Sunday, April 15, 2018

SPOTLIGHT ON LYDIA REED

One of the last great old school MGM musical was 1956's High Society. The film had it all: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and a Cole Porter score among others. Grace Kelly was the love interest, but one of the most charming stars of the film was Lydia Reed.

Lydia Reed was born on August 23, 1944, and is an American former child actress best known for her role as Tallahassee "Hassie" McCoy from 1957 to 1963 in 145 episodes of the ABC situation comedy The Real McCoys, starring Walter Brennan in the title role of Grandpa Amos McCoy. Irving Pincus was the creator, and Hy Averback the first principal director.

An episode of the series that featured Reed was "Sweet Fifteen," which aired on April 9, 1959. It centers on Grandpa's determination to keep Hassie's looming fifteenth birthday party a secret.

After its five-year run on ABC, The Real McCoys switched to CBS for its final season in 1962-1963 without the services of Kathleen Nolan as Kate McCoy. Reed appeared less frequently in the final year, as did Michael Winkelman (1946–1999) as Little Luke McCoy, who played Reed's younger brother on the series.


Reed's first performances were in 1952 episodes of two NBC anthology series, Hallmark Hall of Fame (the second episode of the series entitled "Dr. Serocold") and Robert Montgomery Presents. In 1955, she played Mary Foy in the Bob Hope film, The Seven Little Foys. That same year, she played another "Mary" in the episode "Ride with the Executioner" of the anthology Jane Wyman Presents the Fireside Theatre. In 1956, she appeared in the role of Caroline Lord in High Society, with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Grace Kelly, and in the episode "Hit and Run" of the NBC series Big Town. Her last role other than that of Hassie McCoy was as Betsy Beecher in the horror film The Vampire (1957).

Reed left acting after her role on The Real McCoys ended and did not appear in a 2000 cable television reunion special (The Nashville Network) with Nolan, Tony Martinez, who portrayed farmhand Pepino Garcia, and Richard Crenna, who played the role of Luke McCoy, Hassie's older brother, for the entire duration of the series. After leaving "The Real McCoys" she left acting altogether. She has been married to Mario Rodolfo Travaglini since January 16, 1967. They have one child. She was previously married to Byron George Stiegemeyer. As of 2007, she was a wife and mother living in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, CA...


Sunday, April 1, 2018

BING AND THE DETRIOT TIGERS

When people think of Bing Crosby, they might think fondly of the classic film White Christmas, or his golden voice. He was arguably one of the most famous and successful entertainers of his era.

He was also a partial owner of both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Detroit Tigers.

His ownership stake in the Pirates is by far the better known of these two. As recently as 2010 it was found that Crosby — who helped pioneer and popularize making recordings of film — had one of the only recordings of game seven of the 1960 World Series. Crosby had actually asked his assistant to record the game from the TV broadcast, something that simply wasn’t a commonplace practice in 1960.

Crosby’s history as both a fan and integral member of the Pirates organization is a treasure trove of factoids. He purchased stock in the team in the late 40s, and maintained partial ownership into the 1960s. He served as the vice president and owned about 15 percent of the team.

His ownership in Tigers stock is barely a footnote, but on January 10, 1957, the then-commissioner of baseball, Ford Frick, determined that Crosby was allowed to keep his shares in the Detroit Tigers in spite of being a part-owner of the Pirates. According to Crosby’s obituary, his purchase of Tigers shares came after his purchase with the Pirates, and he owned about five percent of the Tigers franchise.


At the time, when Crosby was awaiting judgment from Frick, some suggested he might be forced to sell off stock in one of the teams. Crosby’s brother Larry apparently made it quite clear that if that were the case, Bing would keep his Pirates shares. This evidently became a moot point when Frick ruled in Crosby’s favor.

“Bing has only a token hold in the Detroit club. He made it just to be in on the thing with friends,” was Frick’s statement. Apparently, Crosby’s stock in the Tigers was worth less than $1000, which Frick didn’t feel violated the rule that no one person could own “substantial stock” in more than one major league team.


