co-producer on that M-G-M compilation movie. In 1947 Bing had a hit with “Anniversary Song”, for which Chaplin wrote the words and adapted the music.
CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK Film. This was the second feature film in which Bing was featured. Like the first, King of Jazz (1930) he was joined by the Rhythm Boys. They are not seen however but they are heard singing “Three Little Words” whilst members of the Duke Ellington band mime to the song. The Rhythm Boys recorded their contribution in August 1930. It was Bing’s last Hollywood encounter before marrying Dixie Lee on September 29th and it was also his final involvement with RKO Pictures until The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945).
CHICAGO STYLE Song. At the commencement of Road to Bali (1953) this song quickly establishes Bing and Bob as a couple of second rate vaudevillians. It is part of their stage act and is sung before an audience in Melbourne whilst parents and their previously innocent daughters wait in the wings to get their hands on the two performers. Burke and Van Heusen wrote it for the picture and Crosby and Hope went on to make a studio recording for Decca.
CINERAMA’S RUSSIAN ADVENTURE Feature length documentary which had a limited showing on Cinerama screens in 1966. Bing made a brief appearance at the opening of this travelogue and then provided the commentary. The large screen presentation originated as a Sovexportfilm film which utilised about two hours footage of mainly Russian cultural experiences. The Bolshoi Ballet and Moscow State Circus were covered. Then an American entrepreneur, J. Jay Frankel, saw an opportunity of releasing the film with an English commentary at a time when Cinerama had just about run it course with no Hollywood Cinerama films in current production. Yet purpose built Cinerama screens were still in existence and awaiting new product. The film had its U.K. showing at the Coliseum Cinerama Theatre in St. Martin’s Lane. Fred Reynolds’ book “The Road to Hollywood” refers to the Crosby commentary as “a factual, humourless recital of events”.
CLEMENTS, STANLEY (1926-1981) Actor. Fourth billed as Tony Scaponi in Going My Way (1944), Clements was well on his way to making a ten year plus career as an adolescent tough, having been featured as “Stash”, one of the East Side Kids, in a number of movies. He certainly gave Father O’Malley a tough time in Going My Way as the leader of a gang of delinquents. He had entered movies in 1941 and found his level in low budget films as a young adult lead. By the 1950s, he was a screen regular in the Bowery Boys films as Stanislaus ‘Duke’ Coveleskie, the last of their series being In the Money in 1958. Clements went on to a steady career of supporting roles in film and TV until his death from emphysema in 1981. For the record, his first wife (1945-1948) was Gloria Grahame.
CLOONEY, ROSEMARY (1928-2002) Singer/Actress. Rosie’s one Bing pic was the 1954 White Christmas. She played Betty Haynes, singing partner and girlfriend to Bing. By that time in her career, almost half of her life had been spent in show business. She began singing on Cincinnati radio with her sister Betty before they joined the Tony Pastor band. Rosemary went solo in 1949. Her Hollywood career was brief and surrounded her Crosby effort with The Stars are Singing (1953), Here Come the Girls (1953), Red Garters (1954) and Deep in My Heart (1955). By then her Bing vocal relationship was beginning to build. For almost all of the fifties she was around when Bing was broadcasting on American radio, usually under Buddy Cole’s supervision. Two well loved record albums with Bing followed and at the end of the Crosby career she was still providing sterling support on Bing’s concerts. A record career revitalisation occurred in the eighties when she began making albums for the Concord Label. Fond memories of Bing are found in her autobiographies This for Remembrance (1978) and Girl Singer-An Autobiography (1999).
CLOTHIER, WILLIAM H. (1903-1996) Director of photography. Bing’s last Hollywood feature film was shot by a master of big screen western action movies. Stagecoach (1966) made full use of the Colorado scenery at a time when Hollywood’s way of competing with television western series was to utilise wide screen grandeur shot on location as opposed to the studio backlot. Clothier was Hollywood’s leading outdoor colour cinematographer. He’d worked for the best directors of westerns: John Ford, William Wellman, Sam Peckinpah and Raoul Walsh amongst others. Gordon Douglas, the director of Stagecoach, was not a member of that illustrious company of western film makers but at least Twentieth Century-Fox provided him with the finest cameraman money could buy. Clothier’s films surrounding Stagecoach provide an impressive body of work representing the last great years of western films before they went out of vogue. Consider The Horse Soldiers (1959), The Alamo (1960), Cheyenne Autumn (1964), Shenandoah (1965), The Way West (1967), Chisum (1970) and Big Jake (1971). By the time Clothier photographed his last western, The Train Robbers, in 1973, the genre had run its course.
COBURN, CHARLES (1877-1961). Actor. Coburn appeared at ten yearly intervals in Bing pictures. Road to Singapore (1940) - Mr. Music (1950) - Pepe (1960). In the first he was Bing’s dad, in Mr. Music a producer and in Pepe one of several guests. Pepe also provided our final opportunity to see him on screen after a prolific career of almost thirty years. He was almost always cast as a hard headed businessman with a heart of gold, as was the case with his 1940 and 1950 Crosby movies. The parts he played were usually too meaty to put him in the character actor category and, when he wasn’t billed ‘above the title’, supporting actor fits him best. It was in that capacity that he won an Oscar for The More The Merrier in 1943. Three memories I have of him from my picturegoing days in the fifties are Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) and How to Murder a Rich Uncle (1957).
COLLEGE HUMOR (Film). This was Bing’s second film made under his Paramount contract. Shot during March and April of 1933 it was in the cinemas by June. Bing is Professor Danvers, who teaches drama (heavily sprinkled with popular music). As well as providing a showcase for Bing to sing a medley of his earlier hits, audiences were treated to a trio of soon to be Crosby standards from the 1930’s: “Learn to Croon”, “Moonstruck” and “Down the Old Ox Road”. When he came to re-record its songs for his 1954 musical autobiography Bing introduced them by saying he never knew what the story was all about. Buried in the film’s cast list is one James Donlan. He is best remembered today as a marathon drinker and the father of actress Yolande Donlan. He did not find fame at all as a fortune teller when he stated “this Crosby kid can’t act at all. Imagine signing a crooner.” Not in the cast list but still featuring as a dancer in the film is Marjorie Reynolds, who had a further ten years to wait before co-starring with Bing in Holiday Inn. Also absent from the film’s credit titles was Joseph L. Mankiewicz, then under contract to Paramount as a writer. His job was to improve the work of others. In this case College Humor screenplay writers Claude Binyon and Frank Butler. Mankiewicz went on to script All About Eve (1950) and Guys and Dolls (1955). College Humor received cool reviews. Variety summed it up well when it called it “a light, frothy musical that doesn’t give the customers much of a mental workout”.
COLLINS, JOAN (1933- ). Actress. If her one Crosby picture was not significant, I could quite happily omit Miss Collins from this A to Z. However she did take the ‘Dorothy Lamour’ role in the last Road picture and so is technically Bing’s leading lady on The Road to Hong Kong (1962). Her autobiography “Past Imperfect” made a number of uncomplimentary remarks about working with Bing. These were excised from the American printing of the book. Joan Collins’ film career began with I Believe in You (1952). Three years later she had been signed by 20th Century-Fox and her Hollywood career began with Land of the Pharaohs. By the late seventies her film career was virtually over but by then American television soap operas had claimed her. She provided some of the best school playground jokes of the 1980s.
COLONNA, JERRY (1904-1986). Actor, trombone player and singer of sorts. Colonna appeared in three Road pictures, making diminishing contributions. He was Achilles Bombanassa in Road to Singapore (1940) when his suit was effectively ruined by Bing and Bob’s application of Spotto. Colonna got revenge by singing “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny”. He played himself in Road to Rio (1948) in which he led a posse that failed to help the plot or catch anyone. Then, for old time’s sake, he made a brief guest appearance in The Road to Hong Kong (1962). In addition he was in the star-studded but virtually plotless Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) in which Bing appeared. He was a regular on Bob Hope’s radio shows and quite often had a spot in Hope’s movies (e.g. College Swing (1938). He also had brief fame in the early fifties as a result of a short lived recording contract with American Decca.
COLUMBIA PICTURES Hollywood studio. Founded in 1920 by the brothers Jack and Harry Cohn, the studio released Pennies from Heaven (1936) although the film received its New York premiere at the Paramount Theatre. In 1957 they also distributed the Variety Clubs International short The Heart of Show business, which Bing narrated in part. The only Crosby film which could truly be called a Columbia picture was Pepe (1960), in which Bing made a brief appearance. Columbia was not a major studio until director Frank Capra put it on the map in the 1930s. Its most profitable film in the 1940s was The Jolson Story (1946). The death of Harry Cohn in 1958 removed the studio’s driving force.
COLUMBO, RUSS (1908-1934) Singer. Columbo belongs in this ‘A to Z’ in order to dispel a hoax perpetrated by a prominent American record collector and compounded by an equally prominent Australian one. In the late 1960s a short film called The Romantic Rivals was the basis for a limited edition album of Crosby/Columbo duets. These twelve songs were supposedly taken from the soundtrack of a Pathe short which in itself was a ‘test’ for a proposed feature length film. That feature, which would star the two crooners, was planned for around 1930. Bing had no memory of such a film and no soundtrack recording found its way onto the collectors market. However, a limited edition LP which originated in Australia contained a ‘duet’ of “Goodnight Sweetheart”. The record album indicated that the song was from the Romantic Rivals film. That particular song was not one of the dozen stated as being on the American pressed soundtrack album. Conveniently, it was a song commercially recorded by both Crosby and Columbo. With careful engineering an impression of the two vocalists being present at the same recording session was created. Columbo was popular in his day and although not a serious rival to Crosby, he made greater headway than Bing in Hollywood. At the time of his death by an accidentally inflicted gunshot wound he had made eight features, the most popular being his last, Wake Up and Dream (1934).
COMO, PERRY (1912-2001) Singer. Como appeared in a 27-minute tobacco industry film financed by the makers of Chesterfield Cigarettes called Tobaccoland on Parade (1950) with Bing and Arthur Godfrey. Como sang "Because" and at the very end, Bing is seen singing a short version of "Swinging on a Star". In The Fifth Freedom (1951) a ten minute short extolling the virtues of smoking Chesterfield cigarettes, both Crosby and Como appear in separate segments. Como sings “Bless This House”. Professionally the two appeared together on radio and television but never on the cinema screens. Como’s own relationship with movies was brief. He appeared in four films at a time he was establishing himself as a serious male vocalist alongside Crosby, Sinatra and Haymes. They were Something for the Boys (1944), Doll Face (1945), If I’m Lucky (1946) and Words and Music (1948). Why did his film career come to a sudden halt? One reason given is that at a party on the M-G-M lot after Words and Music was in the can he sang a song which contained uncomplimentary remarks about studio head Louis B. Mayer. Mayer could not carry out the physically impossible manoeuvre suggested by Como so gave him the sack instead.
CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT, A Film. Or Connecticut Yankee (its officially registered alternate title in the USA), or A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (its British release title). Whatever its title, it was a popular film at the time of its release in 1949. It earned $3m in North American rentals and was placed 16th in Variety’s table of money making films that year. However, its substantial production costs - $3,020,000 - meant Paramount had to wait for overseas rentals and a subsequent re-release before the red ink disappeared from the studio accountant’s ledger. Paramount originally planned to use the Rodgers and Hart score from a successful stage production but M-G-M held the rights and wouldn’t relinquish. This proved to be no great hardship because Crosby’s regular film songsmiths, Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen, came up with a trio of tailor made tunes for Bing: “If You Stub Your Toe on the Moon”, “Once and for Always” and “Busy Doing Nothing”. Because the plot was not overloaded with song sequences, the tried and tested Mark Twain story could be developed to the full. It had been filmed before in 1921 and 1931. Bing played Hank Martin, an American visitor to England in the year 1912. Seven years earlier, back in the States, a blow to the head magically transported him back to 528 AD. There he fell for Rhonda Fleming and his visit to England re-united him with that gorgeous lady.
CONNELLY, REG (1895-1963) Composer and song publisher. He co-wrote just one Crosby film song, and that in collaboration with Harry Woods and Jimmy Campbell. His name justifies a listing because Bing featured it in three 1933 films. It was the title song of the Paramount short Just an Echo, found its way into a medley in College Humor and received its final movie reprise in Going Hollywood. When he died he left £207,840. That was a tidy amount considering that his most famous composition was usually sung without any royalties accruing to Connelly. That was “Show Me the Way to Go Home” a pub closing time favourite which he wrote and published in 1925. Before “Echo” he ensured a place in the songwriters’ hall of fame by co-writing “Goodnight, Sweetheart” with Ray Noble and “Underneath the Arches” and “Try a Little Tenderness” with Jimmy Campbell.
COOPER, GARY (1901-1961). Actor. Coop was a friend of Bing. Crosby son Gary was named after him. Yet Crosby and Cooper only appeared on screen once together although they were both in four films:
· Hollywood on Parade No. 2 (short, 1932)
· Star Night at the Cocoanut Grove (short, 1935)
· Variety Girl (1947)
· Alias Jesse James (1959)
It was in Variety Girl
where Cooper can be seen very briefly on screen with Crosby in the line-up of
Paramount stars singing “Harmony”. The friendship was off screen, although
Cooper was persuaded to guest with Bing on radio. Appropriately, Gary was the
man who presented Bing with his Oscar for Going My Way at the Academy
Awards presentation in 1945. Cooper’s film career began in 1925 and it comes as
no surprise that he was regularly cast as an extra in Westerns. A year later he
got his big break as second lead in The Winning of Barbara Worth. He was
a star thereafter until his death of cancer. Everyone has a favourite Gary
Cooper movie. I will select a personal favourite from each of his three decades
of stardom: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Sergeant York (1941)
and High Noon (1952). He was still in front of the cameras after his
terminal illness had been diagnosed. The last film in which he appeared was the
thriller The Naked Edge (1961), which was shot in England.
CORD, ALEX (1933- ) Actor. Cord was the leading man in the remake of Stagecoach (1966) because he played the Ringo Kid. It was a big break that led nowhere. He’d had an unbilled bit in The Chapman Report (1964) and a minor role in Synanon (1965) before 20th Century-Fox took a chance and let him follow in the footsteps of John Wayne. But the shoes weren’t big enough and no memorable parts followed although he was still making occasional appearances on film and TV until the mid-1990s.
CORNELL, LILLIAN (1916-2015), the actress and singer who appeared in thirteen films in the early 1940s, including Las Vegas Nights (1941) and Rhythm on the River (1940). In the latter, she played Millie Starling, the Basil Rathbone character’s leading lady and sang “What Would Shakespeare Have Said?” She also took part in the famous broadcast on August 16, 1940 from Del Mar when Bing's film Rhythm on the River was premiered and sang a snatch of “Where the Turf Meets the Surf”.
CORRIGAN, RAY “CRASH” [Raymond Bernard] (1907-1976) Stuntman and bit player who graduated to action films before specialising in playing apes. He was the gorilla soothed by Bing in Road to Bali (1953) when Crosby serenaded the animal with “To See You Is to Love You”. Corrigan was a familiar face to lads who frequented the Saturday morning sagebrush shows. He was a regular in the Three Mesquiteers and then The Rangebuster series. From the mid 1940s he hired himself out to film producers complete with an assortment of gorilla suits. He also established Corriganville, a ranch he hired out for western film location shoots. By the middle of the 1960s the popularity of film westerns was fast diminishing and Corrigan sold his ranch to Bob Hope for $2,800,000.
COSLOW, SAM (1902-1982) Songwriter. The early contribution by lyric writer Coslow to Bing’s film and recording career is important. He was there at the beginning and he recognised Crosby’s talent at an early stage. He was contracted as a songwriter to Paramount and in 1930 he recommended the studio to use Bing in a musical they were about to film. At that time Bing was working with the Whiteman Orchestra and the Big Boss said ‘no’. So they had to wait a little longer. The full tally of Coslow composed songs Bing sang on screen follows. Unless otherwise stated Coslow wrote them in collaboration with Arthur Johnston. Note how many are now regarded as Crosby standards.
· One More Chance (1931 short) “Just One More Chance”
· Hollywood on Parade No. 4 (1933 short) “Boo Boo Boo”
· College Humor (1933) “Learn to Croon”, “Moonstruck”, “Down the Old Ox Road”, “Just One More Chance”
· Too Much Harmony (1933) “Thanks”, “The Day You Came Along”, “Buckin’ the Wind”, “Boo Boo Boo”
· Double or Nothing (1937) “After You” (written with Al Siegel)
· Duffy’s Tavern (1945) “Learn to Croon”
· Out of This World (1945) “I’d Rather Be Me” (written with Felix Bernard and Eddie Cherkose)
Also written for Too Much Harmony but not sung in the film by Bing is the Crosby classic “Black Moonlight”. Coslow’s career as a writer for films petered out in the mid forties. If you want to know more about him, read his autobiography “Cocktails for Two” (1977). If you want to see him, he accompanies Bing on “Boo-Boo-Boo” in Hollywood on Parade No. 4 (1933). If you want to listen to him, he made a handful of recordings for Brunswick in the early thirties .They were dreadful. At least he usually murders the songs of other composers. “You Are My Lucky Star”, for instance, must be the worst ever rendition of that song.
COSMOPOLITAN PICTURES Hollywood film studio set up in 1919 by William Randolph Hearst for the sole purpose of promoting his girlfriend Marion Davies. Bing was involved in only one Cosmopolitan production. That was Going Hollywood (1933). It had a leisurely shooting schedule which suited Bing because brother Everett had negotiated Bing’s fee on a weekly basis at a rate of $2,000. Judging by the stories surrounding the making of the picture a good time was had by all. In the year following the shooting of Going Hollywood Hearst’s fortunes took a turn for the worse and Miss Davies had lost what little box-office clout she might have had. Cosmopolitan Pictures quietly expired.
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS INSTEAD OF SHEEP Song. Most of the Irving Berlin songs featured in White Christmas (1954) live on. Bing sang this as a lullaby to Rosemary Clooney in the picture. Naturally it had the opposite of its intended effect and she duetted with him instead of falling asleep. Shortly after there is a brief reprise by Bing which finds Rosie in a less agreeable mood.
COUNTRY GIRL, THE Film. This 1954 Paramount picture was Bing’s most demanding dramatic role to date. He tackled the part of hard drinker Frank Elgin valiantly and earned the Oscar nomination for Best Actor voted him by fellow Academy members. The film’s story charts the trials of near alcoholic Elgin when he is cast in a Broadway musical. The audience has to tussle with two issues during the film’s 104 minutes:
(i) Will Bing overcome his drink problem and be a success in the musical play The Land Around Us.
(ii) Will Bing get the girl in the eternal triangle involving Grace Kelly and William Holden.
It won’t spoil your future viewing enjoyment if I tell you “yes” on both counts. The Country Girl is an interesting departure from the typical Crosby movie norm in that the four songs Bing sings are hardly hit parade contenders. When he went serious with Little Boy Lost the year before, composers Burke and Van Heusen had an eye on record sales but The Country Girl remained faithful to Clifford Odets’ 1950 Broadway hit and songs were tailored to the play within a play rather than ‘Bing Sings Pop Songs.’ I remember leaving the cinema feeling rather let down after seeing The Country Girl. I had expected a light hearted Crosby vehicle. Now I see it in a different light. It is Bing’s finest acting performance.
COUNTRY STYLE Song. This upbeat number featured in Welcome Stranger (1947). No doubt a synopsis of the film was passed to Bing’s movie tunesmiths Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen. They noted a barn dance sequence in the film and knocked out the number in half an hour.
COUPLE OF SONG AND DANCE MEN, A Song. This was just one of the nearly two dozen Irving Berlin songs crammed into Paramount’s Blue Skies (1946). It is sung, and danced, by Bing and Fred Astaire during a rehearsal session. It is supposed to be part of a routine from the earlier vaudeville days of the Crosby-Astaire show-business partnership. The real Crosby and Astaire were both Decca recording artistes at the time the film was released and a hit single resulted. Some thirty years later the two got together again in London and re-recorded the song for a best selling album produced by Ken Barnes.COWAN, JEROME (1897-1972) Actor. He played the influential broadcaster Claudius de Wolfe in East Side of Heaven (1939). He was unsympathetic to the plight of the Crosby character. He had served his performing apprenticeship in vaudeville, repertory and Broadway before entering films in 1936. He played in well over one hundred diverse roles before his final film - The Comic - in 1969.
CRAIG, YVONNE (1937-2015). Actress. If a young female is called Randy Pruitt you have an idea what casting directors are looking for. Yvonne Craig was so called in High Time (1960) after graduating from early film roles in Eighteen and Anxious (1957) and Gidget (1959). She was in a Bing picture before moving on to a couple with Elvis and one with Dean Martin. But her claim to fames came in the late 1960’s when she was cast as Batgirl in the Batman television series. She quit acting in the early 1980's and moved into real estate brokerage.
CREWS, LAURA HOPE (1879-1942) Leading lady turned character actress. By the time she was cast in two 1939 Crosby releases, Doctor Rhythm and The Star Maker, Laura Hope Crews had been stereotyped as a matronly mischief maker by casting directors. In the first film she played the hypochondriac Mrs. Twombling and in The Star Maker she was Carlotta Salvini, the ex-opera singing mother of Jane Gray (played by Linda Ware). In that same year she played her best remembered part, that of Aunt Pittypat in Gone with the Wind. Seeing her on-screen performances it comes as no surprise that she came to Hollywood at the dawn of the talkies as a speech coach. She was in constant demand by the major studios up until the time of her death, her last film being The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942).
CRONYN, HUME (1911-2003). In Top O’ the Morning (1949), actor Hume Cronyn was no better and no worse a stage Irishman than the rest of the cast (Barry Fitzgerald excepted!). As Constable Hughie Devine he is assigned to help find the stolen Blarney Stone, but all is not what it seems and he also turns out to be a murderer. At this stage in Cronyn’s career he was alternating between the Broadway stage and Hollywood movies. In more recent times Broadway claimed him more often than the cinema. He started at the top in films with a part in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and sufficiently impressed Hitch to be in that director’s Lifeboat a year later. After the 1940s only a good acting part would tempt him from his stage work. Such parts were few and far between but included People Will Talk (1951), Hamlet (1964) and The Parallax View (1974). One of Broadway’s appeals to Cronyn was the opportunity it offered him to star with his actress wife Jessica Tandy. They married in 1942 and attempted to structure their careers so that they act together. In the 1980s such opportunities presented themselves in the successful Cocoon and the follow-up film Cocoon: the Return.
CROONER’S HOLIDAY Film. This was the title given to the Mack Sennett short Dream House (1931) when Astor Pictures re-released it in 1935. They abridged the Sennett one reeler but left the four Crosby vocals intact.
CROSBY, BOB (1913-1993). Actor, singer, bandleader and kid brother of Bing. Brother Bob appeared fleetingly in one Bing Crosby picture. That was Road to Bali (1952) in which he fires a rifle for no other reason than to allow Bing to crack the joke, “I promised him a shot in the picture.” Bob had one earlier off screen link with Bing’s film career. The 1942 film Holiday Inn carried the credit ‘Special arrangements by Bob Crosby’s Orchestra.’ The regular Paramount Musical Director, Robert Emmett Dolan, also received credit on the film. Bob’s show business career began when he was signed up as a band vocalist, first by Anson Weeks and then by the Dorsey Brothers. Singing became secondary once he became the leader of his own Dixieland band. His singing style was not unlike Bing’s but he inevitably suffered by being compared unfavourably to his famous brother. His film work was mainly in minor films, usually from Poverty Row studios, or as a speciality appearance as ‘band leader’ in a major production. The latter category covers Presenting Lily Mars (1943) When You’re Smiling (1953) and Senior Prom (1959). The ‘B’ pictures he made carry such uninspiring titles as Rookies on Parade (1941), Kansas City Kitty (1944) and The Singing Sheriff (1944). By the 1950s he was accepted for the entertainer he was rather than a close relative of somebody very famous. He made his mark on radio and television in that decade. His last film provided him with his best remembered screen appearance as Will Paradise in The Five Pennies (1959).
CROSBY BOYS, THE (Dennis, Gary, Lindsay and Phillip). They were sons from Bing’s first marriage to Dixie Lee and all four were involved in Crosby films released in 1945. Bing was not on screen with them in either, something psychiatrists would no doubt find interesting in the 21st century. In the first, Duffy’s Tavern, Robert Benchley tells the four of them a bedtime story. In the second, Out of This World, they are part of an audience at a radio show when dad’s voice emanates from the mouth of Eddie Bracken. In addition, Gary and Phillip had brief moments separately in two of dad’s movies. Gary is glimpsed with Bing at Paramount Studios in the 1942 Star Spangled Rhythm and Phillip has one line as a mobster type in Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964). Lindsay and Dennis died by their own hands in 1988 and 1991 respectively and Gary passed away in 1995. The remaining brother, Phillip, died in January, 2004.
CROSBY, COLOMBO AND VALLEE. Cartoon short. The Crosby caricature and vocal impersonation have featured in over a dozen animated shorts. This was the first, released by Warner Bros in 1932. The title refers to the three most popular singers at the time in the USA and a non-Bing recording of the song “Crosby, Columbo and Vallee” had a degree of popularity.
CROSBY VOICE Bing’s recordings were often used to quickly tune in audiences to an era or time of year. A sample of those used towards the end of Bing’s life follows:
UP FOR MURDER (1931)
- This Universal film starring Lew Ayres has a scene where a song is
playing in the background on the radio. It is The Rhythm Boys singing
"There Must Be Somebody for Me". It is thought that this had
originally been recorded for the film Many a Slip but not used.
RICHARD HAMILTON (1969) This is an Arts Council of Great Britain sponsored twenty five minute short. It is devoted to the works of artist Richard Hamilton. The only song heard in the short is “White Christmas”. Bing’s Decca recording is used to illustrate Hamilton’s painting “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” The painting is of Bing in negative and the effects of colour reversal create a snow scene effect to the Crosby features.
PAPER MOON (1973) Peter Bogdanovitch’s film relies solely on commercial recordings and radio programmes to provide background music for this film which is set in the U.S.A. in the 1930s. Bing’s recording of “Just One More Chance” is featured.
BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME (1975) David Puttnam was involved in this 109 minute compilation of 1930s film footage. As well as singing the title song we hear Bing’s recording of “Where the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day.” The film’s closing credits wrongly title the latter song “When the Blue...”.
THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976) In this Bing can be heard singing “True Love”. At the film’s end, Candy Clark, playing David Bowie’s girlfriend, goes to Bowie's apartment in a Father Christmas outfit. As the two move around the apartment, part of Bing’s Capitol recording of “True Love” is heard on the soundtrack.
TRACKS (1976) Made in the U.S.A. and starring Dennis Hopper, director Henry Jaglom makes use of two of Bing’s American Decca recordings: “These Foolish Things” and “(There’ll Be a) Hot Time in the Town of Berlin”, the latter performed with the Andrews Sisters. Set in 1973, the story concerns Hopper journeying by train across country with a coffin containing the body of an army friend killed in Vietnam. Hopper reminisces about his childhood and the flashback sequences are highlighted by music of the period. Astaire, Sinatra, Dinah Shore and others are also heard.
Bing’s voice could still be heard in cinemas around the world following his death. The following is a selection of films which used his vocals on cinema releases after 1977.
F.I.S.T. (1978) In this film which starred Sylvester Stallone and Rod Steiger the story concerns the forty year growth of an American labour union. In the early part of the film the U.S. Decca recording of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by Bing and the Andrews Sisters is heard on the soundtrack. The song is playing on the radio in a scene where a Chicago business man is visited during the Christmas holiday by union representatives.
THE BRINK’S JOB (1978) This film, based on fact and about a bank robbery, begins in 1944 and in an early scene set in Boston the American Decca recording of “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”, by Bing and the Andrews Sisters is heard. This serves to indicate the era without resorting to a caption or explanatory dialogue. At the end of the film the same recording is heard as the gang of robbers depicted in the film ascend the courthouse steps for a trial prior to imprisonment.
PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (1982) The 36 years separating this version from the original Crosby movie will prevent any confusion as to what you are paying to see. This 1982 version uses recordings from the 1930s to advance the storyline. The film’s setting is the thirties with the actors miming to 78s from that decade. Bing’s contribution is “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking”. A soundtrack album to tie in with the film’s release featured Steve Martin singing the title song.
FRANCES (1982) Bing is heard singing “Love Is So Terrific” as background music in this screen biography of Bing’s one time leading lady Frances Farmer. This song is taken from the Philco Radio Time broadcast of 31st March, 1948.
SOME KIND OF HERO (1982) This one missed a U.K. theatrical release. Michael Pressman directed a comedy-drama in which the first half hour concerns the film’s hero, played by Richard Pryor. He is taken prisoner by the Vietnamese. He registers the passing of time on his cell wall by writing the year each Christmas. Towards the end of his imprisonment the public address system broadcasts Bing and Carol Richards Decca recording of “Silver Bells”.
A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) This warm family film is set in an Indiana suburb in the 1940s. It takes a nostalgic look at middle-America and concentrates on a young boy’s view of Christmas. It shows how the child reacts to the gift of an air rifle, which he wants as a present. Bing’s Decca 78s are used to give a seasonal early 1940’s atmosphere to the film by the playing of “Jingle Bells”, “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”. Bob Clark directed this Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer release.
RACING WITH THE MOON (1984) This Paramount picture is also set in the U.S.A. at Christmastime. The year is 1942 and two teenage boys are awaiting induction into the U.S. Marines. During their wait they have affairs with two local girls. Clever use is made of Paramount News (remember “The eyes and ears of the world”?) when a wartime clip swiftly sets the scene. Popular songs of the era are played on the soundtrack including Bing’s Decca recording of “Moonlight Becomes You”.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 2; FREDDY’S REVENGE (1985) Bing’s recording of “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking” is heard on the soundtrack of this American horror film about a teenager suffering from nightmares.
ONE MAGIC CHRISTMAS (1985) Denied a theatrical release in the U.K., this Canadian tear jerker has the warm glow of the season of goodwill we’ve come to expect of a Walt Disney production. Mary Steenbergen and husband Gary Basaraba are finding it hard to cope following job redundancy. Halfway through the film they have a heart to heart talk in their kitchen. The radio plays softly in the background and Bing’s Decca recording of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” adds poignancy to a situation where it looks as though the family will be homeless before too long. But the spirit of Uncle Walt makes sure that all ends happily.
TOUGH GUYS (1986) This film was a major disappointment. Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas failed to live up to their performances in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral made thirty years earlier. Tough Guys depicts them as two ex-cons released from prison and still spiritually belonging to the 1950s. Bing sings “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” on the soundtrack. It is Crosby’s 1970’s recording made for Concord although Burt Lancaster is shown placing a 78 on the record turntable.
RADIO DAYS (1987) Woody Allen’s affectionate tribute to the golden days of American radio crams loads of music from the 1930s and 1940s onto the nostalgia provoking soundtrack. Bing’s contribution is part of the Decca recording of “Pistol Packin’ Mama” sung with the Andrews Sisters.
SOMEONE TO LOVE (1987) Director Henry Jaglom again selected a Crosby recording for one of his films. Jaglom also played the film’s leading role as a film maker. The reviewer for the “Monthly Film Bulletin” wrote: “the use of evocative songs like “Long Ago and Far Away” conjure a nostalgic yearning for romantic times and distant places”. It is Bing’s Decca recording of that song which is used to help perfectly capture the mood of one of the film’s introspective moments.
LADY IN WHITE (1988) The plot is concerned with the ghost of a girl murdered in 1952. Halfway through this supernatural thriller is a sequence set during the Christmas season of 1963. We see a shot of a portable record player. Without assistance the turntable starts to revolve and the tone arm descends on a 78. Bing sings “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking” and the film’s main character, young Frankie, played by Lukas Haas, descends the stairs and sees the ghost of a murdered girl. The song has a significant part to play in the film’s plot. As the end credits roll the Crosby vocal is reprised, followed by the lyrics being picked up by a childish voice intended to be that of the murdered girl.
CHRISTMAS IN TATTERTOWN (1988) This thirty minute cartoon was first shown on television in the U.S.A. in 1988. It is a Christmas story which adults are able to enjoy. The simple plot concerns a doll called Muffet who hates Christmas and the sentiment surrounding the season of goodwill. She is supported in her beliefs by a spider and a fly. When Debbie, the doll’s owner, plays Bing’s recording of “White Christmas” both spider and fly are reduced to tears.
WHEN HARRY MET SALLY (1989) The theme of this American film is that men and women cannot have sex and still be just friends. Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) both graduate in 1977. They meet again in 1982 and 1987. It is the second re-union which sees the relationship between the two strengthening and the lengthy sequence embraces the Christmas/New Year festivities of 1987/8. Bing sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” as the story moves towards a happy conclusion.
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989) This film charts the ongoing misfortunes of the Griswold family. Chevy Chase is again cast as Clark W. Griswold, jnr., for whom disasters loom round every corner. In a scene set just before Christmas Day he gazes wistfully into the distance and a sequence illustrates his dreams: a large swimming pool on a hot summer’s day surrounded by bikini clad girls. The musical item that blends Christmas sentiment with the warm outdoors happens to be the Hawaiian song “Mele Kalikimaka”, sung by Bing and the Andrews Sisters. A further nod to the Crosby influence on Christmas comes at Griswold’s darkest hour when the family guests pack to leave the disaster stricken house. Chevy Chase bars their way, grits his teeth and says, “Nobody leaves. This is going to be the happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny Kaye.”
THE ROAD HOME (1989) Originally titled “Last Angels” when released to poor box-office in the U.S.A., Rank retitled the movie for U.K. distribution. Its theme had Donald Sutherland learning more about adolescent problems than most of us wished to know. Reviewer Nigel Floyd had this to say when the film reached the British Isles: “Art movies made by concerned middle-aged parents about mixed-up teenage kids are as irrelevant and inappropriate as a Bing Crosby record at a Beastie Boys concert.” Bing’s 1943 recording of “San Fernando Valley” seems out of place on the soundtrack where recordings by the likes of Happy Mondays, Raheem, The Pogues and The Cure predominate.
AVALON (1990) The film tells in flashback the family fortunes of the Krichinsky family from 1914 to the mid-60s. Avalon is a suburb of Baltimore and is the backdrop for mapping out the family fortunes from grandfather Sam Krichinsky downwards. Bing’s soundtrack contribution is “Silver Bells” which he duets with Carol Richards. Other musical items include Jolson’s “Anniversary Song”, Buddy Clark singing “I’ll Dance at Your Wedding” and “Racing with the Moon” from Vaughn Monroe.
HENRY AND JUNE (1990) The Henry of the title is author Henry Miller and June is his wife. It is 1931 and Miller is in Paris. Director Philip Kaufman decided to use French and American recordings of the period alongside an orchestral score of 1930s classical compositions. One of his contemporary selections was Bing’s recording of “I Found a Million Dollar Baby”.
HUDSON HAWK (1991) This American comedy thriller was the first major financial disaster of the 1990s as far as Hollywood was concerned. Bing’s recording of “Swinging on a Star” plays a major part in the plot. Willis as the Hudson Hawk of the title plans to steal a Leonardo da Vinci from a New York auction house. He estimates the heist will take the length of time it takes to sing “Swinging on a Star”. Does he pull it off? Do you care?
OSCAR (1991) When Sylvester Stallone isn’t playing Rocky or Rambo he tries to turn in performances which don’t clash with his popular image. As Angelo Provolone in Oscar he promises his dying father he will go straight. It is 1934. In a scene in the first reel, Stallone’s daughter (Ornella Muti) is showing her rebellious side. She is in retreat in her bedroom smoking and listening to Bing’s 1932 recording of “Sweet Georgia Brown”. Rebellion didn’t come much worse than that in the 1930s.
NOVEMBER DAYS (1991) Although commissioned by the BBC, this documentary about the fall of the Berlin Wall received wide theatrical release in the U.S.A. It was made by Marcel Ophuls, who is known for his “no holds barred” style. Parts of Bing’s May, 1942 recording of “Song of Freedom” are used throughout the film. Anti-Semitism is an issue explored in the film and Bing’s vocal gives added poignancy in a sequence when a Neo-Nazi is interviewed. Little did Russian Jew Irving Berlin know when he wrote “Song of Freedom” for Holiday Inn how tellingly it would be utilised half a century later.
GRUMPY OLD MEN (1993) This Warner Bros. film includes Bing’s Warner Bros. released recording of “Winter Wonderland”. About three-quarters through this comedy of the feuding couple played by Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau comes a scene set in Christmas Eve, 1992. “Winter Wonderland” is heard as we watch a familiar urban snow scene. The viewer is led to expect a cosy sequence but instead a serious note is struck as we watch a fraught incident about a failing marriage. The feel good effect of the Crosby vocal is countered by the on-screen disharmony of marital discord.
TRAPPED IN PARADISE (1994) Paradise is a town in the U.S.A. populated by trusting, unsophisticated citizens. It is visited for the first time on Christmas Eve by Nicholas Cage and his two brothers. There is a scene in the town’s bank where customers are conducting business whilst Bing’s 1963 recording of “Do You Hear What I Hear” is playing over the public address system. Cage and brothers rob the bank, bungle an escape and then become reformed characters.
