Friday, March 23, 2018


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!


Friday, March 16, 2018


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...


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.


Friday, March 9, 2018


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.


Friday, February 23, 2018


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


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


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...

Monday, January 29, 2018


Gary Giddins presents the second volume of his masterful multi-part biography...

Bing Crosby dominated American popular culture in a way that few artists ever have. From the dizzy era of Prohibition through the dark days of the Second World War, he was a desperate nation's most beloved entertainer. But he was more than just a charismatic crooner: Bing Crosby redefined the very foundations of modem music, from the way it was recorded to the way it was orchestrated and performed.

In this much-anticipated follow-up to the universally acclaimed first volume, NBCC Winner and preeminent cultural critic Gary Giddins now focuses on Crosby's most memorable period, the war years and the origin story of White Christmas. Set against the backdrop of a Europe on the brink of collapse, this groundbreaking work traces Crosby's skyrocketing career as he fully inhabits a new era of American entertainment and culture. While he would go on to reshape both popular music and cinema more comprehensively than any other artist, Crosby's legacy would be forever intertwined with his impact on the home front, a unifying voice for a nation at war. Over a decade in the making and drawing on hundreds of interviews and unprecedented access to numerous archives, Giddins finally brings Bing Crosby, his work, and his world to vivid life -- firmly reclaiming Crosby's central role in American cultural history.

"The best thing to happen to Bing Crosby since Bob Hope." (WSJ)

See also

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Steven C. Crosby '81 endured 28 separate interviews to land his dream job at Seattle-based Vulcan Inc., the brainchild of billionaire investor and philanthropist Paul G. Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft. In his capacity as vice president of corporate communications, Crosby reports directly to Allen and oversees Vulcan's in-house marketing, PR, media relations, advertising, special events, promotions, community outreach and government affairs teams.

The son of actor Gary Crosby and the grandson of legendary crooner Bing Crosby, Crosby 's only forays into show business were a few high school plays and hosting his own college radio show. "My father forbade me from going into show business, so it forced me to focus my energies elsewhere."

He says that his parents were very careful to make sure he lived a normal life and earned his keep. "I had jobs all throughout high school, college and law school. I didn't have all the trappings one might expect from a Hollywood lifestyle. My parents kept everything very grounded."