Interestingly, Crosby’s purchase of Tigers shares came roughly ten years after the 1947 acquisition of Tigers great Hank Greenberg by the Pirates. The Pirates acquired Greenberg for about $35,000, thanks to a snafu involving an old photo of Greenberg in a Yankees uniform that had been taken during the 1943 All-Star War Bond Game, where Greenberg had forgotten his Tigers uniform (he would be wearing an All-Star jersey for the game and hadn’t anticipated needing his team uniform for a public practice, so someone loaned him a Yankees uniform).

The revival of this photo riled up then-Tigers owner Walter Briggs. Rather than promote Greenberg to the general manager role as Greenberg had requested, Briggs sold his contract to Pittsburgh, and its new part owner: Bing Crosby...


Friday, March 23, 2018

BING ON FILM: BLUE SKIES - PART THREE


Back to the movie BLUE SKIES though, here is what Bosley Crowther of the New York Times thought of the movie in his October 17, 1946 review:

So many screen exercises in the music-album line have been so cluttered up with "biography" that it is a pleasure at last to see one in which a tune-vender's life and his music are not mutually and mawkishly abused. Such a one is the Paramount's current and cheerfully diverting "Blue Skies," which catalogues some songs of Irving Berlin without catalyzing that gentleman's career. And with Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby as its bright particular stars, everyone's probity is honored by it—especially Mr. Berlin's.

There's a lot to be said for any picture in the musical comedy groove which adheres to the oft-forgotten dictum that a film should be seen as well as heard, that variety and vitality in the visual are the stuff of which musicals are made. And when the evidence of that adherence is so enthusiastically displayed as it is by Messrs. Astaire and Crosby in "Blue Skies," you may depend upon being entertained.

The story? Let's not argue about it. It's a standard and harmless little thing about the casual and genial competition between two song-and-dance men for a girl. One of them very soon gets her, but as he is a rolling stone, his interest is slightly sporadic. On that track, it ambles along. As a plot, it is no more elusive than the peg for "Holiday Inn," in which the two above-mentioned performers and Mr. Berlin's tunes were also combined. And the worst—or the best—to be said for it (you can tolerably take your pick) is that it does have a few soggy moments which are quickly and obligingly dismissed.

But it does serve as adequate hanger for some sparkling and stimulating turns of song, dance and general farcifying to Mr. Berlin's familiar tunes. Best of the lot, for our wampum, is Mr. Astaire's electrifying dance to that ancient and honorable folk-song, "Puttin' on the Ritz." Turned out in striped pants and top hat, Mr. A. makes his educated feet talk a persuasive language that is thrilling to conjugate. The number ends with some process-screen trickery in which a dozen or so midget Astaire’s back up the tapping soloist in a beautiful surge of clickety-clicks. If this film is Mr. A.'s swan song, as he has heartlessly announced it will be, then he has climaxed his many years of hoofing with a properly superlative must-see.

And that's not his only contribution. In company with the redoubtable Bing, he doubles in song while that nipper doubles in dance in a comedy gem, written especially for the occasion, entitled "Two Song-and-Dance Men." He also kicks his heels glibly in a fancy production of the torrid "Heat Wave," and trips through the plot and other numbers with the elasticity of a happy rubber man. Naturally, Mr. Crosby, as the rolling-stone character, has his share of the spotlight and holds it with aggressive modesty. He makes something lively, slick and novel of "Cuba," along with Olga San Juan, and groans with his customary competence a new hit "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song." Joan Caulfield, the "you" of this ditty, is loveliest and passive as the girl who stands none too seriously or firmly between Crosby and Astaire. And Billy De Wolfe, an obnoxious sort of person, is allowed only once to get too much in the way. For the rest, there are no less than twenty of Mr. Berlin's melodious tunes jammed here and there onto the sound-track, either as production numbers or incidental bits. And we must say that Robert Emmett Dolan has directed the music as distinctively as Stuart Heisler has directed the actors—or maybe more so. That's why they sound so good. Or maybe it's because they're used as music and not as milestones in somebody's awesome "life."    


