Monday, April 25, 2016


Here is another review from our resident Bing Crosby guru Bruce Kogan. This time around he is reviewing a very different Bing film. It is actually the television movie Dr. Cook's Garden, which was a very excellent film if you can find a copy...

I'm sure that this was not intended to be Bing Crosby's swan song to feature films, but that's what it turned out to be.

Crosby is cast against type here. He's the kindly old country doctor in this story who lives and practices in a Norman Rockwell like small town. But Crosby is the town's terrible secret. Unbeknownst to the residents, old Doctor Cook has been euthanizing those he feels have no positive contribution to make. The old mostly, but even younger ones like a crippled child whose medical bills are breaking his parent's finances. A young colleague, Frank Converse, discovers what he's doing and the rest you have to see for yourself.

Burl Ives had played the role briefly on stage, and actually got good reviews (the play seemed too slight to the critics, and to New York audiences). The story is this: Frank Converse is Dr. Jimmy Tennyson, who is returning to his small home town to work with the man whom he always admired the most, Dr. Leonard Cook (Bing). Cook is the ideal small town doctor (reminiscent of his young doctor who goes to the New England Town to assist Barry Fitzgerald in WELCOME STRANGER). He is warm and kindly, and full of common sense. He also has a green thumb, being usually in his personal garden when not with his patients. So Converse is very happy to be working with his emotional/educational mentor.

But in now working closer with Cook, Dr. Tennyson begins to notice that there are some odd deaths that accrue in the town. People will ask Cook to come in for some minor cold or something like that, and will be dead in twenty four hours. Tennyson soon begins to notice that the people who die so suddenly are not really mourned. His girlfriend, Janey Raustch (Blythe Danner), points out that many of them were notoriously bad tempered neighbors, cruel to their families or to pets or other people, or drunkards who made life hellish for others, and so they aren't missed. Eventually Tennyson starts questioning Cook, and after some attempts at shrugging off Tennyson's questions Cook begins to admit that the not-to-loved departed were possibly sped on their way with Cook's assistance.

Tennyson is (naturally) astounded to hear that Cook has been poisoning (with overdoses of morphine and other drugs) these patients. Cook looks upon the town as a grander version of his garden, and these bad people as the equivalent of the weeds that he removes from his real garden.

The tension in the story is how Tennyson finds the growing number of dead "bad" people affecting his own conscience, and how his uncertainty is effecting his relationship with Cook, who is beginning to wonder if Tennyson is another weed to remove.

It's an interesting vehicle for a man who was known as THE Catholic entertainer. And it has Bing's one and only screen death in his career. Solid acting by Bing and the cast....


Sunday, April 17, 2016


Here is the obituary from April 18, 2007 of actress and socialite Kitty Carlisle. She starred with Bing Crosby in two movies - She Loves Me Not (1934) and Here Is My Heart (1935). Kitty died on April 17, 2007 at the age of 95...

Kitty Carlisle Hart, who began her career in the theater in a 1932 musical comedy revue on Broadway, acted in films and opera and was still singing on the stage, into her 10th decade, as recently as last fall, died Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 96.The cause was heart failure, her daughter, Catherine Hart, said. Outgoing and energetic, Miss Carlisle became in her middle years a visible advocate of the arts, lobbying the New York State Legislature and the United States Congress for funding. For 20 years, first as a member and later as chairman of the New York Council on the Arts, she crisscrossed the state to support rural string quartets, small theater groups and inner-city dance troupes.

At another moment, she could be found performing on a cruise ship plying the Greek islands, as she was during her 90th year. Just last November, she sang George Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” at the annual gala fund-raiser for Jazz at Lincoln Center. That followed a series of engagements in New York and other cities celebrating her 96th birthday. Miss Carlisle, as she was know professionally, also became a favorite of the first television generation as a regular on the game shows “To Tell the Truth” and “What’s My Line?”Photo

As a young girl, she was taken around the capitals of Europe by her mother, whose ambition was to establish her daughter in a “brilliant” marriage, preferably to a prince. There were piano lessons, voice lessons and a grounding in the dramatic arts.

