Bing Crosby's Interesting Facts

1 Maxwell Anderson (at age 61 in 1949) first considered a musical adaptation of "High Tor" for television in 1949. Mid-1954 Bill Paley (CBS) first approached Maxwell Anderson with the intent to produce the play for his newly planned anthology series "The Ford Star Jubilee". During production development, Maxwell Anderson (at age 66) and John Monks Jr. (at age 44; b.1910-2004; 94) adapted the play specifically as a made-for-television musical fantasy in early 1955, with music composed by Arthur Schwartz (at age 54) and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson. Another factor to consider in the relationship and history between Bing Crosby (b.1904-1977; 77) and William S. Paley (b.1901-1990; 89) should be noted: In the mid 1930s, Bill Paley signed and contracted Bing Crosby (at age 32) to be a regular radio performer on his daily-and-weekly CBS radio network schedule. Bing Crosby (at age 51 in 1955) became the leading drive for the "High Tor" project which brought indirectly creative film talents at Paramount Studios where Crosby's Production office was situated. Because Crosby was uncomfortable with the exigencies of live television, performing 90 minutes non-stop in front of a television studio audience, he insisted that it be filmed. Bing Crosby did not want to use the CBS Hollywood Television City studio facility nor the New York Studio 72 stage. Situated adjacent to Paramount Studios is the former RKO-Pathé Film Studio stages. renamed Desilu Studios when husband and wife comedy team Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball acquired the studio to film their CBS television series "I Love Lucy." The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz television "filmed" production unit had pioneered a number of methods, still in use in television production - filming before a live studio audience with a number of cameras; this established the multiple camera filming procedure to produce, edit, and deliver their filmed show to the CBS network. Paramount Studios negotiated with the Desilu studio facilities to utilize the Desilu "I Love Lucy" production unit facility system, their feature-film production crew in staging, filming, editing and delivering the color film musical special to CBS. Network executives considered the use of film an unnecessary extravaganza. Bing Crosby convinced CBS to allow him to cover all additional costs with filming "High Tor". The total cost of the CBS production was $450,000.00, the most expensive television production up to that time, and the first special filmed for broadcast by CBS. Bing Crosby was reportedly paid $375,000.00. The production was filmed during the month of November 1955 on the Desilu Studios' lot-stages with 35mm cameras. Director of photographer Lester Shorr (at age 48,1907-1992; 85) experienced in filming filmed productions for network clients was part of the Hollywood Paramount-Desilu production package. Two Hollywood directors James Neilson (at age 46, 1909-1979; 70) and Franklin J. Schaffner (at age 35, 1920-1989; 69), both had television-film experience with network filmed productions, shared directorial reigns. Discovered in 1948 on stage at UCLA, Paramount signed Nancy Olson (b. 1929) to a studio contract. Nancy Olson (at age 21) as a relatively inexperienced starlet was given the role of a lifetime as script girl Betty Schaefer, who attracts never-do-well writer William Holden (at age 32, 1918-1981; 63) and irks reclusive diva Gloria Swanson (at age 51; 1899-1983; 84) in the towering classic "Sunset Boulevard" (1950). Her pairing with Holden, in fact, went over so well, they were teamed in a succession of Paramount standard features. With these film credentials Nancy Olson (at age 26) was cast in the "High Tor" musical project. Nancy married to renowned lyricist Alan Jay Lerner knew that Julie Andrews (age 20; b. 1935) had been discovered by her husband lyricist Alan Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe having seen Andrews' Broadway debut in the British hit musical "The Boy Friend" (1954-1955, 485 performances). Julie Andrews had been signed to perform the Eliza Doolittle role in their Broadway bound musical "My Fair Lady". Bing Crosby (at age 52; b.1903-1977; 74) had also seen Julie Andrews in her Broadway debut in "The Boy Friend" and invited her to appear in his television-musical "High Tor". It was Andrews' first work in a Hollywood color film-production, and her American television debut. Hollywood film and Broadway stage performers Hans Conried (age 38; b.1917-1982; 65), Keenan Wynn (age 39; b.1916-1986; 70), Everett Sloane (age 46; b. 1909-1965; 55), John Pickard (age 42; b. 1913-1993; 80), Lloyd Corrigan (age 54; b. 1900-1969; 69) completed the illustrious cast; James Neilson (age 46; 1919-1979; 70) was an established Hollywood film director. Arthur Schwartz, who had also produced films for Columbia Pictures, was a highly successful stage/film composer. The songs Arthur Scwartz composed in collaboration with Maxwell Anderson as lyricist for "High Tor" follow: "Living One Day at a Time"/"When You're in