THE TROUBLES WE’VE SEEN (1994) This Marcel Ophuls documentary uses similar techniques to the earlier November Days. It won the International Critics prize at the 32nd New York Film Festival. It is a history of war correspondents and how news is filtered before it reaches readers, viewers and listeners. The war in Sarajevo is prominently featured and Ophuls juxtaposes apparently unrelated film clips in order to make a point. Bing is heard singing “White Christmas” to film footage of sledding in the Bosnian mountains.
THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU’RE DEAD (1995) I find it difficult to understand why the American Decca recording of “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” by Bing and the Andrews Sisters was selected to accompany a scene in this violent gangster film. Just over an hour and a half into the picture Andy Garcia, the film’s leading man, is the subject of a vicious beating. We study his bruised features and for about half a minute the Crosby/ Andrews Sisters recording plays on the soundtrack. The music has no obvious relevance to the action unfolding on screen.
MOTHER NIGHT (1996) Nick Nolte plays a double agent who broadcasts anti-Semitic propaganda to the U.S.A. Bing’s Decca recording of “White Christmas” is played unedited over the credit titles at the film’s beginning. Then, forty minutes into the action, there is a sequence set in New York in 1960. “White Christmas” is heard on the soundtrack. We see a display of Decca 78s as the Nolte character explains he has 26 copies of the Crosby disc which he obtained via the U.S. Armed Forces.
L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997) A thriller from Warner Bros. which proves once again how a Crosby Christmas record can provide instant atmosphere. It is sometime in the 1950s and it is Christmastime. About twenty minutes into the film there is a scene in a liquor store. Bing and the Andrews Sisters are heard singing “Mele Kalikimaka” when Kim Basinger and a cop visit the store. Violence ensues.
LOCUSTS, THE (1997) Released on video as “The Secret Sin” this is a most unlikely film to feature a Crosby recording on the soundtrack. Set in Kansas in the early 1960s our hero (Vince Vaughn) runs away from his past to seek anonymity as a ranch hand. The film’s songs are almost all late 1950s recordings with the notable exception of Bing’s “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking”. That song starts up as background music some thirteen minutes into the story. We hear it as Vaughn makes his way in the moonlight to his bunkhouse. The soundtrack recordings preceding Bing are by Brenda Lee and Buddy Holly and it is impossible to fathom why Bing’s recording – legitimately licensed from Sony according to the film’s credits – was considered for a story involving incest, castration and suicide. Crosby soundtrack contributions don’t get more bizarre than this.
THE MYTH OF FINGERPRINTS (1997) This little seen American movie from the mid-nineties is a family drama set over the Thanksgiving weekend. The plot brings surprises and revelations every five minutes or so. A snatch of Bing’s recording of “Don’t Be That Way” and a lengthy excerpt from “Adeste Fideles” are heard on the soundtrack. The latter song is used to good effect two-thirds through the story when actors Roy Scheider and Blythe Danner are preparing a turkey for the oven. Bing’s song lulls viewers into thinking all is well with the world but this is only a temporary respite before more skeletons emerge from the cupboard.
ENEMY OF THE STATE (1998) This is an intelligent thriller set in the U.S.A. towards the end of the twentieth century. The film’s underlying theme of this Touchstone Picture is the extent of technology’s ability to invade privacy. Will Smith plays an innocent citizen sucked into a web of political corruption. His financial background is distorted and his marriage almost destroyed. The film’s final scene provides a happy ending. The credits roll. Bing’s 1947 Decca recording of “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” is played as the audience leaves the cinema with Crosby’s re-assuring voice reminding them it was only a film.
FOREVER HOLLYWOOD (1999) This fifty minute compilation is shown on a regular basis at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. The Egyptian is operated by the American Cinematheque. The film glorifies Hollywood. It ends with Bing singing “Going Hollywood” from the film of the same name.
SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS (2000) The film is set around 1950 but a flashback sequence takes us to 1942. The editor of a small town newspaper has published an editorial sympathetic to the Japanese community. He is telling his son about the number of readers who have cancelled the paper as a result of his views. In the background to the scene we hear Bing’s Decca recording of “Would You”.
BI-CENTENNIAL MAN (2000) In this Robin Williams comedy he plays a robot. In one scene he is seen repairing a phonograph. The 78 that is played is Bing’s “I Found a Million Dollar Baby”.
HOLLYWOOD ENDING (2001) Directed by Woody Allen, this film sees his return to comedy form with a subject that many would not find amusing. The plot is about an Academy Award winning director who becomes blind. Allen avoids original scores for his movies. He frequently uses recordings from the 1930s and 1940s. In view of the setting of Hollywood Ending it is not surprising that he makes use of Bing’s recording of “Going Hollywood”.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002) A true story about Frank Abagnale Jr. who, before his 19th birthday, successfully conned millions of dollars worth of cheques as a Pan Am pilot, doctor, and legal prosecutor. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the real-life conman and Bing and the Andrews Sisters are heard singing “Mele Kalikimaka”.
BAD SANTA (2003) One of the few Christmas season films for adults has Billy Bob Thornton playing a department store Santa each year. He chooses a different store annually, insults the kids who sit on his knee and robs the stores after closing time. Disney’s Buena Vista company had a financial hand in this 15 rated un-family film. About twenty minutes before the end of the film there is a scene which takes place on Christmas Eve. Prior to carrying out another robbery Billy Bob is assisting in dressing a Christmas tree and hanging Christmas stockings. On the film’s soundtrack we hear Bing singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Almost all of the 1962 Warner Bros. recording is used.
FAHRENHEIT 9/11 (2004) This Michael Moore compiled film is an anti-George W. Bush documentary. Three-quarters of the way into the film there is footage of U.S. military stationed in Iraq. It is just before Christmas, presumably in the year 2002. Bing and the Andrews Sisters can be heard singing “Here Comes Santa Claus” on two occasions during the sequence.
THE POLAR EXPRESS (2004) Another film set at Christmastime which makes use of Bing’s seasonal recordings to provide that goodwill feeling. This time both “White Christmas” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” can be heard on the soundtrack of a film which uses animation in an expensive but effective way. Tom Hanks provides several voices to characters in a story about a boy who doesn’t believe in Santa (at least until the film ends).
THE AVIATOR (2004) The film biography of Howard Hughes contains some chronological inaccuracies but director Martin Scorsese captures the spirit of Hughes’ pioneering, if sometimes misdirected, efforts in the film and airline industry. Bing is heard twice on the film’s soundtrack during the drama’s first half. “Thanks” is played shortly after the sequence depicting the premiere of the film “Wings” and “Some of These Days” is featured when Hughes, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, visits the home of Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett). Neither recording is pertinent to the action but both sit nicely with the period.
RUN FATBOY RUN (2007). Bing’s recording of “Nice Work If You Can Get It” with accompaniment by Buddy Bregman can be heard over the pre-credit sequence of this British comedy. We see guests assembling for the wedding of the film’s leading characters played by Simon Pegg and Thandie Newton. Then Pegg does a runner and the plot concerns his running in a London marathon in order to reconcile with Newton.
FOUR CHRISTMASES (2008). The first song we hear in this seasonal comedy is “White Christmas” sung by Bing, although you need to wait until the film’s closing credits to be certain that you are listening to the Crosby voice. The song is heavily overdubbed to suit the rhythmic needs of young audiences of the current century and is referred to as “the Declan mix” when acknowledging that it is licensed from the current owners of Bing’s Decca catalogue. Other soundtrack singers include Dean Martin, Perry Como and Gary Glitter but it is Bing’s voice which sets the scene for a story set on Christmas Day. Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn are involved in a scenario where the couple visit their divorced parents. The couple observe four dysfunctional family gatherings during the film’s ninety minutes or so - although the movie’s running time does seem to be somewhat longer.
NANNY MCPHEE AND THE BIG BANG (2010) Hollywood likes to make sequels where a previous success makes a follow up picture easy to market. Hence Nanny McPhee now having to contend with a big bang. This is a film for all the family and an early sequence depicts three children cleaning up the farm in readiness for their two cousins coming to stay. The accompanying soundtrack features Bing singing “The Best Things in Life Are Free”. .It is the first use in a film of a Ken Barnes session recording. Bing was in London to record the song in 1975. The film was originally titled Nanny McPhee Returns on its American release.
THE MUSIC NEVER STOPPED (2011). This stars J.K. Simmons (“Spider-Man,” “Juno”) as a Bing Crosby-loving dad who, in the late ‘60s, has a falling-out with his hippie son (Lou Taylor Pucci). The son can’t really communicate except when rock music is played for him, in a process that seems to unclog his neural pathways, which were damaged by a benign brain tumor. Bing is heard singing the version of “Young at Heart” recorded for the GE show on the soundtrack.
NATIVITY 2: DANGER IN THE MANGER! (2012) A worried new teacher has to juggle a pregnant wife and a class of children on a road trip to the National 'Song for Christmas' Competition. Bing and The Andrews Sisters can be heard singing “Jingle Bells”.
SERENA (2014) Shot in the Czech Republic but starring two of Hollywood’s ‘A’ list players, this melodrama teams Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as husband and wife running a lumberyard in 1929. Around two-thirds through the film they attend a business dinner and the Rhythm Boys recording of “There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth the Salt of My Tears” starts up. A drunken Jennifer Lawrence says to her husband: “I love this song. Dance with me.” Bradley Cooper declines and Lawrence waltzes off with one of the business acquaintances. This 8th February, 1928 recording with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra is the earliest instance of the Crosby voice being used on screen.
GET SANTA (2014) A father and son team up to save Christmas once they discover Santa Claus sleeping in their garage after crashing his sleigh and finding himself on the run from the police. “Here Comes Santa Claus”, “Deck the Halls”, “Away in a Manger” and “I Saw Three Ships” are all heard.
KRAMPUS (2015) A boy who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a festive demon to his family home. The seasonal theme inevitably means that Bing will be included on the soundtrack and he pops with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”.
BROOKLYN (2015) Colm Toibin’s novel was faithfully adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby and the feel of Ireland and New York in the early 1950’s is perfectly captured in this film. Just over halfway through the picture there is a brief scene where an Irish lass (Saoirse Ronan) is taken to Coney Island by her Italian boyfriend (Emory Cohen). We hear a brief snatch of “Zing a Little Zong” being played over the amusement park’s public address system. This is the version featuring Bing duetting with Rosemary Clooney and is taken from the Chesterfield broadcast of 11th June, 1952. Jasmine Records are credited with making the recording available.
MOON ROCK CITY (2017) In the future, a band of misfits uncover the saga of an infamous rock star. Bing’s version of “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” is featured.
BREATHE (2017) This tells the story of Robin Cavendish who becomes paralyzed from the neck down by polio at age 28. The film opens and closes with the duet by Bing and Grace Kelly of “True Love” from “High Society.”
SONJA: THE WHITE SWAN (2018) - the story of Sonja Henie,
one of the world's greatest athletes and the inventor of modern figure
skating, who decides to go to Hollywood in 1936 to become a movie star.
SHAZAM! (2019) - a superhero film. The opening scene is set in 1974 at Christmas and several passengers in a car are talking with the car radio playing in the background. The music being played is Bing singing “Do You Hear What I Hear”.
A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK (2019) - A
young couple arrives in New York for a weekend where
they are met with bad weather and a series of adventures. Bing is heard
singing "I Got Lucky in the Rain" over the opening credits of this
Woody Allen film.
NOMADLAND (2020) - Starring Frances
McDormand, the film depicts the day to day existence of a number of Americans
who have chosen itinerant lives housed in all manner of camper vans. Bing’s “White
Christmas” can be heard during the appropriate season.
(The text of this section entitled “Crosby Voice” is available for modification and reuse under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License and the GNU Free Documentation License.)
CROUSE, RUSSEL (1893-1966) Librettist, usually in collaboration with Howard Lindsay. Crouse and Howard were responsible for the story on which the screenplay of She Loves Me Not (1934) was based. Both Bing film versions of Anything Goes owe their origins to the1934 stage musical written by the pair. Cole Porter provided the songs for the stage version for that one. They were always in good company when their “book” was utilised by songwriters. Irving Berlin provided the songs for “Call Me Madam” and Rodgers and Hammerstein embellished “The Sound of Music” with several memorable ditties.
CULVER, ROLAND (1900-1984). Actor. Remembered for his one appearance in a Crosby picture as Count Von Stolzenberg-Stolzenberg. In Emperor Waltz, (1946) he comes between Virgil Smith (Bing) and Countess Johanna, his daughter (Joan Fontaine) because he wants her to marry someone with money. Culver was more usually cast as the British gentleman rather than an Austrian aristocrat. Yet he fitted the part well. Born in London, he made his stage debut in 1925 and entered British films six years later. Before he went to Hollywood he was in the likes of French Without Tears (1939) and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1945). He never amounted to much in the States and from the 1950s he went to wherever the work was available. The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964) and The Mackintosh Man (1973) stand out as a pair of big budget films which failed to deliver but where Culver’s presence had an enlivening effect.
CUMMINGS, ROBERT (Bob) (1908-1990). He was Robert in his early years, Bob when he was a television favourite in the 1950s, and Robert again when he played alongside Bing in the 1966 remake of Stagecoach. In that film he was cast against type as Gatewood, who robbed his father-in-law’s bank and became a fellow passenger on the stage to Cheyenne. He began on Broadway in 1931 when he faked a British accent and represented himself as English actor Blade Stanhope Conway. Then he conned his way into movies by passing himself off as Texan Brice Hutchens to win a part in the western The Virginia Judge (1935). His forte was light romantic comedy and dozens of titles as the ‘real’ Robert Cummings carried him through to the 1950s. When you pay money to see the likes of Three Smart Girls Grew Up (1939), It Started with Eve (1949), Between Us Girls (1942) and Heaven Only Knows (1947) you know what you are getting for your money. When the BBC showed the U.S. television sitcom The Bob Cummings Show those who were breaking the picture going habit remembered how he had kept his youthful looks. How much can be attributed to his well publicised vitamin diet and how much to his three wives and seven children we will never know. A large screen career revival in the 1960s produced My Geisha (1962), The Carpetbaggers (1964) and his last film Five Golden Dragons (1967).
CURTAIN RAZOR A 1949 Looney Tunes short directed by Friz Freleng and starring Porky Pig. It was notable as a showcase of the versatile voice talent of Mel Blanc. Bingo the Parrot, Frankie the Rooster, and Al the Crow (resembling Bing, Frank Sinatra, and Al Jolson, respectively) sing “April Showers”, each in the distinctive manner of their namesakes.
CURTIZ, MICHAEL (1888-1962) Director. It seems fitting that the one Crosby picture Curtiz should direct was White Christmas (1954), because he was born in Budapest on Christmas Eve. It turned out to be Bing’s most financially successful movie. Two years later, whilst still at Paramount, he directed The Vagabond King and Bing appeared in that film’s promotional short Bing presents Oreste. Prior to his Paramount days he was contracted to Warner Bros. Indeed, Harry Warner brought him to Hollywood in 1926 and he made more than one hundred films for that studio. Some are classics such as The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Casablanca (1943) and Young Man with a Horn (1950). He was past his peak by the time he left Paramount but as well as making White Christmas there he directed King Creole (1958) which is regarded as Elvis Presley’s best film. He quit on a high at the age of 73 with the John Wayne starrer The Comancheros (1961). His loose command of the English language provided David Niven with the title for one of his autobiographical memoirs, when Curtiz was shooting a scene which called for riderless horses his command was “bring on the empty horses.”
DALE, VIRGINIA (1917-1994) Actress/dancer. Virginia Dale’s best opportunity was in her only Bing picture, Holiday Inn (1942). She was fourth billed as Lila, Fred Astaire’s dancing partner. She helped out vocally on “I’ll Capture Your Heart” and “Let’s Start the New Year Right”. She had entered films at the end of the thirties with such ‘B’ films as No Time to Marry (1938) and World Premiere (1941). She slipped back into ‘B’s’ after Holiday Inn with Headin’ for God’s Country (1943) and retired from films after making Danger Zone (1951).
DALEY, CASS (1915-1975). Actress, singer. To appear in five films featuring Bing Crosby and yet only appear on screen with him very briefly once is a distinction of a kind. The quintet of movies is Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), Duffy’s Tavern (1945), Out of This World (1945) Variety Girl (1947) and Here Comes the Groom (1951). It was in the latter that, as an airline passenger, she joined Bing, along with Louis Armstrong, Dorothy Lamour and Phil Harris in singing “Misto Cristofo Columbo”. She was instantly recognisable as a comedienne because of her buck teeth, but if you were in any doubt this was dispelled as soon as she burst into song. Her loud zany singing categorised her as a female Jerry Colonna. She only made a dozen films, taking a long career break after appearing in the Guy Mitchell vehicle Red Garters (1954). Her last film was Norwood in 1970. She was attempting a show business comeback in the mid-seventies when she had a fatal accident at home. She fell over a glass coffee table and a shard of glass pierced her neck.
DANIELS, BEBE (1901-1971). Actress. In Reaching for the Moon (1931) Bebe was one of the first ladies to join Bing in song. In Crosby’s brief appearance singing “When the Folks up High Do the Mean Low Down” the film’s leading lady takes a chorus of the song. By then she had been in films for over twenty years. Her silent picture parts are best remembered as Harold Lloyd’s leading lady. She became one of Paramount’s leading ladies before moving to RKO and starting a career decline. Her marriage to Ben Lyon in 1930 provided an opportunity to tread the boards and a London Palladium engagement in 1936 saw the start of a ten year residence in England. Bebe and Ben were popular on BBC Radio and that led to the movie Hi Gang (1941). Lyon went to work for Twentieth Century-Fox for a few years before the family returned for another BBC radio series of even greater listener popularity: Life with the Lyons. This spawned two mediocre films which ended Bebe’s film career. They were Life with the Lyons (1953) and The Lyons in Paris (1955). She was inactive for the last ten years of her life, following a number of strokes.
DANIELS, LARRY (1922-2015). Actor who became a popular nightclub performer. His only Crosby film was Road to Utopia
(1945) where he played the ringleader of a gang who set upon Bing and
Bob when the pair found the map of the Klondike goldmine. In vaudeville
as a child, he eventually found his niche performing on 1950s
television variety shows. These included the Steve Allen and Ed
Sullivan shows which could be regarded as extending Daniel's vaudeville
career by providing a showcase for acts suitable for family
consumption. He ended his career as a stand-up comic.
DARE, DANNY (1905-1996). Choreographer/producer. It is as dance director that we first see the name of Danny Dare on Paramount Picture credits. Of his half dozen Bing associated films he was involved with the dance numbers for Holiday Inn (1942), Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), Here Come the Waves (1944) and Road to Utopia (1946). But producers earn more money so he ended his film career in that capacity, taking credit on Variety Girl (1947) and Road to Rio (1948). His last screen credit was in that same year - 1948 - as dance director/producer on Isn’t it Romantic. He went in TV in the 1950s and was director of the How to Marry a Millionaire series.
DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL, THE The song was featured in two Crosby films. In The Star Maker (1939) it was sung by Linda Ware. Bing sang it in Little Boy Lost (1953) in an important sequence featuring Nicole Maurey. She meets Bing for the first time at a party when she sings the song in English and Bing then joins in by singing it in both English and French. It was another ten years before Bing committed it to wax when it formed part of a medley for his “Bing Crosby on the Happy Side” album.
DARRO, FRANKIE [Frank Johnson] (1917-1976) Actor whose slight frame saw him typecast as either a jockey or a young punk. Some would say he played both in Riding High (1950). Bing arranged for him to ride Broadway Bill and, as jockey Ted Williams, he unsportingly tried to hold back the horse and prevent him winning the race. Born to circus performers, he was in films from the age of six. He appeared in many a Monogram Poverty Row production and when that studio went down in the fifties he took on any bit part that was offered to him. Those offers became increasingly hard to come by and he drifted into stunt work in order to pay the bills.
DAUPHIN, CLAUDE (1903-1978). Actor. As Pierre Verdier, in Little Boy Lost (1953), Dauphin is the Frenchman who brings Bing back to France to re-unite him with his son. Between 1945 and 1965, if producers needed a suave sophisticate with a French accent, charm and elegance they hired Dauphin. He made his mark in French films from 1930 onwards but it took Hollywood to turn him into an international actor in such films as The Quiet American (1958) and Grand Prix (1966). His best known British films are Tiara Tahiti (1961) and Two for the Road (1967).
DAVIES, MARION (1897-1961). Actress. Miss Davies was Bing’s leading lady in Going Hollywood. Without her the film would not have been made. Her sugar daddy, William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper and magazine tycoon, poured money into films to boost her career. The film’s production company, Cosmopolitan Pictures, was set up in 1919 for the sole purpose of producing her films. She looked O.K. and during the silent era built her career on playing fragile, innocent, virginal heroines. Things changed with the coming of sound. She tended to stutter and scripts were tailored to reduce her dialogue lines. She also enjoyed a drink or two. Going Hollywood picks up her career towards its end. She’d been before the cameras since 1917. In 1935 Hearst moved Marion and her famous bungalow to the Warner Bros lot. Four films followed until her retirement from show business and her final quarter century was spent as a wealthy business executive.
DAVIS JR., SAMMY (1925-1990). Actor, singer, dancer. Although Bing and Sammy both appeared in Pepe (1960) the first time they were on screen together was in Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964). Davis was cast as Will, one of Robbo’s (Frank Sinatra) henchmen. Together with Bing, Sinatra and Dean Martin he sang “Mister Booze” and “Don’t be a Do-badder” in the film. Davis had been in show business nearly thirty years before his big screen debut in The Benny Goodman Story (1956). He’d been part of the Will Mastin Trio until the end of the forties. The other two were his father and his uncle. He then began to make an impact on record and his talents as a mimic and multi-instrumentalist were just what American television needed in the early fifties. A motoring accident in 1954 resulted in the loss of an eye, but that spurred him on to greater popularity. In 1956 he was a major success on Broadway in the musical Mr. Wonderful. His movies were generally average or worse. The best three are Porgy and Bess (1959), Oceans 11 (1960) and Sweet Charity (1969). He was touring the world doing concerts with Frank Sinatra when lung cancer was diagnosed.
DAY AFTER FOREVER, THE Song. The main Burke-Van Heusen love ballad from Going My Way. Bing sang it with Jean Heather to demonstrate to her how to put over a sentimental song with feeling. The lesson went home and she acquitted herself well when she sang it solo later on in the picture.
DAY YOU CAME ALONG, THE Song. Bing sang this at a party in the role of Eddie Bronson in the 1933 film Too Much Harmony. Like the rest of the songs featured in that film it was written by Sam Coslow and Arthur Johnston.
DE CARLO, YVONNE (1922-2007) Actress. Miss De C’s name on a cast list is all that is needed to tell me it is not my kind of film. However, in her starlet years at Paramount she turns up twice in Crosby pictures. Her sole purpose is as one of a bevy of girls adding glamour to scenes in Road to Morocco (1942) and Here Come the Waves (1944). It took another year before she was noticed by moviegoers in Salome - Where She Danced (1945) - her first lead role. Two 1947 pictures in which she starred gave a good idea of the sort of film to which she was best suited: Song of Scheherazade and Slave Girl. Films I later avoided included Casbah (1948), The Desert Hawk (1950) and Flames of the Islands (1956). Her career received two boosts in succeeding decades. She achieved fame again in The Munsters television series in the 1960’s, and Broadway acclaim in Stephen Sondheim’s hit musical Follies in 1971. But work did not come easily and by the end of that decade she was back to churning out cheap horror fodder in the likes of Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977) and Nocturna (1979).
DEL RUTH, ROY (1985-1961) Director. His contribution to Bing’s filmography was as director of The Star Maker (1939). He started his career as a gagman for Mack Sennett some years before Sennett gave Bing his career break. He was directing silents by the mid-twenties and was in constant employment from then on until the time of his death. Most of his work was with Warner Bros. where he handled hard hitting dramatic films and at M-G-M where there was a complete contrast when he tackled big budget musicals. Between working for those two major studios his talents were for hire and he made Topper Returns for Hal Roach shortly after his stint at Paramount on The Star Maker. Towards the end of his life he had to take on whatever assignments came his way. This resulted in his last two films being The Alligator People (1959) and Why Must I Die (1960).
DEMAREST, WILLIAM (1892-1985). Actor. Although Demarest appeared with Bing on the credits of five films he only made one ‘proper’ movie with Crosby. That was ‘Riding High’ (1950) in which he played Happy, the partner of Professor Pettigrew, played by Raymond Walburn. The other four were guest spot pictures for Crosby and Demarest:
· Duffy’s Tavern (1945)
· Hollywood Victory Caravan (1945 short)
· Variety Girl (1947)
· Pepe (1960)
Demarest was a dependable character actor who could give any film a lift when he was on screen. He went into films at the dawn of talkies. He was in Jolson’s The Jazz Singer (1927) and by the 1930’s he had been cast in substantial roles in the likes of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). His decade was the 1940s, when he was re-united with Jolson in the biopics The Jolson Story (1946) and Jolson Sings Again (1949). Larry Parks mimed the Jolson vocals in both and Demarest received an Oscar nomination for his work on the former. When the studio system began to crumble, acting assignments were not easy to come by. His last big screen part was in the 1975 film The Wild McCullochs.
DE MILLE, CECIL BLOUNT (1881-1959). Producer/Director. During Bing’s “middle years” in movies, Cecil B. De Mille touched base with Crosby on several occasions. It would be wrong to say they worked together as such, but as part of the Paramount family it was inevitable that they would be involved in the same projects from time to time. Their points of contact on screen were:
1947 Both played themselves in Variety Girl
1952 Bing guested in The Greatest Show on Earth, which De Mille produced and directed.
1952 Both made guest appearances in Son of Paleface.
1957 Both were narrators for the short The Heart of Show business.
The Hollywood connection extended to radio with De Mille hosting ‘The Lux Radio Theatre of the Air’, on which Bing appeared in one hour dramatisations of his films. In March, 1960, Bing received the Cecil B De Mille Trophy from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. This was to mark his contribution to the world of entertainment. De Mille established Hollywood in a way. He was there at its beginning, producing The Squaw Man in 1914. He spent most of his career with Paramount being involved in major movies for five decades. Some of the films which will perpetuate his name and fame as long as there are film historians include Cleopatra (1934), Union Pacific (1939), Samson and Delilah (1949) and The Ten Commandments (1956).
DENT, VERNON (1894-1963) Character actor. One of the few American bit part actors who rarely graduated from short one reel comedies. In the early thirties he was in three Crosby shorts. He first appeared alongside Bing in the Mack Sennett short Dream House (1931) where he plays the director at Monarch Film Studios. Two years later he was in the back-to-back one reelers Please and Just an Echo, where he plays Bing’s rival for the attentions of Mary Kornman in the former and Bing’s National Park Ranger boss in the latter. He then became a regular in Three Stooges shorts.
DE PAUL, GENE VINCENT (1919-1988) Composer and pianist. He wrote the music for the three songs Bing sang in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949). Don Raye provided the words to neatly fit the plot and the results were “Ichabod”, “Katrina” and “The Headless Horseman”. Walt Disney was obviously impressed because De Paul’s next assignment was to work on the songs for the animated feature Alice in Wonderland (1951). His best remembered work is for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) with lyrics by Johnny Mercer.
DE SYLVA, BUDDY [George Gard B.G. De Sylva] (1895-1950). Producer, screenwriter and lyricist. What a curious mix of talents! De Sylva will be best remembered as one third of the songwriting team De Sylva, Brown and Henderson. A film of the trio was made in 1956. Called The Best Things in Life Are Free, Gordon MacRae played De Sylva. De Sylva’s film involvement with Bing was in the early forties. He was producer of Birth of the Blues (1941) in which Bing sang the title song, written by De Sylva and his two song collaborators. Then, in 1944, he was executive producer on Going My Way. He made an impact on Broadway in the late 1920s with the musical Good News. Written with Brown and Henderson, two film versions of that show topped and tailed his Hollywood career. They were released in 1930 and 1947.
DEVINE, ANDY (1905-1977). Actor. Devine was one of Bing’s personal friends, and in the 1930s they made two films back to back: Double or Nothing (1937) and Doctor Rhythm (1938). He also appeared in the Crosby golfing short Swing with Bing (1940). Devine never made the big time but was a valuable supporting actor for half a century. Being fourth billed in his two Bing pics was about par for the course for Andy. He was cast as Half Pint in Double or Nothing and Larry O’Roon, Crosby’s high school buddy, in Doctor Rhythm. The following year he played his most memorable role as Buck, the stagecoach driver, in Stagecoach. His raspy voice was initially deemed unsuitable for sound films but he eventually turned it into an asset when his croak and vast girth made him ideal playing country bumpkins or comic sidekicks to screen cowboys like Roy Rogers. Most readers who have turned fifty will remember him as Jingles, Guy Madison’s sidekick in the 1950s television series Wild Bill Hickok. He never descended into making cheap exploitation pictures just to keep in work and some of his later assignments included The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), How the West Was Won (1962) and The Ballad of Josie (1967). His last work was supplying his unmistakable hoarse voice for the animated cartoon The Mouse and His Child (1977).
DE WOLFE, BILLY (1907-1974). Actor. De Wolfe’s screen debut was as Mr. Bones in Dixie (1943). He made an immediate impact with his pencil thin moustache, toothy grin and lisping diction. He proved he was no singer when he helped Bing and others to sing “The Last Rose of Summer” in that film. In Blue Skies (1946) he duetted with Crosby on “I’ve Got My Captain Working for Me Now”. In that film he was fourth billed as Toni Amato, Bing’s vaudeville partner at the start of the story. Two other films for Paramount saw both Crosby and De Wolfe in fleeting guest spots: Duffy’s Tavern (1944) and Variety Girl (1947). De Wolfe’s other major films were Tea for Two (1950), Lullaby of Broadway (1951) and Call Me Madam (1953). He retired from films then, apart from brief appearances in Billie (1965) and The World’s Greatest Athlete (1973).
DINAH Song. Early on in The Big Broadcast (1932) we have the opportunity of seeing guitarist Eddie Lang accompanying Bing for a few bars of “Dinah”. The song was written by Sam Lewis, Joe Young and Harry Akst. The Mills Brothers were also in the film. They had recorded the song with Bing a year before The Big Broadcast went before the cameras and it seemed a missed opportunity not to have them reprise that performance.
DINGLE, CHARLES (1887-1956) Actor. He was C. J. Chesley, a villain, in Welcome Stranger (1947). It was his plan to give the senior hospital appointment to Dr. Jenks (Larry Young) over Dr. McRory (Barry Fitzgerald). He was often cast as a schemer, as in the Bob Hope comedy My Favourite Brunette from the same year and in which Bing made a gag appearance. Dingle arrived in Hollywood after a career on the stage and his later roles saw him reverting to playing more serious parts. His last film was The Court Marshall of Billy Mitchell, released the year before his death.
DISSERTATION ON THE STATE OF BLISS Song. If there had been an Academy award for the most unwieldy song title, this would have won in 1955. It was written by Harold Arlen (music) and Ira Gershwin (words) for the 1954 Paramount Picture The Country Girl. It is sung by Jacqueline Fontaine in a cabaret sequence towards the end of the film when a drunken Crosby appears on the scene and helps out. Not a memorable ditty and don’t hold your breath waiting for the title of the song to appear in the lyric - it doesn’t. It was written as “Love and Learn Blues” but when Gershwin realised three previous songs had been called “Love and Learn” he opted for a title change.
DIXIE (Film). This was Bing’s first “three colour” Technicolor film. The first colour feature he made, King of Jazz was shot in the “two colour” process. For the first time audiences had the opportunity to see the singer in his true colours, albeit slightly garish. At this stage of the development of colour film stock, Technicolor insisted on protecting their patent by assigning a consultant/colour director to every film which used their process. In this case it was Natalie Kalmus. You find her name on the credits of Technicolor movies up until the end of the forties. She shunned realistic colour in favour of ‘chocolate box cover’ brash. This suited the tenor of this nineteenth century tale based loosely on the life of Daniel Decatur Emmett (1815-1904). Bing played him as simply Dan Emmett. Emmett wrote songs for the then popular minstrel shows, although his only original compositions sung by Bing in the film were “Dixie” and “Old Dan Tucker”. Minstrels were invariably Caucasian actors in black face. The Johnny Burke - James Van Heusen song “Kinda Peculiar Brown” says it all. It was omitted from the release print, supposedly because of the sensitive racial elements in the story. When the U.K.’s Channel Four programmed a showing in 1985 it turned out to be a charming, inoffensive tale with Crosby treating us to eight songs including the film’s hit ballad: “Sunday, Monday or Always.” The plot is straight off the Hollywood shelf: struggling composer (Bing) finally makes it big. Having to make the difficult decision along the way of choosing between Dorothy Lamour and Marjorie Reynolds. For once, Dottie came in second. The film was made and released in 1943.
DIXIE (Song) Featured in the film of the same name, it is Dan Emmett’s (Bing’s) most treasured composition. When he tries to sell his compositions he refuses to include “Dixie” in the job lot for which a publisher paid a hundred dollars. The publisher is only willing to pay one dollar for “Dixie” and Bing knows it is his finest composition. Yet it is not well received by audiences, and it takes Bing’s sweetheart (Marjorie Reynolds) to convince Bing that it should be played and sung at a faster tempo. When it is, the audience takes to it immediately. As always, the non-Hollywood version is different. “Dixie” was written by Emmett in 1859 for a New York Minstrel Show. He sold it without difficulty for the then handsome price of five hundred dollars. It went on to break the bounds of the musical stage and became the anthem of the Southern States during the American Civil War. Bing did not make a studio recording of the song.
DOCTOR RHYTHM Film. This 1938 Paramount Picture starred Bing as Doctor Bill Remsen. He is one of four high school colleagues who meet up with a fifth, a keeper at Central Park Zoo, who allows them access to the zoo after hours. This opening establishes the quintet as ex-relay team members who will still do anything to help each other. Hence Bing ends up posing as Patrolman O’Roon (Andy Devine) when the latter is unable to report for duty following a bite from a sea-lion. All the character ingredients for a late thirties musical comedy are present:
(a) The wealthy eccentric widow (Beatrice Lillie)
(b) Her beautiful niece and heiress (Mary Carlisle)
(c) The villainous crook and gambler interested in (b) for her inheritance (Fred Keating)
(d) The handsome leading man who creates humorous plot complications (Bing Crosby)
In keeping with the plots of this era:
i) The leading man sings three romantic ballads
ii) The ‘real’ policeman receives promotion and a reward
iii) The wealthy eccentric performs her party piece (Beatrice Lillie doing her popular ‘Double Dozen Double Damask Dinner Napkins’)
iv) The villainous crook and gambler is exposed and arrested
v) The boy gets the girl.
DOLAN, ROBERT EMMETT (1908-1972). Composer, musical director, producer for the whole of the 1940s. Just about every Bing Crosby film from that decade featured Dolan’s name on the credits. He was signed up by Paramount in 1940 and the following year received his first mention as musical supervisor/director on Birth of the Blues. A further dozen Paramount Pictures in which Bing appeared followed, for which Dolan was billed as musical director or credited with the musical scoring. For the record, the films were:
· Holiday Inn (1942)
· Star Spangled Rhythm (1942)
· Dixie (1943)
· Going My Way (1944)
· Here Come the Waves (1944)
· Duffy’s Tavern (1945)
· Road to Utopia (1946)
· Blue Skies (1946)
· Welcome Stranger (1947)
· My Favourite Brunette (1947)
· Road to Rio (1948)
· Top o’ the Morning (1949)
So close was his musical relationship with Bing, that when Crosby defected to RKO for a one-off picture deal, Dolan followed. Thus The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945) maintained a successful artistic and box office partnership. The link with Bing and Paramount Pictures spilled over into the next decade, when Dolan produced White Christmas (1954) and Anything Goes (1956). He then returned to his first love, the stage, from whence he came before Paramount beckoned.
DONLEVY, BRIAN (1899-1972). Actor. In Birth of the Blues, it was Donlevy who made it all happen. As Memphis, he was the cornet player who was released from jail due to Bing’s ingenuity. The all white jazz band that subsequently fell together provided the framework for the ensuing plot. Donlevy and Bing also had separate cameo roles in Duffy’s Tavern (1945). The short, stumpy actor had a more colourful career before he made his film debut in 1924. The son of an Irish whiskey distiller he fought against Pancho Villa and then lied about his age and became a pilot with the famous Lafayette Escadrille in the First World War. He was in films for forty five years and left behind a legacy of mainly forgettable performances. The sadistic sergeant in Beau Geste (1939) found him at his acting peak, and in the same year he appeared in Jesse James, Union Pacific, Behind Prison Gates and Destry Rides Again. By the early fifties he took leads in cheaply made ‘B’ pictures such as Cry in the Night (1956) or character parts in the likes of Never so Few (1959). Before calling it quits he was in the last three ‘formula’ westerns which came out of Hollywood: Waco (1966), Hostile Guns (1968) and Arizona Bushwackers (1968). His screen career ended with Pit Stop (1969).
