posted 05/10/04 09:35 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I watched "Just for You" last night, and while I can see why most folks would not put this high on their Bing film list, it really has several peculiarities that make it a good study in Crosby filmography. For starters, this was to be the one paring of Bing and Judy Garland in a major motion picture. Judy was battling several problems at the time, so it was decided to reunite Bing with Jane Wyman, fresh from their success of a year earlier in "Here Comes The Groom". But this film is in color, which some folks always find a plus, if not necessary.
Bing plays a middle aged Broadway producer and song writer, widowed for many years with a 17 year-end son and about 13 year-old daughter. I wonder how Bing felt playing a successful absentee father who was having problems identifying with his children. They considerably grayed up Bing's hair for that middle-aged look. Even pushing 50 pretty hard, Bing could still have easily played a man 10 to 15 years younger with no problem. There is a big production number a the start of the film to the song, "I'll Si-Si Ya In Bahia" A so-so number that would not chart (but the charts only had 30 positions at this time). Bing looked pretty nimble dancing and prancing around the stage in the fairly lengthy number. A little later in the film, Crosby and Wyman team up in another big production number, the Academy Award Best Song nominated "Zing A Little Zong". This would be the only chart song from this film, topping out at the number 18 position. Later in the film, at a girl's camp, Bing teams up with a chorus of young ladies in "The Live Oak Tree", which would be released as a single record opposite "I'll Si-Si Ya In Bahia". Oddly enough, Decca decided to put a Jane Wyman solo from the film "The Maiden Of Guadelupe" on the flip side of "Zing A Little Zong". A bit later, Bing teams up with Ben Lessey doing an old vaudeville song "On The 10:10 from Ten-Ten-Tennessee". And finally the title song, "Just For You". There was also a song cut from the film called "Spring Fever", which you can find on the Broadway Intermission LP, BR 134. Songs from the film were from Harry Waren and Leo Robin and just not the stuff they were capable of writing a decade or two earlier.
While "Here Comes The Groom" is delightful, I always marveled at the nonchalant attitude of Bing's character in that film. It was almost as if he had read the script and know he would get the girl in the end. While "Just For You', is not as delightful, is it more steeped in the reality of it's characters. Like I said, Bing lived part of this with his own children, and he would be a widower himslf the next year.
The casting was pretty good, if not overwhelming. After Crosby and Wyman, you had Robert Arthur and Natalie Wood playing his children. Both did a fine job. I do not remember Natalie Wood doing many films as a young teenager, but here she showed unmistakable signs of the lovely woman and talented actress she was to become. Imagine Bing in a film with a Barrymore. Well, some of the best banter and dialog was between Bing and Ethel Barrymore, who played the girl's school head mistress. Bing always looked comfortable with a horse in a film, and in "Just For You", he looked quite comfortable each time he got in that boat with the outboard motor.
It would have been nice to see Bing and Jane Wyman in more films together, by alas it was not to be. Except for Dorothy Lamour, Bing never had the same leading lady more than twice. Actually, there is someone who was Bing's leading lady in three motion pictures. Who can name that actress.
posted 05/11/04 12:30 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
That would be Mary Carlisle:
College Humor 1933
Double Or Nothing 1937
Dr. Rhythm 1938
Unless you count Bob Hope, who dressed as a woman in Road to Morocco (as Aunt Lucy), Road to Rio (in diguise) and Road to Bali (when in the wedding costume, Bing thought Bob was the bride).
posted 05/26/04 12:35 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Over the weekend I had a chance to watch our Bing movie, "Just For You". The first thing that struck me about it was how great Bing looked. He looked still like his old 1940's self, even a little pudgier, more like his '30's self. I like the pudgy Bing better especially over the gaunt Bing of the '60's. I've remarked on this before, but it is amazing the severe transformation of his appearance in the space of 4 or 5 years after this movie. He went from "young and healthy" to old and withered in about 5 years time. Secondly what I liked about this movie was the great color!! Nice and bright and beautiful esp. in the mountain scenes. Only color disappointing moment came in the close-ups of Bing, is eyes appear to be gray in this movie print, not blue. I'm hoping that the new DVD version of this movie will correct that situation and Bing's baby blues will shine again on DVD, June 29 is the release date, for a little plug there.
Also really liked seeing a master at work, Ethel Barrymore. She was confident, relaxed, and completely believable as the old girls school camp matron. What a great lady. Bing was in his usual great upbeat mood. No handwringing looking to the sky in agony bits from Country Girl here, thank goodness. I like the happy-go-lucky Bing 100 times over the serious down Bing. Bing's son in this movie was the only annoying thing. He was so over-sensitive to anything Bing said, yet completely dull to the fact that Jane Wyman was interested in Bing not him. If the kid wasn't feeling sorry for himself he was making everybody else miserable. I would have liked to have seen Bing take a swat at him, no kid deserved a belt more than this one. Natalie Wood was beautifully cute and sweet. She was obviously the good kid in this brood. She fortunately didn't take everything Daddy Bing said as an affront as our sensitive laddie did.
I did catch the lingering instrumental melody in the background as Bing wanders the countryside of "Ol' Spring Fever". This song was recorded by Bing for Decca and must have been a song he sang in the movie but was cut from the final version. Now this was really too bad, this was a great song and would have been the best song in the movie had it been allowed to remain. As it is, "Zing A Little Zong" seems to be the only song I can recall from this movie. No great shakes here on the music, nothing great, but then nothing horrible either. Bing sang each forgettably nice song with style and aplomb, just goes to prove though the old Lee adage, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. This was overall a fun movie, an enjoyable Bing experience, an upbeat time, a fun time, a thrill and a joy. Any wonder then why I consider "Just For You" one of my top 10 Bing movies. It wasn't the greatest of his movies, like "Welcome Stranger" or "Here Comes The Groom", but it was certainly one of his best. Speaking of "Here Comes The Groom" this movie can't help but be compared to "Just For You". They both had the same two major stars, each of these movies could have been improved with an element from the other. "...Groom" could have been improved by filming it in the same bright color "Just 4 U" was. And "Just 4 U" could have been improved with Frank Capra's writing and better written songs. The story, writing, and songs are perfect in "Groom" and unfortunatley this is where all the problems lie with "Just 4 U". But still, I liked it and would be glad to watch it again anytime soon. Like June 29th when it comes out on DVD. Another subtle plug by your humble host. Too bad I'm not getting paid by Paramount for this.