2 The 1964 CBS Television "Bing Crosby Special" was video taped in color at the NBC Burbank Television Studios on Stage 2, during the last week in August 1963. The New York Producers Nick Vanoff and Bill Harbach brought their production assistants from their New York City production office to Los Angeles to prepare the show's material. Rita Scott supervised the production elements, acting as the Unit Production Manager. The color special was for a CBS TV 'color'' broadcast. CBS' Hollywood Television City had color cameras in moth-balled storage in their facility (stored in the main facilities corridor between the Drapery Department and the main stage midway). CBS did not choose to unwrap their color facilities to video tape the special; nor had available stages to video-tape (record) their network variety special. NBC Burbank had the only operational West Coast color television facility, using RCA Color Cameras and Ampex Video Recording Tape Machines, to record and tape-edit the show. Vanoff and Harbach assembled the production team of writers, music arrangers, designers at the West Coast NBC-Burbank facility to rehearse and tape the variety special. Bing Crosby (at age 61) used his trump card to bring his cast of guest performers together for a 'very very musical special'. The segments were taped without an audience present. Les Brown and his orchestra and crew members were the only audience for the performers. After the production was in "the can," Vanoff, Harbach and Rita Scott remained in Los Angeles developing a television project with Bing Crosby Productions, which became the ABC TV variety show and series "The Hollywood Palace" hosted by Bing Crosby. This ABC TV variety show premiered January 1964, and had a seven season duration until being canceled in January 1970. The Saturday night "The Hollywood Palace" was the ABC network's prestigious answer to CBS's popular Ed Sullivan's Sunday night variety hour.
3 Bing Crosby died from a heart attack after playing a round of golf in Spain, on October 14, 1977 at the age of 74. Bing Crosby's electronic solo music recordings, from his 1930's CBS radio days to the end of his life, established Crosby as the most recorded voice in the history of recorded electronic music.
4 He appeared in two Best Picture Academy Award winners: Going My Way (1944) and The Greatest Show on Earth (1952).
5 Is one of 8 actors who have received an Oscar nomination for their performance as a priest. The others, in chronological order, are: Spencer Tracy for San Francisco (1936) and Boys Town (1938); Charles Bickford for The Song of Bernadette (1943); Barry Fitzgerald for Going My Way (1944); Gregory Peck for The Keys of the Kingdom (1944); Karl Malden for On the Waterfront (1954); Jason Miller for The Exorcist (1973); and Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt (2008). Tracy, Crosby and Fitzgerald all won Oscars for their performances.
6 Great-grandfather of Luke Gregory Crosby.
7 According to "Films in Review's" 1968 career article on the star, Paul Whiteman wanted Crosby to sing "Song of the Dawn" in King of Jazz (1930), but just before filming was to take place, the singer crashed his car on Hollywood Boulevard near the Roosevelt Hotel while driving a "starlet" home, and although no one was hurt, he was sentenced to 60 days for DWI. In his absence, Whiteman had John Boles sing the solo.
8 In 1968, Crosby considered doing another "Road" picture, "The Road to Christmas", with Bob Hope and Hayley Mills.
9 As early as 1932, Crosby made the list of Top Ten box office stars, which included Mae West, Will Rogers, Wallace Beery, etc.
10 Crosby named his first son, Gary Crosby, after friend and fellow Paramount contractee, Gary Cooper.
11 Caricatured in the Warner Bros. cartoons "I've Got to Sing a Torch Song", "Hollywood Steps Out", and "What's Up, Doc?" (all as himself), and in "Curtain Razor", "Swooner Crooner" and "The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos" and "Bingo Crosbyana" (all as a bird). Due to the unflattering depiction of him in the last one, he sued Warner Bros.
