Friday, April 27, 2012


This review of High Society (1956) is taken from an excellent blog called "Ruby At The Movies"...

Set your imagination adrift in Newport, Rhode Island in the 1950′s where beautiful young socialite Tracy Lord (played by Grace Kelly) is making final preparations for her society wedding to her ideal (but stuffy and conservative) husband, George Kittridge (by John Lund). This weekend is Tracy’s wedding – but she has been married before, to the charming and successful jazz musician C.K. Dexter-Haven (by Bing Crosby) who lives nearby. He happens to call in to see her on the very weekend of her wedding – because he and his friend, fellow musician Louis Armstrong (by Louis Armstrong!) plan to attend the Newport Jazz Festival that same weekend. Dex still loves Tracy and he is intent on winning her back, by fair means or foul – and this is his last chance to do it. As with all society events of the time, the media is allover this wedding and a reporter for the tabloid “Spy” magazine, Mike Connor (by Frank Sinatra) with his photographer Liz Imbrie (Celeste Holm) are sent to the Newport mansion for the weekend to cover the event. Once he meets Tracy, Mike falls for her too. Amongst all this chaos and confusion, Tracy finds she must choose between these three men – so she must ask herself “what is best to do? It’s my wedding … but will “safe” John be the best husband for me?”

This is a very entertaining movie with lots of fun, a witty script, stellar cast and marvellous music. Grace Kelly is as beautiful as ever (sometimes Keira Knightly puts me in mind of Grace Kelly). The music men, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra are all fabulous and their collective huge talent brings life to the already excellent Cole Porter score. The combination produces such classics as Crosby & Sinatra’s “Well, Did You Evah? (What a swell party this is ….)”; Louis Armstrong & Bing Crosby’s “Now You Has Jazz”; Grace Kelly’s “True Love” duet with Bing Crosby; and Sinatra’s “You’re Sensational”. These are all beautifully choreographed and the entire movie is captured in full technicolor. It’s one of my all time favourite movies.

The movie is a musical remake of the 1939 comedy play “The Philadelphia Story” by Philip Barry.

Made in 1956. Directed by Charles Walters.


Monday, April 23, 2012


World War II was a horrible time for this country and the world for that matter. However, the entertainment at the time was some of the best the world has ever known. Radio was the most popular medium and a great show heard by soldiers was "Command Performance".

Hosted by Harry “Bing” Crosby, who is congratulated for his win of the Academy Award. Bing sings, This Heart of Mine. Marilyn Maxwell flirts with Bing before she sings, Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week.

Singer and songwriter, Johnny Mercer joins Bing for some good natured teasing. Bing and Johnny sing Swing is Here to Stay. Or something like that. Mayor of Hollywood, Lionel Barrymore talks with Bing and shares pointers on dramatic acting. Bing sings with the Charioteers, Dear Old Girl.

Dame Whittier, an older star of the stage drops in to share admireing words for Bing. Bing sings a final tune, the Fifth Marines...


Thursday, April 19, 2012


On the sunny afternoon of July 3, 1937, the original laid-back Californian himself, Bing Crosby, stood at a turnstile collecting tickets for his new seaside racetrack, Del Mar. Having been bitten by the racing bug, Crosby and a bunch of his Hollywood buddies (among them Pat O’Brien, Oliver Hardy and Gary Cooper) hatched the idea for a horse palace by the ocean where you could play all day, party all night and leave the cares of the world behind.

The group’s first meeting took place at Warner Brothers studios in Burbank where the Del Mar Turf Club was formed. From the start, Hollywood fingerprints were all over this racetrack.

That first day, more than 15,000 came for a look. Word got around fast because there were more than 18,000 on hand by the second afternoon. The Hollywood connection continued for decades at Del Mar (halted only by a three-year shutdown of racing during World War II) with a parade of show biz personalities including Mickey Rooney, Ava Gardner, Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Edward G. Robinson, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz and Jimmy Durante.

The Santa Fe Railroad launched a special racetrack train from Los Angeles to Del Mar that carried Hollywood stars and, at times, late-running horses. The party started on the train. If the train was late, the races were delayed. It became a Del Mar tradition for the fans in the grandstand to start cheering when they saw the train turn the bend just before the station.

Bing’s relaxed attitude about life carried over to the racetrack. The track’s longtime publicist Eddie Read was quoted as saying: “This is where nobody’s in a hurry but the horses.”

Out on the track itself, Del Mar had its share of magic moments. Drawing on its Hollywood contacts, the plant was the first to make use of the photo-finish camera at its inaugural meet in 1937. The camera, an invention of Lorenzo del Riccio, an optical engineer who headed Paramount Pictures’ technical research laboratories, was designed to produce a strip photograph of the passage of time at a fixed point – in this case the finish line. Today, just about every racetrack in the world uses the technology.

