“COULD WE HEAR IT AGAIN?”: TEN YEARS WITH BING (1932-42)

Early in his career, Bing Crosby was a very erotic figure.  And the film industry recognized his power.  It wasn’t his naked torso.  It was his voice — warm, entreating, rich, sensitive, full of yearning.

Before he became more “fatherly” in his films; before he became grandfatherly on television (the man with a narrow tie and a hairpiece, singing Christmas songs alongside David Bowie and Michael Buble), he was a genuine all-purpose wooer.

A chick magnet, to put it plainly.

In many of his early films, the setup is simple: a lovely blonde, splendidly dressed (often in white) is reserved, cool, or even sullen.  Bing aims that voice at her, in a yearning love ballad, and she melts in a series of reaction shots.  Once the song is over, she has fallen for him.    One can imagine tuxedo and gown being shed . . .

In some of the later films, Bing is moved from the more formal environment to more working-class environments: once a pianist / singer or a college professor teaching crooning, he is a sailor dangling from a rope, a man building a shelter for the castaways, a cowboy.  Yes, he’s in blackface for ABRAHAM and pretends to play the clarinet for THE BIRTH OF THE BLUES.

I don’t think I have to make a case for Bing’s easy rhythmic suppleness, that his “boo-boo-boo” runs parallel to scat singing, that he is one of the influences on a segregated America that made Caucasians receptive to African-American jazz, even when Louis was not in the picture.  He swings, even at ballad tempo.

And for those theoretically-minded, Bing is deep in meta-consciousness of a post-modern sort, singing songs about his own singing.  But enough of that.

These thoughts were provoked by an accidental YouTube discovery —  thanks to 1926VictorCredenza  — his generous offering of a nearly two-hour videocassette of Bing’s musical moments from his 1932-42 films.  The Sennett shorts aren’t here, nor is PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, but I saw performances new to me.  You’ll also see Martha Raye, Carole Lombard, Louis Prima, Jack Teagarden, Harry Barris, Mary Martin, Eddie Lang.  And for Ralf Reynolds: Bing plays a washboard in that last film.  Watch for it!

And those songs!  

I offer this as a prelude to Valentine’s Day.  Learn to croon — if you want to win your heart’s desire!  (And she’ll take off her shoes.)

BIG BROADCAST 1932:  Dinah / Here Lies Love / Please (Eddie Lang) /

COLLEGE HUMOR 1933:  Just An Echo In The Valley / Learn To Croon / Please / I Surrender Dear / Just One More Chance / Moonstruck / Learn To Croon (reprise)

TOO MUCH HARMONY 1933:  Boo Boo Boo / The Day You Came Along / Thanks

WE’RE NOT DRESSING 1934:  May I? / Love Thy Neighbor / May I (reprise)

SHE LOVES ME NOT 1934:  Straight From The Shoulder / I’m Hummin’, I’m Whistlin’, I’m Singin’

TWO FOR TONIGHT 1935:  From The Top Of Your Head / Without A Word Of Warning / I Wish I Were Aladdin

ANYTHING GOES 1936:  Sailor Beware / Moonburn /

RHYTHM ON THE RANGE 1936: I Can’t Escape From You / Mr. Paganini / I’m An Old Cowhand

WAIKIKI WEDDING 1937:  Blue Hawaii / Sweet Leilani / Sweet Is The Word For You

DOUBLE OR NOTHING 1937:  Smarty / All You Want To Do Is Dance / It’s The Natural Thing To Do / The Moon Got In My Eyes

EAST SIDE OF HEAVEN 1939:  Hang Your Heart On A Hickory Limb / East Side Of Heaven

HOLIDAY INN 1942:  Abraham / Song Of Freedom

BIRTH OF THE BLUES 1941: Goin’ to the Jailhouse / The Waiter, The Porter, and The Upstairs Maid / Wait ‘Til The Sun Shines Nellie / St. Louis Blues / Birth Of The Blues.

May your happiness increase.

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2 responses to ““COULD WE HEAR IT AGAIN?”: TEN YEARS WITH BING (1932-42)

  1. how fabulous! thank you for posting.

  2. about as amazing as can be

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