THE DONOVANS Song. Early in the film Top o’ the Morning (1949), Bing attends a party at the house of his friendly Irish foil (Barry Fitzgerald). Bing then leads the guests in a spirited rendition of “The Donovans”. The song was composed by the ‘where are they now (and who were they then)’ team of Francis A. Fahy and Alicia Adelaide Needham. The hummable ditty was recorded by Bing for Decca in June of 1949.
DON’T BE A DO-BADDER Song. The film Robin and the 7 Hoods had half a dozen scenes which were staged in such a way that they commanded the attention of the audience from the first note to the last. “Don’t Be a Do-badder” was one such opus. Bing, in his role as Allen A. Dale, visits a children’s orphanage. With strong support from the kids, he sings the Sammy Cahn - James Van Heusen composition. The number is reprised by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. at the end of the film. It is an amusing closing scene as a wealthy Crosby hands out gifts to the three singing performers who are attired in Santa Claus outfits. “Don’t Be a Do-badder” was the last film song Bing performed on the big screen.
DON’T FENCE ME IN Song. In the Paramount short Swinging with the Stars (1944) Bing attempts to generate a cinema singsong. He is joined by servicemen as he sings “Don’t Fence Me In” whilst a bouncing ball follows the lyrics at the bottom of the screen. The song started life as a poem written by Montana miner, Robert Fletcher. Cole Porter paid $150 for the rights and adapted the lyrics for a film called Adios Argentina. That film was never made but Warner Bros. used the song in Hollywood Canteen in 1944. Both Roy Rogers with the Sons of the Pioneers and The Andrews Sisters tackled it in that picture. The following year the song’s hit parade popularity resulted in Republic Pictures using it as the title of one of their Roy Rogers series of westerns and the singing cowboy got to sing it again to cinemagoers. By then Bing had recorded the song with The Andrews Sisters for Decca which ensured its presence on every ‘greatest hits’ compilation issued under his name.
DON’T HOOK NOW Film. This 1942 short film was made for the Professional Golfers Association of America using the facilities of Paramount Pictures. Because Everett Crosby was co-producer it was inevitable that brother Bing would feature prominently. It was filmed at Bing’s Pro-Am Golf Tournament held at Rancho Santa Fe in January of 1942. He sang “Tomorrow’s My Lucky Day” in the film.
DON’T LET THE MOON GET AWAY Song. In Sing You Sinners, Bing visits a roadside nightclub with girlfriend Ellen Drew. He is recognised by bandleader Harry Barris and sings the James V. Monaco - Johnny Burke composition to a delighted audience. Such is its popularity with the nightclubbers he is pressed to give the song a brief reprise. If they wanted to hear it a third time they would have to buy the Decca recording made in July 1938 in readiness for the film’s premiere the following month.
D’ORSAY, FIFI (1904-1983) Actress. As Lili Yvonne in Going Hollywood (1933) Fifi D’O started the film as Bing’s fiancée and then proceeded to lose him to Marion Davies. Quite right too, as Davies’ sugar daddy William Randolph Hearst was bankrolling the film. Miss D’Orsay entered films in 1929 opposite Will Rogers in They Had to See Paris. She had been in show business since the age of 19 when she entered the profession at the bottom as a chorus girl. Possibly because she was a French-Canadian she was regularly cast as a Parisienne sex symbol. She was active in films through to the 1960s appearing in What a Way to Go (1964), The Art of Love (1965) and Assignment to Kill (1968). By then she was spending more time lecturing on religion and apart from a nostalgic comeback in the Broadway musical Follies in 1971 she was contented to leave the entertainment side of show business behind her.
DOUBLE OR NOTHING Film. The plot of this 1937 Paramount Picture was a morality tale which could provoke deep discussion once the audience left the cinema and set out for home. An eccentric millionaire instructs his lawyers to plant twenty-five wallets containing a $100 bill on the streets of the city once he has died. Four honest people (Bing included naturally) return them to the lawyers to learn that they have an opportunity to benefit from the million dollar plus estate. They must double the sum of $5000 within thirty days. There are dirty deals afoot, of course, with the main obstacle being the millionaire’s brother - Jonathan (Samuel S. Hinds) who stands to inherit if the $5000 isn’t doubled. Good triumphs over evil and a doubly happy ending in the ninetieth minute of the film sees Bing winning leading lady Mary Carlisle as well.
DOUBLE OR NOTHING Song from the 1937 film of the same name. Johnny Burke and Victor Young wrote this one and a recording by Bing would have provided publicity for the film. Surprisingly, he did not record it. In the film it is sung by chorus girls when a night club owned by Bing is opened.
DOUGLAS, GORDON (1907-1993) Director. It was G.D who directed Bing’s last two ‘proper’ films - Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964) and Stagecoach (1965). He had been in films all his life, starting as an actor and also doing duty as a casting director and gag man. By the mid thirties he was directing the Our Gang comedy shorts. Popular films selected from each of his directing decades provide a flavour of his versatility:
· Zenobia (1939)
· The Falcon in Hollywood (1944)
· Young at Heart (1954)
· Follow That Dream (1962)
· Viva Knievel! (1977)
Douglas tackled most genres effectively but was never revered by the critics.
DOWN BY THE RIVER Song. Written by Richard Rodgers (music) and Lorenz Hart (words) for Bing’s 1935 hit Mississippi, it has been in most Crosby collector’s top five favourites ever since. Bing sings the song twice in the picture, pledging a love as deep and lasting as the river.
DOWN MEMORY LANE Film. This 1949 release was stitched together from ten Mack Sennett shorts, over half of which were originally silent pictures. Two Bing Crosby shorts made for Sennett’s Educational Company are used: Sing Bing Sing and Blue of the Night. The Crosby vocals cover “In My Hideaway”, “Loveable”, “Auf Wiedersehen, My Dear”, “Ev’ry Time My Heart Beats” and “Where the Blue of the Night”. The BBC have shown the film several times in off peak time slots and it looks exactly like what it is - a cheaply made supporting feature which capitalises on the popularity of Bing, W.C. Fields and Ben Turpin. The film’s writer/narrator, Steve Allen, found fame on American television in the fifties hosting a weekly comedy variety show.
DOWN THE OLD OX ROAD Song. This was written specially for Paramount’s College Humor (1933) by Arthur Johnston (music) and Sam Coslow (lyrics). Smooching students led by Bing, Jack Oakie, Mary Kornman and Richard Arlen sing a seemingly innocent lyric implying that taking a girl down the old ox road means more than a stroll. Further promotion for the song and the film was generated by its inclusion in one of Paramount’s publicity shorts, Hollywood on Parade (the first edition of the 1933 series). In that film, Bing is heard singing it on a car radio. That same sequence was used in a 1976 compilation film, Hooray for Hollywood.
DRAKE, DONA (1914-1989) Actress. Best remembered as a lady in waiting to Dorothy Lamour in the 1942 Road to Morocco. Her name in that picture, Mihirmah, tells us all we need to know about how Hollywood typecast the Mexico City born dynamo, whose real name was Rita Novella but who entered show business as a band vocalist calling herself Rita Rio. She turned up later in a couple of other films in which Bing had non-acting roles: Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) and Hollywood Victory Caravan (1945). Her last film was Princess of the Nile (1954).
DREAM HOUSE Film. This was the third of the half dozen shorts Bing made for Mack Sennett during 1931/32. With a running time of less than twenty minutes, the flimsy plot involves Bing as a plumber gatecrashing a film studio to meet his girlfriend. He is mistaken for an extra when he accidentally has his face blacked. He is also chased by a lion before the traditional Sennett ending of departing with his girl and a song (Ann Christy and the title song respectively). The songs “It Must Be True” and “When I Take My Sugar to Tea” are also featured in the film. The songs remained intact when Astor Pictures released an edited version of Dream House in 1935, some three years later after its January 1932 debut. In the Astor Pictures release Road to Hollywood (1946) the songs were again included in that feature length compilation.
DREAM HOUSE Song. The title song from the Mack Sennett short was written by Earle Foxe and Lynn F. Cowan. Its presentation is placed at the end of the picture as Bing drives off with his girl. It was never recorded in the studio for commercial release but the version lifted directly from the soundtrack has seen daylight on a couple of LP releases
DREIER, HANS (1885-1966) Art Director. To place Dreier’s contribution to over two dozen Crosby pictures during Hollywood’s golden decades of the thirties and forties we need to know his function at Paramount Pictures. He was the technician responsible for designing sets at that studio. Dreier was more properly an Art Supervisor in that the studio placed him in general charge of their filmed output. In fact, he received that credit just once for Dixie (1943). Otherwise he shared screen credit with the man who did the job on the shop floor. His only sole credit came at the beginning of his career on his first assignment to a Crosby picture: Confessions of a Co-Ed (1931). Prior to that, in silent pictures, he had received accolades for his work on the likes of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Love Parade (1929). His other credits on Crosby films as co-art director are:
· With Bernard Herzburn - Mississippi (1935)
· With Ernest Fegte - Anything Goes (1935), Sing You Sinners (1938), Rhythm on the River (1940), Birth of the Blues (1941), Star Spangled Rhythm (1942)
· With Robert Usher - Rhythm on the Range (1936), The Starmaker (1939), Road to Zanzibar (1941), Road to Morocco (1942)
· With Roland Anderson - Paris Honeymoon (1938), Holiday Inn (1942), Here Come the Waves (1944), Road to Utopia (1946), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949)
· With Robert O’Dell - Road to Singapore (1940)
· With William Flannery - Going My Way (1944)
· With Hal Pereira - Blue Skies (1946)
· With Franz Bachelin - Welcome Stranger (1947), Emperor Waltz (1948)
· With Robert Chatworthy - Variety Girl (1947)
· With Earl Hedrick - Road to Rio (1948)
· With Henry Bumstead - Top o’ the Morning (1949)
· With Walter Tyler - Riding High (1950)
Dreier retired in 1951, the year after making his third Academy Award winning film as art director, Sunset Boulevard. His previous Oscars were for Frenchman’s Creek (1944) and Samson and Delilah (1949).
DREW, ELLEN (1915-2003) Actress. Discounting a bit part under her real name of Terry Ray in Rhythm on the Range (1936) and a fleeting appearance in Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), Ellen Drew’s only film with Bing was Sing You Sinners (1938). She was the main female interest in the picture and Fred MacMurray’s girl. Bing steered their relationship towards marriage, for once viewing romance from the sidelines. Like dozens before and after her, she entered the Hollywood arena after winning a beauty contest. She made dozens of films until her screen retirement in the mid-fifties, none of which are fondly remembered today. Trivia collectors will be interested to know she met the second of her four husbands when he was engaged on a Crosby project. The man in question was Sy Bartlett, who was working on the story of Road to Zanzibar. They married in 1941 and remained husband and wife until 1950.
DUBIN, AL (1891-1945) Lyricist. Considering the enormous lyrical contribution Dubin made to Hollywood in the 1930’s, his Crosby film relationship is meagre. Bing sang two Dubin songs in two shorts at the start of the Crosby cinematic career. In Billboard Girl (1931) he sang the ballad “For You” and in Please (1933) the bouncy “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me”. The reason why their paths didn’t cross more often was that Dubin was employed by a rival studio - Warner Bros. There, in partnership with Harry Warren, he penned dozens of hits for the warmly remembered musicals of the thirties like 42nd Street (1933), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), Dames (1934) and Go into Your Dance (1935). Twelve years after his death, there were plans to film the life stories of Warren and Dubin with Bing cast as the lyric writer and Jackie Gleason as Harry Warren. It never happened because by then rock ‘n’ roll had spoiled the box office potential for a film featuring the likes of such musical evergreens as “Shuffle Off to Buffalo”, “Young and Healthy”, “We’re in the Money”, “I Only Have Eyes for You”, “September in the Rain” and “About a Quarter to Nine”.
DUFFY’S TAVERN Film. When this picture was released in 1945, it was the widely held belief in Hollywood that the more stars you cram into a feature film the greater the box-office return. Indeed, Duffy’s Tavern figured in the money making leagues but all star casts didn’t remain fashionable for too long, thankfully. At least, in this example of Paramount’s top contract artistes on parade, Bing appeared in two separate sequences and got to sing “Swinging on a Star”. He was then seen in a sketch with Robert Benchley who was reading a bed-time story to the four Crosby boys. In a segment in which a Crosby photograph is displayed on screen, the soundtrack uses the Crosby voice in the background singing “Learn to Croon”, “Please” and “Love in Bloom”.
DUMBRILLE, DOUGLAS (1890-1974) Douglas Dumbrille played character roles in over 200 films, usually as a suave villain or corrupt politician. His parts in the 3 Crosby pictures made at Paramount were a slave trader in Road to Zanzibar (1941), Ace Larson in Road to Utopia (1946) and the racecourse punter who pays Bing’s bail in Riding High (1950). In 1960 he married Patricia Mowbray, the 28 year old daughter of his actor friend, Alan Mowbray, and then drifted into retirement for the last years of his life.
DUMONT, MARGARET (1889-1965). Actress best remembered as the recipient of insults from Groucho in several of the Marx Brothers’ films. Her sole appearance in a Crosby picture was as Mrs. Wentworth in the 1936 Anything Goes. She was ideally cast as the matronly figure of authority begging deflation by the comedians she worked with like W. C. Fields in Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941), Laurel and Hardy in The Dancing Masters (1943) and Jack Benny in The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945). Her last film was appropriately titled What a Way to Go! made the year before her death.
DURANTE, JIMMY (1893-1980). Actor- comedian- pianist- vocalist. He was in two celluloid outings which featured Bing, although they did not share scenes together. The first film was the promotional short The Heart of Show Business (1957), the second Pepe (1960). Crosby and Durante spent many hours together in front of the microphone on radio and television but their acting styles were not compatible enough to envisage them as a Hope and Crosby team. “Schozzle” entered show business in 1909, playing ragtime piano in New York night clubs. He formed an act with Lou Clayton and Eddie Jackson and became popular in vaudeville before movies helped to kill that form of entertainment. By then talking pictures had arrived and Jimmy appeared for the first time on screen in Roadhouse Nights (1930). He signed a five year contact with M-G-M but still ensured he played on Broadway from time to time. The films he made have not stood the test of time but the best from the four decades he was on screen are arguably The Phantom President (1932), The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942), The Milkman (1950) and It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963).
EARLY AMERICAN Song. Bing sang this at the conclusion of the tedious short You Can Change the World. In a scene set in the home of Jack Benny, the song’s composers, Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen, visit Benny together with Bing. An offscreen orchestra strikes up and Bing delivers. Bing had just recorded the song for the second time but the limited distribution of the film did little to promote the 78rpm release.
EAST SIDE OF HEAVEN Film. This 1939 film was the first of two released by Universal which were outside Bing’s Paramount contract and in which he had a personal stake. For the four songs specially composed for the movie by his regular writers of the time, Johnny Burke and James V. Monaco, Bing used John Scott Trotter for the orchestrations. Trotter’s long association with Bing was well into its stride and the appearance of the Kraft Music Hall regulars, The Music Maids, and the orchestral support by Matty Malneck and his orchestra illustrates how Bing liked to perform in comfortably familiar surroundings from a musical point of view. The plot casts Bing as a singing telegram performer who graduates to becoming a singing taxi cab driver. His true love in the film is played by Joan Blondell, with whom his character had an on/off arrangement to be married. During the film’s 86 minutes, Bing’s efforts reconcile a separated couple played by Irene Hervey and Robert Kent. They have a baby who provides Bing with a convenient opportunity to serenade with “That Sly Old Gentleman” and “East Side of Heaven”. A lightweight vehicle typical of what seemed to satisfy audiences in the 1930s, the film has received several television screenings in the UK.
EAST SIDE OF HEAVEN Title song from the film of the same name. It was written by Johnny Burke and James V. Monaco and is featured twice in the picture. We see Bing singing it to Joan Blondell and then over the radio at the film’s conclusion.
EASTER PARADE Song. One of Irving Berlin’s seasonal songs used in the 1942 film Holiday Inn. It neatly slots into the action when Bing sings it to Marjorie Reynolds as they are return from church on Easter Sunday in an open horse-drawn carriage. In 1948, it served as the title song of an M-G-M musical starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire in which they duetted the song.
EASTHAM, RICHARD (1918-2005) Actor. Eastham played Bryan Seward in Man on Fire (1957). He was the Washington lawyer who married Bing’s ex-wife. His early show business career was centred round appearances in long running musicals like “South Pacific” and “Call Me Madam”. He made the move into movies in 1954 with a part in the musical There’s No Business Like Show business. That was followed by his role in the Crosby film. Until his retirement in the late 1980s he alternated between film and television without making a major impact in either medium. He died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
EDUCATIONAL PICTURES Motion pictures production company associated with the six short films Bing made for Mack Sennett during 1931/32. As the company’s name suggests, it came into being (in1919) to make films for showing in schools. Before long it became a factory for producing one reel comedy shorts on tight budgets. Educational Films involvement with the Sennett shorts was solely as distributors whilst their New York production studio provided work for comedians at the beginning or end of their careers (e.g. Danny Kaye and Buster Keaton). The company filed for bankruptcy at the end of the 1930s.
EDWARDS, BLAKE (1922-2010). Director of Bing’s gentle and under-rated comedy High Time (1960). The following year he went on to direct his best loved film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Edwards entered Hollywood as an actor in Ten Gentlemen from West Point (1942). In the following decade he gained a reputation as a screenwriter of lightweight comedies such a Rainbow Round My Shoulder (1952) and Operation Mad Ball (1957). He created the successful television series Peter Gunn and by the end of the 1950s he was entrusted to direct Operation Petticoat (1959) starring Tony Curtis and Cary Grant. He turned producer-director for the Pink Panther series which had Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. His marriage to Julie Andrews saw the partnership appearing on the big screen when he directed her in the likes of Darling Lili (1970) and The Tamarind Seed (1974).
EMPEROR WALTZ Film. Billy Wilder directed this Technicolor musical on location in Canada’s Jasper National Park in June 1946. Jasper doubled for the Austrian Tyrol. The five week location shoot only resulted in one week’s worth of film due to rainy weather. This did not overly concern Bing. He had a willing tennis partner in co-screenwriter Charles Brackett and the location was convenient for fishing and golfing when he wasn’t on call. The delay in shooting exteriors was of concern to Paramount, though. There was a threatened shut-down of Hollywood studios at the end of September. During the middle of that month the cast worked every night for a week through to the early hours of the following morning in order to complete filming before strike action could affect it. The action takes place with Bing as Virgil Smith, a phonograph salesman from New Jersey. He falls for a countess (Joan Fontaine) and eventually gains the approval of the Emperor (Richard Haydn) to marry her. And that’s about it, except that a sub-plot involving Buttons and Scheherazade involves us in the love lives of two dogs. If it sounds lightweight that will explain why it stands up well to present-day viewing. Yet at the time of its release in 1948 it was not well received critically and director Wilder expressed his disappointment. He said, “It came out of a bravado gesture that I made in a meeting of the front office. They did not have a good picture for Bing Crosby. I kind of thought it would be fun to make a musical. I have no talent for a musical, because I can’t get it into my head that people break into a song for no reason whatsoever. So I was handicapped there; I was not up to making a musical.....after being in Germany and cutting an hour and a half documentary about the concentration camps in London. So I was kind of very eager to do something on the more frivolous side. But The Emperor Waltz just was no good, it just did not come off. I never want to see it again.” But the fans must have thought he pulled it off because they laid out four million dollars at the box offices of North America, earning it 7th place on Variety’s list of top money-makers of 1948. Derek Winnert’s critique sums the film up for me. He wrote: “Sets, costumes, Bing’s trilling, the support, Wilder and Brackett’s writing: they’re all top class. Crosby’s knees do look funny in lederhosen though.” Movie trivia collectors will be enlightened to know:
· During its development it was titled The Countess of Luxemburg
· It was the first major film to receive a television premiere.
· The tennis court of Bing’s Holmby Hills home was used when a suitable ‘Austrian type’ location could not be found.
· Bing took part in a promotional tie in for the film involving the Stetson Hat Company.
· Greta Garbo was sought for the part eventually played by Joan Fontaine.
· It appeared on Harvard Lampoon’s list of the worst films of 1948.
EMPTY SADDLES Song. This was the hit ballad from Bing’s 1936 film Rhythm on the Range. The lyrics paint an evocative picture without the addition of Billy Hill’s music. This is because ‘Empty Saddles’ was originally a poem by J. Keirn Brennan. It provides a striking opening number in the film as Bing croons it astride a white horse in a packed Madison Square Garden.
ENGLUND, KEN (1911-1993) Screenwriter. He was one of three writers that worked on Here Come the Waves (1944). Co-credited for the original screenplay for that film were Allan Scott and Zion Myers, but Englund is the only one of the trio who had an ongoing career in Hollywood. Before he made a living writing lightweight movie scripts he had written for magazines, vaudeville, radio and stage musicals. Paramount signed him up in 1938, his first assignment being The Big Broadcast (1938). He wrote for Danny Kaye (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) (1947) and Martin and Lewis (The Caddy) (1953). After tackling the screenplay for The Vagabond King (1956) he turned his attention to television scripts. The one and only time he returned for a big screen project was for The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz (1968). He shouldn’t have bothered.
ERICKSON, LEIF (1911-1986). Actor. Erickson was embarking on a 40-odd year career in films when he played Victor P. Quimby, the fiancé of leading lady, Shirley Ross, in Waikiki Wedding (1937). Of course, Bing ends up with Shirley and Erickson ends up being arrested. Things changed little over the years, with Erickson usually cast in the second lead role. Although Waikiki Wedding was his only encounter with Crosby, in real life he married Bing’s leading lady from Rhythm on the Range (1936) in 1934. This relationship with the volatile and unstable Frances Farmer lasted until 1942, by which time he was serving in the U.S. armed forces (where he was twice wounded). He then found modest parts in major movies such as The Snake Pit (1948), With a Song in My Heart (1952), The Young Lions (1958) and The Carpetbaggers (1964). For four years from 1967, he appeared in the television series High Chaparral before retiring from the screen in 1977 with Twilight’s Last Gleaming.
ERROL, LEON (1881-1951). Actor. Errol appeared once with Bing on the cinema screen. That was in We’re Not Dressing (1934), when he was third billed as Uncle Hubert, the fiancé of Ethel Merman. By then he had made his name in vaudeville before a film debut in 1924. He made his mark as a versatile rubber-legged comedian who was usually henpecked and/or drunk in the 100 plus film appearances he made in his 40 year career in entertainment. Although he is fondly remembered for the two reel comedy shorts he made between 1933 and the year of his death, he was cast in popular but cheaply made pictures such as Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941) and Higher and Higher (1943). When he died at the age of 70, his final film, Footlight Varieties, was doing the rounds and he was negotiating a television series deal.
ERWIN, STUART (1902-1967) Actor. During 1932 and 1933, Erwin appeared on screen with Bing on three separate occasions. In The Big Broadcast (1932) he played rich Texan Leslie McWhinney and also played piano to accompany Bing’s rendition of “Please”. That same year he was in a ten minute Hollywood on Parade programmer in which he introduced Bing at the outset of the short. Finally, in 1933, he was cast as Ernest Pratt Baker, film producer and joint admirer of Marion Davies with Bing in Going Hollywood. Erwin was never out of work from his film debut in Mother Knows Best (1928) until his retirement after Disney’s The Adventures of Merlin Jones (1964). He was usually typecast as the shy amiable, tongue tied, folksy and sad eyed friend. He was an ideal character for a typical 1950s TV situation comedy series and The Stu Erwin Show ran for years in the USA. It would be true to say no one disliked Stuart Erwin.
EVANS, MADGE (1909-1981) Actress. She was Bing’s leading lady in Pennies from Heaven (1936) when she played Susan, the social worker. At 27 she was 2 years away from retirement from films with around one hundred already completed. Show business began for her at the age of six and ended in 1938 with the programmer Army Girl. The better known talkies in which she appeared included Dinner at Eight (1933) and David Copperfield (1935). She played a few parts on the Broadway stage until 1943 and then completely retired from the entertainment industry to enjoy life with her playwright husband, Sidney Kingsley.
EVANS, RAY (1915-2007) Lyricist. Evans wrote the words to three songs Bing sang in the 1951 picture Here Comes the Groom. They were “Your Own Little House”, “Misto Cristofo Columbo” and “Bonne Nuit”. The music was provided by Jay Livingston, Evans’ most frequent collaborator. They met whilst at college and moved from work in radio to films, Broadway and then television. In a ten year run beginning in 1948 he wrote the words to some of the best pop songs of all time. They include “Buttons and Bows”, “Mona Lisa”, “Que Sera Sera”, “Silver Bells” and “Tammy”.
EVERYBODY STEP Song. One of the few Irving Berlin songs that lacks whistle-ability. Bing sang it in Blue Skies (1946) when he opened the Top Hat Club. In Volume 3 of Fred Reynolds’ “The Crosby Collection” it is referred to as a “tune (which) depends largely upon its rhythmic attraction rather than any melodic charm.” I wouldn’t disagree with that.
EV’RY TIME MY HEART BEATS Song. It was written by Benny Davis and Gerald Marks and sung by Bing in the Mack Sennett short Blue of the Night (1932) and subsequently used in the 1949 compilation Down Memory Lane. It is featured in that well remembered sequence where Bing is travelling on a train and Margie Kane lies to Bing by telling him she is engaged to Bing Crosby. She states that night is the first time she hasn’t heard him sing. Crosby hides himself in an upper berth and makes radio tuning noises before accompanying himself on guitar whilst singing “Ev’ry Time My Heart Beats”.
EWELL, TOM (1909-1994). Actor. In his one Crosby film appearance, Ewell played ‘Cupcake’ in Mr Music (1950). ‘Cupcake’ is actually Crosby’s valet, Haggerty, but their relationship is somewhat friendlier than master and servant. In fact “friendly” nicely sums up the Tom Ewell screen persona. He was friendly towards Judy Holliday in his 1949 debut film Adam’s Rib, towards Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch (1955) and towards Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Can’t Help It (1956). He was never quite popular enough to carry off his own TV programme The Tom Ewell Show for more than a few episodes in 1960. After that he made infrequent returns to the big screen in such productions as State Fair (1962) and The Great Gatsby (1974). His unusual stage name was a corruption of his even more unusual real name - Yewell Tompkins.
FABIAN (1943- ) Poor singer and below average actor whose real name was Fabian Forte. Nevertheless his appearance in the Crosby picture High Time boosted its box office appeal in 1960. He is one of Bing’s college roommates when Crosby returns to University as a mature student intent on finishing his education. In one of the most unlikely vocal unions of all time Fabian sings a few lines of “It Came upon the Midnight Clear” with Bing and Nicole Maurey. Whilst under contract to 20th Century-Fox Fabian appeared in Hound Dog Man immediately before High Time and North to Alaska immediately afterwards. But his career as a motion picture star stubbornly refused to take off and he found himself lumbered with parts in the likes of Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966), The Day the Lord Got Busted (1976) and Disco Fever (1978). His singing career, though heavily hyped, made the same impact as his acting.
FAIN, SAMMY (1902-1990). Songwriter. He co-composed two songs which featured in Crosby pictures. In 1931, Bing sang “When I Take My Sugar to Tea” in the Mack Sennett short Dream House and later it was used as an orchestral item in the Paramount feature, Confessions of a Co-ed. His collaborators as composers were Irving Kahal and Pierre Norman. In 1957 he wrote the title song of M-G-M’s Man on Fire with Paul Francis Webster. His song writing career began in 1929 at the dawn of film sound when he composed for It’s a Great Life. He won Academy Awards for “Secret Love” (from Calamity Jane) in 1953 and for the title song from Love is a Many Splendored Thing two years later. He was still putting pen to manuscript paper in 1977 for the Disney animated feature The Rescuers. In between times, he added to the box office appeal of several movies with his skill at writing popular title songs such as “I’ll Be Seeing You” (1944), “Young at Heart” (1955), “April Love” (1957) and “A Certain Smile” (1958). Although the fifties were his peak years he is fondly remembered by the contributions he made to early thirties Warner Bros. musicals such as Footlight Parade (1933) and Dames (1934) and the standards they spawned like “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me” and “By a Waterfall”.
FAITH, HOPE AND HOGAN. Film. It was made in the early fifties by the religious organisation, The Christophers, and was put into mainly non-theatrical release in 1953. Ben Hogan was persuaded to make the film by Father Keller of the Christophers and to give the film popular appeal Bob Hope agreed to take part. Bing volunteered, especially as the Hope and Crosby segments were shot on a golf course in Palm Springs. Bing sang “One Little Candle” accompanied by Perry Botkin on guitar towards the end of the short. Bob Hope referred to the film in his autobiography ‘This Is on Me’ when he describes the event as “an hour and half of dialogue between golf shots. The entire country should have seen the film by now, because every time Hogan won a tournament they ran it on television.”
FALK, PETER (1927-2011) Actor. He was fifth billed as Guy Gisborne in his only appearance in a Crosby film Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964). He later took on the role of Columbo, the television detective, when Bing turned it down on the basis that it was too big a commitment and likely to interfere with his golf. Falk always looked unkempt which is why his early film appearances cast him as a hoodlum or blue-collar character [Pretty Boy Floyd (1960) Murder Inc (1960) and Pocketful of Miracles (1961)]. Phase two of his career took him to Italy for action movies like Machine Gun McCain (1968) and Anzio (1968). Subsequently he was cast in mainstream Hollywood movies playing slightly off beat characters. The most memorable were Murder by Death (1976) The Cheap Detective (1978) Princess Bride (1987) and The Player (1992).
FARMER, FRANCES (1913-1970). Actress and Hollywood tragedy. Miss Farmer only made one film with Bing - Rhythm on the Range in 1936. She came over in that picture as a fair light comedy actress, pleasant to look at and easy to listen to on the soundtrack recording of “The House Jack Built for Jill”. The song was cut from the release print of the film but her duetting with Bing can be heard on a couple of albums subsequently made available. She was Doris Holloway, Bing’s leading lady, in Rhythm on the Range, her first big part and the third film she made under her Paramount contract. Things were going smoothly for her and she acquitted herself well in her fourth 1936 film Come and Get it. In 1937 she was appearing on Broadway in major productions like Golden Boy as well as fulfilling her Paramount contract. Her beauty shone through in features like Ebb Tide (1937) Ride a Crooked Mile (1938) and South of Paga-Pago (1940). Then things began to go wrong. She became too outspoken in her political beliefs (she was left of left wing) and succumbed to alcoholism. The latter often brought her in conflict with the law and in 1942 she ‘retired’, spending most of the remains of that decade in various mental institutions. By the late fifties, she was ready to resume a career in films and her old studio Paramount gave her the leading role in a rarely seen cheapie The Party Crashers (1958). But she had been long forgotten by the public and she was hosting a local television programme in Indianapolis at the time cancer was diagnosed. She died of cancer at 57.
FARNON, ROBERT (Joseph) (1917-2005) Composer, arranger and conductor. All three of the foregoing musical talents of Robert Farnon were utilised on The Road to Hong Kong (1962). His orchestral score was featured on the Decca soundtrack album released at the time the film was premiered and he provided accompaniment for Bing’s vocals. He had the distinction of being hired by Frank Sinatra to arrange Sinatra’s only U.K. produced album, “Great Songs from Great Britain”. A Canadian by birth Farnon was playing with the Toronto Juvenile Symphony Orchestra at the age of eleven. He came to the U.K. during World War II as leader of the Canadian Band of the AEF. He liked Britain and stayed, arranging for Geraldo and Ted Heath before making a series of LPs for Decca between film music assignments. Perhaps his finest score was for Captain Horatio Hornblower RN (1951). He is associated with “quality” music, which is why he is much respected by his fellow musicians.
FAYLEN, FRANK (1905-1985) Actor. As a versatile character actor, Faylen was in continuous employment in Hollywood for 30 years. In the ten years from 1939, he was in seven Crosby pictures beginning with The Starmaker. His best remembered role in a Bing pic was as Bill Walters, the drunken editor of the town’s newspaper in Welcome Stranger (1947). His other parts which indicate the widely insignificant characters he played, were :
Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) A soldier
Duffy’s Tavern (1945) A bar customer
Blue Skies (1946) Mack
Variety Girl (1947) Stage manager
Road to Rio (1948) A gangster
Between times, he was in numerous other non-Bing films, mainly for Paramount. His best role was as the sadistic male nurse in The Lost Weekend (1946). He remained with Paramount until the end of the 1950s and appeared in successful films such as Whispering Smith (1949) and Gunfight at the O. K. Corral (1957). In the next decade, he was in quality productions for Disney such as The Monkey’s Uncle (1965) and 20th Century-Fox for Funny Girl (1968). He had a lasting marriage to Carol Hughes who was also another who didn’t quite make the big time in pictures, although she did take the female lead in the fondly remembered 1940 serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.
FEGTE, ERNST (1900-1976) Art director. Fegte shared joint credit with Hans Dreier for art direction on Anything Goes (1936), Sing You Sinners (1938), Rhythm on the River (1940), Birth of the Blues (1941) and Star Spangled Rhythm (1942). The two shared an Academy Award for Frenchman’s Creek in 1945. In reality they headed the art direction department at Paramount and had appropriate credit on just about every ‘A’ picture released by that studio for ten years from the mid-1930s.
FELLOWS, EDITH (1923-2011), child/teenage actress. Miss Fellows falls into the “whatever became of” category. Her only part in a Crosby movie was as Patsy in Pennies from Heaven (1936). When clips of the film are screened at the annual I.C.C. meeting in Leeds someone is bound to ask, “Whatever became of....” etc. because of her captivating performance as the daughter of the man killed by the murderer Bing had met in prison. She is on the receiving end of Bing’s soothing rendition of the film’s title song during one of those thunderstorms which only Hollywood can conjure up so dramatically. There is an obvious answer to the “Whatever ....” question: she retired from films at the age of twenty, but not before making her mark on thirty plus major movies. She seemed to be cast as a “rotten but nice” girl in such as Madame X (1929), Huckleberry Finn (1931), Jane Eyre (1934), and The Little Adventuress (1938). By 1940 the films she was offered were less memorable and it was probably a good decision to call it quits after Girls Town (1942).
FIELD, MARGARET (1922-2011) [Margaret Morlan] Actress. She appeared in three of Bing’s films when she was under-contract-to Paramount Pictures. That trio of brief appearances comprised Blue Skies (1946), Welcome Stranger (1947) and Riding High (1950). Only Welcome Stranger warranted an on-screen credit way down the cast list. Although she had what amounted to little more than walk-on parts in a dozen other major films it took a pair of early 1950s science fiction films to establish a fan base that followed her to the end of her life: The Man From Planet X (1951) and Captive Women (1952). Her first marriage resulted in a daughter, Sally Field. Sally achieved the fame which eluded her mother. Her second marriage was to actor Jock Mahoney in the early 1950s and she appeared in mainly western films for the rest of that decade, usually billed as Maggie Mahoney. Once low budget dramas became the province of television she extended her acting career' into the 1970s with dozens of small screen appearances. She was long retired from showbusiness at the time of her death.
FIELDS, HERBERT (1897-1958) Playwright and screenwriter. He was the other Fields involved with Mississippi (1935). He adapted the story along with Claude Binyon. His sister, Dorothy, was an accomplished songwriter who sometimes collaborated with him on his librettos for stage musicals which included the 1927 “A Connecticut Yankee” and “Fifty Million Frenchmen” two years later. Most of the 1930s found him working on scripts in Hollywood.
FIELDS, W. C. (1879-1946). Actor and screenwriter. If you wanted to deter anyone from drinking alcohol, show them photographs of Fields in the last year of his life. Yet despite his liking for booze, William Claude Dukenfield will be making audiences laugh for as long as his films are screened in the cinema or on television. His one Crosby film came when he was at his box office peak. He was Commodore Orlando Jackson in Mississippi (1935), an appearance he sandwiched between David Copperfield (as Mr Micawber) and The Man on the Flying Trapeze, which he also wrote under the pseudonym Charles Bogle. He liked to hide his writing talents by adopting the most memorable/ridiculous pen names. How about Mahatma Kane Jeeves for The Bank Dick? Or Otis Criblecoblis for Never Give a Sucker an Even Break? Those two films were made towards the end of his show business career. That began at fourteen when he was hired as a juggler by an amusement park owner. Vaudeville and the London and New York legitimate theatres followed before his first film Pool Sharks in 1915. On radio he was a regular on ‘The Edgar Bergen Show’, playing foil to Bergen’s dummies. He almost met his screen match in 1939 when Universal teamed him with Mae West in My Little Chickadee, but with both performers writing their own lines it ended in a draw. His last film was a cameo appearance in the mediocre Sensations of 1945.
THE FIFTH FREEDOM Short film. This 1951 one-reeler was funded by Chesterfield Cigarettes with Arthur Godfrey introducing three prominent American entertainers between taking puffs on his cigarette. Bing follows Perry Como, and Bob Hope by singing “You’re a Grand Old Flag” at the film’s end. The film is in Technicolor and it is interesting to observe Bing living up to his reputation of having no dress sense. His checked jacket is louder than the chorus of the patriotic George M. Cohan song he delivers.
