Bing Crosby Tribute

by davestone13

Bing Crosby songs will be with us forever, but he was more than his songs. He was a pioneer who earned his status as a legend.

Bing Crosby's songs, wildly popular from the time of his first recording when he was 23, set the stage for his remarkable career. "White Christmas," written by Irving Berlin and recorded in 1941, remains the best selling recording of all time, with over 100,000,000 copies worldwide, more than anything by Sinatra, Elvis or the Beatles.

But his songs are only part of what I admire about Bing Crosby. Some of it's big stuff, his being smooth enough to convincingly play Grace Kelly's past and future husband in "High Society," when he was 51 and she only 25, for example. Less recognized was his casual association, through jazz, with black entertainers like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong which might have been career suicide for others in, then, highly segregated America.

Even though he will always be best known as a singer, Bing Crosby's work in movies is what stays best with me. He won an academy award as best actor for his role as Father O'Malley in "Going My Way," and was nominated for its sequel, "Bells of St. Mary's" as well for "The Country Girl." My favorite, though, is "High Society" in which he swings with Louis Armstrong and his combo, duets with Frank Sinatra and coolly romances the achingly beautiful Grace Kelly.

What A Swell Party This Is!

Bing and Frank Sinatra in High Society

Bing Crosby Bio

A Short Version

Comprehensive versions of Bing's biography can be found elsewhere, and his life story, interesting as it is, is not what this page is about. It's about the legendary entertainer, the unforgettable performances that make him one of my favorites.

Did you know that a company Bing formed for his radio shows invented the now ubiquitous "laugh track" that migrated to TV?

How all that got started was a story in itself. Like all the others at the time, Bing's radio show was broadcast live, missed notes, mangled pronunciations and other mistakes included. When he insisted that his show be recorded and edited - like his movies - to make them more perfect, NBC dropped him. Fledgling ABC Radio was happy to have him, and the era of recorded broadcasts began.

Many of the shows are still available on record, and even cut and edited, they retain their spontaneity in conversations and performances with Louis Armstrong and other top jazz and pop performers of his day.

Not many of us were around when Bing invented "crooning," a style later followed by Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Tony Bennet as well as current stars like Michael Buble. Beginning his career just when radio and the microphone were gaining popularity, he had freedom to modulate his tones, something top singers of the day, like Al Jolsen, weren't able to do because they had to belt songs out loud enough to reach the back corners of theaters.

His rich baritone turned out to be the perfect tool from bringing popular music into homes, on records as well as radios. 10 fo the top 50 songs of 1931 featured Bing Crosby. Just before his death in 1977, he recorded "Little Drummer Boy" with flamboyant rock star David Bowie. Never completely out of the entertainment limelight over fifty years of performing, this duet became on of his biggest hits, posthumously.

David Bowie Teams Up With Bing Crosby

Little Drummer Boy and Peace On Earth for Christmas

Bing Crosby On Record

Top Picks for Crosby Admirers
100 Hits Legends-Bing Crosby

5 CD, 100 hits by Legend Bing Crosby.

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Bing & Satchmo

For the very first time on CD, this album by Bing Crosby and Satchmo has not been available since the late Fifties. Accompanied by Billy May and his orchestra, this album was pr...

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Bing Crosby Armed Forces Broadcasts World War II Radio

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Bing Crosby: The Christmas Duets

2009 holiday collection from the legendary crooner, who is joined here by many of his musical co-horts including Frank Sinatra, The Antrews Sisters, Rosemary Clooney and Ella Fi...

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Bing Crosby The Actor

Not Just a Musical Star

With well over a million tickets sold, Bing Crosby is the third most popular actor of all time, behind only Clark Gable and John Wayne, and that's not counting the many times people have enjoyed his performances on television. "White Christmas," his most popular, with Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen, grossed $30 million (or over a quarter-billion in today's dollars.)

There's a lot to like about "White Christmas," not the least being the title song. Vera Ellen and Danny Kaye's dance numbers are fascinating and modern, and any chance to enjoy Rosemary Clooney's performing with Bing is worth the time. The story is a bit creaky, two Army buddies becoming a popular song and dance team and meeting up with the girls on the way to rescue their beloved general from financial troubles, but it's so warmly sentimental, by the end, you don't care.

In both his Academy Award nominated roles as wisely gentle Father O'Malley, "Going My Way" and "Bells of St. Mary's," Bing gets to play the sort of laid back character he was in real life. In the first, he is sent to reinforce a failing senior parish priest, played by Leo McCarry, to help him finish his work. The older priest suspects him to be a rival for his job, and Bing responds with convincing modesty. In his second turn as O'Malley, Bing is called on to head a Catholic school where the mostly poor children are taught and cared for by a team of nuns, headed by Ingrid Bergman. Bergman fears that his authority will undermine her freer style with children. While a side plot with a developer who wants to tear down the school develops, Bing's O'Malley is forced to manage a critical situation with Bergman without being allowed to tell her the truth.

In "The Country Daughter," Bing plays a washed up alcoholic, a role not as far off type as you might think, married to the all-sacrificing Grace Kelly, which was completely off type. For his role, he earned another Academy Award nomination. They followed that up with "High Society," Kelly's final film before leaving Hollywood to become Princess Grace of Monaco. Kelly plays an ice queen, now divorced from Crosby, who is determined to get her back before she remarries. Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm have major roles on assignment as gossip magazine reporters, but the flavor of the film is most enhanced by Louis Armstrong who shows up with his band for jazz festival Bing is hosting. Great music and some decent comedy to go with it.

Bing Crosby made seven popular "On The Road" movies with Bob Hope, and they were planning an eighth when Bing died. But I never became of fan of those, probably because I always found Hope at least as annoying as he was funny.

Here are my favorites, in order. 

Bing Crosby Movies

Recommended Personal Favorites
High Society

Heiress Tracy Lord (Grace Kelly) is engaged to one man (John Lund), attracted to another (Frank Sinatra) and, just maybe, in love again with her ex-husband (Bing Crosby) in this...

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White Christmas

White Christmas is a 1954 Technicolor musical film starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye that features the songs of Irving Berlin, including the titular "White Christmas." The fil...

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The Bells of St. Mary's

Ingrid Bergman, Bing Crosby. Crosby revisits his role of the affable priest Father O'Malley, who takes a position at a parochial school in financial shambles and finds his style...

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Going My Way (Universal Cinema Classics)

Winner of seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, the unforgettable classic Going My Way lights up the screen as it warms the heart. Best Actor winner Bin...

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The Country Girl

In THE COUNTRY GIRL, Frank Elgin (Crosby) is a washed up actor given the chance of a lifetime to stage a comeback when director Bernie Dobb, played by William Holden, offers him...

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Bing Crosby Wrap Up

Goodbye, Bing!

Bing Crosby died on October 14, 1977, from a sudden heart attack after playing a winning game of golf with friends near Madrid, Spain. His last words, according to many reports: "That was a great game of golf, fellas."

Seems like a great motto for his whole life.

Updated: 09/02/2013, davestone13
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davestone13 on 05/31/2013

Thanks, Mike. The Bob Hope movies never grabbed me, but there's no accounting for taste, though. I really discovered him over the years, and maybe by the time I got to them, the Hope movies were a little dated. Maybe I'll try again.

MikeRobbers on 05/31/2013

Nice overview of his life and work. I've enjoyed some of his movies with Bob Hope.

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