Monday, March 30, 2015


Bing Crosby wore this hat in the 1962 film The Road to Hong Kong, the last of the seven-film Road to… series starring himself and his longtime friend Bob Hope. Instead of Dorothy Lamour, Joan Collins starred in this film. Lamour appeared in a cameo. There was to be an eighth film, Road to the Fountain of Youth, but this was derailed by Crosby’s death in 1977.

This hat is a part of the Bing Crosby Collection at Gonzaga University in Washington.

Monday, March 23, 2015


On November 10, 1959 June Kuhn Crosby, the sister in law of Bing Crosby was arrested for trying to stab his band leader brother. I always thought the family life of  Bob Crosby (1913-1993) was happy.

He had three boys and two girls through his marriage to June Kuhn. The couple were married on October 9, 1938 when the bandleader was 25 and June was only 19. It was the second marriage for Crosby. The Crosbys stayed together until the bandleader's death in 1993. The marriage was seemingly happy, but there was a rough patch in the 1950s when the couple talked about divorce, and reportedly June has a few nervous breakdowns.

From the Los Angeles Times:
"Nov. 10, 1959: June Crosby stabs her husband, Bob, with a 10-inch letter opener during a fight.

She tells Beverly Hills police that she grabbed the letter opener to fight him off after he pushed her down during a violent argument. Her husband says she fell when they were struggling over the letter opener.

"We've had family arguments before," the bandleader says. "I guess this one just exploded. She seemed to go into a rage. She was so hysterical. The first thing I knew she came at me with both her fists.

Hopefully this was just a small rough patch of their marriage, and they remained happy for the rest of their lives together...

Monday, March 16, 2015


Somebody just told me Bing Crosby was jailed for drunk driving in 1929. Right here in Hollywood even. I had no idea. 1929 was the middle of Prohibition. And Hollywood had been a dry town to begin with, before the movies came. So they hauled him in. They wouldn’t have dared a decade later, but this was 1929, and Bing was still a jazz singer then, and cops didn’t particularly like jazz singers. Or jazz trumpeters…the LAPD busted Louis Armstrong for marijuana possession a couple years later, in 1931. Vice cops were busy saving the city back then. They knew about Bing’s drinking back then. Who didn’t? But did they know that Bing and Louis would hang out smoking reefer in Chicago just a bit before? Probably not. That was a secret.

We didn’t know it, not in our family. Along with Jack Kennedy (or simply Jack), Bing Crosby (simply Bing) were icons in our house. Jesus and Jack on the wall, Bing on the Hi Fi. We didn’t know about the jailed for drunk driving, and we certainly know that he’d been a viper, getting high and cracking wise and singing with Satchmo…but we knew generally that he was quite the heller in his young days. That was a good thing, being quite the heller in your young days. It was expected. A drunk driving bust would have been perfectly understandable. Besides, the cops probably set him up anyway. That’s what we would have said. I don’t believe he was set up. I just think he was drunk. Bad luck. Somebody smacked into his car. Rear ended him. What can ya do? Looked it up–he was busted on Hollywood Blvd right there in front of the Roosevelt Hotel. No doubt I’ll think of that now every time I pass .Every time.

My mother called me the day he died. Bing died she said. It was like losing a grandfather’s brother, a relation you never saw in person, but knew all about. When my grandmother told my grandfather that Bing had died, my grandfather went pale. You aren’t gonna die on me too now, she asked. He recovered. No, No, I’m not going anywhere. But he did not long after.

There’s never been Irish Americans as important to American Irishmen since Jack and Bing. Jack’s story is too sad for words (and Bobby’s even sadder), but Bing’s ended just right. That was a great game, fellas. And it was.


Friday, March 13, 2015


One of the most elusive Bing Crosby films to collectors and fans alike is Bing's first starring movie The Big Broadcast. If you live on the West coast, you will get a chance to see this rare 1932 film. It is part of a film showing presented by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. It will be shown at the Billy Wilder Theater at 7:30 on March 16th. The film is restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by The Packard Humanities Institute and Universal Pictures.

Here is what the UCLA Film & Television Archive writes about the film:

In the late 1920s, the talkies introduced a wave of all-star revues, such as MGM’s The Hollywood Revue of 1929 and Warner Bros.’s The Show of Shows (1929), which were inspired by the boisterous spirit of vaudeville. Paramount used this variety format as a vehicle to showcase a dazzling array of radio personalities—15 total—whose stardom was built on coast-to-coast radio programs, record sales and nightclub shows. Radio was in its golden age, and Hollywood had found ways to capitalize on its popularity.

The Big Broadcast stars Bing Crosby in his first major role in a feature. The crooner had made his screen debut in Universal’s King of Jazz (1930) as part of The Rhythm Boys trio. Crosby later signed with Mack Sennett, starring in a string of successful musical comedy shorts. In The Big Broadcast, Crosby portrays a radio heartthrob whose perennial tardiness—caused by Sharon Lynn’s vampy Mona Lowe (a play on the tune “Moanin’ Low”)—leads a sponsor to pull the plug on the WADX station. When Mona jilts him for another man, the inconsolable (and inebriated) Bing enters a suicide pact with newfound friend Leslie (Stuart Erwin), an equally lovelorn Texas oilman. In the sober light of day, Leslie resolves to set things right by buying the radio station and preparing the next big broadcast.