FITZGERALD, BARRY (1888-1961) Actor. As a professional Irishman and scene stealer, Fitzgerald laid his charms on three major Crosby films in the 1940s: Going My Way (1944) as Father Fitzgibbon, Welcome Stranger (1947) as Dr Joseph McRory and Top ‘o the Morning (1949) as Sergeant Briany McNaughton. He also appeared briefly as Bing’s dad in Duffy’s Tavern (1945) and was one of the many Paramount contractees making fleeting stops before the camera in Variety Girl (1947). His first screen teaming with Bing won him an Academy Award as best supporting actor and provided the mould for his other features with Crosby as a tetchy/whimsical foil. Fitzgerald’s first film was Hitchcock’s British made Juno and the Paycock (1930). He visited the States as one of the Dublin Theatre’s Abbey Players and John Ford lured him to Hollywood in 1936 to appear in The Plough and the Stars. He remained as the movie colony’s resident Irishman until the early fifties, with his brother, Arthur Shields, who was also in Ford’s 1936 film. Some of his best remembered American pictures are How Green Was My Valley (1941), And Then There Were None (1945) and The Naked City (1948). John Ford enticed him back over the Atlantic for a juicy part in The Quiet Man (1952) which was filmed in Ireland. He made his last two films in England: Rooney (1958) and Broth of a Boy (1959).
FLEMING, RHONDA (1923-2020) Actress. Bing’s leading lady in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949). She was Bob Hope’s leading lady ten years later in Alias Jesse James for which Bing made a brief gag appearance. In the 1949 outing with Bing she proved she could act, sing and improve the scenery generally in the dual role of Lady Alisande La Carteloise and Sandy. She duetted with Bing on “Once and for Always” and soloed on “When Is Sometime”. As a result she was briefly contracted to American Decca. Journalist Ephraim Katz encapsulated her appeal when he called her “A ravishing redhead who photographed exquisitely especially in colour.” Born Marilyn Louis she grew up in Hollywood and was an extra in films whilst still a teenager. She had parts in two good films before her Crosby picture - Spellbound and The Spiral Staircase, both released in 1945. After Connecticut Yankee she was used in action/adventure films for her looks rather than her acting abilities. Titles such as Yankee Pasha (1954) and Gun Glory (1957) say it all. In the 1960s she was one of the Hollywood actors whose careers had peaked who tried to extend their careers by appearing in Italian co-productions. She called it quits after Backtrack (1969).
FLIGHT OF FANCY, A Song. It was one of eight Leo Robin-Harry Warren songs written especially for Bing to sing in Just for You (1952). The song never made the final cut although Warren’s melody was used as background music on the film’s soundtrack. Bing made a studio recording for Decca when it was still planned to feature the song in the film for which it was written.
FOLSEY, GEORGE (1898-1988) Trendsetting director of photography. By the time Folsey photographed The Big Broadcast (1932) and Going Hollywood (1933) he was one of Hollywood’s foremost cameramen, having made his name by pioneering a change from the harsh black and white photography we associate with silent films to the more subtle tones that prevailed with the advent of talkies. When William Randolph Hearst sought only the best to work with his mistress, Folsey was an obvious choice to photograph Marion Davis in Going Hollywood. M-G-M employed him on many of their major releases. If you saw Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) you will have be struck by Folsey’s colour photography. Ten years later he was still receiving accolades for his work on such as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. As late as 1976 M-G-M were using him to film the new sequences for That’s Entertainment Part II.
FONTAINE, JOAN [Joan De Beauvoir De Havilland] (1917-2013) Actress. Considering her real name, her casting as Countess Johanna in Emperor Waltz seems appropriate. It was her only Crosby movie and a less intense role than the heavy dramatic parts usually offered to her by Hollywood. She followed her sister, Olivia De Havilland into pictures although the two constantly feuded. She was seen on screen from 1935 onwards but had to wait until 1939 before she made an impact. That was in Gunga Din, which was closely followed by The Women (1939), Rebecca (1940) and Suspicion (1941). By the 1950s her films were less memorable until her popularity was again boosted by leading roles in Island in the Sun (1957) and A Certain Smile (1958). After the break-up of her third marriage to producer/screen writer Collier Young in 1961 she made only two more big screen appearances in Tender is the Night (1962) and The Devil’s Own [aka The Witches] (1966). Her previous marriages were to actor Brian Aherne (1939-1945) and producer William Dozier (1946-1951). She married for the fourth time in 1964 but that union with Alfred Wright Jr. also ended in divorce in 1969. TV and stage parts plus her skills as a licensed decorator and cordon bleu cook then kept her in spending money for many years.
FOR WHAT song. This was written for the film Road to Rio (1948) by Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen. It was the second of two duets intended for Crosby and Hope. The other was “Apalachicola FLA”. It was filmed but dropped from the released print. No studio recording was made of the song by Decca.
FOR YOU song. The big ballad from the little picture Billboard Girl which Bing made for Mack Sennett in 1931. Bing sings it twice towards the end of the film for the benefit of leading lady Margie ‘Babe’ Kane. It was one of the Sennett picture songs which remained intact when part of Billboard Girl was presented in the 1946 compilation Road to Hollywood. The song’s composers were Al Dubin and Joseph Burke.
FOSTER, LEWIS R. (1900-1974) Screenwriter/Director. For the writing phase of his Hollywood career, he was billed as Lew Foster and as such appeared on the credits of three Mack Sennett shorts: One More Chance, Dream House and Billboard Girl. All were filmed in 1931 and Foster shared the story and dialogue credit with John A Waldron, Earle Rodney and Harry McCoy. Why four brains were needed for these one-reeler shorts is a mystery to this day. Before his Sennett assignment he had been script supervisor and gag writer for Hal Roach and it was then that he carried out his first directorial chores on Laurel and Hardy shorts. The quality of his writing improved to such an extent that he won an Academy Award for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). When he moved over to directing, he continued to contribute to the screenplays of his films. They were almost always low-budget, run-of-the-mill adventure pics with exciting titles to persuade young lads to part with sixpence to see such fare as Captain China (1950), Passage West, (1951), Tropic Zone (1953) and Dakota Incident (1956). There was one non-typical project in 1953 when Paramount used him to write and direct the Guy Mitchell-Teresa Brewer musical comedy Those Redheads From Seattle.
FOSTER, STEPHEN (1826-1864). Songwriter. Stephen Collins Foster never wrote a song which failed to stick in the memory. His melodies were hummable and his lyrics poignant. A Stateside revival of interest in Foster beginning in the late thirties/early forties is partly attributable to a film biography starring Don Ameche called Swanee River and partly to Bing regularly featuring Foster’s compositions on the Kraft Music Hall radio show. Bing sang two of Foster’s songs in three films “Swanee River” was in Mississippi (1935) and Road to Rio (1948). Bing sang it with the Cabin Kids in the former and with Bob Hope in the Road picture. In 1950, he sang “De Camptown Races” in Riding High accompanied by Coleen Gray and Clarence Muse. Decca/Brunswick released a ten inch album called “Bing Crosby Sings Stephen Foster” which can be played frequently without the listener tiring of the eight tracks. Foster died a penniless alcoholic.
FOY, EDDIE JNR. (1905-1983). Actor. There is a scene in Dixie (1943) where two penniless boarders sing “Laughing Tony” to the actor Billy De Wolfe. The singer with the prominent upper lip is Eddie Foy Jnr. It was his only appearance in a Crosby film in a forty year career in the movies. He never found fame but came close to it in the 1950s. That was when Bob Hope made The Seven Little Foys and revived interest in the vaudeville family, followed two years later in 1957 by Foy starring on screen in the hit musical The Pajama Game. He had already enjoyed a long run on Broadway in the stage production. He bore a remarkable resemblance to his famous comedian father who died in 1928 and Eddie Jnr played his dad on screen in such as Frontier Marshall (1939), Lillian Russell (1940), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) and Wilson (1944). His last memorable film was the 1960 musical The Bells Are Ringing.
FRANK, MELVIN (1913-1988). Director, screenwriter and producer. Mel Frank’s movie associations with Bing began on a modest scale. He collaborated with Norman Panama on the story of the Bob Hope starrer My Favourite Blonde (1942) in which Bing made a guest appearance. Equally tenuous was his next connection, when he contributed to sketches for Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), another film with a Crosby guest spot. Similarly Bing guested in Duffy’s Tavern (1945), by which time Frank was again working with Norman Panama to provide both screenplay and sketch material. His first full blown Crosby assignment was to write the screenplay for Road to Utopia (1946), again with Norman Panama. Eight years elapsed before his most successful job came along - to write the screenplay for White Christmas together with Panama and Norman Krasna. A further eight years passed by which time he was producer and screenwriter of The Road to Hong Kong, alongside Panama. The Panama link goes back to schooldays when they wrote a play together but after their Hong Kong venture, Frank went it alone as director-producer-screenwriter. He based his company in England and enjoyed success with the likes of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966), A Touch of Class (1973) and Lost and Found (1979).
FRAWLEY, WILLIAM (1887-1966). Actor. For ten years Frawley appeared half way down the cast list in the films he made with Bing Crosby. He was James Smith in Here Is My Heart (1934), John Pederson in Double or Nothing (1937), Phil Westlake in Rhythm on the River (1940) and Max Dolan in Going My Way (1944). But to most people he was Fred Mertz in I Love Lucy on television between 1951 and 1960. A former vaudevillian, he was a gruff, amiable character in over a hundred and fifty Hollywood films before television made him truly famous. After his last film with Bing he was in such popular fare as Ziegfield Follies (1946), Mother Wore Tights (1947) and The Lemon Drop Kid (1951). When his ‘Lucy’ appearances ended he had a three year run in another popular series My Three Sons. His isolated return to the big screen was made in 1962 in the film Safe at Home.
FREED, ARTHUR (1894-1973) Producer and lyricist. Freed was respected the world over as the former but his songwriting talents concern us here. Bing sang his lyrics on six occasions during the 1933 picture Going Hollywood. The songs were the title number, the big hit and subsequent standard “Temptation”, “We’ll Make Hay While the Sun Shines”, “Our Big Love Scene”, “After Sundown” and “Beautiful Girl.” Nacio Herb Brown provided melodies for Freed’s words. Freed’s first successful composition was “I Cried for You.” His partnership with Brown has left us humming the likes of “You Were Meant for Me,” “You Are My Lucky Star,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and “All I Do Is Dream of You.” His fame for decades to come is doubly assured because of the high quality musicals he produced for M-G-M. He was associate producer of The Wizard of Oz in 1939 before taking full responsibility for over forty fondly remembered escapist musicals. I’ll restrict myself to listing my ten favourites: Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), The Harvey Girls (1946), Till the Clouds Roll by (1946), Easter Parade (1948), On the Town (1949), Annie Get Your Gun (1950), An American in Paris (1951), The Band Wagon (1953), Brigadoon (1954) and Gigi (1958). The most famous musical of all time isn’t there but that’s because I’ve seen it so often. It is Singin’ in the Rain (1952) for which he also wrote the songs. His career waned in the early sixties with the demise of the screen musical. His last major success was The Bells Are Ringing in 1960.
FREEMAN, MONA (1926-2014) Actress. There are no doubts that Bing was fond of Miss Freeman. He dated her openly after the death of his first wife. He did not, however, use his pull with Paramount to find her parts in his own movies for that studio. As a result, the three Crosby pictures in which she appeared only provided glimpses of this attractive ex-professional model. She had a bit part in Here Come the Waves (1944), was seen on the Paramount backlot in Variety Girl (1947) and is a spectator in the same audience crowd as Bing in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). Fortunately she was seen in more substantial big screen acting roles until her retirement from show business at the end of the fifties. Her Hollywood career began as a teenager when she was signed up by Howard Hughes who then sold her contract to Paramount. She played the innocent bright eyed teenager in the likes of National Velvet (1944) and Black Beauty (1946). Her adult roles became meatier but the films themselves were less important. The best was The Heiress (1949) but by the middle of the next decade she was in forgettable ‘B’ productions like Huk (1956) and Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957).
FRERE JACQUES French nursery rhyme. There is a moving scene in Little Boy Lost (1953) where Bing is trying to revive the memory of his son, who has no recollection of Crosby being his dad. Bing sings “Frere Jacques” to the boy, who joins in together with Claude Dauphin, but still doesn’t remember his past. All children who attend French classes are taught “Frere Jacques” to try to convince them that learning to speak a foreign language can be fun. They soon become disillusioned.
FRIENDLY MOUNTAINS, THE Song. One of the best staged Crosby vocals in any Crosby movie. Bing sings it in Emperor Waltz (1948) in a scene set in the Austrian Tyrol. The location of Canada’s Jasper Park provided a breath-taking backdrop as Bing strolled along singing this Johnny Burke, Joseph J. Lilley composition with the mountain echoes playing the part of the vocal chorus.
FRIENDLY PERSUASION Film. When Paramount owned this story in the late 1940s it was possible that Bing would play the head of the Quaker family. The proposed director, Frank Capra, was not agreeable to the budget capping of $1.5m imposed by Paramount and the project was shelved. Paramount sold the property to United Artists and in 1956 Gary Cooper played the part pencilled in for Bing.
FROM THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD Song. The 1935 release Two for Tonight contained five Mack Gordon-Harry Revel compositions. This bouncy number is sung by Bing to leading lady Joan Bennett.
FUNNY OLD HILLS, THE Song. Listing a trio of Crosby film songs consecutively serves as a reminder that Bing’s composers served him well. This opus was good enough to open and close the proceedings in the 1939 Paramount production Paris Honeymoon. It was written by dependable tunesmiths Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger. The plot begins to unfold with Bing preparing for his wedding to Shirley Ross. He sings “Funny Old Hills” as he dresses. The film’s closing scenes depict Bing driving away with butler Edward Everett Horton and new love Franciska Gaal. The trio reprise “Funny Old Hills” as the caption ‘The End’ comes up.
FURSE, ROGER K. (1903-1972) Art director and production designer. It was the latter credit given to Furse for the work on Bing’s British made Road picture. I thought the overall look of The Road to Hong Kong tacky in parts with cardboard looking sets indicating a modest budget. Perhaps Furse did the best he could with the money available. By the time the film was released in 1962 he was well known for his collaborations with Sir Laurence Olivier as set designer. His most colourful work was done for M-G-M’s British based studio in the early 1950s with Ivanhoe (1952) and Knights of the Round Table (1953). He started his career at the top by winning an Oscar for designing costumes for Hamlet (1945). It’s slightly sad to think that his last assignment was the less worthy Hong Kong.
GAAL, FRANCISKA (1904-1973). She played Manya, where her Hungarian accent stood her in good stead for her role as a rose gatherer in the mythical town of Graustarkian. Her Hollywood career began with The Buccaneer (1938) and ended with The Girl Downstairs (1939), with her Crosby starrer sandwiched in-between. She was a popular stage performer and film actress in central Europe before Cecil B. De Mille brought her to Hollywood. She returned to Budapest to be with her ailing mother after spending two years in the U.S.A. and found herself trapped there throughout World War II. There was one more film in Austria and a brief Broadway appearance in 1951 before her retirement.
GALLAGHER, RICHARD ‘SKEETS’ (1891-1955) Actor. 1933 was Gallagher’s year with Bing. He appeared in the short Hollywood on Parade No. 4 which promoted Too Much Harmony, in which he was half of the vaudeville team portrayed with fellow actor Jack Oakie. It was Oakie who joined Crosby and Gallagher in the song “Boo Boo Boo” in Hollywood on Parade, a song soloed by Bing in Too Much Harmony. Gallagher was almost playing himself in Too Much Harmony because he had been a song and dance man on the vaudeville circuit before entering films in 1923. For the next 30 years he was a second lead supporting character in most of his fifty feature films or the lead in his numerous shorts from the mid-twenties. Major films seemed to avoid him. The nearest he came to quality product was Idiot’s Delight (1939) and Brother Orchid (1942). His last appearance in Three for Bedroom C (1952) was typical of the parts he took on.
GANZER, ALVIN (1911-2009) Assistant director. To list everyone who made an impact on Crosby films would make for boring reading but one unsung hero who went on to better things was Alvin Ganzer. He was an assistant to the director of three 1940 Paramounts: Birth of the Blues (1941), Going My Way (1944) and Road to Utopia (1946). It may be coincidence that his move to fully fledged director saw him involved with musicals. By the end of the 1940s he was directing shorts in the “Musical Parade” series. His progression to full length feature films found him behind less prestigious productions than the Paramount offerings but he knew how to pamper to the youth market. He directed Country Music Holiday in 1958 and When the Boys Meet the Girls some seven years later. By then he was much in demand for television work and his name appeared on dozens of popular filmed series. There can’t be many out there who failed to see at least one of his efforts. Those that are still remembered today include “Highway Patrol”, “Have Gun - Will Travel”, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, “Gunsmoke”, “The Twilight Zone” and “Hawaii 5-0”. His behind the scenes work on his three Bing films went unnoticed but his impact on popular television culture of the 1960s made its mark. He enjoyed the last thirty years of his life in retirement in Hawaii.
GARDNER, ED (1901-1963) Radio comedian. I can only trace one film in which Gardner featured. That was Duffy’s Tavern (1945). He had the main role as Archie, who managed the bar in the permanent absence of its owner. Bing popped up now and again in the film which gave audiences the opportunity of seeing two of the most popular radio personalities of the mid-1940s.
GARGAN, WILLIAM (1905-1979). Actor. Considering the hundreds of reels of film Gargan has left us, it’s surprising that his only brush with Bing was in RKO’s The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945). Cast as Joe Gallagher, he plays the father of Patsy Gallagher (Joan Carroll). Bing, as Father O’Malley, re-unites him with his wife (Martha Sleeper) and daughter Patsy’s worries end, allowing her to graduate. Gargan transferred his career from the Broadway stage to the Hollywood soundstage in 1932. He was rarely first billed, but his gregarious performances were memorable in second lead and character parts for over 30 years. His moment of glory came in 1940 when he was Oscar nominated for his part in They Knew What They Wanted. With his career on a roll, for a short time he starred as Ellery Queen in a series of B pictures, before accepting prominent supporting parts in the likes of The Canterville Ghost (1944) and Miracle in the Rain (1956). The latter was his final big screen appearance. In the late ‘50s, he starred in the television detective series Martin Kane. In 1960 he lost the main tool of his trade: his voice. He had cancer of the larynx and an artificial voice box was fitted. This enabled him to make public appearances on behalf of the American Cancer Society condemning smoking. However, the last twenty years of his life were spent outside mainstream show business.
GARNETT, TAY (1894-1977) Director. In 1949 Garnett directed Bing in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. From then until retirement, none of his films excited critics or audiences. By the time he worked with Bing he had been in films for nearly thirty years. He began as a screenwriter and also turned out gag material for Mack Sennett. By the time Bing was working with Sennett, Garnett had graduated to directing films such as Bad Company (1931). His decade was the 1940s with well remembered titles like My Favourite Spy (1942), The Cross of Lorraine (1944) and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). That last title is generally regarded as his best picture. In the 1960s, he was much occupied with television assignments. His last bit screen film was Timber Tramp, released in 1973.
GAYNOR, MITZI (1930- ). Actress and dancer. Mitzi Gaynor’s one film with Bing was his 1956 remake of Anything Goes. She played Patsy Blair, the girl Bing brings from London to Broadway to appear in the show “You’re the Top”. As well as singing the film’s title song, she shared vocal numbers with Bing and Donald O’Connor. Yet she never regarded herself as a singer, having set her heart on becoming a dancer and making her professional debut as a ballerina at the age of twelve. Fox signed her up for film work in 1950 but dropped her four years later when assignments such as My Blue Heaven (1950), Down Among the Sheltering Palms (1953) and There’s No Business Like Show business (1954) failed to establish her as a box office draw. She was not unemployed for long. She had the good luck to fall in love and marry talent agent Jack Bean, who immediately secured work for her in a string of successes, including Anything Goes, The Joker Is Wild (1957), Les Girls (1957) and South Pacific (1958). There were only three more films before her retirement from movies in 1963; all light comedies which failed to make an impact. She wisely decided that her future lay in television and cabaret before going into semi-retirement. There was a possible option to work with Bing again in films in 1965 when they were both lined up for the Irving Berlin musical “Say It with Music”, but that came to nothing. She was re-united with him however on American television variety shows.
GEE, I WISH I WAS BACK IN THE ARMY Song. The sentimental finale to White Christmas serves as a reminder of Christmas Eve 1944. Since then Bing’s character’s fortunes as an entertainer have made him a topline performer. The film concludes with him appearing on Christmas Eve on the stage of his former wartime General’s night club. The General enters the club and Bing, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen sing “Gee, I Wish I Was Back in the Army”. The song was one of sixteen Irving Berlin compositions used in the film.
GEMORA, CHARLIE (1903-1961). Character actor, though if you saw him in the street you would not recognise him. His speciality was playing apes. In Road to Zanzibar (1941) he is Agua, the gorilla. When Hope and Crosby are captured by cannibals, Hope is made to fight Agua before the boys escape. Five years later he played the part of a bear in Road to Utopia. He played the title role in The Gorilla and joined the Marx Brothers in At the Circus (1939).
GERSHWIN, IRA (1896-1985). Lyric writing brother of George. His only film link with Bing was as writer of the four songs in The Country Girl (1954) for which Harold Arlen provided the melodies. He wrote for films and shows rather than composing isolated popular songs. His most successful collaboration was with his brother. The films included Shall We Dance (1937) which featured “They All Laughed”, A Damsel in Distress (1937) which included “A Foggy Day” and The Goldwyn Follies (1938) which introduced “Love Is Here to Stay” to the repertoire of most singers of standard popular songs. His stage musicals included Girl Crazy (1932) with George and Porgy and Bess with George again providing the music and DuBose Heyward acting as co-lyricist. His most popular work for the big screen immediately preceded The Country Girl when he collaborated again with Arlen on the Judy Garland musical A Star Is Born. Bing did not sing any George Gershwin compositions in any of his films.
GET YOURSELF A PHONOGRAPH Song written by Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen for the film The Emperor Waltz (1948). It was recorded for the soundtrack by Bing but not used.
GETTING NOWHERE Song. A charming little ditty from Blue Skies (1946). In the film Bing sits at the piano and sings it to his screen daughter, played by Karolyn Grimes. Words and music by Irving Berlin.
GIBBONS, CEDRIC (1893-1960). Probably the most famous and certainly the most influential art director from Hollywood’s golden years. He worked exclusively for M-G-M from 1924 onwards and it was with that studio in 1956 that he had his only association with a Crosby film. That was High Society where Gibbons shared art director credit with Hans Peters. If the truth were known, he acted in a supervisory capacity at M-G-M during his prolific years although his contract permitted him to take sole screen credit. He will be remembered for as long as there is a Hollywood for the simple reason that he designed the Oscar, the Academy Award statuette. He then went on to win a dozen of them. The 1950 one was for “consistent excellence”, the rest for films beginning with The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1929), including The Merry Widow (1934), Gaslight (1944) and An American in Paris (1951) and concluding with Somebody up There Likes Me (1956). He called it quits that same year after working on Lust for Life. Despite his busy life as art director he found time to co-direct Tarzan and His Mate in 1934 and be the husband of Dolores Del Rio from 1930 to 1941.
GIBSON, JUDITH [Marcia Griffin] (1924-2007) Actress. When Paramount signed Judith Gibson in 1941 it was her appearance alone that attracted them to the 17 year old. Her wholesome good looks were from the family gene bank that created her equally attractive sisters Debra Paget and Lisa Gaye. The studio proceeded to cast Judith in bit parts until she had been groomed by the studio and gained some acting experience. Hence her ranking at number 14 in the cast list of Holiday Inn (1942) as a cigarette girl. How she fared thereafter became a mystery. Her film credits came to a halt and it would seem that Paramount’s investment was not going to pay off. She was only on that studio’s payroll for two years and it could be assumed that she had quit acting. In fact, she had renamed herself Teala Loring and continued in show business until 1950. The titles of her post-Paramount films give some indication as to why the film reference books ignore her as either Griffin, Gibson or Loring. In 1944 she appeared with Bela Lugosi in Return of the Ape Man. Two years later she had a part in Gas House Kids. The next year she was in Hard Boiled Mahoney. Her final film actually gave her co-star billing with Rex Allen in Arizona Cowboy (1950). Had ‘B’ westerns not been on the way out she could well have hung on in there for a few more years. As it was, she left it to her sisters to keep screen glamour in the family. In the 57th year of her retirement from films she died following injuries sustained in a car accident.
GIFFORD, FRANCES (1920-1994) Actress. Mary Frances Gifford had a major part in Riding High (1950) with the role of Margaret Higgins. She was cast as Bing’s fiancé. Her only other brush with Bing in the movies was a brief appearance in the finale of the all star Star Spangled Rhythm (1942). At that time she had peaked as far as fan adulation was concerned, because she had been the fearless heroine of the serial Jungle Girl the previous year. Juvenile boys were much impressed although she had gone unnoticed in minor roles since she entered films in 1937 immediately after leaving high school. A couple of good films in the first part of the 1940s implied a strong acting career ahead. She had received critical attention in The Glass Key (1942) and Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945). An unsuccessful marriage to actor James Dunn and a serious injury in 1948 in a car accident meant she made only one film after Riding High. That was Sky Commando, released in 1953. Five years later she entered a mental ward in a California hospital and nothing further was heard from her or about her until 1983, when a writer for a film magazine found her in Pasadena. She had apparently fully overcome her physical and mental problems and was working for the city library. She died of emphysema in Pasadena in 1994.
GILLINGWATER, CLAUDE (1870-1939) Actor. He was General Rumford in Mississippi (1935). It is the General’s house that is used by Bing and the troupe of actors when they put on a show. His speciality as a character actor was to play crusty old men. He himself had been a member of a touring repertory company before going to Hollywood in the silent era. His best remembered film came the year following his Crosby picture when John Ford cast him in Prisoner of Shark Island. His health began to fail shortly afterwards and he committed suicide in 1939.
GLAZER, BENJAMIN (1887-1958). Screenwriter and producer. Four formative years in films for Bing were heavily influenced by Ben Glazer. He helped provide the screenplay for She Loves Me Not (1934) and then produced The Big Broadcast of 1936 (1935), Anything Goes (1936), Rhythm on the Range (1936) and Double or Nothing (1937). When Glazer bowed out of Bing’s life, film exhibitors in the States voted Bing into fourth place in terms of box office pull. Glazer was born in Belfast and he became a solicitor and then a journalist before writing stories for silent pictures in the early 1920s. He was involved with very few films after his role as producer on Bing’s Paramount pictures. Two years before his death he made a comeback of sorts when he was responsible for the screen adaptation of Carousel.
GLEASON, JAMES (1886-1959). Actor, screenwriter and playwright. It is in the first capacity that the Crosby connection occurs. He was in a few frames of one of Paramount’s promotional shorts which also featured Bing. That was Hollywood on Parade No. 4 (1933). His ‘proper’ acting took place in Riding High (1950), in which he played the racing secretary. By then his face was well known to all regular moviegoers, even if they couldn’t always put a name to his face. He had been a character actor for thirty years with a range of stereotypes embracing reporters, gamblers, fight managers and other big city types. They always had one thing in common: beneath their crusty exteriors lurked a heart of gold. Gleason made over 150 films. Of those I enjoyed, Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), The Bishop’s Wife (1947) and Night of the Hunter (1955) linger in the memory. He worked until the time of his death, his last film being appropriately enough The Last Hurrah (1958).
GO FLY A KITE Song. In The Starmaker (1939), a chorus of kids help Bing perform this Johnny Burke-James V. Monaco number. It is chosen as the song for the stage debut of what developed into a vaudevillian act featuring Larry Earl (Bing) and assorted child performers.
GOD BLESS AMERICA Song. This Irving Berlin composition was recorded by Bing when he was working on the soundtrack sessions for Blue Skies (1946). It was not included in the release print but issues of the soundtrack on disc contain it along with another half dozen songs cut before the film’s release. Bing had already made a studio recording of the song for Decca in 1939.
GODDARD, PAULETTE (1911-1990). Because she was contracted to Paramount during her main years of popularity, it was inevitable that she featured in the same films as Bing from time to time. They never acted together although they both appeared as themselves in Hollywood on Parade Z3 No. 7 (1933), Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), Duffy’s Tavern (1945) and Variety Girl (1947). She was a striking beauty with a private life of more interest than many of her films. When she was a teenager she quit her job as a Ziegfeld girl to marry a wealthy industrialist. She left New York and drove to Reno in 1931 in order to obtain a quickie divorce. She decided not to turn the car round and carried on to Hollywood where her looks saw her employed as a Goldwyn girl before being signed up by Hal Roach. She met Charlie Chaplin in 1932 and they started to live together immediately. They married, but she divorced him in 1942 and married Burgess Meredith two years later. That marriage lasted six years and she quit films in the mid-fifties before her final marriage to novelist Erich Maria Remarque. Her films were never quite good enough to make her a screen legend but picturegoers have fond memories of her in such entertainments as The Cat and the Canary (1939), Reap the Wild Wind (1942) and On Our Merry Way (1948). She attempted an ill advised comeback in the unfortunately named Time of Indifference (1964). A typical European co-production, Miss Goddard was cast as Claudia Cardinale’s mother.
GODFREY, ARTHUR (1903-1983). Popular radio and TV entertainer and talent scout. Godfrey just about qualifies for inclusion in this A-Z because he appeared in a 27-minute tobacco industry film financed by the makers of Chesterfield Cigarettes called Tobaccoland on Parade (1950) with Bing and Perry Como. At the very end, Bing is seen singing a short version of "Swinging on a Star". Godfrey was also heavily featured in that bizarre advertising short for Chesterfield Cigarettes, The Fifth Freedom. Bing, like Godfrey, had a radio programme sponsored by Chesterfield but ironically Godfrey ended his life as an anti-smoking campaigner having recovered from surgery following lung cancer. Under his talent scout label, winning contestants on his television show included Pat Boone, the McGuire Sisters and the Everly Brothers. He also had brief hit parade successes with “Too Fat Polka”, “Dance Me Loose” and “Slow Poke” amongst others. He made little impact in the UK.
GOING HOLLYWOOD Film. This 1933 movie certainly added to the impetus which made Bing a box-office draw. Long just a grey memory for those who saw it on the big screen, it enjoyed several satellite television showings in the 1990s. It may not have stood the test of time, but it retains a charm of its own, helped by high production values and half a dozen good songs. Released by M-G-M, it was financed by William Randolph Hearst for his Cosmopolitan Pictures company. It was intended as a lavish showcase for his girlfriend Marion Davies, whose film career waned with the coming of sound. Hearst bought the best talent for Going Hollywood. Walter Wanger produced, Raoul Walsh directed, Donald Ogden Stewart wrote the screenplay, Lennie Hayton was musical director and Bing was Miss Davies’ leading man. He played a crooner with whom schoolteacher Marion Davies was infatuated. She gets her man. Stories abound regarding the relaxed atmosphere prevailing during the three months the film was in production. The sense of fun during shooting is captured by Bing in the private recording he made as a ‘tribute’ to the director: “Rollicking Rockaway Raoul”. M-G-M found a pristine print of the film in their vaults and excerpts were featured in That’s Entertainment (1974) and That’s Entertainment 2 (1976).
GOING HOLLYWOOD Song. The title song of the film was never recorded for commercial release by Bing. It is a big production number in the film and it’s difficult to understand why Brunswick did not programme it in the recording sessions which covered another five of the Arthur Freed-Nacio Herb Brown compositions. Radio and record publicity could only heighten box office awareness. Forty years after it was first seen and heard by cinemagoers, the song delighted millions of viewers a second time when it was included in the compilation film That’s Entertainment (1974).
GOING MY WAY Film. This was Bing’s biggest box-office success to date. Made in late 1943, it still involves viewers over sixty years later. Paramount budgeted the film at around one million dollars. $650,000 was for production with the balance being for studio overheads. McCarey invested a modest amount in the film and profited to the extent of making more than double the Paramount budget. Bing received a flat fee of $125,000. Barry Fitzgerald was paid $12,500. On the film’s initial North American release the film sold 37 million tickets and grossed $6.5 million in rentals. When Bing died on October 14th, 1977, it was appropriate that the tribute film the BBC scheduled three days later was Going My Way. In the film, Bing plays Father O’Malley, assigned to the rundown St. Dominic’s in a deprived area of New York. The present incumbent is played by Barry Fitzgerald and it is the verbal sparring of the two Fathers that bring humour and pathos to a story with the obligatory happy ending. In this case a fund to rebuild St. Dominic’s following a fire and a surprise visit from Ireland re-uniting Barry Fitzgerald with his mother. The film was showered with awards, including:
· An Oscar for Bing as Best Actor of 1944.
· Three Oscars for Leo McCarey (Best Director, original story and film)
· Oscars for Frank Butler and Frank Cavett (Best Screenplay)
· New York Film Critics Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Fitzgerald) and Best Director (McCarey)
· Golden Globe Award as Best Motion Picture (Drama)
· One of the New York Times’ ten best films of 1944.
· The top of Variety’s list of moneymaking films of 1943/44.
· The Picturegoer Award for the year’s best performance in a film to Bing.
GOING MY WAY Song. Written by Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen for the film of the same name. The song plays an important part in the plot. It is written by Father O’Malley with a view to raising money towards the mortgage on St. Dominic’s. When an old friend of O’Malley’s, opera singer Genevieve Linden (played by Rise Stevens) sings it before the intended publishers, they are unimpressed. As they leave the theatre, O’Malley sits down at the piano and plays “Swinging on a Star” which the publishers decide to buy instead.
GOLDWYN, SAM (1882-1974) Producer. Bing worked for Goldwyn once. This was because Bob Hope was contracted to the producer for a series of films. As a result Bing had a walk-on part in The Princess and the Pirate (1944). In the early fifties, Paramount wanted to buy the rights to the musical Guys and Dolls with a view to Bing and Hope starring in this Frank Loesser musical. Goldwyn bought it and made it a success with Sinatra and Brando in starring roles. Goldwyn was a true Hollywood legend. His misuse of the English language guarantees he figures in every book of show-business quotes. It doesn’t matter whether he really said “include me out”, “a verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on” or “anyone seeing a psychiatrist should have his head examined.” The fact is, his quotes or misquotes did more to keep his name in the showbiz columns than any public relations firm could achieve. He was a film pioneer, tasting success in 1916 when he was involved in the very profitable feature The Squaw Man. He co-produced the first version of Ben Hur in 1925. Sound films earned him accolades and profits for the next three decades with successes such as Roman Scandals (1933), Dead End (1937), Wuthering Heights (1939), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Hans Christian Andersen (1952) and Porgy and Bess (1959). He is credited with establishing the screen careers of Ronald Colman, Gary Cooper, David Niven, Lucille Ball, Danny Kaye, Will Rogers and Vera-Ellen.
GOODNIGHT, LOVELY LITTLE LADY Song. Mack Gordon and Harry Revel wrote this one for Bing to sing in We’re Not Dressing (1934). A romantic ballad, it was not used by the leading man to woo his leading lady. Its function was to quieten Droopy the bear. It’s the only song which pacifies it and Bing is the singing sailor assigned to serenade the animal. Unfortunately Bing was not to hand when the bear attacked one of the female extras on the film’s set and its trainer went to her rescue. Sadly the trainer was badly hurt and he subsequently died.
GOODTIME CHARLIE Song. This up-tempo ditty was duetted by Hope and Crosby in their fourth Road film when they headed for Utopia. It is featured early in the film when the boys are entertaining in a San Francisco honky-tonk. It was written for Road to Utopia (1946) by regular tunesmiths Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen. There was no studio recording made of this song by Bing.
GORCEY, LEO (1915-1969). The brief appearance by Gorcey in Road to Zanzibar (1941) comes as a surprise to anyone following his career. By the time filming started, he had made his name in show business and the bit part in this second Road movie seemed a retrograde career step. But then Gorcey never conformed. He was noticed by critics in 1934 when he was one of a gang of juvenile delinquents in the Broadway production of Dead End. When the play was filmed two years later, Gorcey reprised his role. The ‘Dead End Kids’ registered with juvenile fans and together with Huntz Hall, Gorcey led the kids through long running, low budget series first as the East Side Kids and then as the Bowery Boys. Before Road to Zanzibar, Gorcey’s contract with Warner Bros. had provided him with substantial parts in Mannequin, Crime School, Angels with Dirty Faces, Pride of the Bowery and several others. He died comparatively young after leading a very full life which is detailed in his autobiography, ‘Dead End Yells, Wedding Bells, Cockleshells and Dizzy Spells’. It describes a life more colourful than any of the films he was involved in. Between several brushes with the law he found time and energy to marry five times.
GORDON, MACK [Morris Gittler] (1904-1959) Lyric writer of some of Bing’s most popular and lasting performances. He was under contract to Paramount from 1933 to 1936 and the studio had introduced him in Hollywood on Parade No. 7 in which Bing also made a brief appearance. His next two consecutive Crosby assignments were We’re Not Dressing (1934) and She Loves Me Not (1934). The music was provided by Gordon’s regular collaborator Harry Revel. The five standards which originated in the first film were “May I”, “Once in a Blue Moon”, “Love Thy Neighbour”, “She Reminds Me of You” and “Goodnight, Lovely Little Lady”. The three songs in the follow-up film were not as memorable. They were “I’m Hummin’, I’m Whistlin’, I’m Singin’”, “Love in Bloom” and “Straight from the Shoulder”. The re-uniting of Bing with Gordon and Revel occurred in 1935 with Two for Tonight which produced a further five Bing evergreens: “Two for Tonight”, “I Wish I Were Aladdin”, “From the Top of Your Head”, “Takes Two to Make a Bargain” and “Without a Word of Warning”. The following year Gordon moved to Fox and remained on that studio’s payroll until 1950. His later collaborators included Harry Warren (for “Chattanooga Choo-Choo”, “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo”, “Serenade in Blue” etc.) and Josef Myrow (“On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City”, “You Make Me Feel So Young”, etc.). His last film was in 1956 on the Eddie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds starrer Bundle of Joy.
