posted 06/21/05 09:16 PM Central Time (US) no email address given
I had to choose between the runaway bride and the latest AFI "best of" series, so I chose the latter. I didn't see Bing mentioned during the hour that I watched, but the show did get me thinking about the best scenes from Bing's movies. I thought I would quiz our guests here about what they think is the best scenes or lines from Bing's movies. (I was also going to ask for the worst scenes, but Ron Sarbo's happy talk rule has nixed that.)
One scene that came to mind was from Welcome Stranger, where Bing (Dr. Pearson) makes an offer that Joan Caulfield's boyfriend probably refused: "Drop by the office, Chesney, and I'll take your temperature on the house." One gets the distinct impression that Bing was planning to use a rectal thermometer.
Then there was the great scene from Road to Bali where Bob Crosby drops into the jungle to discharge his rifle. Bing adds, "I promised brother Bob a shot in the picture."
Three scenes stand out from Going My Way: the golf scene where Bing teases Father Fitzgibbon about being a golf pro, the Too-Ra-Loo-Ral-Loo-Ral bedroom scene with Fitzgerald complete with alcoholic brew, and the Thanksgiving table scene where Bing gently drops the hint that the turkey Dr. Fitzgibbon is enjoying is 'hot.'
Also coming to mind is the Bing-Danny Kaye lipsynch in drag of Sisters from White Christmas, where they genuinely seem to be having as much fun as the crowd, and the grand finale to White Christmas, which after 25 viewings still chokes me up.
Finally, I thoroughly enjoy the long-awaited Sinatra-Crosby duet from High Society, including "You must be one of the younger fellas."
posted 06/21/05 09:44 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I like another line from "Bali": when a bottle is found with a message in it ("Return this bottle to Sam's Supermarket for three cents deposit"), Bing says, "Isn't it a pity? Every movie's got to have a message".
Two of my favorite musical scenes are in "Birth of the Blues": Bing's and Mary Martin's spirited rendition of "Wait til the Sun Shines, Nellie" (the second version, in which Bing--without looking--catches his hat, which has been tossed to him from behind by Brian Donlevy); and "Melancholy Baby" on the rooftop.
The game of checkers between Fathers O'Malley, Fitzgibbon, and O'Doud is fun.
"Utopia" is full of great lines and exchanges.
The closing scene of "Bells Of St. Mary's" is, for me, one of the most moving and well acted in all of Bing's films.
posted 06/22/05 02:07 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Jon, as is often the case, you and I are in agreement. The closing scene in "St, Mary's", which film otherwise does little for me, contains Bing's greatest single moment of brilliant screen acting. The "Sister, you have a touch of tuberculosis" passage is brilliantly, tastefully handled by a consumate screen actor. Other great acting moments for Bing include the scene where Georgie has to help Bing change between scenes in "Country Girl", and the scene in "Man On Fire" where Bing's son bursts into the courtroom and Bing implores those present to "explain it to my boy"... Great stuff. Greatest comedy moment? Hmmmm..... let me think. Oh yeah, Bing's demo to Hope in "Morocco": "I'll take some of dese, and some of dose, and......" I've seen more than a few non-fans gain new appreciation for Bing based on his ability to surrender himself totally to the comic moment in this scene, and this film.
posted 06/22/05 10:26 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I couldn't agree more about the last scene in "Bells of Saint Mary's." My husband and I were watching it the other night, and as we got to that scene I kept elbowing him and saying "watch this part, watch the expressions on his face." The part where Bing is trying to decide whether to call her back is just fantastic acting. So many different emotions cross his face at one time.
I only watched the AFI show out of morbid curiousity, becuase I was sure it would only frustrate me. While it did cover some of my favorite movies ("All About Eve"), it completely ignored a lot of great lines and completely ignored Bing. What about "Dial 'O' for O'Malley?" Where were Tracy and Hepburn?
posted 06/22/05 01:58 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Wasn't that line ---"you must be one of the newer fellas" ?