      

When I showed my wife BLUE SKIES years ago, she thought it was corny but this movie has so much going for it. It features a unique time in American history – between both World Wars that is often over looked in film. The movie also paints a realistic portrayal of what a struggle marriage can be sometimes. Yes, the marriage of Bing and Joan Caulfield was a show biz marriage, but if you looked closely at what broke them up, it is the same problems that face married people even today – lack of communication and trust. For a 1940s musical this film deals with some serious subject matter, which you tend to overlook, because the star of the film is the Irving Berlin music, and the perfect performances of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire who were just a couple of song and dance men!

THE END...






Friday, March 16, 2018

A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE - EPISODE 5

Here is my 5th episode of my You Tube web series. This time around I spotlight the songs of the great Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers. There's no Bing this time, butI hope you enjoy it, and please keep the requests and comments coming...

BING ON FILM: BLUE SKIES - PART TWO

As Jed Potter relates his "album of Irving Berlin songs" to his radio listeners, movie viewers get to to be treated to see and hear such classic tunes including: "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" (sung by chorus, danced by Fred Astaire); "I've Got My Captain Watching for Me Now" (Sung by Bing Crosby); "You'd Be Surprised" (sung by Olga San Juan); "All By Myself" (Crosby); "Serenade to an Old-Fashioned Girl" (sung by Joan Caulfield); "Puttin' on the Ritz" (Astaire); "I'll See You in C.U.B.A." (Crosby); "A Couple of Song and Dance Men" (Astaire and Crosby); "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song" (Crosby); "Always" (chorus); "Blue Skies," "The Little Things in Life," "Not for All the Rice in China" (all sung by Crosby); "Russian Lullaby" (Chorus); "Everybody Step" (Crosby); "How Deep is the Ocean" (chorus); "Running Around in Circles" (Crosby); "Heat Wave" (sung by Olga San Juan/danced by Astaire); "Buy Bonds Today" "This is the Army" "White Christmas" and "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song" (all sung by Crosby). "Mandy" and "Some Sunny Day" are those other songs heard as background music.


Astaire's "Puttin' on the Ritz" number, where he dances to eight images of himself, is one of the great highlights. First introduced by Harry Richman for the 1930 musical, PUTTIN' ON THE RITZ, the original lyrics have been changed to fit the Astaire style as well as the changing of times. Crosby and Astaire also provide fine moments with their joint collaboration as "A Couple of Song and Dance Men." Billy De Wolfe supplies much of the comedy relief as Johnny's partner and assistant. Aside from being the love interest to Olga San Juan, he does a five minute one man comedy routine as Mrs. Murgatroyd.

While the story tends to get corny at times, it does get better with its passage of time and its assortment of fine songs. Aside from Crosby's singing, his sentimental moment where he meets with his little girl (Grimes) again is well done, along with Astaire's dancing, which is always first rate. He briefly breaks away from his traditional character where he becomes a troubled dancer who turns to liquor after being jilted. Joan Caulfield, then new to the movies, would work again with Crosby in WELCOME STRANGER (1947), an underrated drama with songs. Crosby and Astaire wouldn't work together again (except for a radio show together in 1951) until being reunited again for their TV special, "A Couple of Song and Dance Men" (CBS, 1975). Also in 1975, the two would make an great album together of the same name that I recommend.

TO BE CONTINUED...