GRANT, JOHNNY (1923-2008) Radio reporter and interviewer who made occasional films. In White Christmas (1954) he played Ed Harrison. He shared screentime with Bing towards the end of that film in the sequence set in New York. After Bing visited the Carousel Club to watch Rosemary Clooney perform he called on Ed Harrison. It was a typically brief role for Grant. Grant made his film debut in The Babe Ruth Story (1948). By the mid-fifties he was seen fleetingly in teen-oriented flicks like The Girl Can’t Help It and Rock, Pretty Baby (both 1956). However, he is best remembered for the work he did to publicise Hollywood. Working with the Chamber of Commerce he led the project to preserve the dilapidated Hollywood sign and establish the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was in the public eye annually as producer of the Hollywood Christmas Parade. It was for his non-film work that he became known as Hollywood’s honorary mayor.
GRAPEWIN, CHARLEY (1875-1956) Actor. He played Bing’s Uncle Caleb in Rhythm on the River (1940). In that same year he appeared in his most memorable role as Grampa Joad in The Grapes of Wrath. An ex-vaudevillian, he was usually cast as a crusty old so-and-so. The main exception was his portrayal of Inspector Queen in a series of ‘B’ pictures commenced immediately after his appearance in Rhythm on the River. Beginning with Ellery Queen - Master Detective he played Ellery’s dad in the series which featured Ralph Bellamy and then William Gargan in the name role. He retired from films in 1951 with the aptly titled When I Grow Old.
GRAY, COLEEN (1922-2015) Actress. She was typical of the leading ladies who appeared on screen in Bing pictures around this time. Her only Crosby film was Riding High (1950) when she played Alice Higgins. We know she is the only girl for Bing because at the end of the film he names a horse ‘Princess’, a pet name for her. She had been in three good films before working with Bing - State Fair (1945), Nightmare Alley (1947) and Red River (1948). After Riding High she was cast in routine crime, western and action films and never sustained the high profile career for which she seemed destined. Titles like Las Vegas Shakedown (1955), The Leech Woman (1960) and her last film, Cry from the Mountain (1986) say it all.
GREAT JOHN L, THE Film. Bing formed Bing Crosby Productions Incorporated jointly with Harry Lowe Crosby and father and son had equal billing in institutional terms. The partnership was a device that produced financial concessions, with Bing’s father taking no active part in the production company. The first production was The Great John L. (1945) a film biography about the boxer John L. Sullivan with unknown actor Greg McClure in the leading role. When the film was released in the U.K. the distributors felt that the cinema going public would not know what to make of its original title. As a result it was released as A Man Called Sullivan! The film was a financial flop.
GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, THE Film. Made in 1951 and released in 1952, this was an extremely successful circus film directed by Cecil B. de Mille. It was a Paramount production and took advantage of that studio’s contractees by showing Hope and Crosby munching popcorn whilst watching a circus act. The film’s main stars were Cornel Wilde, Betty Hutton, Charlton Heston, Dorothy Lamour and James Stewart.
GREEN, JOHNNY (1908-1989). Composer, conductor, arranger, musical director. Green was able to more or less top and tail Bing’s film musical career. He co-wrote “Out of Nowhere” with Edward Heyman, the song featured in the 1931 films I Surrender Dear and Confessions of a Co-ed. A quarter of a century later he adapted and supervised the music for High Society with the assistance of Saul Chaplin. His last Crosby connection came with Pepe in 1960 when he is credited with music supervision and background score. Johnny Green entered films in 1929 as a rehearsal pianist for Paramount. He spent ten years with M-G-M as that studio’s general music director. He won Academy Awards for collaborations on the scoring of Easter Parade, An American in Paris, West Side Story and Oliver. He retired from films in 1969 after working on They Shoot Horses, Don’t They.
GRIGGS, LOYAL (1907-1978) Director of photography. His versatility is easily established. He worked on Little Boy Lost (1953) together with Farciot Edouart when they had to match the French monochrome location photography with studio footage. One year later he photographed White Christmas, where the rich reds and greens of the Technicolor process added a seasonal dimension to Paramount’s most successful Crosby musical. He began working with that studio thirty years earlier on special effect photography. The year before he shot White Christmas he was photographer on the western Shane, his work on which won him an Academy Award.
GROFE, FERDE (1892-1972). Composer, conductor, orchestrator. Ferdinand Rudolph Von Grofe garnered one Crosby film credit for orchestrations on King of Jazz, Universal’s major 1930 two-color musical. He had spent seven years until 1927 as principal arranger for Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra so he was an obvious choice for a film which strongly featured Whiteman and his music. His two musical career highpoints were scoring Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” in 1924 and winning an Oscar twenty years later for his score on Minstrel Man.
HALL, THURSTON (1883-1958). American character actor. He was not playing to type when he was cast as Mr. Proctor in The Starmaker (1939). In that Crosby picture he was the theatre owner who allowed Larry Earl (Bing) and his singing newsboys to make their debut on stage. His other film with Bing was Welcome Stranger (1947) when he took the part of Congressman Beeker. That was more his acting scene, because in most of his several hundred Hollywood pictures he was usually either a hard-boiled businessman or an influential politician. When he entered films in 1915 he was willing to forsake touring with his own acting troupe in order to take a chance in movies. Early parts saw him in leading roles such as Mark Anthony in Cleopatra (1917). However by the mid-thirties he was a solid character player in the likes of Professor Beware (1938) and The Blue Bird (1940). He was in films until the time of his death.
HANDY, W(illiam) C(hristopher) (1873-1958). Songwriter. Bing sang two of his compositions in Birth of the Blues (1941) - “Memphis Blues” and “St. Louis Blues”. By then Handy had written the main body of his work, having gradually lost his sight in the 1930s. A revival in his popularity occurred in the 1950s. Louis Armstrong recorded the album ‘…Plays W. C. Handy’ in 1954 and three years later Nat ‘King’ Cole portrayed him in the Handy biopic St. Louis Blues.
HANG YOUR HEART ON A HICKORY LIMB Song. Bing and the Music Maids sing this in East Side of Heaven (1939). It is featured in a scene set in a restaurant with the Maids taking the part of waitresses. The performance is noted by an influential broadcaster and the rest is Hollywood plotting history. The composers are Crosby film score regulars Johnny Burke and James V. Monaco. Burke said the inspiration for the lyric derived from one of his wife’s expressions. When their daughter asked to go swimming, Mrs. B. would say “Hang your clothes on a hickory limb / and don’t go near the water.” In the same year, one of life’s coincidences resulted in Jack Lawrence writing the popular “Yes, My Darling Daughter” prompted by the same rhyme.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU Song. Also sung by Bing in East Side of Heaven. As a singing messenger, it is probably his most frequent assignment! It is one of the movie’s (and the world’s) most used song. It found fame in two instalments. The music, by Mildred J. Hill, was published in 1893 in a collection of children’s songs. The words that we know were written by Patty Smith Hill in 1935. Despite trying to keep part of my private life out of the public domain, people still sing it to me once a year.
HAPPY FEET Song. One of several Jack Yellen-Milton Ager compositions featured in Universal’s King of Jazz (1930). This one was sung by the Rhythm Boys and Sisters G. The boys made a recording of it with the Whiteman Orchestra and it received a commercial release to coincide with the film’s distribution.
HAPPY HOLIDAY Song. In the film Holiday Inn this song is the first one sung in the newly opened club of the title. The setting is New Year’s Eve and Bing, Marjorie Reynolds and chorus perform it before a packed house. Like all the songs in the picture the composer was Irving Berlin.
HARDWICKE, SIR CEDRIC (1883-1964) Actor. He was Lord Pendragon in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949). For many people the lasting cinematic memory of Hardwicke is when he strolls over a studio hill in the company of Bing and William Bendix as the trio sings “Busy Doing Nothing”. At this stage of his career, Hardwicke was shuttling back and forth across the Atlantic on acting assignments and Yankee was sandwiched between the British productions The Winslow Boy and Now Barabbas. He made his name and reputation on the London stage and his 1934 knighthood was bestowed in recognition of his theatre and film work. He was first glimpsed on screen in a British short in 1913 but it was twenty plus years on before his best work was being screened. He’d been enticed to Hollywood to appear in such as Les Miserables (1936) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). He acted up until the time of his death leaving behind memorable performances in The Lodger (1944), Nicholas Nickleby (1947), Richard III (1955), The Ten Commandments (1956) and his last film The Pumpkin Eater (1964).
HARDY, OLIVER (1892-1957). Actor and half of the world’s best loved film comedy partnership. Born Oliver Norvell Hardy Jr but known as Ollie by his on-screen companion, Stan Laurel. He made his last film appearance in Riding High (1950). It was a walk-on part when he played a losing punter at the race track. He had completed his last film with Stan, the unfunny French-Italian co-production Atoll K and although the two planned a movie comeback in the mid-fifties Riding High was to be Hardy’s last film. It came forty years after his first involvement with the cinema because it was in 1910 that he opened a small movie theatre. Four years later his patrons could watch him on the screen in his first acting assignment, Outwitting Dad. He first appeared with Laurel in 1917 in Lucky Dog but the real on-screen partnership didn’t begin until 1926 with Duck Soup. There’s little point in listing the team’s films, titles have little relevance. You simply paid to see a Laurel and Hardy film. You knew what you were getting for your money. Their popularity dipped in the 1950s but the following decade saw a massive revival in popularity when the BBC began screening their best comedy shorts, made for Hal Roach until 1940. Video and then DVD ensured their continued popularity.
HARMONY Song. This Johnny Burke- James Van Heusen song was composed specially for a duet by Crosby and Bob Hope in a sequence featured in the all-star Variety Girl (1947). When the film was released in the UK, it was edited and the Crosby-Hope vocal cut, leaving the pair’s comedy golfing sketch as their only contribution. Bing never made a studio recording of the song.
HARRIS, PHIL (1906-1995). Actor, musician and singer. Phil Harris was a close personal friend to Bing. He was in two Crosby movies of the 1950s: Here Comes the Groom (1951) and Anything Goes (1956). In the first he makes a brief appearance alongside Louis Armstrong, Cass Daley, Dorothy Lamour and Frank Fontaine. That quintet joins Bing in singing “Misto Cristofo Columbo” in a scene set on board a plane. His more substantial role as Steve Blair in the Anything Goes remake casts him as the father of Mitzi Gaynor. It’s unfortunate that he had no vocal chores in that second film because his instantly likeable personality took on another dimension when he sang. In fact, it was his voice alone which Walt Disney hired for Phil’s last three films. He provided voices for Baloo the bear in The Jungle Book (1967), J. Thomas O’Malley in The Aristocats (1970) and Little John in Robin Hood (1973). Career and personal highlights in his early days include:
· 1931 Forming his own band, which made regular radio broadcasts
· 1933 Making his film debut in Melody Cruise
· 1940 Appearing as himself in Buck Benny Rides Again. His association with Jack Benny on radio lasted through the 1940s with Harris as musical director on “The Jack Benny Show”.
· 1941 Marrying Alice Faye.
HART, LORENZ (1895-1943). Bing only sang four Hart compositions on screen but they were four gems. In The Big Broadcast (1932) he sang a snatch of “I’ve Got Five Dollars” but it was the 1935 film Mississippi which provided him with three songs that appear on most top ten lists of favourite Bing renditions. These collaborations with partner Richard Rodgers were “It’s Easy to Remember”, “Down by the River” and “Soon”. Hart’s track record in a comparatively short life resulted in 29 musicals being written with Rodgers which played Broadway and London theatres. Twelve of those were bought by Hollywood for film adaptation. His tragic life is documented in several biographies, the most objective being “Thou Swell, Thou Witty” by his sister-in-law, Dorothy Hart.
HARTMAN, DON (1900-1958). Screenwriter, director, producer and songwriter. It is Hartman’s writing skills which provide the Bing association. He shares screenplay credit on Bing’s three best loved Road films: Singapore (1940), Zanzibar (1941) and Morocco (1942). He shared screenplay credit with Walter DeLeon and Francis Martin. There is a further tenuous association with Bing on another couple of films to which Hartman contributed. These are the Bob Hope comedies My Favourite Blonde (1942) and The Princess and the Pirate (1944) in which Bing made brief appearances. Before entering films in 1930, Hartman had been an actor, songwriter and supplier of material for radio shows. He was put in charge of production at Paramount in 1951 and established his own production company in 1956.
HAYDN, RICHARD (1905-1985). Actor and director. You only needed to see one Richard Haydn performance to eagerly await his next film. He was always in supporting parts when he appeared in front of the camera. His onscreen work with Bing was as Emperor Franz Josef in The Emperor Waltz (1948). He then directed Crosby in Mr Music (1950). Paramount originally selected him to direct Bing in Here Comes the Groom the following year but that task was eventually carried out by Frank Capra and Mr Music turned out to be his last directorial assignment. His final appearance was in the 1974 comedy Young Frankenstein.
HAYTON, LENNIE (1908-1971). Pianist, bandleader, arranger, composer and musical director. Hayton’s Crosby connection is in his capacity as M.D. on the 1933 picture Going Hollywood as far as films are concerned. Their general musical relationship goes somewhat deeper. He worked alongside Bing in the Paul Whiteman Orchestra between 1928 and 1930. The two made appearances in King of Jazz (1930) and Hayton also worked with Bing during the latter’s early days on radio. Hayton was appointed musical director for M-G-M in 1940. It was a post he was to hold until 1953 and resulted on his working on some of the best musicals to come out of Hollywood. These included On the Town (1949) - for which he won an Oscar - and Singin’ in the Rain (1952). He was considered a major talent in films up until the time of his death with two later triumphs being Star (1968) and Hello Dolly (1969). He married Lena Horne in 1947.
HEAD, EDITH (1907-1981). Costume designer and possibly the best known backroom talent in Hollywood. She was involved with almost every major Paramount movie during Bing’s tenure with that studio. She even defected to RKO to make The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945) at a time when studios were not known to loan their prime production talent. She worked on all the Paramount Road pictures but her first assigned Bing pic was The Big Broadcast (1932). Subsequently she was costume designer on the following Crosby associated films: The Big Broadcast of 1936 (1935), Mississippi (1935), Double or Nothing (1937), Waikiki Wedding (1937), Sing You Sinners (1938), Paris Honeymoon (1939), The Star Maker (1939), Rhythm on the River (1940), Birth of the Blues (1941), Holiday Inn (1942), Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), Going My Way (1944), Here Come the Waves (1944), Duffy’s Tavern (1945), Out of This World (1945), Blue Skies (1946), Welcome Stranger (1947), Variety Girl (1947), The Emperor Waltz (1948), Riding High (1950), Mr. Music (1950), Here Comes the Groom (1951), Just for You (1952), Little Boy Lost (1953), White Christmas (1954), The Country Girl (1954) and Anything Goes (1956). In addition she worked on some films on which Bing had peripheral involvement: My Favourite Brunette (1947), The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), Son of Paleface (1952) and Scared Stiff (1953). She was more involved in costuming the ladies and she had little influence on the Crosby wardrobe if it was a modern dress picture. She did recognise his preferences in casual wear. When she saw rough weave woollen material that she thought he would like for a sports jacket she bought some and passed it on to him. It wasn’t to her particular taste but she knew what Bing liked. About his jackets she commented, “They looked like horse blankets.” She began freelancing at about the time Bing also left Paramount and they were both involved at Columbia with Pepe (1960). In 1967 she again found a permanent studio employer with Universal and her talents were used on such as Hitchcock’s Family Plot (1976) and Airport 77 (1977). In her forty plus years in the world’s film capital she won eight Academy Awards for costume design. Although she worked behind the scenes she was recognisable because of her fringe and dark glasses. I don’t think I’ll be shattering any illusions if I reveal that she wore a wig and the dark glasses were to hide a squint. About the latter she always contended that she was better able to visualise how costumes would look when shot on film in black and white.
HEADLESS HORSEMAN, THE Song from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949). Like the other songs from this Disney full length cartoon which Bing performed on the soundtrack, the writers were Don Raye and Gene de Paul.
HEART OF SHOW BUSINESS, THE Promotional film for Variety Clubs International. The facilities of Columbia studio were donated for this 40 minute fund raiser. Participants contributed their services free of charge and Bing was one of five narrators together with Cecil B. DeMille, Burt Lancaster, Edward G. Robinson and James Stewart. Director Ralph Straub used the onscreen talents of Harry Belafonte, Victor Borge, Maurice Chevalier, Jimmy Durante, Sophie Tucker, etc. The film was not shown in the UK.
HEATWAVE Song. Written by Irving Berlin, it turned up in two Bing films: Blue Skies (1946) and White Christmas (1954). It was sung in the former by Olga San Juan but Bing took a crack at it for the latter when it was performed as a duet with Danny Kaye.
HEFLIN, VAN (1910-1971). Actor. He appeared with Bing when both were nearing the end of their film careers, although Heflin was unaware of the heart condition which would end his life whilst he was still at his acting peak. The film they did together was the remake of Stagecoach (1966). Heflin played Curly Wilcox, the character out to capture the Ringo Kid and collect the reward. Heflin’s show business career began on the Broadway stage when he was eighteen. He entered films in 1936 due to the efforts of Katharine Hepburn who wanted him to appear with her in A Woman Rebels. If I had to select a film for each decade to illustrate Heflin’s craft my choice would be The Three Musketeers (1948), Shane (1953), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) and Airport 70 (1970). That last film was Heflin’s swansong. He died of a heart attack whilst swimming. On screen he always gave the impression of taking the art of acting seriously.
HEISLER, STUART (1894-1979). Heisler was an editor who progressed to director. It was in the first category that he worked on We’re Not Dressing (1934). His next brush with Bing on the big screen was also his most prestigious work for Hollywood: director on Blue Skies (1946). He was a part of the movie capital since its birth. He began as a prop man in 1913 and moved up through the ranks. Blue Skies was not typical Heisler, being sandwiched between The Glass Key (1942) and Tokyo Joe (1949). He was never lauded by the critics, probably because he was most at home making action films. Fifties journeyman assignments like Beachhead (1954) and The Burning Hills (1956) are typical. He moved into television work in the 1960s, where he no doubt felt comfortable in meeting the less stringent requirements of that medium.
HENDERSON, RAY (1896-1970). Composer. Born Raymond Brost, Henderson was one third of the song writing team of DeSylva, Brown and Henderson. The only Henderson composition Bing sang in a film was “Birth of the Blues”, featured in the 1941 Paramount picture of the same title. The peak years of the songwriting trio were over by then. Their heyday occurred around the time of their hit shows “Sunny Side Up” in 1929 and “Good News” the following year. There was a film biography of the partnership in 1956 called The Best Things in Life Are Free in which Henderson was portrayed by Dan Dailey.
HENDRIX, WANDA (1928-1981). Actress born with the made-for-showbiz name of Dixie Wanda Hendrix. She was fourth billed as Emily Walters in the Bing picture Welcome Stranger (1947) although she did not have a plot significant role as the daughter of the drunken editor of the town newspaper. That same year she was herself in Paramount’s talent showcase Variety Girl. These early film appearances showed an early promise that was not fulfilled. She accepted routine parts in such as Song of Surrender (1949), Montana Territory (1952) and The Black Dakotas (1954). She attempted an unsuccessful comeback in Stage to Thunder Rock (1964). She was married to Audie Murphy in 1949 for a scant year. He was the first of three husbands.
HENRY, WILLIAM (1918-1982) Actor. Henry played Egbert Clark in Double or Nothing (1937). Egbert was the brother of Bing’s leading lady, Mary Carlisle, in the film. It was made at the start of Henry’s adolescent acting career. He began at age eight and played bit roles whilst still undergoing schooling. Things began looking up a few years after Double or Nothing and by the mid-1940s he had adopted the more manly first name of Bill as star in a several low budget “B” pictures with titles such as The Invisible Informer (1946) and The Denver Kid (1948). He was my hero for a while in the serial Canadian Mounties vs the Atomic Invaders (1953). His career petered out in the early 1970s, but not before he had appeared in a couple of quality westerns in the 1960s: Two Rode Together (1961) and The Man who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).
HENVILLE, SANDRA LEE (1938- ) Child actor whose career was over by the time she was four. Known to the world as Baby Sandy she made her debut in East Side of Heaven (1939) as a boy! The scene we all remember is cab driver Crosby serenading him/her with That Sly Old Gentleman. She was under contract to Universal before she was one year old and followed her Bing picture debut with Sandy, Little Accident, Sandy is a Lady, Sandy Gets Her Man and Sandy Steps Out. By then it was 1941. She had been voted baby of the year by “Parents” magazine and featured on the cover of “Life” magazine. Her last film, released just after her fifth birthday, was Johnny Doughboy. When she grew up she got a proper job as a legal secretary.
HER DILEMMA Film. This was the British release title of Confessions of a Co-ed (1931). We weren’t into Americanisms in those days.
HERE COME THE WAVES Film. This 1944 flag waver for Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service was about as subtle a recruitment film as Top Gun (1986) proved to be for U.S. Navy pilots. Bing is Johnny Cabot, a successful singer not a million miles removed from the newer fella Frank Sinatra. Betty Hutton plays a dual role, the blonde Miss H. falling for Bing whilst her brunette twin gets him in the end. Bing is accepted by the U.S. Navy despite being colour blind and the scheming of the blonde Betty Hutton results in his being put in charge of a recruitment show aimed at swelling the ranks of WAVES. This enables us to hear the ever popular “Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive” sung in a Navy revue. By the time of the film’s release at Christmas, 1944, it was apparent that World War II was nearing its end and it was seen as escapist entertainment of the first order. Audiences put it into Variety’s top moneymaking films of 1944/5 and even the serious critics fell for it. In his first review of 1945 James Agee wrote in The Nation: “I would enjoy Crosby even if he did not amusingly kid Sinatra.” But does anyone know why it took Bing thirty years to get round to recording one of the film’s major ballads, “That Old Black Magic”? Or why the title song, specially written by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen, was thrown away in the closing sequence to be sung by a chorus? Paramount and Decca had always capitalised on the publicity and sales generated by a title song 78 tie-in release.
HERE COMES THE GROOM Film. There are a couple of tenuous links between this and the previous film. Both are connected with the film’s Academy Award winning song “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the evening”. Johnny Mercer wrote the words and Betty Hutton was the songstress he had in mind when he composed it. It was to be featured in a film about Mack Sennett with Hutton being cast as Mabel Normand. A musical about Sennett and Normand had to wait a couple of decades when Mack and Mabel came to Broadway and the Johnny Mercer-Hoagy Carmichael composition of “Cool” stayed in a drawer. Then Bing heard a demonstration disc sung by Mercer with Hoagy providing piano accompaniment and the song was in. The other standout novelty song in the film was “Misto Cristofo Columbo”, written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston. When the film was in the planning stage Robert Riskin, one of the film’s four writers, envisaged James Stewart playing the lead role of foreign correspondent Pete Garvey. Stewart turned down Riskin’s offer and as a result the writer then sold the property to Paramount. He believed the story had comedy potential and told the studio it would be ideal for Bob Hope. However, Paramount executive Irving Asher felt that Bing would be perfect casting in the leading role. Bing agreed to make the film and he was instrumental in the part of the French orphan boy going to Jackie Gencel. He had noticed the boy when he was on vacation in Paris in the summer of 1950 and saw the film Plus de Vacancies Pour le Bon Dieu, a film in which Gencel played a street urchin. Bing coached the boy sufficiently for him to speak his lines in Here Comes the Groom. The film’s other young performer, the blind girl Theresa, was played by Anna Maria Alberghetti. She was given the part by the film’s director, Frank Capra, after he had seen her singing on the Ed Sullivan Show. The plot outline is about Bing, a foreign correspondent who wants to adopt two French war orphans. To achieve this he has to be a married man. He knows the very girl. She is his ex-fiancée, Jane Wyman, who is about to wed her boss (Franchot Tone). The reviewer for “Time” magazine wrote: “Crosby and Capra (the film’s director) are up to their oldest tricks and ought to amuse all but those optimistic moviegoers who dare to hope for new ones.” Here Comes the Groom was placed 19th in “Variety’s” top grossing films of the year, which in this case was 1951.
HERE IS MY HEART Film. Made in 1934, it signified the end of Bing’s original commitment to Paramount Pictures, which had called for an initial five movies over a three year period. It could have been specially written for Bing, as he is seemingly typecast as a millionaire radio crooner. In fact it was a remake of The Grand Duchess and the Waiter, a silent picture made in 1926 with Adolph Menjou in the lead. The story features Bing out to win the heart of the fair Princess Alexandra (Kitty Carlisle). There are the usual plot complications but the film’s brief running time of 75 minutes still allows Crosby to croon three songs which he truly made his own: “June in January”, “With Every Breath I Take” and “Love Is Just Around the Corner”. In case there is any doubt, Bing’s Paramount contract was extended for another three years after Here Is My Heart. This must have surprised Bing because he went on record in August 1934 with the comment: “As soon as the current film musical craze has petered out - it is just about washed up right now - I’m through.”
HERE LIES LOVE Song. This Leo Robin-Ralph Rainger song was especially composed for the 1932 Paramount Picture The Big Broadcast. The first time we hear it is when Arthur Tracy sings it in a night-club scene. Then the orchestra of Vincent Lopez plays it in another night-club scene. Bing finally gets a crack at it in a touching scene where he sings the song whilst tearing up the photographs of the girl that jilted him.
HERVEY, IRENE [Irene Herwick] (1910-1998) Actress. Early in East Side of Heaven (1939) Bing, in the role of a singing messenger employed by the postal service, meets Mona Barrett (Irene Hervey), an old friend who had since married. That was also Irene Hervey’s status in real life because she had recently married her second husband, Allan Jones, father of Jack. He was big box-office as a singer whilst she was gaining recognition as a versatile actress. She had been in films since 1933 and her dimpled looks had lifted the ‘B’ pictures in which she had major roles or the major features in which she took supporting parts. The 1935 Charlie Chan in Shanghai was in the former category, Destry Rides Again (1939) the latter. She divorced Allan Jones in 1957 and managed to find employment on television as well as appearing in some significant big screen successes like Cactus Flower (1969) and Play Misty for Me (1971).
HEYMAN, EDWARD (1907-1981). Lyric writer. Heyman had two songs in three separate Crosby pictures of the 1930s. They were “Out of Nowhere” in I Surrender Dear (1931) and Confessions of a Co-ed (1931) and “Moonburn” in Anything Goes (1935). A third song didn’t make it although he wrote “After All, You’re All I’m After” for She Loves Me Not (1934). By the end of the 1930s Heyman was a permanent Hollywood fixture, writing the words for songs in average movies such as Delightfully Dangerous (1945), Northwest Outpost (1947) and The Kissing Bandit (1948). His classiest song was probably “Love Letters” which he wrote in collaboration with Victor Young.
HICKMAN, DARRYL (1931- ) Actor. At the age of eight Hickman was playing a bit part in his second film, The Star Maker (1939). He was one of the seven singing newsboys who joined Bing in singing “If I Was a Millionaire”. Like many child actors of the time he had a stage mother who had him attending dance classes at three, performing with a juvenile troupe like Larry Earl (Bing) ran in The Star Maker at age five and making his film debut at seven. By the time he was a teenager he was a veteran in Hollywood terms, still managing to play significant parts such as the young George Gershwin in Rhapsody in Blue (1945). Before the age of forty he had to accept work on such schlock assignments as The Tingler (1959). So he began producing for television and made only one further feature film appearance. That was in Network (1976), which was a satire about American television. Once again, like in The Star Maker, Darryl Hickman was using life’s experience to good effect on film.
HIGH ON THE LIST Song. Composed for the film Mr. Music (1950) by Bing’s film songwriters of the period, Messrs. Burke and Van Heusen. This was one of several strong ballads in the picture. In the film it is referred to as one of the earlier hits of songwriter Paul Merrick (Bing), although Merrick is trying to pass it off as a recent composition when he is bereft of inspiration.
HIGH SOCIETY Film. Is there any reader that has not seen this 1956 musical triumph? Just in case this listing is placed in a time capsule for the benefit of posterity, I’ll repeat the précis of the plot printed in the ‘Radio Times Film and Video Guide’: “Time is short if playboy/composer C. K. Dexter-Haven (Crosby) is to reclaim his beautiful ex-wife Tracy Lord (Grace Kelly) before she marries another, especially with cynical reporter Mike Connor (Sinatra) caught up in the romantic complications.” Producer Sol C. Siegel knew that M-G-M would be watching the performance of High Society very closely because it was his first film for that studio after moving from 20th Century-Fox. He said his greatest problem was working the filming into the individual schedules of Crosby, Sinatra and Kelly. The latter was already at his disposal because of her existing contract with M-G-M which paid her $1,000 a week plus bonuses. Siegel paid well to secure the other talent he wanted. Both Sinatra and Cole Porter received a quarter of a million dollars. Bing’s remuneration was $200,000 plus a percentage of the gross, which brought him about the same again. The cost of the story was negligible because it was already owned by M-G-M where it had been produced in 1940 as The Philadelphia Story. Because Siegel wanted High Society to be a showcase for Louis Armstrong’s vocal and trumpet performances, he shifted the locale to Newport, Rhode Island, so that Satchmo played himself as a participant at the Newport annual jazz festival. The apparent affection Bing and Louis held for each other is well known, although this was perhaps more of a public display if we accept Armstrong’s account of their relationship:
“When we finished High Society Bing gave me a golden money clip which I used, inscribed ‘To Louis from Bing’. And when he had a baby girl, I sent him a telegram, ‘Now you have jazz’. He had a whole wall of my records and every record he makes I buy. Be we aren’t social. In fact, I’ve never been invited to the home of a movie star - not even Bing’s.”
This is the most significant Crosby musical of the 1950s. High Society was the top ticket seller in the U.K. for 1957. Against its cost of $1,500,000 it earned $5,800,000 in North America alone. It is possible to measure the film’s popularity in the context of twentieth century cinema going. London’s prestige cinema from the birth of the talkies in 1928 until its redevelopment in 1961 was the Empire in Leicester Square. This West End showcase for M-G-M films was the finest barometer of that studios’ product at the time of their London opening. Its seating capacity was 3,500 and all of M-G-M’s films were premiered there before entering a general release pattern. From our point of view it was historically important because detailed house records were kept of all the films shown there. So we find the most popular week on record was from 11th May to 18th May, 1929 when 82,849 people saw The Broadway Melody. The biggest day was Tuesday, 27th December, 1938. On this public holiday 14,388 people paid to see Robert Donat in The Citadel. Our interest comes much later, when weekly audiences were quite often below that Christmas high of 1938. Bing made two films in the mid-fifties for M-G-M and they both played the Empire within a twelve month span. They were High Society and Man on Fire. In the peak years M-G-M made 52 ‘A’ pictures a year, so extended runs were unnecessary, but from the late forties the tendency was to allow a film to play as long as it was good box-office. High Society was perceived as something special and it was booked to run over the Christmas, 1956 period. It became the Empire’s most successful booking for that year. It opened on Thursday, 13th December, 1956 and the first week’s audience totalled 46,728. Week two was of six day’s duration because of Christmas Day when the figure went down to 39,758. The New Year week then took the figure back up to 45,487. The figures for the full weeks were the best since The Dam Busters which began a seven week run on 16th May, 1955. High Society ran for six weeks and for the last two of those weeks it played simultaneously at the adjoining Ritz Cinema, which was also owned by M-G-M. The West End story doesn’t end there. In May, 1958 the Mario Lanza starrer Seven Hills of Rome was booked by the Empire and disappointed at the box-office. The next available Metro film, Raintree County, was not ready for exhibition so High Society was revived for one week to replace the Lanza musical. Its audience that week was 13,306, which bettered the 13,222 achieved by Seven Hills of Rome on its London opening. Perhaps it ought to be revealed that all was not as rosy in the garden for Bing as far as films were concerned. Man on Fire did the worst opening week business of 1957 at the Empire when it had its British premiere on 28th November. 11,012 people bought tickets to see it.
HIGH TIME Film. On the other hand, this 1960 musical comedy for 20th Century-Fox is in a different league. That does not mean it fails to make for rewarding viewing. Bing excels at this sort of light comedy, even if he doesn’t fall into the Cary Grant category. The film also contains a Sammy Cahn-James Van Heusen composition now regarded as a standard - “The Second Time Around”. If the picture failed it is because it attempted to appeal to the youth audience by casting Fabian and Tuesday Weld whilst hoping to bring in more mature audiences who were attracted by the top billing of Bing Crosby. The film fell between two stools and never secured a full circuit release in the U.K. The plot concerns Crosby, a widower who owns a chain of fast food restaurants, returning to university to further his education. Half a dozen films have taken this basic premise in the last forty years but, whilst they rely on broad comedy, in High Time Bing introduces a gentler humour and some old fashioned romance with his personal choice of leading lady, Nicole Maurey.
HIGH TOR Regarded by the “Guinness Book of Film Facts and Feats” as the first ever television movie, this musical adaptation of a 1936 Broadway play was transmitted by the American CBS television network on March 10, 1956. It has never been screened in Great Britain, although the Decca album was issued by Brunswick in the U.K. There were some good songs in the adaptation although none were considered hit parade material, hence none was released as a 78/45 single outside of the U.S.A. The coupling chosen for that single was “When You’re in Love” / “John Barleycorn”, but the strongest ballad in the show was “Once Upon a Long Ago”, sung twice, first by leading lady Julie Andrews and then by Bing. The songs were written by the play’s original author, Maxwell Anderson, and the producer of the television presentation, Arthur Schwartz.
HILL, BILLY (1899-1940). American composer who wrote two of Bing’s best loved cowboy songs. In We’re Not Dressing (1934) we are only treated to a snatch of “The Last Round-up” although Bing had recorded a full version of it the previous year. Two years later there is a beautiful performance by Bing of “Empty Saddles” in Rhythm on the Range. Hill usually wrote his own words but for “Empty Saddles” he put a tune to a poem by J. Keirn Brennan. He studied classical music before becoming a cowboy, that latter occupation explaining his affinity with the above songs and other hits such as “Wagon Wheels” and “Call of the Canyon”. Bing also had great success with Hill’s “There’s a Cabin in the Pines”.
HINDS, SAMUEL S. (1875-1948) Actor. Hinds was nearing sixty when he made his Hollywood debut, so it is no surprise that when he appeared in his two Crosby films he played a character one generation older than Bing’s leading ladies. In Rhythm on the Range (1936) he was Frances Farmer’s dad and one year later in Double or Nothing he was Mary Carlisle’s uncle. He was also in The Big Broadcast of 1936 (1935), although he was not seen on screen in the Crosby segment.
HOFFMAN, AL (1902-1960) Composer. Hoffman co-wrote two songs which Bing sang in three of his early films. For the short Blue of the Night (1932) the standard “Auf Wiedersehen, My Dear” was sung in a night club setting and in Hollywood on Parade No. 2 (1932) he sings the same song to Gracie Allen on learning she is married to George Burns., The long forgotten “Ya Got Love” was featured by the Rhythm Boys in Confessions of a Co-Ed (1931) in the sequence which showed them performing at a school dance. Ed Nelson and Al Goodhart were listed as co-writers on both. The year prior to receiving credit on the two Crosby films Hoffman’s composing career had been given a boost when “Heartaches” became a hit. Plenty of music lovers were less than complimentary about his war time effort “Mairzy Doats” but he probably redeemed himself with songs such as “Takes Two to Tango” and “Papa Loves Mambo” in the 1950s.
HOLDEN, FAY (1895-1973) [Dorothy Fay Hammerton] In Double or Nothing (1937) she is left a modest bequest by her father-in-law so that a plot can develop surrounding his remaining fortune. She had been a dancer before leaving England for Hollywood and making Double or Nothing the year after her debut in I Married a Doctor. She will be forever remembered as Mickey Rooney’s mother in the Andy Hardy series and made her final big screen appearance in the last one, Andy Hardy Comes Home (1958).
HOLDEN, WILLIAM (1918-1981) Actor and a very good one when he was on form. Such an instance was in The Country Girl (1954) when he played Bernie Dodd the Broadway director who fought for the Crosby character to be given a chance again and again whilst doing his best to win the affections of Grace Kelly, Bing’s wife in the film. Holden had been marginally involved in two previous Crosby pictures. Like everyone else in the cast he had a small part in Variety Girl (1947) and in 1951 he was in the deadly dull short You Can Change the World. It took him less than a year to become a star. A Paramount talent scout spotted him when he was acting as a student. He played an extra in Prison Farm (1938) before the ink on his contract was dry, had one line in Million Dollar Legs shortly afterwards and made the big time as Joe Bonaparte, the boxer-violinist in Golden Boy in what should rightly be regarded as his first real screen role. His handsome features ensured he had major roles in quality pictures thereafter. There were a few clinkers but his golden decade was the 1950s when he scored in Sunset Boulevard (1950) Born Yesterday (1951), Stalag 17 (1953) and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). Subsequent films tended to be action movies rather than acting assignments similar to The Country Girl. Alvarez Kelly (1966) and The Wild Bunch (1969) are typical. His last good film was Network (1976). By then drinking had thickened the once handsome features and although his last films were still mainstream he was no longer a box-office dependable.