Also, from 'Bali', there was a male screaming and Bing made some comment about them upsetting Errol Flynn, because they got the girls?
posted 06/22/05 03:56 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Another scene I love from Going My Way is when Bing hops over the hedge to go back into the house after he's gotten the tour from Fr. FitzGibbon. The poor father contemplates trying to jump over himself and then decides not to, all without uttering a word.
The shaving scene between Bing and Barry in Welcome Stranger is also one I fondly remember, but I can't give you a particular quote from it off the top of my head.
The interplay between Bing and Marjorie Reynolds at the table when they are waiting for Fred and his dance partner to get through with their act always makes me laugh too. "Oh, LINDA Mason." Actually, there are quite a few zingers in Holiday Inn that I like. When the preserves explode and Bing and Fred comment on the tone of the explosions.
There are so many throw-away lines between Bob and Bing in the Road pics that I love, but I can't for the life of me remember them.
posted 06/22/05 05:17 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Speaking of Father O’Malley, were there many characters in the classic era of screen history as resonant or quietly compelling as Bing’s creation of this consummate priest? We as Crosby fans are so used to his portrayal that we perhaps take it for granted, but I think “Father Chuck”, as far as memorable film characters go, is on a par with Bogart’s Rick Blaine or Sam Spade, Edward G. Robinson’s Little Caesar, Henry Fonda’s Tom Joad, Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood, Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes, or Chaplin’s Little Tramp.
I personally prefer Bing’s calmly progressive O’Malley to Spencer Tracy’s tough guy Father Flanagan in “Boy’s Town”. Tracy’s performance has always struck me as a bit self-conscious and sanctimonious. And while Flanagan resorts to punching a kid, O’Malley merely has to raise his hand to scratch the back of his head to make the neighborhood delinquents flinch—they KNOW who’s boss.
After Bing played Father O’Malley, his performance became a touchstone of his career, one of the achievements for which he was most appreciated for the rest of his life. Since his death, the actor and the character have been more or less brushed aside, for various reasons, and that couldn’t be more unfair. It’s a sad injustice that Bing’s portrayal of Father O’Malley isn’t as fondly and reverently regarded by the general public today as it was during his lifetime.
One of the mitigating factors seems to be the accepted belief that Bing simply played “Bing Crosby” in movies, a perception that Bing himself perpetuated. Maybe, but there was something else going on that raised those two performances to a level he seldom approached. As evidenced by articles posted on the “What’s News” page of this website, young men in the 1940s and ‘50s actually joined the priesthood because of having been inspired by the Father O’Malley of “Going My Way” and “Bells of St. Mary’s”. I can’t think of a greater tribute to an acting performance. And, as Gary Giddins has observed, the Bing Crosby we all think we “know” was no more Bing Crosby than Cary Grant was Cary Grant—it was, at least partly, a created persona, but one that was totally likeable, engaging, and convincing. Which is an amazing achievement in itself.
Not that he was being phony—the public Bing was obviously an extension of the real deal. Otherwise, it couldn’t have been humanly possible to maintain such an image for so many years, particularly on a weekly radio show, where every nuance and mood change could be detected by millions of listeners. Jimmy Stewart is another great actor who generally, like Bing, played “himself” in movies and in public, but when the role called for it could compellingly telegraph a darker or more dramatic side.
The point is, it couldn’t have been that EASY for a person to just step in front of a movie camera (or a TV camera or a radio microphone) and play such a confident, relaxed, in-control character, even if that was more or less the way he really was, or was perceived to be. (It also obviously wasn’t too easy to convincingly and likeably portray a priest—witness Sinatra’s stiff, overly pious performance in “The Miracle of the Bells”)
Another contributing factor to the diminished stature of Father O’Malley could be the modern image of the priesthood as promoted by the entertainment industry. In Bing’s day a “man of the cloth” in any religion was respected, and was usually portrayed with reverence in movies. In today’s climate of impiety and rampant profanity in films and on television—not to mention scandals in the Catholic Church itself—he’s often shown as corrupt, vacantly insensitive to the problems of laypeople, or an object of ridicule. While these factors don’t alter Bing’s performance, they undoubtedly alter the public’s perception of not only the character, but of Bing’s choice of roles, however unfair that may be.