Friday, March 9, 2018

BING ON FILM: BLUE SKIES - PART ONE

When I first started watching movie musicals (and Bing Crosby movies for that matter), the 1946 film BLUE SKIES was my favorite musical. As the years have gone by other musicals has pushed Blue Skies down on the list, but I still love the film. There is really not much to not like about the film. The film had it all from beautiful technicolor to over two dozen Irving Berlin songs. It had two of the giants of the musicals with the singing ability of Bing Crosby and the dancing wizardry of Fred Astaire. Throw in a beautiful leading lady like Joan Caulfield, and there is no reason why BLUE SKIES would not be one of the biggest musicals of 1946.

The movie that was proposed was a lot different than the movie the film became. Leading lady Joan Caulfield was the protégé of Mark Sandrich, who directed many of the Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals. Sandrich was originally slated to direct this film, but died of a heart attack during pre-production and Stuart Heisler was drafted in to replace him. Heisler wanted Caulfield replaced, but Crosby, who had approval of his leading ladies, insisted she remain in the film. Reportedly Heisler and Crosby did not get along, and the following year Heisler would direct Susan Hayward in SMASH UP: THE STORY OF US which was based on an unflattering portrayal of Dixie Lee Crosby. Also Paul Draper, a Broadway dancer was supposed to star with Bing, but he left the film early on as well. Bing and Draper did not get along. Crosby was laid back to his way of filming, while Paul approached every scene and nuance of the movie as if he was choreographing and intricate ballet. Draper did not endear himself to Crosby either but trying to get actress Joan Caulfield removed from the picture. He was constantly complained about her lack of singing and dancing ability. During the first week of production Draper's speech impediment and his trenchant criticism of Caulfield's dance ability led Crosby to insist on his replacement by Fred Astaire who, then forty-seven, had already decided that this would be his final film and that he would retire.


In common tradition to many 1940s movies, most commonly found in the "film noir" genre, BLUE SKIES is told in flashback, starting in modern day setting at a radio station, Broadcast Network of America in New York City's Rockefeller Center, where Jed Potter (Fred Astaire), a former dancer now a radio personality, relates his life story and career to his listeners, a story with a beginning but without a finish. Dating back circa 1919 following World War I finds Jed attracted to Mary O'Hara (Joan Caulfield), a girl, a "very pretty girl," working in the chorus. He invites her to accompany him for dinner at a night club owned by Johnny Adams (Bing Crosby), his Army buddy. Almost immediately, Mary is attracted to Johnny, but in spite of Jed's warning that Johnny is not the marrying kind, she cannot resist him. Johnny and Mary marry, and during their union have a daughter, Mary Elizabeth (Karolyn Grimes). All goes well until Mary finds that Jed is right in his assumption of Johnny being selfish and unstable, buying and selling nightclubs (one of them called "Top Hat") at a moment's notice, and unable to settle down at in one place they could call home. After their divorce, Mary becomes engaged to Jed. Finding she's unable to marry Jed, Mary disappears, leaving Johnny as well as Jed, through his narration, to wonder whatever became of her.

TO BE CONTINUED...



Friday, February 23, 2018

A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE - EPISODE 4

Here is the 4th episode of my You Tube series. This one features some Bing recordings of Oscar nominated songs. Please keep the comments and suggestions coming...


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

FLASHBACK: 1964


The death of Bing's mother was covered briefly in the Lewiston Tribune on January 8, 1964...

SANTA MONICA, Calif, (AP) - Mrs. Catherine Helen Crosby, 90, mother of singer Bing Crosby, died Tuesday in a Santa Monica rest home after suffering a series of strokes.

A doctor and a family friend had just left her room when she died.

Mrs. Crosby had been in failing health for the past two years. She had lived with Bing in Holmby Hills, Calif., since her husband died in 1949.

Last fall she suffered a stroke and in the past four months had several others. Doctors said she was unconscious for the past three weeks.

She is survived by five sons and two daughters: Laurence (Larry) of Holmby Hills; Everett, Salisbury, Conn.; Edward (Ted); Harry Lillis (Bing); George Robert (Bob), Honolulu; Mrs. Catherine Mullin, Watsonville, Calif., and Mrs. Mary Rose Pool, Carmel, Calif.