The loose narrative interweaves performances by each of the radio talents, among them the Boswell Sisters, Cab Calloway (who steals the show with “Kickin’ the Gong Around”) and the Mills Brothers. Burns and Allen make their feature film debut as the distressed station manager and his birdbrained stenographer. Director Frank Tuttle, who had been making comedies since the early 1920s, further animates the film by employing a number of delightful camera tricks that harken back to slapstick two-reelers. The film proved to be a hit, prompting Paramount to revisit the variety format with International House (1933) and three more Big Broadcast pictures in the 1930s. —Jennifer Rhee

Monday, March 9, 2015


Not many people remember the funny chracter actor Billy DeWolfe. DeWolfe is basically forgotten now, except maybe his voice work in the cartoon FROSTY THE SNOWMAN. For years he was a dependable character actor though.

Born William Andrew Jones in the Wollaston neighborhood of Quincy, Massachusetts on February 18, 1907, DeWolfe was the son of a Welsh-born bookbinder who encouraged him to become a Baptist minister. Instead, "Billy" developed an interest in the theatre. He found work as an usher before becoming a dancer with a band. It was at this point that he changed his last name to De Wolfe, which was the last name of the manager of the Massachusetts theatre where he worked.

He signed with Paramount Pictures in 1943 and became a reliable comedian. His pencil-mustached and often pompous character contrasted humorously with the films' romantic leads.  His best-known role of his Paramount tenure is probably the ham actor turned silent-movie villain in the fictionalized Pearl White biography The Perils of Pauline. De Wolfe became known for his portrayal of fussy, petty men ("Never touch!," he would say imperiously whenever someone accosted him physically).

His connection with Bing Crosby were large roles in two of his Paramount movies. In the movie Dixie (1943), Bing played actual songwriter Dan Emmett, Wolfe played his rival and protaginist. He schemed Bing at every turn, and he stole Dorothy Lamour away from Bing. (However, Bing was actually in love with Marjorie Reynolds in the movie). The second movie they appeared in together was Blue Skies in 1946. It was one of Bing's musical film masterpieces, and this time around Billy played a more likeable character. Billy was Bing's right hand man who stuck by him through the years. While Bing and Fred Astaire fought over Joan Caulfield in the movie, Billy got another girl - Olga San Juan.

After his Paramount contract lapsed, DeWolfe returned to the stage. He appeared in the revue John Murray Anderson's Almanac in 1953 and 1954, and starred in the last edition of the Ziegfeld Follies, in 1957.

Generations of TV viewers know Billy DeWolfe only by his voice: his is the voice of the frustrated magician in the Christmas perennial Frosty the Snowman. DeWolfe gave the role his usual fussy diction: "Mes-sy, mes-sy, messy! Bus-y, bus-y, busy!"

He died from lung cancer in 1974 in Los Angeles, California...

Monday, March 2, 2015


Here is one of the great Bing Crosby guru Bruce Kogan with another Bing movie review. This time reviews the 1934 classic We're Not Dressing...

For those who've never seen Carole Lombard, but have heard about her genius for screwball comedy, go check out We're Not Dressing. Simple plot, Bing's a sailor on the Lombard yacht and he, Lombard, her uncle Leon Errol, her friend Ethel Merman and two princes/gigolos, Ray Milland and Jay Henry are shipwrecked after a drunken Leon Errol runs the yacht up on a reef. In order that they survive the sailor has to take charge and does. Oh, and also surviving is Lombard's pet bear, a creature named Droopy.

Droopy comes pretty close to stealing the picture, especially after Leon Errol persuades Crosby to put roller-skates on him while they're still on the ship. He also has another trick, he won't hear any other song but Goodnight, Lovely Little Lady one of the songs written for this film by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel.

Gordon and Revel's best known numbers from this are "May I" and "Love Thy Neighbor" which sold a few platters for Bing back in 1934. Soon after writing a score for another Crosby picture Two For Tonight, they moved over to 20th Century Fox where they scored some of Alice Faye's films.

Ray Milland in his autobiography "Wide-eyed in Babylon" recounts a tragic story during the filming of We're Not Dressing. The bear trainer gave specific instructions that any women whose time of the month it was were not to be on the set that day. One of them lied and the trainer was badly injured and later died of those injuries sustained at the paws of a super hormonally charged bear. He also said that Paramount signed him to a long term contract on the strength of that film.

The six castaways were not quite alone on the island. Burns and Allen were there also with their brand of surreal comedy. Hollywood never knew quite what to do with them. God knows they were funny as all get out, but rarely were asked to carry a whole film. 

Ethel Merman was another problem. Like her famous Broadway rival Mary Martin, she never quite made it in Hollywood. Her biggest success was always on Broadway. During the 1930s she would support, Crosby, Eddie Cantor, and most memorably Ty Power and Alice Faye and Don Ameche in Alexander's Ragtime Band. Her number "It's The Animal In Me" was cut from the picture, although it's briefly sung at the end. Paramount saved it and put it intact into their Big Broadcast of 1936 the following year.

At the time We're Not Dressing was shooting, Carole Lombard was romantically involved with Bing Crosby's singing rival crooner Russ Columbo. Columbo visited the set often and he and Crosby were friendly rivals and were known to do some impromptu singing during breaks. If only some sound man had left the microphone on. Columbo later died that year of a gunshot wound from an antique dueling pistol, a case that a lot of people felt was never satisfactorily solved.

So with Crosby, Lombard, Burns and Allen, Ethel Merman, Leon Errol just the sound of that casts spells some wacky wonderful fun...