In 1938, Del Mar hosted the historic match race between the American handicap champion Seabiscuit and the South American import Ligaroti. The race pitted Bing Crosby and Lin Howard against Lin’s father, Charles S. Howard, famous owner of Seabiscuit and a director of the Del Mar Turf Club. It was a $25,000 winner-take-all contest that drew 20,000 to the track and was heard coast-to-coast on the NBC radio network. At the end of a ferocious battle that saw the horses trading head bobs and the riders trading whip slashes, “The Biscuit” won by a nose in 1:49, breaking the nine-furlong track record by an amazing four seconds.

In recent times the track has become a fertile proving ground for many of the nation’s best horses and horsemen. Champions race at Del Mar each summer and they are trained by Hall of Fame conditioners with famous names like Ron McAnally, Richard Mandella, Neil Drysdale and Bob Baffert and their world-class jockey colony is led by stars like Hall of Famer Mike Smith, Garrett Gomez, Alex Solis and Rafael Bejarano.


Sunday, April 15, 2012


The musical Anything Goes was a superb Cole Porter broadway show when it opened in the 1930s. Since its 1934 debut at the Neil Simon Theatre (at the time known as the Alvin) on Broadway, the musical has been revived several times in the United States and Britain and has been filmed twice. The musical had a tryout in Boston, before opening on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on November 21, 1934. It ran for 420 performances, becoming the fourth longest-running musical of the 1930s, despite the impact of the Great Depression on Broadway patrons' disposable income.

The movie was first filmed in 1936 with Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman, but it bared little resemblance to the broadway show. Twenty years later, Bing was ending his contract with Paramount Studios after twenty four years with the studio. His last movie for Paramount would be an updated version of Anything Goes in 1956. Though this film again starred Bing Crosby (whose character was once more renamed), Donald O'Connor, and comedian Phil Harris in a cameo, the new film almost completely excised the rest of the characters in favor of a totally new plot. The film features almost no similarities to the play or 1936 film, apart from some songs and the title.

I have always enjoyed this 1956 swan song Bing made for Paramount. However, this movie could have been a great movie and not just a good or fair movie. I think my biggest problem with the film was Bing's co-star Zizi Jeanmaire. She was a popular French ballet dancer, who was married to the choreographer of the movie Roland Petit. Whether she got him his job on the film or visa versa, I don't know. However, she was totally wrong as Bing's love interest. Bing and Jeanmaire just did not have the chemistry. She was a fine dancer, but the Cole Porter song "I Get A Kick Out Of You" was wasted on her limited vocal ability.

Speaking of the Cole Porter score, Paramount did a grave injustice by tearing apart the great Broadway score. The primary musical numbers ("Anything Goes", "You're the Top", "I Get a Kick Out of You", "It's De-Lovely" and "Blow, Gabriel, Blow") with updated arrangements appear in the film, while the lesser-known Porter songs were cut completely, and new songs, written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn, were substituted. I enjoy the music of Cahn and Van Heusen, and they wrote some of the great songs in Frank Sinatra's songbook. However, when they wrote for Bing in the 1950s, the songs sounded tired and corny. The two songs they wrote for Bing were "Ya Gotta Give the People Hoke" and "A Second Hand Turbin". Bing deserved better songs than this.

One more thing I would have done differently with the film is the use of Phil Harris. Harris not only was a great personality and singer but also a personal friend of Bing. In the movie he played the father of Mitzi Gaynor. He had a good role in the film, but Harris did not have much interaction with Bing. I think that was a wasted opportunity for a musical number between the two. It would have made for some great cinema.

Again, while the 1956 version of Anything Goes is no Singin' In The Rain, it is not a bad movie. It was one of the first Bing movies I remember watching and dispite what I would change, I think the pairing of Bing and Donald O'Connor was great. Also the finale of "Blow Gabriel Blow" is a fitting end to Bing's association with Paramount. He helped to save the studio from bankruptcy in 1932, and Bing was one of the studio's biggest stars for the next two decades...

Monday, April 9, 2012


NICOLE Kidman is reportedly being considered to play the role of Grace Kelly in Olivier Dahan's Grace of Monaco. Kidman's deal is not yet closed for the $14.5 million French movie, but she is in advanced talks to play the movie star who became a princess, entertainment news website reports.

The role is being sought by almost every top actor in Hollywood, but the Australian leads the contenders.

Grace of Monaco is set between December 1961 and November 1962 when Kelly, an Oscar winner and mother of two, had already spent six years as the monarch of a European nation.

Kelly quit acting aged 26 after making just 11 feature films - the last, High Society, with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra - to marry in April 1956.

The film is scheduled for release in 2014...


Saturday, April 7, 2012


A federal judge denies Bing Crosby Productions' attempts to halt an arbitration initiated by the WGA to allow the show's original writers to exploit theatrical motion picture rights to the popular 1960s show.