HOLIDAY INN Film. This 1942 Paramount picture proved to be Bing’s most successful movie excursion to date. This was no doubt helped by the first teaming of Crosby with Fred Astaire, the craving by the English speaking world for escapist entertainment during the Second World War and the strong Irving Berlin score - including the most popular record ever made, “White Christmas”. The film’s plot begins on Christmas Eve and ends on New Year’s Eve two years later. Bing quits his nightclub act with Fred Astaire and Virginia Dale to settle for a rural life in Connecticut. The tug of show business sees him opening his place as a nightclub, but only on American public holidays. The romantic sub plot finds Bing and Fred vying for the affections of Marjorie Reynolds, the nightclub’s female entertainer. Bing wins her but Fred doesn’t do so badly in settling for Virginia Dale. The film’s holiday angle provided the challenge to Irving Berlin to pen songs relating to Independence Day, Easter, Lincoln’s and Washington’s Birthday, Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving. Publicity for the film made reference to Berlin writing thirteen new songs. However, “White Christmas” was written a few years earlier when Berlin was trying to place it in the Astaire-Rogers musical Top Hat, which was shot in 1935. Bing introduced the song on a Kraft Music Hall programme some eight months before the Holiday Inn premiere. In addition, both “Lazy” and “Easter Parade” were written by Berlin before he was assigned to write the songs for Holiday Inn. Shooting through the winter of 1941/42 the film was sneak previewed in July and readied for a premiere in August of 1942 with Crosby waxing ten Decca sides of songs from the picture in May of that year. Two months after the film was premiered it was showing throughout North America. Paramount took regard of the appraisals submitted by cinema managers whenever studio product was exhibited. One report from the sticks was submitted by E. A. Seaggs, manager of the Lincoln Theatre in Robinson, Illinois. Holiday Inn played at his cinema from Wednesday to Saturday, September 23-26, 1942. He wrote: “One of the best song and dance productions ever made. Played four days where our usual run is two days. Business picked up each day with several coming back to see it twice. (I saw it three times myself). Book this for extended time. You won’t be sorry.” This from a hard-nosed businessman in the U.S.A. What was the reaction from rural England? In 1993 the attendance figures for the Majestic cinema in Macclesfied were discovered. They revealed that the most popular film shown there in 1943 was Holiday Inn. The North of England audiences had wide ranging tastes, which is why Frank Randle in Somewhere on Leave was in second place.
The set of Holiday Inn was responsible with bringing together Frank Sinatra with his idol Bing Crosby for the first time. Sinatra was in Hollywood working on M-G-M’s Ship Ahoy. He was featured in that picture as the boy singer with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra. He was friendly with ex-Dorsey trumpeter Yank Lawson who had moved on to work with the Bob Crosby band. Lawson recalled: “We were doing the music for Holiday Inn and Sinatra asked me if he could go out and see the filming. He wanted to watch Bing work.....Crosby was the big star of that time and Sinatra was still just the singer with the band. Frank met me out at the Paramount lot and I took him in. He just loved it, watching Bing.”
A few other facts about the film are:
· Both Mary Martin and Rita Hayworth were potential leading ladies before Marjorie Reynolds was cast
· The singing voice of Marjorie Reynolds was provided by Martha Mears
· The idea for the musical was hatched by Berlin and producer Moss Hart who conceived it as a Broadway revue
· Berlin’s song “This Is a Great Country” was intended for the film but was not used
· The 1942 Oscar for best song went to Irving Berlin for “White Christmas”
· It was the first Crosby picture to register in the UK box-office top ten league table, where it took 5th placing in 1942.
· It broke all previous records at cinema box-offices during its first run of Paramount theatres
· It made Variety’s list of top twenty money making films of 1941/42
· It had a profitable revival in the U.S.A. in 1949
HOLLANDER, FREDERICK (1896-1976) London born composer (to German parents) who didn’t have too much luck in placing his songs in Crosby musicals. The catchy duet “The House That Jack Built for Jill” was deleted from the release print of Rhythm on the Range (1936) and “Memories” was written for the same film but was not used. “Am I Awake?” and “Hopelessly in Love” were written for the remake of Anything Goes (1956) but not used. The solitary composition that made it to a Bing picture was a good one, though. That was “My Heart and I”, featured in the first version of Anything Goes (1936). It followed Hollander’s first success when he wrote “Falling in Love Again” in his pre-Hollywood days for Marlene Dietrich to sing in The Blue Angel (1930). A couple of subsequent compositions were made famous by Crosby duettists. Dorothy Lamour popularised “Moonlight and Shadows” and Connie Boswell had a hit with “Whispers in the Dark” After a twenty year stint in Hollywood, Hollander returned to Germany in 1956.
HOLLOWAY, STERLING (1905-1992) Character actor. He appeared in three Crosby films - Going Hollywood (1933), Doctor Rhythm (1938) and Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), but it is the 1938 movie for which he is best remembered by Crosby watchers. He played Luke, the milk roundsman, who joins Bing and another high school colleague to break into Central Park Zoo in the opening scenes of the film. They then deliver a high spirited rendition of their school song “Public School 43”. Holloway was a screen regular playing delivery boys/country bumpkins/soda jerks in over one hundred films during the studio production line decades of the thirties and forties. He started without making use of his voice in the silent era and ended using just his voice only in Disney cartoons such The Aristocats (1970).
HOLLYWOOD CANINE CANTEEN Cartoon released by Warner Bros. on April 20, 1946. In it a group of celebrity dogs, led by an ‘Edward G. Robinson’ look-alike and including ‘Jimmy Durante’, decide that celebrity dogs need a nightclub of their own. What follows is very similar to Hollywood Steps Out, (see below) except that all the celebrities are drawn as dogs. A Bing dog (voiced by Richard Bickenbach) sings “When My Dreamboat Comes Home” but loses a girl to a pencil thin Sinatra dog singing “Trade Winds”. The director was Tex Avery.
HOLLYWOOD DAFFY 1946 cartoon. This Warner Bros. release was directed by cartoon regular Friz Freleng (1905-1995). It begins with Daffy Duck walking onto the Warner Brothers lot and attempting to pass the studio guard by disguising himself as various screen personalities. In the guise of Bing he puts a pipe into his mouth and croons “When My Dreamboat Comes Home”. Sadly, his ruse does not fool the guard, which is unfortunate because Mel Blanc does a very passable impression of the Crosby voice.
HOLLYWOOD HANDICAP 1938 short film. This and the following entry were typical of the work which kept Louis Lewyn productions buoyant during the 1930s. Filming on location meant no studio overheads. This ten minute programme filler was made at the Santa Anita racetrack and released through M-G-M. The simple plot involved stable hands raising money to race a horse. The director was Buster Keaton. His fall from grace as a master of screen comedy was rapid and by the mid thirties he was accepting movie assignments in order to pay the bills. As for Bing’s appearance, he is seen together with Hollywood notables like Mickey Rooney, Al Jolson and Dorothy Lamour as spectators at the Hollywood Derby which was being run at the racetrack on the day filming took place. A simple chance encounter which made cinema audiences sit up and point at the screen.
HOLLYWOOD ON PARADE Series of short films. These were typical of support features of the early 1930s. Most of the major studios had similar series and used them to promote their contract players. Louis Lewyn produced two such series for Paramount in 1932 and 1933, with running times of around ten minutes each. They appeared on a monthly basis. The films portrayed movie stars off duty in what were supposed to be taken for candid shots but which were usually well orchestrated publicity pieces used to create interest in the studio contractees. Bing was in the February 1932 edition and then in the January, April and July editions of the following year. The Crosby footage is as follows:
· February 1932. Dialogue with George Burns and Gracie Allen followed by the Bing singing “Auf Wiedersehen, My Dear”.
· January 1933. Dialogue between Bing and Mary Pickford following a sequence where Miss Pickford is seen listening to Bing singing “Down the Old Ox Road” on the car radio.
· April 1933. Bing, Jack Oakie and Skeets Gallagher sing “Boo-boo-boo”. Bing sings “Buckin’ the Wind”.
· July 1933. Dialogue between Bing, John Barrymore and Harry Langdon
HOLLYWOOD STEPS OUT Cartoon. Released by Warner Bros. on May 24, 1941, this colour cartoon depicts caricatures of Bing together with Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, the Three Stooges and other screen celebrities of the decade. The voice impersonations were impressive. The Crosby segment of the cartoon was utilised in the 1975 documentary feature Brother Can You Spare a Dime?
HOLLYWOOD VICTORY CARAVAN Documentary short. Made at the end of the Second World War for the U.S. War Activities Committee it was shown in American cinemas in 1945 to encourage citizens to continue buying war bonds. Paramount produced and distributed the film and it featured several of their contract players of the time. Bob Hope, Betty Hutton, Alan Ladd, Robert Benchley, Barbara Stanwyck and William Demarest appeared alongside Bing. The Crosby contribution was “We’ve Got Another Bond to Buy”, which no doubt pleased the U.S. Treasury Department.
HOLM, CELESTE (1917-2012) Actress. She had a major part in High Society (1956) as Frank Sinatra’s sidekick Liz Imbrie. In the film, both were on the payroll of ‘Spy’ magazine with Holm playing the part of the photographer assigned to cover the wedding of Tracy Lord (Grace Kelly). It was her tenth year in films, having signed a contract with Twentieth Century-Fox in 1946 following a successful run on Broadway in the role of Ado Annie in Oklahoma. She won an Oscar for her performance in a supporting role in her third film, Gentleman’s Agreement. Two more Oscar nominations followed for Come to the Stable (1949) and All About Eve (1950). High Society found her at her popularity peak and she appeared in only four more films before her farewell to Hollywood appearance in The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover in 1978.
HONOR CADDY Short. A Technicolor one reeler made in 1949 to whip up support for scholarships for caddies. Hardly the worthiest of charitable causes, it warranted the participation and support of that well known golfer Bing Crosby who lipsynchs to the version of “Tomorrow’s My Lucky Day” used in Don’t Hook Now (1942).
HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD 1976 compilation film narrated by Mickey Rooney. It was a tribute to the films and stars of Hollywood in the 1930s and used film clips from that decade. Bing was seen singing “Down the Old Ox Road” from an edition of Hollywood on Parade mentioned above. A dialogue sequence from the Sennett short Sing, Bing, Sing (1932) was also included.
HOOT MON Song sung in Road to Bali by Crosby and Hope. The two are dressed in kilts and play the bagpipes as they entertain an audience which includes Dorothy Lamour as Princess Lalah. The song is given a brief reprise later in a sequence where dancing girls are produced from a wicker snake basket. If you viewed the film on its first U.K. television outing on Christmas Day, 1965 you would have missed the reprise version because the BBC edited the sequence in view of the scantily clad females. Like all of the songs specially composed for the film, the words and music were by Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen respectively.
HOPE, BOB [Leslie Townes Hope] (1903-2003) Actor/comedian associated with Bing on film from 1940 onwards. The list of movies in which they both appeared spans 32 years. For the record the films are:
· Road to Singapore (1940) as Ace Lannigan
· Road to Zanzibar (1941) as Hubert Fearless Frazier
· My Favourite Blonde (1942) as Larry Haines. Bing made a gag appearance
· Road to Morocco (1942) as Orville Turkey Jackson
· Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) as a master of ceremonies
· The Princess and the Pirate (1944) as Sylvester the Great. Bing made a gag appearance
· All Star Bond Rally (1945) Short. As himself
· Hollywood Victory Caravan (1945) Short. As himself
· Road to Utopia (1946) as Chester Hootan
· Variety Girl (1947) as himself
· My Favourite Brunette (1947) as Ronnie Jackson. Bing made a gag appearance
· Road to Rio (1948) as Hot Lips Barton
· You Can Change the World (1951) Short. As himself
· The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) Brief appearances by Crosby and Hope as themselves
· Son of Paleface (1952) as Junior Potter. Bing made a gag appearance
· Road to Bali (1952) as Harold Gridley
· Scared Stiff (1952) as himself in gag appearance with Bing
· Faith Hope and Hogan (1953) Short. As himself
· Showdown at Ulcer Gulch (1958) Short. As himself
· Alias Jesse James (1959) as Milford Farnsworth. Bing made a gag appearance
· The Road to Hong Kong (1962) as Chester Babcock
· Cancel My Reservation (1972) as Dan Bartlett. Bing made a gag appearance
Their professional relationship extended beyond cinema films. They regularly appeared on each others radio shows and during World War Two gave their services to entertain the troops or sell war bonds. They were teamed together on ten recordings beginning with the twinning of “Road to Morocco” with “Put it There, Pal” in 1944. Television saw them frequently appearing together on the same show, sometimes unexpectedly as “surprise” guests. They were both good golfers and spent time together on various courses both in the States and the U.K. When Hope made an eightieth birthday tour of British venues he devoted a large section of his act to recalling their friendship. Ten years earlier it was highly likely that Bing would have strolled on from the wings part way through Hope’s performance. Their show business personas depicted them as constantly feuding and although this was a sham perpetuated by their gag writers, quite often it was the unrehearsed ad lib which brought the biggest laughs from their audiences. Born in Eltham in 1903, Bob’s parents went to the U.S. when he was four and the family settled in Cleveland. Hope gagged that it was his idea to leave England when he realised that he would never be crowned King. He grew up knowing that he was born to entertain. At ten he won a Charlie Chaplin impersonation contest. According to his studio biography he was a newsboy, soda jerk and boxer before he made his living touring in an act of “song, patter and eccentric dancing”. By then vaudeville was coming to an end and he wisely switched to the musical theatre, securing a part in the Broadway hit Roberta in 1933. Whilst in New York he had his first opportunity to try out for the movies and he appeared in eight comedy shorts. However it was his success on radio which brought him to the attention of Hollywood, hence his feature film debut in The Big Broadcast of 1938. That film also introduced him to his theme song, “Thanks for the Memory”. He began to develop the cowardly character he portrayed so well in The Cat and the Canary in 1939 and it surfaced in box-office hits for several years thereafter in films such as The Ghostbreakers (1940), Caught in the Draft (1941), Monsieur Beaucaire (1946) and My Favourite Spy (1951). By then there was recognition that he could take on more serious comedy roles. The Seven Little Foys (1955) was a good example. That was followed by Beau James (1957) and The Facts of Life (1960). Unfortunately Hope was unable to sustain quality adult comedy for the rest of his big screen career. I was a faithful fan for a few of his 1960s comedies - I’ll Take Sweden (1965), Boy Did I Get a Wrong Number (1966) and Eight on the Lam (1967) but the standard became increasingly poor. Either Hope’s ability to select good material or his failure to keep up to date with changing times let him down. It wasn’t that he couldn’t find good writers. When he performed in this country, topical gags were written for him by the likes of Bob Monkhouse, Dennis Goodwin and Dick Vosborough and the laughs generated were well earned. Either to gain more control or increase his income he billed himself executive producer for his final film, Cancel My Reservation (1972). It was no funnier than his films of the previous decade. Of course, Hope’s name could add marquee value to films even then. His regular emcee duties at the annual presentation of the Academy Awards assured him a world-wide audience. He still toured the world to entertain American troops stationed abroad and his Stateside television shows gathered respectable ratings. But somehow you got the feeling he was coasting along on his reputation. In his later years eye problems reduced his public appearances although his interest in golf did not diminish until his last few years. He was regularly called the richest entertainer who ever lived, a fact he never failed to deny. Bob Hope will go down in history as the middle twentieth century’s major contributor to American entertainment in its broadest sense.
HOPELESSLY IN LOVE Song. This was one of two songs Leo Robin and Frederick Hollander wrote for the 1936 version of Anything Goes. It was not used. The songwriters also composed Am I Awake, which was similarly by-passed.
HOPKINS, MIRIAM (1902-1972). Actress. She played Curly Flagg in She Loves Me Not (1934) and although she did not get Bing in the end - that honour went to Kitty Carlisle - it is her praise of Bing which results in his being reinstated as a student to Princetown university. She had been a contract star with Paramount for the previous four years and had made a massive impact on audiences and critics alike in the best version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932). The year after her Crosby film she moved to Goldwyn and in 1939 to Warner Bros. It was at that studio that she made her best remembered films, usually as a blue-eyed blonde floozie. Her forties successes included Virginia City (1940), Old Acquaintance (1943) and The Heiress (1949). She descended to taking character roles in the early fifties and her last released film was The Chase (1966).
HORNBECK, WILLIAM (1901-1983). Film editor. The pace of Bing’s Mack Sennett shorts fairly zips along. In a running time of twenty minutes a plot and four songs unfold in what were supporting films which must have eclipsed the popularity of the main feature on occasion. Credit has to be given to the editor who assembled these two-reelers which are still entertaining us today. Hornbeck worked on them whilst employed as supervising editor for Sennett. He met his boss in 1916 when he came to work for Keystone as a lab assistant. By the time he was working on the Crosby featurettes he felt he could do better. So in 1934 he came to England to work for Alexander Korda, where he was put in charge of editing. He returned to the States at the outbreak of war and his only other Crosby credit came with Riding High (1950). His best work followed: A Place in the Sun (1951), Shane (1953), and Giant (1956). By 1966 he was vice-president of Universal.
HORNBLOW, ARTHUR, Jr. (1893 -1976). Producer. He produced two Crosby films: Mississippi (1935) and Waikiki Wedding (1937). The former was one of the first responsibilities he took on after joining Paramount from Sam Goldwyn. He married Myrna Loy between his two Crosby assignments and moved to M-G-M in 1942, the same year the two were divorced. He was involved with some good films including The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and Oklahoma! (1955).
HORSE THAT KNOWS THE WAY BACK HOME, A Song. In a scene in Dixie (1943), Bing as Dan Emmett performs his minstrel act with his colleagues but sings this Johnny Burke - James Van Heusen song solo. Bing never made a studio recording of the song and he did not feature it in his radio shows. If you don’t have Dixie on video then you need to track down a copy of the Jasmine CD “Going Hollywood” Volume 3 to sample this seldom heard Crosby vocal.
HORSE TOLD ME, THE Song. On the other hand this other Burke-Van Heusen composition had reasonable exposure on disc and radio. It comes from Riding High (1950) and is given a spirited rendering by Bing and assorted partygoers when the film’s plot makes it seem as though financial difficulties are a thing of the past.
HORTON, EDWARD EVERETT (1886-1970). Actor. Strictly speaking EEH was only in one genuine Crosby picture: Paris Honeymoon (1938), although he was third billed after Douglas Fairbanks and Bebe Daniels in the 1930 Reaching for the Moon. Bing was shoehorned into that picture to perform “When the Folks High up Do the Mean Low Down.” In Paris Honeymoon, Horton played Ernest Figg, the butler to millionaire cowboy Lucky Lawton (Bing Crosby). Horton specialised in manservants or sidekicks and was on view throughout the late thirties in similar roles in the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers RKO musicals. He made about 150 films and his befuddled performances could brighten the most ordinary movie. My own favourites from his first three decades in Hollywood are Ruggles of Red Gap (1924), Lost Horizon (1937) and Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941). The opportunities for Horton to display his type of humour diminished after the Second World War and the last thirty years of his career generally found him in less memorable films.
HOT TIME IN THE TOWN OF BERLIN Song. Bing’s 1944 recording of this John De Vries - Joe Bushkin song was heard on the soundtrack of the Dennis Hopper film Tracks (1976). It was sung by Frank Sinatra in The Shining Future (1944) a short which also featured Bing.
HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT FOR JILL, THE Song. A delightful ditty cut from the release print of Rhythm on the Range (1936). Would it really have mattered if this Paramount picture ran for three minutes longer than its 85? It was recorded for the soundtrack as a duet between Bing and Frances Farmer. Thankfully someone lifted it from the cutting room floor and it surfaced in the mid 1970s on a record album of songs similarly excised from Hollywood musicals. Bing’s solo recording of the Leo Robin-Frederick Hollander song was issued by Decca at the time of the film’s release.
HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN Song. Bing sings this song in Blue Skies (1946). He performs it at a nightclub in an off-stage setting with the help of an on-stage chorus. Like all of the songs in the film it was written by Irving Berlin. Bing had recorded it successfully in 1932 and by the time the film was made it was regarded as an evergreen.
HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING Film. Bing expressed an interest in playing in the film version of this winning Broadway musical. Frank Loesser wrote the songs and when it went before the cameras in Hollywood in 1967 Rudy Vallee played the part which would have suited Bing. Robert Morse played the main role.
HURST, BRANDON (1866-1947) Actor. He had small parts in four Crosby movies. His first such appearance was as Hedges, the butler, in If I Had My Way (1940). He followed that immediately with Rhythm on the River (1940), when he was Bates, the butler. For Road to Morocco (1942) there was a change of pace where he appeared briefly as an English radio announcer. He was unbilled for his fleeting appearance in Road to Rio (1947), the last film he made. He was also given bit parts in three Bob Hope comedies in which Bing made gag appearances. London born, Hurst relocated in Hollywood after a show business start on the English stage. He was in silents from 1923 but later on Hollywood hired him as much for his voice as his acting talent. He was almost always cast as a precisely spoken Englishman, hence the parts he took in his Crosby films. After all, aren’t all good butlers also Brits?
HUSSEY, RUTH [Ruth Carol O’Rourke] (1914-2005). Actress. Fourth billed in Mr. Music (1950) she played Bing’s fiancée Lorna Marvis, but she didn’t get her man. Nancy Olsen won Bing and we didn’t much mind because the appropriately named Hussey was mercenary and eventually settled her affections on a multi-millionaire. She was usually the second female lead in films of the forties and eventually made a greater impact on the Broadway stage, which was where her career began before she was discovered by M-G-M in 1937. Before Mr. Music her most notable film role had been in The Philadelphia Story (1940) for which she received an Oscar nomination as the cynical magazine photographer. The remake, High Society (1956) cast Celeste Holm in that part. After her solitary appearance in a Bing picture her best part was in her last film: The Facts of Life (1960).
HUTTON, BETTY (1921-2007) Actress/singer. Miss Hutton starred with Bing in one film and in a ten year time span shared the same reels of film with him on a further four occasions. Her “proper” Crosby picture was Here Come the Waves (1944) where she made a double impact as Susie and Rosemary Allison. Some people would regard one Betty Hutton as too much but at this stage of her career she was not as frenetic on screen as she was to become on phonograph record. In the other Crosby related films she was only in the same scenes as Bing in Duffy’s Tavern (1945), in which she sang in the chorus which accompanied Crosby on “Swinging on a Star”. She soloed “His Rocking Horse Ran Away” and “He Says ‘Murder’ He Says.” The other three films were:
· Star Spangled Rhythm (1942). She was Polly Judson, the film’s main character
· Hollywood Victory Caravan (1945). Short. As herself
· The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) As Holly, the film’s leading lady.
She was part of a further link with Bing when she married choreographer Charles O’Curran. He was her second husband and worked on Here Comes the Groom (1951) and Road to Bali (1953). O’Curran was behind one of her increasingly temperamental tantrums. She walked out of her Paramount contract when the studio refused to bow to her demand that he directed her future films. She had been with that studio since 1941 and her 1952 departure meant she made only one minor film before her descent into obscurity. That was Spring Reunion (1957). She did make a start on the 1967 western Red Tomahawk before quitting. She was a favourite of the popular newspapers and magazines because of her antics, such as:
· filing for bankruptcy after spending an estimated $10 million
· marrying (and divorcing) five husbands
· cancelling performances when she appeared in stage productions in attempts to revive her career
· being discovered working lonely and broke as a cook and housekeeper in a Rhode Island Catholic rectory
· hospitalisation for intensive psychiatric care
· acting as a greeter at a Connecticut jai-alai establishment
None of this should detract from the enjoyment she gave to millions of cinemagoers when she was at her peak in such successes as Annie Get Your Gun (1950) and Somebody Loves Me (1952). For the record, her sister was big-band vocalist Marion Hutton (1919-1986).
HYAMS, LEILA (1905-1977). Actress. She was the female lead in The Big Broadcast (1932). She played the secretary to George Burns and she was in love with Bing. But Bing had other ideas and played the role of matchmaker by uniting her with Stuart Erwin. She was in the same promotional short as Bing the following year when both made brief appearances in Hollywood on Parade No 7. At the time of making The Big Broadcast she had been a dependable feminine addition to films since the silent era. Her best acting part immediately preceded her Crosby movie when she was the heroine in Freaks (1932). She was married to talent agent Phil Berg and she retired in 1936. There was no enticing her back to acting and she enjoyed a further forty years out of the limelight.
HYMER, WARREN (1906-1948). American character actor. Leslie Halliwell described him as usually taking the part of “a dim witted gangster”. His three Crosby films endorse that. If proof were needed consider his character’s names. For She Loves Me Not (1934) he played Mugg Schnitzel. In Rhythm on the Range (1936) he was Brain. And in Birth of the Blues (1941) he answered to Limpy! Just so that you’ll recognise him next time you see him on screen, he was the gangster assigned to kill Miriam Hopkins in his first Bing picture. In typical Hymer fashion he made a hash of things and captured Judith Allen instead. He never rose above the typecasting roles he was assigned in his films with Bing. By way of evidence, a sample of his non-Bing films reveal titles such as Baby Face Morgan (1942) and Joe Palooka, Champ (1946)
It is more than coincidence that the letter "I" sequence of this A-Z of Bing's films is dominated by 35 songs out of the 37 entries. The only non-songs in this listing are films titled after ballads Bing performs in his pictures. Quite simply, Bing was able to express his feelings in song at crucial parts in the plot. Not only was the story advanced, but a tailor-made song was worth a good five minutes of plot exposition. And hadn't the audience visited the cinema so to see him sing rather than act anyway?
I KISS YOUR HAND, MADAM Song. The madam Bing refers to when he sings it in The Emperor Waltz (1948) is Joan Fontaine. There are some choices to make regarding the song’s correct title and its composers. It is sometimes referred to as “I Kiss Your Hand, Madame” and the composers Sam M. Lewis, Joe Young and Ralph Erwin are occasionally joined by Fritz Rotter on sheet music covers.
I WISH I WERE ALADDIN Song. Featured in the Paramount Picture Two for Tonight (1935). Bing sings it to Joan Bennett when she visits him in prison. Like the other songs in the film it was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel.
I WISHED ON THE MOON Song. This is the only Bing song in the Paramount Picture The Big Broadcast of 1936 (1935), the film which immediately followed Two for Tonight. Like a lot of the other songs used in the movie it was simply dropped into the plot for no apparent reason. Bing delivers the song walking from a log cabin to the edge of a lake in an attractive but obvious studio built setting. The music was written by regular Crosby composer Ralph Rainger but the words were the work of the scathingly witty Dorothy Parker. “I Wished on the Moon” became something of a standard taken up by jazz tinged vocalists like Mel Torme, June Christy and Billie Holiday, all of whom did it justice. That is more than can be said for the commercial recording Bing made for Decca about the time he filmed his four minute contribution to The B.B. of 1936. He recorded one vocal chorus for what was nothing other than a dance band recording by the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. The underlying reason for not punching his weight with the song in the recording studio was an apparent dislike for the song publisher’s representative.
I WONDER WHO’S KISSING HER NOW Song. A ballad totally suited to the Crosby style but only available on the soundtrack of The Starmaker (1939) save for a couple of radio performances. In the film it is used in a sequence where children are being auditioned for Bing’s troupe of juvenile performers. One young lady is too shy to perform so Bing sings the song to encourage her. Written by Will M. Hough, Frank R. Adams and Joseph E. Howard it became a major hit for Perry Como in 1947.
ICHABOD Song. A bouncy ditty sung by Bing on the soundtrack of the Disney full length cartoon The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949). Like all the songs from the Ichabod segment of the film it was written by Don Raye and Gene de Paul. There are two Decca recordings which Crosby made of the song. A full length version was made in December of 1947, to be followed eighteen months later by the song’s inclusion on the first of four 78 sides designed to tell the story of the film as a tie-in with the film’s October, 1949 release.
I’D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN Song. Introduced by Bing in the 1931 Mack Sennett short One More Chance, it was brought to the attention of moviegoers fifteen years later when it was one of the musical excerpts utilised in the compilation picture Road to Hollywood. The song is appropriately placed near the end of the Sennett short when Bing is in a car together with his wife and father-in-law. The car is being towed up a mountain at the time. In true Sennett tradition the car ends up in a river after running out of control. The song is the only Crosby film song from the collaborating Lew Brown and Sidney Clare. It is good example of a number seemingly tailor-made for the Crosby treatment which did not benefit from a studio recording.
I’D RATHER BE ME Song. Three people collaborated on this rather ordinary ballad which Bing’s voice delivered in Out of This World (1945). The writers were Sam Coslow, Felix Bernard and Eddie Cherkose and they had to provide a song which expressed the wish of telegram messenger Eddie Bracken to be an ordinary guy and not a singing idol. Frank Sinatra was the singing sensation on whom the character was modelled and Crosby provided the voice which added credibility to Bracken’s performance.
I’D RATHER SEE A MINSTREL SHOW Song. Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney join Bing in singing this Irving Berlin composition in the 1954 film White Christmas. It is used in a sequence where the trio are rehearsing in order to stage a show destined to make Major General Waverly’s (Dean Jagger) Vermont inn a success during a winter bereft of snow. The Decca recording made to capitalise on the film’s release saw the song utilised in a medley featuring Bing and Danny Kaye. Rosemary Clooney was contracted to Columbia records and unable to take part in the session.
IF I HAD MY WAY Film. Made between February and April of 1940 this second film Bing made for Universal Pictures was in the cinemas within a month of production ceasing. Crosby had a financial stake in the picture and there was no good reason to wait too long for a return on his investment. Directorial and musical talents from the earlier Universal outing - East Side of Heaven - were utilised by Bing. Director David Butler worked well with Crosby and went on to direct Road to Morocco (1942). Song writers Johnny Burke and James V. Monaco knew just what made Bing comfortable when love songs were called for and came up with a quartet of good songs (but not the title song). The choice of leading lady was the young Gloria Jean. At fourteen she was seen by the studio as a successor to Deanna Durbin. Two duets with Bing and one solo vocal outing in the film proved she had the singing talent if not the special appeal of Miss Durbin. In a 1973 interview she had memories of working alongside Bing in what was her second picture. She said: “I loved Bing Crosby. He gave me advice and help that I shall remember all my life. One particular amusing thing I remember is that when we recorded together he always put his chewing gum on the microphone.” The plot was as silly and sentimental as they came at this time. Bing played a construction worker trying to help orphan Gloria Jean. Gloria’s uncle is the rich but miserable Allyn Joslyn. He won’t help but great uncle Charles Winninger is willing if broke. Help comes in the form of Winninger’s vaudevillian friends giving their services free and Bing and buddy El Brendel putting on a show which indirectly leads to a happy ending as Joslyn relents. Audiences had the added bonus of seeing old timer Eddie Leonard performing his hit song “Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider” when the film played cinemas. However the print which was made available to the BBC for television screening was shorn of this historical moment.
IF I HAD MY WAY Song. The title song from the film was written in 1913 by the team of Lou Klein and James Kendis. Yet it seems a typical Crosby ballad which fits the film’s action when Bing serenades Gloria Jean having told her he is leaving town. When you think about it, the film’s title had nothing to do with the plot. Put another way, there are a dozen Crosby films which could have been called If I Had My Way without audiences storming the box-office claiming they had been misled by an inappropriately named movie. So was the film so called because the song had a suitable attention grabbing title? Possibly. Bing made his recording for Decca almost a year before the film went before the cameras.
IF I WAS A MILLIONAIRE Song. Another oldie given a new lease of life by being featured in a Crosby movie. The film was The Star Maker (1939). The story was loosely based on the life of Gus Edwards, the song’s co-composer along with Will D. Cobb. The song surfaces towards the beginning of the film when Bing is rehearsing a bunch of kids with a view to turning them into a vaudeville act. If we ignore the fact that the song was written some thirty years before Bing gave it a whirl, it would be easy to believe that it was precisely honed to suit his easy-going ballad style of the time. Decca had Bing record it with a further three Gus Edwards’ compositions for a medley issued in 78 form under the overall title “Medley of Gus Edwards Song Hits”.
IF YOU PLEASE Song. This one was written specifically for Bing by his regular film songwriters of the time Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen. It was one of two strong ballads composed by the team for Dixie (1943). (The other one was “Sunday, Monday or Always”.) In the film it was the song Bing sang to Marjorie Reynolds that led her to suggest that his compositions were good enough to be published.
IF YOU STUB YOUR TOE ON THE MOON Song. Another one from the shared manuscript paper of Burke and Van Heusen. It was written for the film A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949). It provides a fine musical start to the film’s early flashback to 1905. It allows Bing the blacksmith to pass on some philosophical advice to a group of youngsters observing him at work. The kids are quick learners and join in as the song progresses.
I’LL CAPTURE YOUR HEART Song. Although Irving Berlin did not primarily write songs to order for film actors this one was composed especially for the film Holiday Inn (1942). He couldn’t go wrong in racking up royalties once the song benefited from double exposure from Bing and Fred Astaire assisted by Virginia Dale. It is the ballad which opens the picture when the trio performs a nightclub routine. When the film’s plot reaches its happy ending, the song is used in the finale with the addition of a vocal from Marjorie Reynolds (voiced by Martha Mears).
I’LL SEE YOU IN CUBA Song. Another Irving Berlin composition, this time composed a quarter of a century before it was featured in the Crosby musical Blue Skies (1946). It started life in the Broadway show “The Ziegfeld Midnight Frolics” and it is utilised in the film without being an integral part of the plot. Bing and Olga San Juan duet the song in the Paramount picture.
I’LL SI-SI YA IN BAHIA Song. One of nine Leo Robin-Harry Warren songs used in the Paramount film Just for You (1952), it starts the story moving in a scene where Bing, as a Broadway producer/songwriter, demonstrates how he wants a vocalist to deliver his composition.
I’M AN OLD COWHAND Song. The only Johnny Mercer composition featured in the 1936 box-office success Rhythm on the Range. It brings the film to a rousing conclusion as Bing and cast assemble round a camp fire just in time for the anticipated happy ending. Amongst those providing vocal assistance are the Sons of the Pioneers, one of whom was Roy Rogers before he found solo fame. Bing enjoyed singing the song and included a re-recording of his July 1936 Decca hit in his musical autobiography set in 1954.
I’M HUMMIN’, I’M WHISTLIN’, I’M SINGIN’ Song. There is a scene in She Loves Me Not (1934) where Bing demonstrates his up-beat frame of mind when he sings this Harry Revel-Mack Gordon song to Kitty Carlisle. The film concludes with him driving off with Kitty and reprising the song so that the audience can leave the cinema hummin’, whistlin’ and singin’ the catchy number.
I’M PUTTIN’ ALL MY EGGS IN ONE BASKET Song. Written by Irving Berlin for the Astaire-Rodgers film Follow the Fleet (1936) it was filmed as a Crosby vocal for Paramount’s Blue Skies (1946). It was to form part of a medley and can be found on recordings of the soundtrack of the film. Bing never made a commercial recording of the song. Fred Astaire’s Columbia Records version came to be regarded as the definitive interpretation.
IN MY HIDEAWAY Song. A composition from the Sennett short Sing, Bing, Sing (1932) that did not benefit from a studio recording by Crosby. It was brought before the public for a second time in 1949 when it was in one of the clips used in the compilation film Down Memory Lane which utilised Sennett material. Like all songs from the Sennett one reelers it was included on the LP “Where the blue of the night...” (9199 508) but it is not a song which sticks in the memory. Written by K. L. Binford, I have only encountered it in the Crosby short from 1932 although Buddy Rogers apparently enjoyed a modest success with his recording of it that same year.
IN MY MERRY OLDSMOBILE Song. This one never received air-play from the BBC at the time of its revived popularity. That was in 1939 when Bing sang it with a bunch of kids in the Paramount production The Star Maker. The BBC banned all forms of advertising even though I doubt whether you could have purchased this American motor car in the UK at a time when this country was gearing up for war. It is used in a scene which attempts to recreate the stage act of Gus Edwards, who wrote the song together with Vincent Bryan at the turn of the century. Twenty years after its film revival Bing used it on television when Oldsmobile sponsored his television show.