We see Robert Osborne talking about Barry Fitzgerald and Ingrid Bergman every few months as he introduces “GMW” or “Bells” on TCM. But seldom, if ever, does he have anything to say about Bing’s contributions. It appears that Bing’s performances in these two films are light years away from regaining their previous status in the pantheon of great film portrayals.
posted 06/22/05 05:29 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
It never ceases to amaze me when people expect performers to lead their private lives within the parameters of their public personalities. As audiences, we demand that they have engaging stage personalities. Bing responded to this by developing his to a degree hardly matched by his contemporaries. Yet, in the UK, the word 'cheesy'- referring to the 'pasted-on' smile - is used by the younger generation to describe Bing and his contemporaries. (Apologies for the explanation if 'cheesy' is universal!) The inference is that people who appreciate such entertainers are falling for a lie. And it's a perspective that fails completely to understand the role of the audience as co-conspirator.
The fact is: we are aware of being entertained; we want to be escapist; we are happy to succomb to the spell. Bing knew that we knew that. Is it ever relevant that the morning after entertaining us, he may have ignored his dog or responded abruptly to an intrusive phone call?
I do get concerned, though, for those who believe that the serious street-wise 'honest' performers of today are putting on less of a style.
posted 06/22/05 09:16 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I always enjoy watching those AFI specials regardless of whether or not I agree with their picks. Some of them were exactly as I would have chosen and yet there were some very obvious lines that were either over-looked or intentionally passed over. Either way, I enjoy taking a few hours to see the world as other people see it. And it usually inspires me to see one of the films cited that I have not seen. I remember the list they did some time ago of the 100 greatest films. Way back when they did that list, you could find little pocket-size reproductions of the list at the local video store and it became a personal goal to see all 100 films they declared the best. I have yet to achieve that goal. But I digress...
The question at hand is one of favorite lines/scenes in a Bing Crosby vehicle, am I right? :-) Well, I have to admit that one of my favorite lines in any film, Crosby or not (although it is) was not actually delivered by Bing. The nice thing is that his chaser made it all the more worth-while. In White Christmas when Danny Kaye protests going to "look at an act", the line "My dear partner, when what's left of you gets around to what's left to be gotten, what's left to be gotten won't be worth getting whatever it is you've got left!" I love that line. I'm sure others would argue it's over-written, but I don't care. It's just pure fun! It cracks me up even more so when Bing follows it with "When I figure out what that means I'll come back with a crushing reply!"
But as for favorite scenes, I can't argue with the sentiment regarding the last scene of "Bells." Brilliant. Absolutely. And whether people would call it "cheesy" or not, I particularly enjoy the scene in "Blue of the Night" when Babe Kane announces to Bing that she's to marry Bing Crosby and he asks in complete bewilderment "The Fella on the Radio?" and she responds something to the effect of "Is there another?" (I know someone will correct me if that's wrong, but that's the general effect of the line, anyway). And he, beginning to feel right proud of himself concedes, "Not that I know of."
posted 06/23/05 08:20 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
It is my opinion, and I've shared this with lots of other family members, that in creating his screen persona of "Bing Crosby", Uncle Bing simply played his own Dad, my grandfather, Harry L Crosby.
All the descriptions of my grandfather are a perfect fit: happy-go-lucky, carefree, whistling all the time, laid back, give you the shirt off his back, irresponsible with money, a ray of boundless optimism to all who met him.
Bing played his Dad in the movies. He had known this character all his life.
posted 06/23/05 02:28 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
In an interview with Bob Crosby (may have been the Dottie special) he states that Bing just played Bing Crosby, thats all.
posted 06/23/05 08:23 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
The "Now You Has Jazz" scene in "High Society" is one of my faves, particularly the exchange between Bing and Satchmo -- positively therapuetic!
posted 06/24/05 09:07 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Yes, Ron, I remember that quote By Uncle Bob on the Dorothy Lamour special in the mid-80's. But I talked about my idea with Uncle Bob a few years later....and he agreed with me. He said something like, " yeah, that movie character really was a lot more like Dad than the 'ol bald eagle" Uncle Bob liked to call Bing the "bald eagle", since Bob still had a head of hair and Bing didn't.