When a royal husband did not materialize, Miss Carlisle remembered, her mother would tell her, “You’re not the prettiest girl I ever saw, and you’re not the best singer I ever heard, and you’re certainly not the best actress I ever hoped to see, but if we put them all together, we’ll find the husband we’re looking for on the stage.”

She found that husband in the dramatist Moss Hart. They were married in 1946. In the years before he died, in 1961, they were at the center of New York’s glittering theatrical life.

The revue in which she broke into show business, “Rio Rita,” played the Capitol Theater on Broadway four or five times a day as the stage show between movies. She also played the “subway circuit” for one-week stands in Brooklyn and the Bronx. The show then went on the road for eight months.

Her next role, as the prince in a musical based on Strauss’s “Fledermaus,” won her a screen test and a Hollywood contract. In 1934, Miss Carlisle made her first movie, “Murder at the Vanities.” That same year she appeared in a movie called “She Loves Me Not,” in which she sang “Love in Bloom” with an up-and-coming crooner, Bing Crosby. She was paired with Crosby again that year in “Here Is My Heart.” In its review, The New York Times called her “a charming and gifted young woman who promises to make her mark in the cinema."

The same was not said of her opera ambitions. Asked to sing “Alone” in the Marx Brothers spoof of the genre, “A Night at the Opera,” she was horrified to learn that she was expected to move her lips to the sound of someone else’s recording. She refused. For the next three days, her agent argued for her right to perform with her own voice. She won. For years, the song became something of a signature for her.

The collaboration with the Marx Brothers was as close as she came to opera until 31 years later, when, at the age of 56, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Prince Orlofsky in “Die Fledermaus.”

When Paramount found no more roles for her — “I was a meteoric bust,” she wrote in “Kitty: An Autobiography” (Doubleday, 1988) — Miss Carlisle returned to Broadway as the lead in “White Horse Inn” in 1936 and in “Three Waltzes” the next year. Brooks Atkinson, the drama critic for The Times, wrote that the show was “distinguished chiefly for the admirable singing and acting of Kitty Carlisle and Michael Bartlett.”

Miss Carlisle accepted jobs wherever they were offered, often in summer stock. She sang “The Star Spangled Banner” at many World War II bond rallies and appeared in the 1944 film “Hollywood Canteen.” In her later years, Miss Carlisle was seen around town with her latest beau, Roy R. Neuberger, the financier.

Until the end of her life, Miss Carlisle remained a svelte, attractive woman with dark, neatly coiffed hair that she said she colored herself. With a full mouth outlined in bright red lipstick, she burst easily into warm laughter. She was known for her grace and charm, but by her own account she was slightly eccentric, a trait she treasured because she believed it gave her a lot of leeway.

She practiced singing every day, exercised every morning (and was the first to tell anyone that she had beautiful legs, which she did) and believed that discipline was the key to life. In her last decades, she became a popular lecturer. She often told her audiences, “With a soupçon of courage and a dash of self-discipline, one can make a small talent go a long way.” In recent years, Decca Broadway re-released her operetta recordings from the 1940s and ’50s.

In her later years she performed occasionally in a one-woman show, “My Life on the Wicked Stage.” It was full of anecdotes about her friends Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jerome Robbins and George and Ira Gershwin. She also appeared on stage in a Broadway revival of “On Your Toes” and made film appearances in “Six Degrees of Separation” and Woody Allen’s “Radio Days.”

“I’m more optimistic, more enthusiastic and I have more energy than ever before,” she said just after her 79th birthday. Energy, she said, came from doing the things she wanted to do.

“You get so tired when you do what other people want you to do,” she said. When she was 90, she started work on a second book.