The Writers Guild of America is headed to arbitration to establish that the original writers of the 1960s TV show Hogan's Heroes are entitled to lucrative "separated rights" in the story of a German prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. The WGA is making the move over the strenuous objection of Bing Cosby Productions, the producer of the original series. If successful, the writers will have the ability to license a film remake of the classic show.

Hogan's Heroes premiered in 1965, created by Bernard Fein and Albert Ruddy. The CBS sitcom lasted for 168 episodes through six seasons and still plays in syndication on MeTV.

In 1963, Fein and Ruddy assigned rights to their creation (then titled "Heroes") to Bing Crosby Productions and in the following year, entered into an employment agreement with BCP whereby they got $4,500, a bonus payment of $500 for the broadcast of the pilot, and 10 percent of the the show's net profits.

It wasn't a huge sum, but nearly 50 years later, Fein's widow and Ruddy could be taking home more if an arbitrator is convinced that the writers held onto separated rights, which under the terms of the intricate guild agreement, means that credited TV writers reserve many literary rights even when the producers hold the copyright. "Separated rights" are what allow writers of TV shows to profit when movie studios develop movies based on the material, as happened recently with 21 Jump Street, last weekend's No. 1 movie at the box office.

The WGA submitted its arbitration claims last October, which caused BCP, Rysher Entertainment, and Qualia Capital to file a lawsuit in California federal court seeking a declaration that this dispute couldn't be arbitrated.

BCP raised a host of arguments, including that the assignment agreement between BCP and the writers didn't include an arbitration clause, that the agreement gave BCP the right to make a motion picture based on the series, that the CBA between WGA and producers at the time didn't apply to assignment agreements, and that the CBA excluded individual disputes between writers and producers.

On Monday, California federal judge Stephen Wilson rejected that assessment, saying that "this dispute falls squarely within the [CBA's] arbitration clause."

The judge added that because the writers appeared to legally be employees of BCP, which was a signatory to the WGA agreement, "it will be up to the arbitrator to decide whether WGA's claim on behalf of Writers is meritorious."

The timetable for the arbitration is not known, and it's possible that the claims could settle.

The nature of separated rights has been of some controversy between writers and producers over the years. For example, last August, the WGA attempted to stop a musical version of the 2000 Universal film, Bring It On, arguing that the stage version violated the film scriptwriter's reserved separated rights. (The case settled on a confidential basis.)

Arbitration decisions are not technically binding as precedent, althought they are usually cited as such. But the ruling by Judge Wilson could be impactful, leading other writers of old TV shows to make their own attempts to pull rights from under the noses of TV producers.

When Hogan's Heroes first premiered, it was seen by many people as a remake of a stage play entitled Stalag 17, which was adapted into a 1953 Billy Wilder-directed film. CBS, which broadcast Hogan's Heroes, was sued by Stalag 17 writers Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski for copyright infringement, but the judge dismissed the case, finding "striking difference in the dramatic mood of the two works": The play was grim and somber; the TV show was slapstick.

It was a big victory for the TV show's makers at the time, but ironically, had the plaintiffs been successful in the case, Fein and Ruddy would own no separated rights, as the WGA notes on its website that only original works, not based on existing material, are eligible. Of course, losing the copyright would have also made everything moot.

Bing Crosby sold his production company in 1967 and the Crosby family and estate does not own it at this time...


Tuesday, April 3, 2012


This CD is the culmination of Sepia's "Through the Years" project which covers recordings made by Bing Crosby in chronological order from 1950 - 1956 and contains rare Christmas songs from the "A Christmas Sing with Bing Around the World" LP and a few alternate takes first time on CD such as "Go West, Young Man!" performed with The Andrews Sisters and "There's No Business Like Show Business" performed with Dick Haymes and The Andrews Sisters...

3. HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING (with St. Louis Christmas Carols Association Choir)
5. ADESTE FIDELES (with Little Singers of Granby)
6. WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE (with Mormon Tabernacle Choir)
8. CAROL OF THE BELLS (with The Voices of Christmas)
9. WHAT CHRISTMAS MEANS TO ME (with Delores Short)
11. JESUS, SWEET SAVIOUR (with Neuilly Boys Choir)
12. ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH (with Reed Warblers Choir)
14. THOU DESCENDETH FROM THE STARS (with The Vatican Choir)
16. GOD REST YE MERRY, GENTLEMEN (with Dedham Choral Society)
19. HAPPY HOLIDAY (reprise)
22. GIGI
24. RAIN
26. SILENT NIGHT (with The Crinoline Choir)
27. SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN (with The Andrews Sisters)
28. THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS (Dick Haymes & The Andrews Sisters)
29. GO WEST, YOUNG MAN! (with The Andrews Sisters)