Everyone who knew Bing knows the "Bing Crosby" of the movies wasn't much like the real thing. But everyone who knew my grandfather, Harry L Crosby, also knows the "Bing Crosby" in the movies was a carbon copy of him!
I tried this theory out on not only Uncle Bob, but Aunt Mary Rose, Aunt Kay and Uncle Larry, and several cousins, and it didn't take but a moments reflection for all of them to say, "you know, you're right....he really did portray Dad on the screen."
Please remember, Bing was an astute businessman, certainly was not lazy in any way, was absolutely not immediately effervescent with every stranger he came across, was not frivolous or stupid with money, and was not in a perpetual sunny mood. Grandpa was NOT an asture businessman, but everything else above would apply.
posted 06/28/05 01:03 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I found this posting by Ken Barnes in Feb 2004 describing Bing in response to a question asked by a fan...
"I worked with Bing on six albums and two TV shows over a three year period, which meant that I spent a lot of time in his company. And I can only say he was continually friendly, humorous and wonderfully co-operative with all of his fellow workers. He was also one hell of a singer.
I'd say he had the best ear of any singer I've ever worked with. He could learn any song - no matter how complex -in five minutes and record it in ten.
So how can I sum up this man ? The easy-going persona that you see on screen was not an act, it was very much a part of the real man. But it wasn't ALL of the real man. He had his serious side. He was a shrewd businessman and a gifted sports entrepreneur in addition to being the most successful recording artist of the 20th century ( more hits than Presley and the Beatles combined ). But behind all this, I'd say he was a genuinely nice and considerate person. There was nothing of the grandstander about him. In short, Bing was one of the good guys.
I speak as I find." (Ken Barnes)
posted 07/06/05 12:21 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Howard, your experience rings true. You must have known your uncle as well as anyone. It takes time to play 18 holes and I'm pretty much willing to buy about anything you say about your uncle. In fact, the BC you've described above and elsewhere on this site matches the one Katherine describes in her books. Naturally, any movie star from the 30's or 40's would put forth the most heroic persona he or she could conjure or otherwise lose likability and end up playing villains. Do you have any sound film of your grandfather at Birthday parties or whatever? It would be great fun to see some of the old home movies if any of that footage survived. I remember you saying once before that BC and his siblings were all afraid of their mother but that there wasn't anyone who didn't like Harry Sr.
posted 07/25/05 12:42 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Enjoyed your comments re Bing favorites, most of which I share.
Perhaps this is an appropriate spot to ask this Board about a story that Ingrid Bergman allegedly told about the last scene in "Bells of Saint Mary's". She has been quoted as saying that after the VERY moving last scene was shot, where Bing tells her she has tuberculosis, she asked for one more take. Her wish was reluctantly granted, and when Bing tells her she has TB, she thanked him profusely, embraced and kissed him, and Bing nearly fell over backwards!
Has anyone every heard any confirmation of this story from someone other than Miss Bergman? I think it is a howl, and I have always wondered whether it is true or not. Thanks
posted 07/25/05 07:25 AM Central Time (US) no email address given
Bing confirmed the story in an interview with John Salisbury circa 1973 except in Bing's version he, not Bergman, instigated the prank.
posted 07/25/05 12:05 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
The version I've most often heard has both Bing AND Bergman in on the joke, the purpose of which was to freak out the priest who was on hand, serving as a "technical advisor" on the film. In the BBC interview with Charles Thompson, Bing describes it as a "soul kiss", which I believe my generation used to describe as a "french kiss". I wouldn't know, sheltered and pure youth that I was (and continue to be as a middle-aged pillar of morality).
posted 07/25/05 12:14 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Re "the big kiss", Bing also mentioned this on Parkinson saying he plotted it even though I had heard previously that Bergman had put this on to surprise both Bing and the priest.
Ah! a "french kiss" - never kisssed a french woman, but I've eaten french toast and what you call french fries.
Why is it that here in the US you have french fries with everything, but chips with fish, which is the same product?
Just kidding Arne on the 'french kiss' bit as I know what you mean.