Friday, February 9, 2018

IN THE NEWS: NATHANIEL CROSBY

Nathaniel Crosby’s victory in the U.S. Amateur in 1981 was among the most memorable in its long history, “a magical moment in golf,” Terry Jastrow, who produced the telecast for ABC, called it. It helped earn Crosby a berth on the U.S. team that won the Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England, two years later.

Two years from now, Crosby will complete the circle, returning to Hoylake, this time as the captain of the U.S. Walker Cup team. The USGA will make the announcement official on Wednesday.

"I haven't had a great moment in 35 years, haven't won a tournament in 35 years," Crosby said. "So when Diana Murphy [the USGA president] called me, I was extremely surprised. For someone that has something to say about everything, I was taken aback. I had a serious loss of breath when she told me I would be the next Walker Cup captain."

Crosby largely had reconciled with the idea that he likely would never be the Walker Cup captain based on the fact that the job generally goes to those who were career amateurs. For Crosby, he intended his amateur career to launch him onto a successful professional career. He played a few PGA Tour events and was a member of the European Tour for two years, but essentially retired from competitive golf to pursue a business career.


But when he turned up on the short list of candidates, his appeal to the USGA was that a preponderance of Walker Cup players these days similarly aspire to a professional career and as a result he can relate to them.

"To consider being an amateur golfer as a career made no sense to me when I was 17 years old," he said. "My pitch to the USGA was that I’m more in touch with guys trying to be successful golf pros who are 18, 19, 20, 21 years old."

Crosby, 56, is the son of the late entertainment industry icon Bing Crosby, which likely will heighten interest in the biennial amateur competition between teams from the U.S. and Great Britain & Ireland.

Bing was revered in the United Kingdom for his work on behalf of the war effort in the U.S. and his entertaining troops during World War II, and he was on record expressing a preference for courses in Great Britain and Ireland over those of the U.S. He also played in a British Amateur on the Old Course at St. Andrews, which still hosts the annual Bing Crosby Trophy, a competition for senior amateurs held in September.

Nathaniel has his own history in Great Britain. It began with the ’83 Walker Cup at Hoylake, where he had a 1-1 record in the Americans’ 13 ½ to 10 ½ victory. His teammates included three other future U.S. Walker Cup captains—Jay Sigel, Jim Holtgrieve and Bob Lewis Jr.

There, too, was his role in Bing’s annual Christmas show, this one, “Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas,” recorded in England in 1977. It was on that show that Bing and David Bowie, the original odd couple, collaborated on the song “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth,” that has become a Christmas standard.

A few weeks after recording was completed and Nathaniel had returned home, Bing died of a heart attack moments after finishing a round of golf in Spain.


Four years later, Nathaniel, 19 at the time, won the U.S. Amateur at the Olympic Club not far from the family home in Hillsborough, Calif., and next door to the San Francisco Golf Club where he remains a member.

Crosby, who regained his amateur status in 1994, has been a partner and executive in three golf equipment companies—Toney Penna Golf, the Jack Nicklaus Equipment Company and Orlimar Golf. Today, he is chairman of the AppleTree Golf Society.

“Nathaniel Crosby has proven experience as an amateur player at the highest levels in both individual and team competition, and this will lend itself well to providing leadership for the USA Walker Cup Team in 2019,” Stuart Francis, USGA Championship Committee chairman, said in a statement. “His father earned the USGA’s highest honor, the Bob Jones Award, and I know Nathaniel possesses similar traits, including sportsmanship, patriotism and a competitive spirit, that will assist him as captain.”

Incidentally, U.S. Walker Cup captains typically are retained for a second term. It would seem likely that Crosby, too, would be the U.S. captain again in 2021, given that the Walker Cup will be played at Seminole Golf Club in North Palm Beach, Fla., where he also is a member, as was Bing. Crosby, however, is not looking that far ahead...