Multimedia Bing Crosby
by John Farr
Bing Crosby, the first multimedia star of radio, film, and television.
Holiday Inn (1942)
After a painful bust-up with his girlfriend, song-and-dance man Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) decides he’s had it with the big city and retires to a farm in New England, which he converts into an inn, complete with floor shows, but open only on public holidays. Friend and co-headliner Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire) wants to make a film about the inn, but things get complicated when he tangles with Hardy over lovely leading lady Linda Mason (Debbie Reynolds).
WHY I LOVE IT:
Conceived from an idea by composer Irving Berlin, Mark Sandrich’s “Holiday Inn” is a humorous, festive Crosby/Astaire musical that finds both performers in tip-top crooning and toe-tapping form. Famous for introducing “White Christmas,” the best-selling single of all time and an instant favorite with troops overseas, “Inn” is consistently tuneful and entertaining, with a sublime Irving Berlin score that covers not just Christmas, but all major holidays. Watch for the July 4th rave-up “Let’s Say It With Firecrackers,” one of many musical highlights.
Going My Way (1944)
When easy-going, young Catholic priest Father O’Malley (Bing Crosby) arrives at St. Dominic’s, a rundown church heavily in debt, he faces a disillusioned congregation and the downbeat attitude of its elder curate, Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald). Through the miracle of song, however, O’Malley raises spirits all around and ultimately rescues the beleaguered parish.
WHY I LOVE IT:
Though not focused on Christmas, Leo McCarey’s “Going My Way” exudes holiday spirit and was a smashing box-office success. Bing Crosby, a staunch Catholic himself, is pure gold as Father O’Malley, a young priest who injects hope and purpose into a fading congregation and a group of neighborhood kids, while Barry Fitzgerald is perfectly winning as his crusty superior. Both actors won Oscars, as did the film, thanks to writer-director McCarey’s eloquent direction. Moving rather than maudlin, “Going My Way” is a sentimental favorite.
The Country Girl (1954)
When bigshot Broadway director Bernie Dodd (William Holden) loses his lead for a musical set to open in three weeks, he takes a chance on washed-up alcoholic singer Frank Elgin (Bing Crosby). Even though Dodd is committed to boosting his shaky leading man’s confidence with a combination of pep talks and tough love, he feels constantly thwarted by Elgin’s cold, cynical wife, Georgie (Grace Kelly), whose manipulations threaten to deep-six his production.
WHY I LOVE IT:
Adapted from the Clifford Odets play, Seaton’s searing, melodramatic story of a twisted menage à trois boasts three superb performances: Crosby as the self-loathing, destructive crooner, Kelly as his morose, long-suffering wife, and Holden as the strapping, misogynistic director who slowly learns the truth about both of them. Crosby rightly earned an Oscar nod for his convincing turn as a sad-sack boozer, but it was Kelly who took home a statue for her radically unglamorous role as Georgie. “Girl” is a poignant backstage drama that remains true to its tortured heart.