IN THE COOL, COOL, COOL OF THE EVENING Song. A bright number which deserved its Academy Award Oscar as the best film song of 1951. That was the year it was featured in the film Here Comes the Groom. Co-composer Hoagy Carmichael remarked at the time: “Naturally I was overjoyed at receiving my Oscar. I’m not sure that my lyricist, Johnny Mercer, was as overjoyed as I because he already had a vulgar display of three Oscars at his home from former years.” It was the only Carmichael-Mercer composition in the film. That was because it was originally planned to feature it in a Paramount picture which was written for Betty Hutton that never took off. That projected film was to be called Keystone Girl. It received more exposure in Here Comes the Groom than any song was ever accorded in a Bing film. We first hear a snatch of it from Jacky Gencel, who plays one of the orphans eventually adopted by Bing. In an extension of that same scene a few more lines are duetted by Crosby and Gencel. The song is accorded full treatment when Bing and leading lady Jane Wyman duet in a scene when it seems as though she is going to marry her boss.….but read on! Bing sings a few bars when he is inhabiting the gatehouse of Wyman’s intending husband to be. When Bing’s romantic fortunes are taking a turn for the better another chorus is provided by Bing and his “orphans” Gencel and Beverly Washburn. A little later, preparations are being made for Wyman’s wedding to Franchot Tone and bridesmaid Alexis Smith gives the song a twirl. The grand finale finds Bing marrying Wyman and Smith settling for Tone. This provides just cause for the newlyweds and their children to leave the wedding ceremony singing “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening”. One year later Bing made a cameo appearance in the Bob Hope starrer Son of Paleface. Perhaps as a thank you, Bob sang a few lines of “Cool” in his film.
IN THE LAND OF BEGINNING AGAIN Song. This 1918 song was totally suited for the poignant scene in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945) where the parents of Patsy Gallagher (played by Joan Carroll) are reunited. Written by Grant Clarke and George W. Meyer, it adds weight to an already touching sequence. Early television prints lacked the whole sequence including Bing’s rendition of the song, but it has been restored for subsequent versions.
INCURABLY ROMANTIC Song. In Let’s Make Love (1960) Yves Montand fancies Marilyn Monroe. To win her over, he seeks to expand his skills as a singer, dancer and comedian by receiving tuition from only the top performers in their field. A singing lesson is given by Bing, Milton Berle teaches comic delivery and Gene Kelly the art of the dance. For Montand’s vocal efforts the song selected is “Incurably Romantic”, written for the movie by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen. Some of the Crosby vocal magic must have rubbed off because by the film’s end Montand and Monroe are a twosome. As it happens Bing was already working at Twentieth Century-Fox filming High Time and probably knocked off this other Fox assignment during his lunch hour.
IT CAME UPON THE MIDNIGHT CLEAR Song. There is a seasonal interlude in High Time (1960) where Bing sings this 19th Century carol together with one of his tutors, played by Nicole Maurey, and his fellow students, one of whom was Fabian. Bing’s vocal companions have rarely been as unsuited. Composer credits for the song are the Reverend Edmund Hamilton Sears (words) and Richard Storrs Willis (music). A couple of years after High Time Bing included it on his penultimate Christmas album.
IT MUST BE TRUE Song. It was more than ten years before Dixie that Bing first sang in black face. Accidentally having his face painted in the Mack Sennett short Dream House (1931), he was engaged as a Negro for the film within a film. This results in him singing “It Must Be True” to leading lady Ann Christy. Gordon Clifford provided lyrics to a collaboration between band leader Gus Arnheim and ex-Rhythm Boy Harry Barris. Bing rated the song highly and recorded it three times. The sequence from Dream House involving the song was used in 1946 as part of the Road to Hollywood compilation.
IT’S ALWAYS YOU Song. Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen always came up with one big romantic ballad when they received a Crosby picture assignment. For Road to Zanzibar they wrote “It’s Always You” and Bing sang it beautifully to Dorothy Lamour as he paddled down the river in a canoe with her as his sole companion. A few scenes later on, it would seem that Dottie had been killed and Bob Hope joins Bing in a sad reprise of the song only to find that all is well as Ms Lamour adds her voice to the duet.
IT’S ANYBODY’S SPRING Song. For Road to Utopia the romantic Crosby ballad from Burke and Van Heusen was “Welcome to My Dream”. However, “It’s Anybody’s Spring” remains in the memory because of the comedy sequence where Bing sings accompanied by Bob Hope on accordion. The two perform the song in the hope of winning ten dollars in a talent contest but lose out to a monkey.
IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK LIKE CHRISTMAS Song. Not featured in a Crosby film but used on the soundtrack of A Christmas Story (1983). A charming, nostalgic film set in the 1940s, it makes use of three of Bing’s Decca Christmas songs. (The other two are “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”). If A Christmas Story turns up on the box during the festive season watch it. No schmaltz - just a look at how we like to think Christmases used to be.
IT’S EASY TO REMEMBER Song. Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart only wrote songs for one Crosby picture but they provided him with three songs that stand head and shoulders above typical film scores of the time. In addition to “It’s Easy to Remember”, they gave him “Soon” and “Down by the River” to sing in Mississippi (1935). Bing plays Tom Grayson, a performer in a group of travelling players in the film. When the troupe put on a show, Bing sings this song. It was a production afterthought. Rodgers and Hart had returned to New York when Paramount asked for another song. They felt the audience would feel short changed unless Bing could deliver four songs in the picture. The writers obliged, recorded a demo and mailed it to California. It all sounds as easy as Bing’s effortless delivery of “It’s Easy to Remember”. For the record, the fourth Crosby song in Mississippi was the Stephen Foster composed “Swanee River”.
IT’S MINE, IT’S YOURS Song. Written by Ira Gershwin and Harold Arlen for The Country Girl (1954), this is typical of the material Bing had to work with in a film calling for him to pull out all the stops on his dramatic skills. The song provides our first opportunity to hear Bing sing in the film. He performs it at an audition for a part in a Broadway show. He gets the job, in case you wondered.
IT’S THE NATURAL THING TO DO Song. This is the one Paramount wanted the audience to whistle after they left the cinema having seen Double or Nothing (1937). Written by Johnny Burke and Arthur Johnston, Bing sings it to Mary Carlisle halfway through the film. Then, as the usual happy ending unfolds, Bing gives it another shot.
IT’S THE NATURAL THING TO DO Cartoon. Paramount released the Popeye cartoons and the studio thought nothing of asking animator Dave Fleisher to build a ten minute short around one of their properties. The cartoon was named after the song and was released in 1937 to capitalise on the publicity surrounding Double or Nothing. The short opens with Olive Oyl in the kitchen whilst Popeye and arch enemy Bluto battle it out in the back yard. A telegram arrives from the Popeye fan club reading: “Cut out the rough stuff and act more refined. It’s the natural thing to do.” The two characters make an effort to reform but the film ends with them brawling once again as “It’s the Natural Thing to Do” is heard on the soundtrack.
I’VE GOT A POCKETFUL OF DREAMS Song. This jaunty number is the first featured song written by Johnny Burke and James V. Monaco for Paramount’s Sing You Sinners (1938). In the film, when the singing Beebe Brothers launch their night-club act, Bing receives vocal assistance from “brothers” Donald O’Connor and Fred MacMurray. When a permanent job results they reprise the number later in the film with their mother, played by Elizabeth Patterson, joining in. Fame and fortune follow and the film ends with the three brothers giving the song another performance.
I’VE GOT FIVE DOLLARS Song. Although I stated above that Rodgers and Hart only wrote the score for one Crosby picture, he used just one more of their songs in a film. He sang a snatch of “I’ve Got Five Dollars” in The Big Broadcast (1932), three years before he starred in Mississippi. We hear a few lines of the song duetted with Stuart Erwin in a scene set in a radio studio. Twenty four years later Bing recorded the song for Verve Records.
I’VE GOT MY CAPTAIN WORKING FOR ME NOW Song. Like all the songs in Blue Skies (1946) this was written by Irving Berlin. A flashback early on in the film shows Bing and Billy de Wolfe performing the number in a night-club setting.
I’VE GOT PLENTY TO THANKFUL FOR Song. Another one from the pen of Irving Berlin, it was featured in Holiday Inn (1942). Together with the other songs in the film it was linked to a public holiday, this one being Thanksgiving Day. Towards the end of the film Bing is in a pensive mood. He plays a recording he has made of “I’ve Got Plenty to be Thankful For”, making his mood even blacker by interjecting remarks as he listens to his own voice.
JAGGER, DEAN (1903-1991) Actor. In White Christmas (1954) the song “The Old Man” is sung by Bing and Danny Kaye at the start and finish of the picture. The action is separated by ten years but the “old man” is the same - General Waverly, played by Dean Jagger. It was Jagger’s sole Crosby film and came midway between two films of the fifties for which he is best remembered. The first was Twelve O’Clock High (1950) for which he won an Academy Award as best supporting actor. The other was King Creole (1958), when he played Elvis Presley’s father. Jagger always looked older than his years because of his lack of hair and serious demeanour, but he never lacked film work and was on screen for fifty years following his debut in The Woman from Hell in 1929.
JAMISON, BUD (1894-1944) Character actor who usually played the heavy. The much anthologised sequence at the end of the Mack Sennett short Blue of the Night (1931) has Bing establishing his identity to the police patrolman by singing the film’s title song. That patrolman was Bud Jamison. In his only other bit in a Bing picture he was unrecognisable in a Santa Claus outfit in Holiday Inn (1942). He filled in the years between those two Crosby films by appearing in dozens of Columbia short films, usually disapproving of the antics of that studio’s Three Stooges.
JEAN, GLORIA (1926-2018) Actress, whose real name was Gloria Jean Schoonover. Her only Bing-pic was If I Had My Way (1940). She was the film’s “leading lady”, albeit juvenile lead as the fifteen year old orphan helped by Bing. It was one of those films made for Universal outside Crosby’s Paramount contract. Gloria Jean had her own song in the film - “Little Grey Home in the West” - as well as duetting with Bing on a couple of Monaco-Burke numbers. This was good going for someone who was only making her second film appearance. She enjoyed working with Bing. Sixty plus years after the event she recalled: “Bing was great to work with and he was swell to me. He gave me the camera lead in many scenes and pushed to get me extra shots. He even gave me a surprise birthday party on the set.” Her screen prominence in If I Had My Way is explained by the fact that Universal had signed her the previous year to be groomed as a replacement for Deanna Durbin should that adolescent studio money spinner retire, defect to another studio or lose her charm. In fact Miss D’s popularity remained strong and Gloria Jean never got the parts. She was in the W. C. Fields’ starrer Never Give a Sucker an Even Break the year after If I Had My Way but the films which followed say it all by their long forgotten titles: Get Hep to Love (1942), Mister Big (1943), Ghost Catchers (1944) and so on through to There’s a Girl in My Heart (1950). By then it was apparent that she wasn’t going to make that difficult transition to adult roles and only three more films followed, the last being The Madcaps (1963). At the age of forty, show business was behind her and she gained employment as a hostess, greeting and seating dinner guests at a restaurant in Studio City, Califonia,
JEANMAIRE, ZIZI (1924-2020) More of a dancer than an actress or singer, she took a crack at all three in her only Crosby film, Anything Goes (1956). It was an OK performance in an OK film. Billed over Mitzi Gaynor on the film’s credits, she played Gaby Duval, a dancer who so impresses Donald O’Connor that he brings her from Paris to New York in order to star with Bing in a Broadway musical. The complication is that Bing has already seen Mitzi Gaynor in London and offered her the same deal. Audiences heard her sing “I Get a Kick Out of You” and saw her dance in a ballet sequence but her screen impact was no more impressive than the film itself. It was her second Hollywood film, the first being Hans Christian Andersen (1952). After Anything Goes it was home to France and a couple more films before calling it quits.
JENKINS, ALLEN [Alfred McConegal] (1900-1974) Character actor. He appeared in about 175 supporting parts one of which was in Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964). He was the hood called Vermin. It was a role he could play blindfold after being typecast as a thick, small-time hoodlum in just about every Warner Bros. gangster film of the 1930s. He was as essential as Bogart, Raft or Cagney in such as Dead End (1937), Brother Orchid (1940) and Lady on a Train (1945). But like all good character actors of that period we took him for granted and although we recognised his face, his name in the cast list was meaningless. A film hood to the end, that’s the last part he took in the remake of The Front Page (1974).
JENNINGS, GORDON (1896-1953) Special effects expert. Whether it was a talking camel or an eclipse of the sun, if it happened in a Paramount Picture, Jennings was the man who faked it. His ten years on Crosby films covered Road to Morocco (1942), Dixie (1943). Going My Way (1944), Blue Skies (1946), Road to Rio (1948) A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949) and Here Comes the Groom (1951). He retired in the 1950s. Nowadays computer technology achieves everything and more that Jennings was capable of creating.
JIMMY VALENTINE Song. The opening minutes of The Star Maker (1939) find Bing at the piano entertaining a group of orphans with this catchy ditty. The song’s composers were Edward Maddox and Gus Edwards. Bing’s character in the film, Larry Earl, was a thinly disguised version of Edwards. Bing’s Decca recording of the song was part of a Gus Edwards medley. A Crosby blow-up of the song exists with improvised lyrics not quite appropriate for singing to a group of kids.
JOHNSON, NOBLE (1881-1978) American actor who specialised in playing native chiefs, which is the part he essayed in Road to Zanzibar in 1941. In 1916, together with his brother, he produced films aimed at black Americans audiences. His first acting assignment was as Man Friday in the 1922 version of Robinson Crusoe. He more or less retired from films in the 1950s but left viewers with something to remember him by with appearances in a couple of films that are constantly revived: King Kong (1933) and The Jungle Book (1942).
JOHNSON, TOR (1903-1971) Totally bald, muscular and menacing actor. He was admirably suited for the role of Samson in Road to Rio (1948). He was only on screen a couple of minutes in that and several earlier films and no one speculated that he would play a leading role some eight years later. Yet in 1956 he was billed alongside Bela Lugosi in what is generally regarded as the worst film ever to escape from Hollywood, Plan 9 from Outer Space. Little of note followed that career highlight.
JOHNSTON, ARTHUR (JAMES) (1898-1954) Composer. Arthur Johnston was employed to provide the music for mainly Paramount movie assignments which in Bing’s case covered the years 1933 to 1937. He is responsible for some of the best loved Crosby ballads of all time, as this C.V. will attest. Just before the Paramount connection he collaborated with Sam Coslow on “Just One More Chance” for the Sennett short One More Chance in 1931. Paramount had Bing record the same song for another 1931 release, Confessions of a Co-ed, but the song never made it to the release print. Johnston and Coslow received their first Crosby feature assignment in 1933 with College Humor. “Just One More Chance” received a reprise in that film together with three new songs - “Moonstruck”, “Down the Old Ox Road” and “Learn to Croon” .Bing gained some soundtrack mileage from the last title when he was heard, but not seen, singing it in Duffy’s Tavern (1945). The same duo wrote the entire score for Too Much Harmony (1933). Four songs from that one became Crosby standards. They were “Thanks”, “The Day You Came Along”, “Black Moonlight” and “I Guess It Had to Be That Way” although only the first two were sung by Bing in the film. A couple of additional Crosby vocals from the film never made it to wax: “Buckin’ the Wind” and “Boo-boo-boo”. However that last trifle provided the opportunity for Bing and the composers to appear on screen together when Paramount plugged the picture in a Hollywood on Parade short the same year and Coslow and Johnston accompanied the Crosby vocal. Johnston and Coslow also wrote a song for Bing’s next Paramount picture, We’re Not Dressing (1934). The title was “Live and Love Tonight” but it was not used in the film. Two years later Johnston was used by Columbia to write the music to Johnny Burke’s words for Pennies from Heaven. Another quartet of Crosby classics were the result: “One, Two, Button Your shoe”, “Let’s Call a Heart a Heart”, “So Do I” and of course the title song. The latter turned up a quarter of a century later in another Columbia film, Pepe, when Bing sang a snatch of it to Cantinflas in a short medley. Johnston’s last work on a Paramount/Crosby flick was again in collaboration with Johnny Burke. Bing sang three of their songs in the 1937 Double or Nothing. They were “The Moon Got in My Eyes”, “It’s the Natural Thing to Do” and “All You Want to Do Is Dance”. After Double or Nothing Johnston did no further writing for Hollywood films. This entry lists a good dozen plus standards. If they were released on an album they would emphasise the importance of Johnston in the first decade of Bing’s vocal career.
JONES, PAUL (1901-1968) Producer. For the first half of Bing’s most successful decade at the box-office, Jones was a producer at Paramount, overseeing some big money earners for that studio. His Crosby pictures covered Road to Zanzibar (1941), Road to Morocco (1942), Dixie (1943) and Road to Utopia (filmed 1944 and released 1946). You can see that his forte was comedy. He worked exclusively at Paramount and his other work in the comedy genre included My Favourite Blonde (1942) and Monsieur Beaucaire (1946), both with Bob Hope, The Caddy (1953) and Pardners (1956), both with Martin and Lewis, and Who’s Minding the Store (1963) and The Disorderly Orderly (1964), both with Jerry Lewis alone. Jones’ life was spent in Hollywood. He started as an assistant director, progressed to being a writer, moved up to associate producer and then spent a quarter of a century producing films which made us laugh.
JOOBALAI Song. There’s a rousing moment in Paris Honeymoon (1939) where Bing joins festival revellers in singing this Leo Robin-Ralph Rainger composition. The melody had a feel to it which created the impression that it was a traditional song that had been around a century or so.
JOSLYN, ALLYN (1901-1981) Actor. His only Crosby picture was If I Had My Way (1940) when he played the part of Jarvis Johnson, the rich uncle of Gloria Jean, who wants nothing to do with his niece following the death of her father. He was rarely seen in a sympathetic role during his near forty years in Hollywood. He began his life as an entertainer on Broadway before breaking into movies in 1936. He was good at looking bewildered and brought his crumpled features to dozens of films including Only Angels Have Wings (1939), The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (1947) and The Jazz Singer (1953). His last film was in 1973, with most of the 1950s and 1960s finding him working in television on such series such as “The Ray Bolger Show” and “The Addams Family”.
JUNE COMES AROUND EVERY YEAR Song. Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen wrote two songs for Out of This World. This was one. Like the film’s title song it has not stood the test of time considering the combined talents of its composers. In common with the other Crosby songs in this Paramount Picture, Bing’s voice emanated from Eddie Bracken’s mouth.
JUNE IN JANUARY Song. Bing’s other “June” film song has stood the test of time and has been covered by several balladeers in addition to Crosby since if was first sung in Here Is My Heart (1934). Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger wrote it and Bing sings a duet with his own record of it in his hotel room in a memorable and enjoyable sequence. It also closed the film when the story’s happy ending was reached and Bing duetted it with leading lady Kitty Carlisle.
JUST AN ECHO Short film. Paramount distributed this second of two Crosby twenty minute shorts made by Arvid E. Gillstrom Productions. The first one was Please and both were made in 1933 with the same cast and production staff. Bing is a country park ranger in Just an Echo. He falls for the head ranger’s daughter, played by Mary Kornman, and in the closing minutes gets the girl.
JUST AN ECHO IN THE VALLEY Song. Featured, as you would expect, in the above film. Jimmy Campbell and Reg Connelly wrote the words to music by Harry Woods and all three benefited from snatches of the song being used another couple of times in 1933. In Paramount’s College Humor it formed part of a medley when Bing provided a musical illustration of great dramatic love scenes and he also sings a few lines in Going Hollywood. Bing regarded it as a significant part of his early musical career and re-recorded it for his musical autobiography in 1954.
JUST FOR YOU Film. Technicolor was seen as an essential part of Paramount’s non-dramatic productions from around 1950 and this 1952 film benefited from the process. Bing plays a widower whose life is preoccupied with writing songs and producing Broadway musicals. His son and daughter are neglected as a result of Bing’s work and it takes a love affair between Crosby and Jane Wyman to bring about family harmony. The film’s main treat is the score. It was Bing who arranged for Paramount to hire Harry Warren to write the music for the film. Warren’s peak years had been spent writing for Warner Bros. in the thirties. Warren recounts how he received a telephone call from Bing at six o’clock one morning. Bing wanted to know if Warren was working and when he found out that he was unemployed he offered him the Just for You assignment. The lyric writer was to have been Crosby crony Johnny Mercer. When he proved unavailable, Bing chose another thirties songwriter, Leo Robin. Robin had collaborated with Al Dubin on some of Bing’s earlier Paramount musicals. When Warren and Robin had completed the songs for Just for You Warren recalled: “We played all the songs for Crosby over a couple of days and in each case it was a polite nod of approval, with a ‘fine’ at the end. No fuss, no bother. The only time we saw him was when he was on the set when he was working, and there were no problems.” Crosby and Wyman duetted the Oscar nominated “Zing a Little Zong” twice and the song’s popularity no doubt helped Just For You to register 17th in “Variety’s” top money making films of 1952. The strong supporting cast list included Ethel Barrymore, nearing the end of her career and playing the headmistress of a girls’ school and Natalie Wood, who was about to graduate to adult parts and see her name above the title. Just for You earned rentals in the U.S.A. and Canada totalling $2.9m.
JUST FOR YOU Song. The title number from the 1952 film. As with the other songs in the film, the composers were veterans Leo Robin and Harry Warren. The song plays a pivotal part in the plot. In the film’s story line it is written by Bing’s son. He sends it to the singer played by Jane Wyman. She rejects the song but Bing gives it a try and is impressed by his son’s abilities.
JUST ONE MORE CHANCE Song. This Sam Coslow - Arthur Johnston ballad had a Crosby related cinema career embracing forty plus years. It was first heard in the Mack Sennett short One More Chance (1931) in which Bing serenaded his film wife in a night club scene at the end of the one reeler. A clip from that film turned up in Road to Hollywood, an Astor Pictures compilation of Sennett shorts released in 1946. In the same year as the Sennett short was made, Bing recorded the song for the Paramount feature Confessions of a Co-ed but the recording was not used. Two years later it did manage to make its Paramount Picture debut when it was included in a medley for College Humor. It was part of the same medley as “Just an Echo in the Valley”, mentioned above. The song’s final film outing to date was in the 1973 Paramount Picture Paper Moon. That film was set in the thirties and the Crosby recording was played on the radio in one scene.
KAHAL, IRVING (1903-1942) Lyricist. Bing sang just one Kahal song during his film career. That was “When I Take My Sugar to Tea”, which was the opening song in the Sennett short Dream House (1931). “Sugar” was to wait until 1957 before Bing committed the song to wax for the “New Tricks” album with Buddy Cole. Kahal will be associated with two cinematic triumphs from the early thirties. He collaborated with Sammy Fain on both “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me” which Maurice Chevalier sang in The Big Pond (1930) and “By a Waterfall”, which was a major production number in the Warner Bros. production Footlight Parade (1933).
KAHN, GUS (1886-1941) Lyricist. Like Irving Kahal, Kahn was another songwriter who died at a relatively early age. Thirty years separated the two Kahn songs which Bing contributed to films, neither of which he recorded for commercial issue. The first was for the Sennett short Sing, Bing, Sing (1932) when he sang “Lovable”. (In 1928 Bing cut another song of the same name with the Whiteman Orchestra where the lyric writers were Ralph Holmes and Seymour Simons.) Then in 1960 Bing was joined by Nicole Maurey and chorus on “You Tell Me Your Dream” for High Time. Kahn’s life was the subject of the 1952 biopic I’ll See You in My Dreams when Danny Thomas portrayed the lyricist. That film featured all of Kahn’s big hits, including “Ain’t We Got Fun”, “It Had to Be You”, “Makin’ Whoopee” and “Yes Sir That’s My Baby”.
KALMAR, BERT (1884-1947) Lyricist and screenwriter. “Three Little Words”, sung by the Rhythm Boys for their guest shot in Check and Double Check (1930), was Bing’s only film song from the pen of the prolific Kalmar. His name is forever linked with lifetime partner Harry Ruby and Hollywood legends The Marx Brothers. Not only did Kalmar and Ruby write many of Groucho’s on screen ditties, they also had a hand in the screenplays for the Brothers’ Horsefeathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933). Kalmar was honoured with a Hollywood biopic when Fred Astaire played him in Three Little Words (1950).
KALMUS, NATALIE (1878-1965) Technicolor consultant. At least that’s the credit she received on four of Bing’s movies. They were Dixie (1943), Blue Skies (1946), The Emperor Waltz (1947) and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949). It was a con really because all that happened was that she collected a cheque from Paramount and the other film studios which used the Technicolor process. Her husband was Dr. Herbert T. Kalmus, who invented the film colour process first used in 1917. A two colour process was used until 1936 when Technicolor as we know it today was introduced. Clever Natalie insisted on being credited as “color consultant” on all Technicolor films from 1933 until the Kalmus patent expired in 1949.
KANIN, GARSON (1912-1999) Director, screenwriter, playwright, novelist. It was his play “The Live Wire” which formed the basis of the Bing film High Time (1960). He directed over a dozen pictures including Bachelor Mother (1939) and Tom, Dick and Harry (1941). His stage plays included “Born Yesterday” and “The Rat Race”. His screenplays covered such hits as A Double Life (1948), Adam’s Rib (1949) and It Should Happen to You (1954). And he provided the story for the only good rock ‘n’ roll movie ever made - The Girl Can’t Help It (1956). His later years were been spent writing memoirs of his Hollywood days, such as “Tracy and Hepburn”.
KANTER, HAL (1918-2011) Screenwriter and director. He worked in the former capacity for his contribution to a Crosby picture when he was one of three writers employed on Road to Bali (1953). He was only just getting into his stride at that time, having proved his worth to Paramount by contributing dialogue to the Bob Hope starrer My Favourite Spy (1951). Hal Wallis entrusted him to direct the Elvis Presley Paramount release Loving You (1957) and he went on to prove himself adept at directing light comedy with some fondly remembered fluff like Bachelor in Paradise (1961), Pocketful of Miracles (1961), Move Over Darling (1963) and Dear Brigitte (1965). Television claimed him as a producer in the seventies.
KASZNAR, KURT [Kurt Servischer] (1913-1979) Character actor specialising in playing eccentrics. His sole appearance in a Crosby film was in the role of Victor Lawrence in the 1956 version of Anything Goes. He got the plot underway when, as a producer of Broadway musicals, he teamed Bing with Donald O’Connor. He left Austria in the 1930s and acted in theatre productions until Hollywood started to use him in the early 1950s. His busiest year on screen was in 1967 when he appeared in Casino Royale, The Perils of Pauline, The King’s Pirate and The Ambushers, all of which were major productions. The following year he found regular television work in the series “Land of the Giants” and he never returned to the big screen.
KATRINA Song. It featured in the Ichabod sequence of the Disney full length cartoon The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949). The lady in question was wooed by Ichabod. Don Raye and Gene de Paul wrote the lilting song that rival suitor Brom Bones used to win her over. Record buyers could choose from a full length version Bing recorded in 1947 or an abbreviated version which was part of the four 78 sides recorded in 1949 to tie in with the release of the Disney film.
KAYE, DANNY (1913-1987) Actor/singer. Kaye’s only big screen appearance with Bing was in the 1954 box-office hit White Christmas. He was Private Phil Davis to Bing’s Captain Bob Wallace. Kaye bagged the part when first Fred Astaire and then Donald O’Connor became unavailable. Kaye was right for the part both in his lightweight acting technique and his ability to join Bing for a few Irving Berlin compositions. If you care to trace his career, it has more than its fair share of ups and downs. He was in some unfunny two-reel comedies in the 1930s. Then Kaye’s success on Broadway resulted in Sam Goldwyn signing him for some very popular films. Up in Arms (1944), Wonder Man (1945), The Kid from Brooklyn (1946), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) and A Song Is Born (1948) gave him an unbroken five year run of popular family comedies. The 1948/49 career highlights were undoubtedly the appearances at the London Palladium. In the 1950s the films were not consistently good. The best from that decade was The Court Jester (1956), the most popular Hans Christian Andersen (1952), the most disappointing The Five Pennies (1959) and the worst Me and the Colonel (1958). Kaye’s recordings seemed to the fall into two categories. Some, such as “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now”, were pleasant vocals that stood up to several plays. Others, like “Dinah” were irritating after a couple of listens. When he pitched his talents at the kiddie market with such as “Tubby the Tuba” he was guaranteed regular BBC Light programme airtime. At the moment his singing seems to be just plain unfashionable so maybe his day is yet to come. Kaye’s recording career became more or less non-existent from the 1960s onwards. That was when he concentrated on work on behalf of UNICEF, hour long television variety shows on U.S. television and a return to Broadway. By 1970 he’d made his last film, The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969). It was not a success. He was also gaining a reputation for being difficult. In the Broadway musical “Two by Two” his co-stars complained that he was unpredictable and that no two of his performances were alike. He tended to leave the plot behind and do his own thing. In fairness this did not harm ticket sales. The punters were just as happy to see Kaye entertain as follow the plot of the show. Kaye died following heart bypass surgery. He was almost a superstar. His careers on record, film, television and stage and his humanitarian work were just a little too diverse to put him right at the top of the entertainment tree.
KEITH, ROBERT (1898-1966) Actor. His solitary Bing picture was Here Comes the Groom (1951) in which he played Bing’s buddy George Degnan, who was also the editor of the newspaper for which the Bing character was a foreign correspondent. He’d been in films since the silent days, making his debut in The Other Kind of Love (1924). There’s a gap of almost twenty years in his film appearances because he went behind the scenes to write dialogue for Universal and Columbia. After his part in Here Comes the Groom he had fairly major character roles in Battle Circus (1953), Young at Heart (1955), and Guys and Dolls (1955) through to his final big screen appearance in Posse from Hell (1961). He was the father of the actor Brian Keith.
KELLAWAY, CECIL (1893-1972) Actor. Seen on screen briefly with Bing in Birth of the Blues (1941), Kellaway was also in Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) and Variety Girl (1947), where he played himself in both of these “all star cast” Paramount pictures. He arrived in Hollywood from Australia in the late 1930s. He was already a well known actor down-under but opportunities for furthering his career in films were limited, which is why he travelled to the States. It was a sound business decision because he went on to make well over a hundred films there. Two stood out sufficiently to justify Oscar nominations: The Luck of the Irish (1948) and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1968). In both he played loveable, twinkly-eyed character parts. Audiences could never accept him as a villain.
KELLY, GENE (1912-1996) Actor, dancer, choreographer, director and singer of sorts. The multi-talented entertainer just about qualifies for an entry in this A to Z. He was with Bing in Let’s Make Love (1960) when he gave dancing lessons to Yves Montand. (Bing gave Montand singing lessons). Kelly was originally hired as producer of Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964) but left three weeks before filming. It was later suggested that he left because of disagreements with Frank Sinatra over the amount of dancing numbers in the movie. Ten years on he was one of the narrators in That’s Entertainment together with Bing and nine other well known Hollywood names. Kelly entered films in 1942 with For Me and My Gal and exited some 43 years later in the compilation That’s Dancing. In the intervening years he charmed cinemagoers in just about every film in which he appeared. A writer in the “New Yorker” magazine summed him up with the line, ‘His grin could melt stone.” Alongside Al Jolson’s Jazz Singer clip where he sings “Toot, Toot, Tootsie”, the most widely seen film musical excerpt is Kelly singing and dancing the title song from Singin’ in the Rain (1952).
KELLY, GRACE (1928-1982) Actress. She was Bing’s leading lady in Crosby’s best dramatic picture of the 1950s, The Country Girl (1954) and his best musical, High Society (1956). In the first she plays Georgie Elgin, the wife who has to cope with alcoholic husband Frank (Bing Crosby). For that part she won a best actress Academy Award and the New York Film Critics’ Award. In her second Crosby film she’s Tracy Lord, the girl Bing woos and wins. In both she is the cool blonde, which is what attracted director Alfred Hitchcock to her. He used her to good advantage in three of his films - Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955). For the three mid-fifties years when she was involved with either Bing or Hitch she could do no wrong. Hollywood and her fans were saddened when she married Prince Rainier and quit the movie capital for Monaco. She had met Rainier whilst working on her third Hitchcock thriller and by the time she was appearing with Bing for the second time she knew that her acting days were over. Her Hollywood career had lasted just five years. She died in a car crash when she was travelling with her daughter. Her biographers have uncovered a romance between her and Bing. As is usual where revelations of this nature are concerned, the parties involved are dead and unfortunately unavailable for comment.
KELLY, PATSY (1910-1981) Actress. She was in Going Hollywood (1933) where she befriended Bing’s would be girl friend, played by Marion Davies. It was to become a typical role as the wisecracking friend of the heroine, where her deadpan comedy style carried her through several films after her feature debut in Going Hollywood. She decided to quit after making Ladies’ Day in 1943. But when show business is in the blood it isn’t as simple as that. She returned to movies with a part in the Doris Day hit Please Don’t Eat the Daisies in 1960. The crowning glory of her career was in 1971 when a Broadway revival of No, No, Nanette won her a Tony award.
KENNEDY, JIMMY (1902-1984) Songwriter. When Bing sang a snatch of “South of the Border” to Cantinflas in Pepe (1960) we had a brief sample of the work of one of Britain’s most successful songwriters. Of course, being remote from Hollywood his impact on American movies was negligible. However, if you turned on the wireless in this country during the war years, by the time the set had warmed up you were likely to hear “Hometown”, “My Prayer”, “We’re Gonna Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line” or “Lili Marlene”, for which Kennedy wrote the English lyric. His connection with radio was significant in the technical sense. He wrote “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” in 1933 and the engineers at the BBC used Henry Hall’s 78 recording of the song out of normal broadcasting hours to test the quality of transmissions. Kennedy’s songs stopped making an impact on the popular music scene around 1960, which was the year his last hit, “Love Is Like a Violin”, was published.
KENNEDY, TOM (1885-1965) Bit part player. His “bit” in a Bing film was as a bartender in Dixie (1943). The justification for his appearance in this A-Z relate to his other credentials. He was the brother of Edgar Kennedy, the master of the “slow burn”. Both were Keystone Kops. As well as appearing in films and on television right up until the time of his death, Tom generated a second income as a professional wrestler.
KERN, JAMES V. (1909-1966) Screenwriter and director. Most film scholars will remember Kern for helming such forties films as April Showers (1948) and Two Tickets to Broadway (1951). Before he took on the responsibilities of director he gave up his career as a lawyer to write for the Hollywood studios. He came up with the original story for Bing’s If I Had My Way in 1940 in collaboration with William Counselman and that film’s producer/director David Butler. He then fashioned the screenplay with Counselman. His work was never truly memorable and it seems appropriate that his later years were spent directing hundreds of American television shows.
KEYES, EVELYN (1916-2008) Actress. Whether or not it was at the behest other studio, Evelyn Louise Keyes shaved a couple of years from her age when she entered movies in 1938 and referred to 1919 as her year of birth. She was signed to a personal contract by Cecil B DeMille and she made her film debut in that director’s The Buccaneer (1938). In the summer of 1938 she acted, unbilled, in Paris Honeymoon. Her obituary in the Daily Telegraph related how that film’s director, Frank Tuttle, coached her when she asked what was required of her. His advice was, “Just swoon, darling, every time you hear Bing croon.” Fame came in 1939 when she was cast as Suellen O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. But I think it safe to bet that most people reading this will link her to The Jolson Story (1946), In that one she played Mrs. Jolson, an amalgam of Jolson’s four wives. Jolson was married to Ruby Keeler from 1928 to 1939 and Columbia studio wisely played safe when filming The Jolson Story by creating a fictitious partner for Al. After that, her Hollywood career more of less petered out, her last role of note being in The Seven Year Itch (1955). If biopics come back into vogue the scriptwriters will have some strong story material for The Evelyn Keyes Story. Pre-Hollywood she was a nightclub dancer. Her first husband, Barton Bainbridge, committed suicide in 1940. In 1941 she made Ladies in Retirement and started an affair with its married director, Charles Vidor. The pair married in 1944 and divorced a year later. There was a reported romance with Glenn Ford, with whom she made six films. She went out with Howard Hughes at about the same time. Columbia boss Harry Cohn wanted her for his wife and when she married John Huston in July of 1946 Cohn made difficulties for her because of her contract with his studio. She left Huston in 1950 and lived with Mike Todd from 1953 to 1956, before he married Elizabeth Taylor. She became Artie Shaw’s eighth wife the year after Todd left her. That marriage lasted until the mid 1980s. She summed things up quite nicely in 1999 when she said: “I was the original Cinderella girl, looking for the happy ending in the fairy story. But my fantasy prince never came.”
KILBRIDE, PERCY (1888-1964) Actor in Welcome Stranger (1947) Kilbride was Nat, the taxi driver who tells Bing (playing Dr. Jim Pearson) that Bill Walters, the drunken editor of the town’s newspaper, is ill. In Riding High (1950), Kilbride played Pop Jones, the owner of the barn that stabled Bing’s racehorse. In the three years between his Crosby pictures Kilbride made the big time in a small way when he was cast as Pa Kettle, the peppery farmer in the film The Egg and I. Audiences took to him and Universal Pictures created a film series starring him and his female counterpart Ma Kettle, played by Marjorie Main. It seemed as though the series ran forever even though there were only half a dozen entries, ending with Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki in 1955. That series ended his acting career which had almost always seen him cast as a country bumpkin following his Hollywood debut in 1933.
KINDA PECULIAR BROWN Song cut from the British release print of Dixie (1943). Never recorded for commercial release nor featured on radio by Bing, the only way you’re ever going to get to hear this Johnny Burke-James Van Heusen composition is to track down a copy of the Jasmine CD “Going Hollywood” Volume 3.