Miss Carlisle was born Catherine Conn in New Orleans on Sept. 3, 1910. Her father, Joseph Conn, a doctor, died when she was 10 years old. Afterward, her mother, the former Hortense Holtzman, sold their house and took her daughter to New York and then to Europe, where the young Catherine was enrolled in Mont Choisi, a school overlooking Lac Léman in Switzerland. She ended her education at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, where she won a certificate.

She wrote that her mother, as critical as ever, saw her first performance, looked her straight in the eye and said, “My dear, we’ve made a ghastly mistake.”

She delighted in proving her mother wrong. “A career takes more than talent,” Miss Carlisle was fond of saying. “It takes character.” And perhaps stamina. Still working as a nonagenarian, she took her stage show on the road last fall, appearing in Atlanta, St. Louis and other cities.

“I’m 96,” she told The St. Louis Post Dispatch in October, “and I’m loving it.”

Sunday, April 10, 2016


I love reading some of the old magazine articles on Bing Crosby. I especially like the ones written before his son Gary Crosby wrote his trashy book and damaged Bing's reputation. Here is an article that appeared in People Magazine on December 16, 1974...

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of triteness keeps TV's Christmas specials from their appointed rounds of carols. The most established of them all had to overcome 100 degree temperatures at its L.A. taping last month, along with the other traditional indignities. The star was swaddled in a scratchy Santa suit. The cue cards were flipped through the Iyrics of "White Christmas," which, in this case, was especially ridiculous (except perhaps to the idiot-card union) -- this was the ancient, annual Bing Crosby family special. Counting radio, it has spanned 38 seasons and two Crosby families (not to mention helping Bing's rendition of "White Christmas" become probably the biggest-selling single -- over 30 million -- in the history of records).

This year again, only Crosby's three younger kids (13 to 16) and their mother, Kathryn Grant, performed in the show. But the four older prodigal sons (now 36 to 41) by his late wife, Dixie Lee, made a point of visiting the set. It was a tribute to the old man, now 70, who for all his rigorous ten-hour days of taping, had nearly died last January of a rare lung fungus called nocardia.

The resulting special, to be aired Dec. 15 over NBC, shows no ill effects -- it is, like earlier celebrations, as sugary, smooth and canned as Minute Maid O.J. If anything, Bing's ailment, having ended his smoking career, has made his baritone (says his veteran coproducer-writer Bill Angelos) "better and more mellow than it's been in years." Any jottings on the Crosby family Christmas card might also note a new mellowness in Kathryn in the past year. At 41, she has just premiered a new morning TV interview show in San Francisco and continues to moonlight with the accomplished local American Conservatory Theatre. She is clearly a more self-assured and fulfilled woman than when she married Bing -- a 24-year-old ex-Texas beauty queen and Columbia Pictures starlet. For years she thrashed around trying to express herself as a registered nurse and then as a schoolteacher.

In any case, the fondness within the family which suffuses next Sunday's hour is no put-on for the TV public. Kathryn now has developed a personally satisfying modus vivendi with the congenital, if gentle, chauvinism of her sportsman husband's endless summer. His record royalties (he has sold more than 400 million), his broadcasting and production holdings, his race horses, his 25 percent piece of the Pittsburgh Pirates et al, now take care of themselves. So Bing is free to focus on pleasure and to enjoy a seasonal cycle that includes fall duck-shooting in northern California or Chesapeake Bay. Then perhaps, it's off to Africa, but for camera safaris only. "I'm not interested in big game," he says, and he now shoots only "for the table." In May, he heads for his hacienda in Las Cruces in Baja California, Mexico, and fishing in the Sea of Cortez. "For a while I was going for a world record in marlin, but that got beyond my reach," Bing confesses. Besides, adds conservationist convert Crosby, "We now release marlin after we catch them -- they're an endangered species." In between, he golfs daily where the sun is -- if not at home in Hillsborough, Calif. (where the Hearsts also live), then in the British Isles or on the Continent. He has just acquired a second Mexican home in Guadalajara, because it has "the very best climate in the world for a golfer." Many of his sportive escapades through the years have been stag with old showbiz cronies like Phil Harris, staged in some instances for ABC's "American Sportsman" series.