KING, DAVE (1929-2002) British comedian/singer/actor. By the time Dave King acted in a Crosby picture his popularity had peaked. He played the part of a restaurant owner in Bing’s British Road picture in 1961 when Hope and Crosby were bound for Hong Kong. Five years earlier he had a record contract with Decca which had seen him in the British hit parade in fifth place with a cover version of Dean Martin’s “Memories are Made of This”. That was followed by an appearance at the Royal Variety Performance in November 1956 and a bill topping fortnight at the London Palladium the following April. Then there was a regular Saturday evening BBC series, “The Dave King Show” and a 1959 guest spot on the top rated “Perry Como Show”. That U.S. television showcase resulted in him being given a thirteen week series on the Kraft Music Hall which was then drawing an estimated audience of forty million. Everything seemed to be going Dave’s way but very quietly his career dissolved. He signed with Pye Records and had three singles released, none of which sold at all well. He disappeared from our television screens except for the smallest of roles. I caught him in the early 1970s at a tiny theatre in Lytham-St-Annes when he was taking the leading part in the Woody Allen comedy “Play it Again, Sam”. This might seem a lengthy entry for someone who had not much more than a bit part in a Crosby film. But listen to his recordings. He has clearly been influenced by one vocalist - Bing.
KING OF JAZZ (1930) Film. This Hollywood film gave most people their first opportunity to see what Bing looked like. Made by Universal Pictures in the expensive two-colour Technicolor process, the film itself was a no expense spared exercise when the Hollywood studios mistakenly believed that spectacle and a cast of hundreds were sufficient to entice audiences into picture palaces. As well as appearing with Harry Barris and Al Rinker as The Rhythm Boys, Bing soloed “Music Hath Charms” whilst the opening titles were on screen. Because he did not have a marketable box office identity, Bing’s name did not appear on the film’s credits. The plan was to give Crosby a spot singing “Song of the Dawn”. Unfortunately he was in clink when that sequence was being shot and John Boles stood in for Bing. Listen to Bing’s 1930 recording of the song and you might reach the conclusion that the ballad did not suit his style anyway. King of Jazz is an important film in terms of Hollywood history as well as an early Bing showcase. Here are some business facts about it:
· It was Hollywood’s most expensive musical to date at a cost of $1.6 million
· It made a loss of $1 million.
· To earn overseas revenues Universal shot 9 foreign versions
· Paul Whiteman received $250,000 for his contribution
The film’s trailer served as more than an appetiser for the full feature film. It was 7 minutes long and potential audiences probably thought they had seen all they wanted to see, thus affecting future box-office earnings. Sensing that disappointment was in the offing for its shareholders, Universal attempted to boost the film’s New York takings. King of Jazz opened at the Roxy, probably the finest cinema in the U.S.A. at the time. George Gershwin agreed to appear on stage during the first week’s run. This was as a favour to Whiteman, who gave Gershwin’s career a major boost in the mid-twenties. So on May 2, 1930, Gershwin played “Rhapsody in Blue” accompanied by the Whiteman orchestra. Still, business was only so-so and on its second week at the Roxy it produced the lowest revenue in the cinema’s three year history. The theatre manager, S.L. “Roxy” Rothafel, cancelled the stage show to keep costs down and shortly afterwards prematurely ended the film’s planned extended run. A re-edited version of the film was released in 1933 to help reduce its losses. In some areas that achieved better business than on its original showings.
KINGSFORD, WALTER (1882-1958) Character actor. In Double or Nothing (1937) Bing finds a wallet in the film’s opening sequence. It contains the business card of solicitors Dobson and Mitchell and when Bing and colleagues confront those lawyers it is Kingsford as one half of the legal partnership who tells them what to do next. It was a typical Walter Kingsford part. He played in well over a hundred Hollywood films, usually as a distinguished type. He was a veteran of the London stage and his figure of authority resulted in M-G-M casting him as the hospital chief Dr. Carew when they filmed their Doctor Kildare series between 1938 and 1942. He was on screen for the rest of his life. His final appearance was in the Danny Kaye starrer Merry Andrew in the year of his death.
KINGSLEY, DOROTHY (1909-1997) Screenwriter. Although Bing appeared in two films for which she co-wrote the screenplays, Bing did not speak any of her lines. He had a guest shot in Angels in the Outfield (1951) and sang snatches of three songs to Cantinflas in Pepe (1960). On radio, however, he read many of her lines when he guested on Bob Hope’s shows because she was one of Hope’s regular writers until securing a better paid job in Hollywood. M-G-M musicals provided a showcase for her talents on lightweight feel-good musicals and she worked on hits like Kiss Me Kate (1953) and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). She suited Frank Sinatra and worked on Pal Joey (1957) and Can-Can (1960). Her last big screen credit was on the partly British musical Half a Sixpence in 1967. By that time the Hollywood musical was all but dead and she fashioned a second career for herself by creating the television series “Bracken’s World”.
KINSKY, LEONID (1903-1998) Character actor specialising in playing Eastern Europeans. He was in one Bing film - Rhythm on the Range (1936) - where, true to form, he played Mischa, a man not from these parts. You’ll spot him in the scene where the cast gather to assist Bing in singing “I’m an Old Cowhand”. He’d arrived in Hollywood from Russia via South America some four years earlier and was fully employed by several studios until he announced his retirement from acting in the late 1940s. He was fortunate to be cast in some major films like The Great Waltz (1938) and Casablanca (1943). Just as television was eroding cinema audiences he created a new career by devising presentations for industry. He was enticed back to the sound stages in 1955 to appear in The Man with the Golden Arm and made his final film appearance the following year in Glory.
KIRSTEN, DOROTHY (1910-1992) An American lyric soprano who sang leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera for 30 years and was particularly renowned for her performances of Puccini heroines. She appeared as herself with Bing in Mr. Music (1950) when they duetted “Accidents Will Happen”. Bing and Dorothy also recorded the song for Decca. At the height of her career, in the 1950s and 60s, Miss Kirsten appealed not only to opera fans, who knew her as an attractive, intelligent, thoroughly musical singer and a fine actress, but also to a broader public that knew her from her frequent radio and television appearances. Her film career was negligible. Apart from Mr. Music and a small part in the chorus of Happy Days (1930), her only other film was in The Great Caruso (1951) with Mario Lanza. Miss Kirsten’s autobiography, ‘A Time to Sing,’ was published in 1982 and in this she hinted at a very close relationship with Bing which was sacrificed because of their careers. Her first marriage, to Edward MacKayes Oates, ended in divorce in 1949. In 1951 she married Dr. Eugene Chapman, who died in 1954. In 1955, she married Dr. John Douglas French and he pre-deceased her in 1989.
KISS IN YOUR EYES, THE Song. Featured in The Emperor Waltz (1948), Bing sings this Johnny Burke-Richard Heuberger composition to Joan Fontaine in a romantic interlude. Burke’s regular collaborator James Van Heusen did not work on the songs for The Emperor Waltz and the music for this ballad was originally written by Heuberger for a light opera.
KITTY CADDY Cartoon. The American trade paper “Film Daily” did not review every short cartoon but thought this one worth pointing out to potential exhibitors. They said: “hilarious golf match which is continually interrupted by reasonable facsimiles of Hope and Crosby. Above par for laughter.” Released in the U.S.A. on November 6, 1947, Columbia was still renting it to cinemas in the late 1960s.
KITTY OF COLERAINE Song. This traditional Irish folk song got Bing out of jail in Top o’ the Morning (1949). He’d been arrested for vagrancy and managed to prove his Irish ancestry by singing the song to the police sergeant. Bing never recorded the song commercially.
KOEHLER, TED (1894-1973) Lyric writer. He provided the words for two songs originally featured in Mack Sennett shorts and forever after associated with Bing. In One More Chance (1931) he wrote lyrics to the Billy Moll-Harry Barris tune that produced “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams”. For Sing, Bing, Sing in 1932, Harold Arlen, one of his regular partners, provided him with the melody for “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”. In 1934 his song “Stormy Weather”, written in collaboration with Arlen again, formed part of a Crosby medley in We’re Not Dressing (1934). Bing’s last on screen shot at a Koehler-Arlen song came in 1960, when a few lines from “Let’s Fall in Love” were sung to Cantinflas in Pepe. In 1943 Koehler stretched his talents and wrote the script for the feature film Stormy Weather. Many people have never forgiven him for writing “Animal Crackers in My Soup’” for Shirley Temple.
KORNMAN, MARY (1917-1973) Actress. She made three in a row with Bing in 1933: Please, Just An Echo and College Humor. The first two were short films and in both of them it is a motor car which brings her to the attention of her leading man - Bing. In Please Bing comes to her aid when her car breaks down and in Echo she smokes a cigarette in her car until forest ranger Crosby drives up. By the time she made these films she was a screen veteran having spent the previous ten years as the only girl in the Our Gang series of comedies. She retired in 1940 without making an impact in feature films. Titles such as Queen of the Jungle (1935) and Swing it Professor (1937) say it all.
KRASNA, NORMAN (1909-1984) Screenwriter. His Bing link is his collaboration with Melvin Frank and Norman Panama on the script of White Christmas (1954) and his solo writing effort on Let’s Make Love (1960). His forte was comedy and he received an Academy Award for Princess O’Rourke (1943), which he also directed. His first on screen credit was for Hollywood Speaks in 1932 and his last for I’d Rather be Rich in 1964.
KURI, EMILE (1907-2000) Set decorator. Not a specialist skill one encounters outside the movies. Kuri deserves mention because he won an Academy Award twice for set decoration: The Heiress (1949) and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954). Both Oscars were earned around the time he was running down his work with Paramount before joining Walt Disney. He was partly responsible for the sets used for the first Bing film to which he was assigned. That was Top o’ the Morning (1949) when he shared credit with Sam Comer. By the time of Bing's follow up Paramount picture, Riding High (1949), he had no collaborator and he worked alone on Here Comes the Groom two years later before being given two of his most memorable assignments for that studio. They were War of the Worlds and Shane, both released in 1953. By the mid-fifties he was working exclusively with Disney on such demanding projects as The Absent Minded Professor (1961) and Mary Poppins (1964). His last work was on Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971).
LA RUE, JACK (1903-1984) Actor. The name may mean little but the face will register immediately. He played the villainous Le Bec in Road to Utopia (filmed 1944) and the equally unsavoury Tomatoes in Robin and the 7 Hoods twenty years later. He was also in My Favourite Brunette (1947), a Bob Hope picture in which Bing made a gag appearance. In that one La Rue played a thug called Tony. By now you will have placed him. His grim visage branded him a bit part gangster from his debut in Lady Killer (1934) to his last role in Won Ton Ton (1976).
LADD, ALAN (1913-1964) Actor. A good question for the Crosbyana edition of Trivial Pursuits is “Which major Hollywood actor was in four Bing Crosby pictures without appearing with him on screen in any of them?” Alan Ladd was one of many victims of Paramount’s policy to assemble all star-bills in order to show off their roster of talent which proved once and for all that more is less when it comes to overloaded cast lists. Ladd’s apprenticeship days were behind him when he was featured in Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), Duffy’s Tavern (1944), Hollywood Victory Caravan (1945) and Variety Girl (1947). By the time the last one was released he’d been in pictures for fifteen years and a star for five. He shot to fame in 1942 with This Gun for Hire followed by The Glass Key. He was an unlikely hero at 5 ft. 5 in. but with the use of trenches and orange boxes he managed to hold his own against various leggy leading ladies and assorted toughs for most of his career. He was with Bing’s studio until the mid-fifties and he never surpassed his performance in Paramount’s Shane (1953). That was when his star started to slip. He came to the UK when he left Paramount and made a couple of undistinguished actioners in 1954: The Red Beret and The Black Knight. An even worse move was to make a film in Italy in 1961 (Duel of Champions). By then he knew his career was almost over. His last screen appearance was in The Carpetbaggers, released in 1964, the year he died. By that time his looks had suffered because of his descent into alcohol and drugs. There had been a probable suicide attempt the previous year and the overdose of sedatives which killed him seemed to be premeditated.
LAEMMLE, CARL (1867-1939) Motion picture pioneer and producer. Laemmle was head of Universal when he produced King of Jazz (1930). By then he had been producing films for over twenty years. Movies were a growth industry and Laemmle’s Universal studio turned out product so fast that most of his family both near and distant found themselves on the payroll working in some executive capacity. Hence the Ogden Nash couplet, “Uncle Carl Laemmie had a very large faemmle”. His fortunes started to wane shortly after King of Jazz, mainly due to the depression which affected all of Hollywood for a time. In 1935 he sold the studio for $5 million.
LAKE, VERONICA [Constance Frances Marie Ockelman] (1919-1973) Actress. It’s no coincidence that Paramount used Veronica Lake in the same capacity as Alan Ladd in Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), Duffy’s Tavern (1944) and Variety Girl (1947). They went through a phase of cramming all their contract players into virtually plotless films during the movie hungry mid-forties. Like Ladd she made a fourth film to which Bing contributed. That was Out of This World (1945), where she was Eddie Bracken’s leading lady in a film which utilised the Crosby voice. She co-starred with Ladd in his first two major successes for Paramount - This Gun for Hire and The Glass Key. Her career went into decline before Ladd’s and by the end of the 1940s her significant period was over. Three low budget films were made over the next twenty years and, like Ladd, she sought solace in the bottle. She was found working as a barmaid in New York in the early 1960s and the resultant publicity led to her moving to England where she wrote “Veronica”, a fairly entertaining autobiography. She summed herself up when she wrote, “You could put all the talent I had into your left eye and still not suffer from impaired vision.”
LAMOUR, DOROTHY [Mary Leta Dorothy Kaumeyer] (1914-1996) Actress and singer. Unlike Ladd and Lake, her star continued to shine in her public and private life up until the time of her death. Her Crosby films and the roles she took are Road to Singapore (1940) as Mima, Road to Zanzibar (1941) as Donna Latour, Road to Morocco (1942) as Princess Shalmar, Dixie (1943) as Millicent Cook, Road to Utopia (1944) as Sal, Road to Rio (1948) as Lucia Maria de Andrade, Road to Bali (1953) as Princess Lalah McTavish and The Road to Hong Kong (1962) as herself. Because she was a Paramount contract star she was unable to escape from being seen in the 1940s collages Star Spangled Rhythm, Duffy’s Tavern and Variety Girl, all of which featured Bing. Plus, in the “hardly a Bing picture” category, My Favourite Brunette (1947) and The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). And finally she showed up in Here Comes the Groom (1951) to join in the chorus of ‘Misto Cristofo Columbo”. In her pre-Hollywood period she was crowned Miss New Orleans in 1931 and then entered show business as a singer. There have been several CDs devoted to her vocals and had she not made the transition to acting she could have remained in the public eye as a ballad singer. As it was, her first film, The Jungle Princess (1936), shot her to stardom and she was seldom out of a sarong until she showed she was adept at light comedy as foil to Bing and Bob in the Road series. She more or less retired from films in the early 1960s, although there were three ill advised returns to the sound stages in Pajama Party (1964), The Phynx (1970) and Creepshow 2 (1987).
LAND AROUND US, THE Song. Specially written for the 1954 film The Country Girl by Ira Gershwin and Harold Arlen, the song is also the name of the Broadway play in which Bing is to make his comeback. We see Bing perform the song during the show’s dress rehearsal. As with the other three songs written for the film by Gershwin and Arlen, I am unaware of any other vocalist tackling the number on record.
LANE, BURTON (1912-1997) Songwriter. Lane wrote the music to just one Crosby film song and Ralph Freed provided the words. That was the catchy “Smarty” from the 1937 film Double or Nothing. Lane was just making his mark as a composer, his film song debut having been for Dancing Lady (1934). He was capable of writing both words and music although some of his best work has been with other lyricists. Bing sang several Lane songs over the years and his interpretations of Lane’s collaboration with Frank Loesser for “Finian’s Rainbow” are well suited to the Crosby voice. Lane’s work was rarely second rate. His last major success was with Alan Jay Lerner on the Broadway hit which became a Hollywood film: “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever”.
LANE, CHARLES [Charles Gerstle Levison] (1905-2007) Actor. With around 400 hundred films to his credit it’s a question of “now you see him, now you don’t” when it comes to spotting Lane in one of his hundreds of bit parts. You’ll recognise him typecast as the rent collector in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). After making his debut in a Crosby film in Two for Tonight (1935), Bing watchers could make a positive sighting when Lane played Bernard Schwartz, the song publisher to whom the Crosby character pitched “When the Moon Comes over Madison Square” in Rhythm on the River (1940). [At the end of the 1940s the real Bernard Schwartz would change his name to Tony Curtis when he entered films.] Lane next cropped up in a Bing-pic as the cinema manager in Birth of the Blues the following year. There was a gap of eight years before he was again in a Crosby film when he played bit parts in Riding High (1949) and Here Comes the Groom (1951). He portrayed an F.B.I. officer in the latter. Potential Lane spotters need to look out for a thin, long faced scowler invariably cast as a petty bureaucrat with no more than a couple of lines of script to memorise. How else could he have played in 65 films between 1940 and 1942? Lane arrived in Hollywood in 1931 and was a regular on the big screen until the 1960s, the decade in which he transferred to television for regular appearances in such shows as “The Beverly Hillbillies”. But his greatest achievement had nothing to do with film appearances. He had the longest marriage in Hollywood history. He married actress Ruth Covell the year he arrived in Hollywood and they remained together until she died in 2002.
LANG, CHARLES B. (1902-1998) Director of photography. Lang’s camera work was behind half a dozen Crosby pictures. He worked on We’re Not Dressing (1934), She Loves Me Not (1934), Mississippi (1935), Doctor Rhythm (1938), Here Come the WAVES (1944) and Blue Skies (1945). On the last one he shared credit with William Snyder. He entered films as a laboratory assistant at Paramount in the early 1920s and by 1926 he had his first assignment when he was co-photographer on The Nightpatrol. He remained with Paramount until 1952 when his freelance work allowed him to photograph an increasing number of films in colour. However, his best work is considered to be subtle black and white photography and his only Academy Award was for the 1933 version of A Farewell to Arms. He was on top form until his retirement at seventy. He always worked on class A productions, his last two films being Butterflies Are Free (1972) and 40 Carats (1973).
LANG, EDDIE [Salvatore Massaro] (1902-1933) Guitarist, whose artistry is heard on the soundtracks of King of Jazz (1930) and The Big Broadcast (1932). He accompanied Bing on “Please” in the latter (with Stuart Erwin on piano). He was a significant figure during Bing’s early solo years and the two were close personal colleagues following a friendship which occurred when both were on the Whiteman payroll. The two worked together on radio and recordings until Lang’s unfortunate death following a routine tonsillectomy.
LANGDON, HARRY (1884-1944). Actor. In issue number 7 of the 1933 short series Hollywood on Parade, Langdon is seen in a brief comedy sketch with Bing and John Barrymore which is set on the golf course. He never made a successful transition from silent pictures where at one time he was held in high regard alongside Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd. Several studies on his artistry have been published over the years and all conclude that he was a victim of his ego. Whatever the reason for his fall from fame, he soon became out of touch with public taste and in 1931 declared himself bankrupt.
LA PLANCHE, LOUISE (1919-2012). Actress who had a number of bit parts in Bing’s films. La Planche’s mother had moved to southern California from Kansas and had two daughters, Louise and Rosemary. Louise began her movie career at age 3, playing a gypsy girl in the silent film version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1923. Both sisters participated in numerous contests from dancing to beauty pageants, and Rosemary La Planche went on to win the title of Miss America in 1941. Louise won the title of Miss Catalina in 1939, which led to her signing with MGM, where she had an uncredited role in the movie Strike Up the Band with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. She went on to sign a 4-year contract with Paramount Pictures and had uncredited bit parts in Holiday Inn (“girl”), Road to Morocco (she played a harem girl who painted Bob Hope’s toenails), Star Spangled Rhythm (“Swing Shift Singer”) and Here Come the Waves (“photographer”). Louise married Lester Freedman, a clothing manufacturer, and gave up her film career to concentrate on raising her family.
LAST ROSE OF SUMMER, THE Song. It took Bing twenty years to record this song after he was first heard featuring it in his stage act in the 1943 film Dixie. In the movie he sang it as part of his minstrel act. Then he was vocally supported by Billy de Wolfe, Lynne Overman and Eddie Foy jnr. The words are from a poem of Thomas Moore’s which are set to the music of a traditional Irish air. The end result makes for a beautiful ballad. Dublin born Moore’s skill was putting words to traditional Irish airs. Peter Gammond was spot on when he wrote that Moore was responsible “for the rise and popularity of many pseudo-Irish songs of great charm and lasting quality.” The song was not given a studio recording until a Warner Bros. sing-a-long album in 1962.
LAST ROUND UP, THE Song. Like “The Last Rose of Summer”, Bing didn’t give this the treatment it deserved when he included it in a medley sung during We’re Not Dressing (1934). It forms part of the “I Positively Refuse to Sing” sequence. He did, however, record it for 78 issue a couple of months before We’re Not Dressing went before the cameras. Words and music are by Billy Hill, who was the foremost American composer of cowboy songs during the 1930s.
LASZLO, ERNEST (1904-1984) Director of photography. Hungarian born cameraman Laszlo worked on two Bing films. He had sole D of P credit on Road to Rio (1948) and shared the chores on Riding High two years later with George Barnes. He was under contract to Paramount for many years and when the studio system crumbled was much in demand for prestige pictures. One of these, Ship of Fools (1965), won him an Academy Award.
LAUGH AND CALL IT LOVE Song. Like all but one of the songs featured in Sing You Sinners (1938) Bing shared vocals with his screen brothers, Donald O’Connor and Fred MacMurray. As the three Beebe Brothers they included it in their night club act. It was one of three songs specially composed for the film by Johnny Burke and James V. Monaco.
LAWFORD, PETER (1923-1984) Actor who sang a little. If you had to hazard a guess at a Lawford/Crosby film link you might plump for Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964). You’d be wrong but as Lawford was part of the Sinatra clan in the 1960s you’d be given half a mark. Lawford never appeared on screen at the same time as Bing but both were involved in the multi-talent films Pepe (1960) and That’s Entertainment (1974). A couple of books which were published after Lawford’s death tell the story of the son of a British Knight visiting California in 1938 and staying on to become a lightweight leading man in several M-G-M films of the forties and fifties. Lawford’s descent into drink and drugs led to an earlier than necessary death.
LAZY Song. Just one of a dozen or so winners from Holiday Inn (1942). Words and music by Irving Berlin, who never understood why people needed to collaborate on songs. The song slots neatly into the plot. Bing retires from show business to take up farming and “Lazy” is sung to counterpoint the reality of the strenuous life of working the land. Some songs fit Bing like a glove and this is one of them.
LeBARON, WILLIAM (1883-1958). Producer. He produced Too Much Harmony (1933) and Rhythm on the River (1940) with Bing as star. That second picture was his last for Paramount before moving to 20th Century-Fox when he used his talents to develop that studio’s colourful musicals. Think of the light escapist fare starring the likes of Alice Faye, Betty Grable and Carmen Miranda and you’ll get a measure of the man’s achievements before his eventual retirement at the end of the 1940s.
LEARN TO CROON Song. One of several written for Bing’s second Paramount feature College Humor (1933) by Sam Coslow and Arthur Johnston. Bing is cast in the unlikely role of a college professor and sings “Learn to Croon” at a college dance. In Duffy’s Tavern (1944) the voice of Bing is heard singing the song when it emanates from a phonograph. It is just possible that moviegoers heard the song before they saw Bing deliver it in College Humor. That’s because it was used in a 1933 Paramount on Parade short when Jack Oakie impersonated Bing’s singing style.
LEDERER, CHARLES (1910-1976) Screenwriter who also directed three films. Did it really take four people to write the dialogue for Double or Nothing (1937)? So the film’s credits would have us believe. For this hour and a half lightweight Crosby comedy, Lederer developed a story already written by M. Coates Webster. He was assisted by Erwin Gelsey, John C. Moffitt and Duke Atterberry. That was the way Lederer usually worked and few of his credits are for solo screenplays. The standout exception is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). The films Lederer directed are long forgotten.
LEE, PEGGY [Norma Deloris Egstrom] (1920-2002) Singer, songwriter and actress. To keep this entry to a manageable size, it is the latter category that I will cover here. In 1950 Peggy guested in Mr. Music when she sang “Life Is So Peculiar” with Bing. At that time she had been a regular on Bing’s radio programmes and would be used on Decca’s album of the film White Christmas (1954) because Rosemary Clooney’s contract with Columbia Records prevented her repeating her co-starring role on wax. Peggy Lee was first glimpsed on celluloid in 1943 when she had a guest spot in Stage Door Canteen. Her first dramatic leading role was in the first sound remake of The Jazz Singer (1953). She followed this with an equally effective acting part as Jack Webb’s leading lady in Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955). Between those two she sang some of her own songs on the soundtrack of Disney’s feature cartoon Lady and the Tramp (1955). She ended her flirtation with Hollywood in 1970 when her singing voice was also used for Pieces of Dreams.
LET ME SING AND I’M HAPPY Song. A Jolson song in a Crosby film? Some mistake, surely? But a snatch of this early Irving Berlin composition is sung by Bing and Danny Kaye in White Christmas (1954). It is utilised in a montage illustrating how Crosby and Kaye’s entertainment careers have progressed since their discharge from the army. The Jolson connection began when Al sang it in the 1930 film Mammy, but its revival in The Jolson Story (1946) brought it to the attention of far more viewers.
LET’S CALL A HEART A HEART Song. One of four songs specially composed by Johnny Burke and Arthur Johnston for the 1936 Pennies from Heaven. Bing sings it in a night club scene and he cut a Decca single of the song on July 29, 1936.
LET’S FALL IN LOVE Song. There was no ‘proper’ recording by Bing of this 1930s standard by Ted Koehler and Harold Arlen. We are treated to a few lines from the song when Bing sandwiches it between ‘Pennies from Heaven’ and ‘South of the Border’ in Pepe (1960). We see it in that brief sequence when Cantinflas comes across Bing in his car at the film studio entrance and they finish up singing together. Its other link with Bing came in 1937 when a Crosby soundalike crooned it in the Columbia picture It Happened in Hollywood.
LET’S MAKE LOVE Film. Bing guested in this 1960 20th Century-Fox film. His contribution to the film took place on June 15, 1960, the same day he filmed his guest sequence for the above mentioned Pepe. His hour’s work on the film enabled him to coach Yves Montand so that the Frenchman could woo Marilyn Monroe with his rendition of “Incurably Romantic”. Crosby’s lesson was so successful that Montand and Monroe had a brief fling off set.
LET’S NOT BE SENSIBLE. Song. With the retirement of Johnny Burke, it was Sammy Cahn who collaborated with tunesmith James Van Heusen on songs for the final Road picture, The Road to Hong Kong (1962). “Let’s Not Be Sensible” is a romantic ballad and both Bing and Joan Collins take a crack at it. The issue of the soundtrack album could have been an afterthought because the duet in its original form was incomplete. The film’s action recommences before Bing has the opportunity to sing the last word in the song’s lyric ‘love’. To make the recording presentable for release to the public, conductor Robert Farnon used Mike Sammes to sing the missing word which was then spliced into the soundtrack version. Of course, this means it is now impossible for anyone who knows of this deceit to listen attentively to the song without waiting impatiently for the concluding bars.
LET’S START THE NEW YEAR RIGHT Song. One of Irving Berlin’s calendar songs for Holiday Inn (1942). We first hear the song in the sequence where the inn is opened to the public for the first time on New Year’s Eve and Bing sings it on the stroke of midnight. The song ends the film when it is reprised by Bing, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds and Virginia Dale.
LET’S TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME Song. There’s no mistaking what’s on Bing’s mind when he makes this musical suggestion to Betty Hutton in Here Come the WAVES (1944). As a result, Miss Hutton realises she has fallen for Bing. Johnny Mercer wrote the words to Harold Arlen’s tune.
LEVANT, OSCAR (1906-1972) Composer, actor, pianist, author and professional neurotic. He was only in the one Crosby film but Oscar Levant was memorable as Billy Starbuck in Rhythm on the River (1940). He was cast as the assistant to Basil Rathbone, a composer suffering from writer’s block. Starbuck’s every other line was either sarcastic or cynical, which fitted the image Levant so loved to project. The same Levant persona can be detected on the radio appearances he made with Bing. There were many sides to the man. His writing skills extended to three autobiographies which allowed him to proclaim his genius, his hypochondria and his insomnia. He befriended George Gershwin and his musical skills made him the foremost interpreter of Gershwin’s compositions. Levant became a successful concert pianist but only after struggling to make ends meet by giving piano lessons and working with dance bands. He wrote scores for early Hollywood musicals such as Love Comes Along (1930) and Music Is Magic (1935). He was Al Jolson’s pianist when Jolie took over the Kraft Music Hall half-hours from Bing. He acted in major Hollywood films like An American in Paris (1951) and The Band Wagon (1953). He became much in demand on late night talk shows on American television where he would regale his audience with his psychological hang-ups. In the end, life imitated art and he spent the last twenty years of his life in and out of hospitals, mainly for treatment for his addiction to the many pills and potions he took. He died of a heart attack. I will always remember him as the originator of the line, “I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin.”
LEWIS, ROBERT (1909-1997) American theatre director. As far as I can trace, Lewis only directed one film. That was Anything Goes (1956). When he died his obituaries stressed the part he had played in raising the profile of acting on the American stage. He was a founding member of the Group Theatre in the 1930s and co-founding member of the Actors’ Studio in 1948. He did not quite conform to the adage “those who can do, those who can’t teach” because he’d had acting experience in films since 1943 when he was in Paris After Dark. He appeared in a handful of films in the forties, the best remembered of which are Ziegfeld Follies (1946) and Monsieur Verdoux (1947).
LIFE IS SO PECULIAR Song. When Burke and Van Heusen wrote the songs for Mr. Music (1950), it can’t be said that they delivered one of their more memorable scores. The strongest song proved to be “Life Is So Peculiar”, remembered by audiences leaving the cinema because it was featured three times. At a party Bing is joined by Peggy Lee to give the song its initial outing. Later on it returns in a scene when Bing’s character in the film is presenting his new show at a college. The Merry Macs sing it and then Bing and Groucho Marx give it a go.
LILLEY, JOSEPH J (1913-1971) Vocal coach who progressed to musical director. He made his first contact with Bing in 1942 when he received an on-screen credit as vocal arranger for Holiday Inn. He was similarly employed on Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), Dixie (1943), Going My Way (1944), Here Come the WAVES (1944), Road to Utopia (1946), Blue Skies (1946) and Welcome Stranger (1947). His first credit as musical director was shared with Troy Sanders on Variety Girl (1947), when the musical score was also attributed to him. On The Emperor Waltz the following year it was back to vocal arranger although he grabbed some song writing royalties by adapting a traditional Swiss melody for the charming “The Friendly Mountains” to fit Johnny Burke’s lyrics. Road to Rio (1948), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1948), Top o’ the Morning (1949), Riding High (1950) and Mr. Music (1950) all resulted in vocal arranger credit. Just for You (1952) saw further vocal arrangement credit sandwiched in-between Here Comes the Groom (1951) and Road to Bali (1953), when he was again listed as musical director. His final credits for Crosby movies were for musical direction again on White Christmas (1954) and Anything Goes (1956). By then Bing had started to use him on television assignments. He’d been used for the television film High Tor (1955), when he arranged the music for this Arthur Schwartz-Maxwell Anderson collaboration. After that Bing ensured he was assigned as vocal arranger for the singer’s one hour specials. Chances are, if you listened to the radio in the U.S.A. during the 1940s then you would here the announcement “vocal arrangements and orchestrations by Joseph Lilley” at least once a week. Lilley worked on radio with Rudy Vallee, Kate Smith, Paul Whiteman, Lanny Ross and Alec Templeton. Similarly, if you saw a Paramount Picture in the 1950s, vocal arrangements were down to Lilley when it was a Martin and Lewis, Bob Hope or Guy Mitchell film shot for that studio. This is a lengthy entry for a small cog in a big wheel, but Joseph J. Lilley was an important behind the scenes force when it came to Bing, movies and music during the ten key years of Crosby at Paramount.
LILLIE, BEATRICE [Constance Sylvia Munston] (1894-1989) Canadian born comedienne/actress who made her mark with Crosby followers in one film, Doctor Rhythm (1938), when she played the ditzy Lorelei Dodge-Blodgett. It provided an opportunity for her to perform her set piece involving a double dozen double damask dinner napkins, a sketch she performed on Bing’s radio show some ten years later. In fact, she was a regular on Bing’s various shows between 1947 and 1950. She only made seven films, rationing herself to one a decade after Doctor Rhythm. They were On Approval (1944), Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). Between times she was one of those personalities famous for being famous because of the company she kept. Noel Coward, Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw and Charlie Chaplin were listed as intimate friends. Her autobiography, “Every Other Inch a Lady” was published in 1972.
LINDON, LIONEL (1905-1971) Director of Photography. Another backroom boy in the Joseph Lilley category. He was under long term contract to Paramount since forging a link with that company in 1923 when he was assistant to director Cecil B. DeMille on the silent version of The Ten Commandments. All his Crosby pictures were shot in the 1940s from Going My Way (1944) to Top o’ the Morning (1949). The ones in between were Duffy’s Tavern (1945), Road to Utopia (1946), Welcome Stranger (1947) and Variety Girl (1947). He received an Academy Award for his cinematography on Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) and continued working on major Hollywood shot films until two years before his death.
LINDSAY, HOWARD (1889-1968) American actor-playwright-stage director. It’s Lindsay’s writing skills which earn him an entry here. He adapted a novel by Edward Hope into the play on which Bing’s 1934 film She Loves Me Not was based. That same year he collaborated with Russell Crouse and Cole Porter on the musical Anything Goes which Bing filmed twice, in 1936 and 1956. His acting and directing careers were in the silent movie days.
LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN, A Song. You could easily miss Bing singing a snatch of this Ernest R. Ball-J. Keirn Brennan sentimental Irish ballad. It was featured in I Surrender Dear, a 1931 Mack Sennett short. In the film, Bing tries to soothe an Irishman whose wife has been mistaken for a girl Bing is seeking. The same scene was featured in the 1946 compilation Road to Hollywood, which raided the Sennett vaults and stitched together four of Bing’s early thirties short films.
LITTLE BOY LOST Film. In the autumn of 1952, Bing spent time in France working on this somewhat sombre Paramount film before returning to Hollywood to put the finishing touches to it. Filming in France began in September, 1952. Paramount planned to film more of Little Boy Lost in France than was achieved. This was because of constant rain. Paramount had no studio facilities booked in France and the unit returned to Hollywood. When the film required more location shooting before completion this was achieved in May, 1953, when Bing was in Paris recording his “Le Bing” album. The film was released in the autumn of 1953 to mild critical acclaim. Bing selected his leading lady. Nicole Maurey had the qualities which appealed to him. She had not appeared in an English language film before although she made her film debut in her native France at the age of eighteen in 1943. The film was an early example of Bing flexing his acting muscles as opposed to the typical light Crosby screen vehicle we had grown to expect. Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen wrote two “French” and one standard light Crosby-type ballads for Bing to sing during the film’s 95 minutes. The film would have played just as well without the crooning but Paramount were no doubt unsure of foisting a Bing picture on his loyal public without including a song or two. American critic Pauline Kael gave the film a fair if harsh review. She wrote:
“Bing Crosby is inoffensive in the lead, though he lacks an actor’s tension: he’s colourlessly “natural”. Perhaps the picture is as effective as it is partly because the little boy (Christian Fourcade) is so totally unlike American children that we can see how Crosby would find it impossible to believe that this was his son. It should be a stinker and it isn’t quite - the movie’s lameness and dullness seem to make it more touching.”
Typical Bing fare had been released by the studio at the beginning of the year in the form of Road to Bali. Surprisingly, both films did identical box office business with North American rentals of $3 million. At the year end they shared joint 19th position in Variety’s top twenty money making films of 1953.
LITTLE LOVE, A LITTLE WHILE, A Song. Another Maxwell Anderson-Arthur Schwartz song from High Tor. For its Decca album release it was lifted directly from the soundtrack.
LITTLE ONE Song. We all have our favourite songs from Bing’s last musical of note. Nine Cole Porter compositions featured in High Society (1956) and there’s little to choose between them. They are all memorable. “Little One” is sung by Bing to Lydia Reed, who plays Grace Kelly’s little sister in the film. Louis Armstrong’s trumpet helps out on this strong ballad and the song is picked up later in the story by Lydia Reed who does her best to sing it in French.
LITTLE THINGS IN LIFE, THE Song. Irving Berlin wrote the words and music to the twenty plus songs used in the 1946 Paramount Picture Blue Skies. It was inevitable that time would prevent a full treatment of all the numbers and “The Little Things in Life” is featured in a medley of three songs which Bing is heard to sing over a montage of shots depicting night clubs he has owned. In 1930 Bing recorded the song for RCA-Victor and he did not attempt to provide Decca with an updated version when he selected nine songs to record to coincide with the film’s release.
LITTLE WHITE PILL ON THE LITTLE GREEN HILL, THE Song. The 1940 short Swing with Bing was a personal project of Bing’s. It promoted his favourite sport: golf. He asked Johnny Burke and James V. Monaco to provide a song. “Little White Pill...” was unlikely to sell very m