So where does all that leave his family? "We used to be able to take the kids out of school," explains Bing. "Their mother would teach them. But now two are in high school, and it isn't allowed." As for Kathryn herself, "Someone once criticized me," she says, "for not being down at Las Cruces when Bing was there. I told them Bing hadn't invited me. And when he did invite me, I would go." Which is why she finds her new TV job "fits a lot of my needs. We can tape ahead for times when Bing wants to be away." Kathryn also makes practical use of her old nurse's training. She vaccinates the local kids in Las Cruces and gives annual flu shots to her colleagues in the ACT repertory company.

She is also active in Bay Area charities, helps plan the annual Bing Crosby benefit golf tourney, studies voice and dance, and jogs five miles a day, memorizing poems like Omar Khayyam's "Rubaiyat on the run." "I don't think kids today want a mother waiting at home with a cookie and milk," she says.

Their 16-year-old, Harry Lillis Jr., "is a serious music student" at a Jesuit high school. He duck hunts with Dad, teaches guitar and, like a true Californian, is into oenology ("We've always allowed the children to toast in wine on special occasions," says Mom). Mary Frances is the famous first and only Crosby daughter, a hazel-eyed knockout who studies ballet four or five hours a day and, says Kathryn, "can relate to people on an adult level sometimes and be very babyish at others, which is nice in a 15-year-old." The youngest, Nathaniel, Mom beams, is "cool, very self-contained and organized," the junior jock in the clan. Already, at 13, he can out-drive his father in golf.

But Bing, his illness last winter notwithstanding, still has the complete game, and can wipe out Nat on the final card. It is a skill he has sharpened as an escapee from smoggy L.A. to Hillsborough a decade ago. Nor is Bing an aficionado of the indoor sporting life of places like Vegas. His preference for the great outdoors has assured that whatever the flacks may say about the return of Sinatra, ol' Bing Crosby still has the clearest, bluest eyes in the West...

Monday, April 4, 2016


My Grandfather loved Bing Crosby. Bing could almost do no wrong in his eyes, and I truly agree. Today is my birthday, and even though my Grandfather has been gone for close to 14 years now, I always listen to the song "Pennies From Heaven" on my birthday. It was my Grandfather's favorite Bing Crosby record, and listening to this song always reminds me of my Grandfather and what he meant to me.

"Pennies from Heaven" is a 1936 American popular song with music by Arthur Johnston and words by Johnny Burke. It was introduced by Bing Crosby in the 1936 film of the same name. It was recorded in the same year by Billie Holiday and afterwards performed by Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Dinah Washington, Clark Terry, Frances Langford, Arthur Tracy, Big Joe Turner, Frank Sinatra, Stan Getz, Dean Martin, Gene Ammons, The Skyliners (a major hit in 1960), Louis Prima, Legion of Mary, Guy Mitchell, Rose Murphy and many other jazz and popular singers.

The 1936 recording by Bing Crosby on Decca Records was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004. Bing Crosby also released the song in a performance with Louis Armstrong and Frances Langford with Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra also on Decca...


Every time it rains, it rains pennies from heaven
Don't you know each cloud contains pennies from heaven?
You'll find your fortune's fallin' all over the town
Be sure that your umbrella is upside down

Trade them for a package of sunshine and flowers
If you want the things you love, you must have showers
So, when you hear it thunder, don't run under a tree
There'll be pennies from heaven for you and me

Every time, every time it rains, it's gonna rain pennies from heaven
Don't you know every cloud contains lots of pennies from heaven
You'll find your fortune's fallin', baby, all over the town
Be sure, be sure that your umbrella is upside down

Trade them for a package of sunshine and flowers
If you want the things you love, you've got to have showers
So, when you hear it thunder, don't run under a tree
There'll be pennies from heaven for you and me.