12 His son, Gary Crosby, accused him of domestic violence.
13 His favorite performer was Al Jolson.
14 Introduced three Oscar-winning songs: "White Christmas" from Holiday Inn (1942) (Music and Lyrics: Irving Berlin); "Swinging on a Star" from Going My Way (1944) (Music: James Van Heusen. Lyrics: Johnny Burke) and "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" from Here Comes the Groom (1951) (Music: Hoagy Carmichael. Lyrics: Johnny Mercer).
15 He was awarded 3 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 1611 Vine Street, for Radio at 6769 Hollywood Boulevard, and for Recording at 6751 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
16 After Judy Garland was fired from MGM about 1950, he was one of the first to offer her work on his radio show to help her out of her financial woes. The two had marvelous chemistry as a comedy duo, and many of these audio recordings still survive today.
17 Has a street named after him in Iowa City, Iowa.
18 In March 1977, after videotaping a concert for CBS to commemorate his 50th anniversary in show business, Crosby backed off the stage into an orchestra pit, rupturing a disc in his back that required a month of hospitalization.
19 Inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2007.
20 Nearly filed for divorce from his first wife in 1948 because he wanted to marry Joan Caulfield.
21 Stagecoach (1966) was his last major film. Though it did not get good reviews, his performance as the drunken doctor was praised. Crosby felt the movies had changed a lot since his heyday, although he let it be known that he was still open to offers.
22 In 1969, it was reported that he was worth an estimated $75 million.
23 At the time of his death he was considering buying an eighteen hole golf course in Kent, England.
24 In the autumn of 1974, having recovered from major lung surgery, Crosby performed a series of concerts at the London Palladium. This was the first time he had sung before a live audience since World War II. He repeated this engagement in 1975, 1976 and 1977. He also began recording new albums at a faster rate than he had since the early 1950s.
25 Is portrayed by Alex Fallis in Dash and Lilly (1999).
26 His estate was valued at $150 million, making him one of the wealthiest entertainers in Hollywood, along with his friends Bob Hope and Fred MacMurray.
27 In 1948 a poll declared Crosby the most admired man in the world, ahead of President Harry S. Truman, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jackie Robinson and Pope Pius XII.
28 He is the most electronically recorded voice in history.
29 The Met Theater in downtown Spokane, Washington, where he was raised and performed (with the Musicaladers) as a young man in 1925, was renamed the Bing Crosby Theater on December 8, 2006. The Met was built in 1915. Bing was also a giving donor to the city's Gonzaga University.
30 Named eldest son Gary Crosby after his close friend Gary Cooper.
31 Four songs Crosby sang in movies - "Sweet Leilani" (1937), "White Christmas" (1942), "Swinging on a Star" (1944), and "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" (1951) - won Oscars.
32 Delayed his marriage to Kathryn Grant until 1957 due to his long affair with Grace Kelly.
33 Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978.
34 Was the first person to sing "White Christmas".
35 In 1962 Crosby was the first recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
36 He is estimated to have sold between 600 million and 900 million records worldwide. Most of these sales were singles.
37 Mary Carlisle, who worked with him in films, noticed he was self-conscious about his height, and he wore lifts. Crosby once told Alan Ladd how pleased he was that Ladd was shorter than him at 5'5". Bing maintained he was 5' 9", but an office secretary named Nancy Briggs recalled a visit to his home when he wore slippers and she realized he was her height - 5' 7".
38 A longtime supporter of the Republican Party, Crosby campaigned for Wendell Willkie in the 1940 Presidential election, because he strongly believed President Franklin D. Roosevelt should only serve two terms of office. When Roosevelt was easily re-elected, Crosby vowed never to become publicly involved in partisan politics again.
39 He sang on 4,000 radio shows from 1931 to 1962 and was the top-rated radio star for eighteen of those years.
40 His last TV appearance was in Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas (1977) which was taped in London and broadcast, after his death, in the USA on 30 November 1977, and in the United Kingdom on 24 December 1977. This show has also been made available on commercial video. It is memorable for Crosby and David Bowie singing a duet.
41 In a great many of his films, he played lighthearted comedy and musical roles as a singer or songwriter. His usual casual approach belied the fact that Crosby was a fine dramatic actor, as witnessed by his portrayals in Little Boy Lost (1953), The Country Girl (1954), Man on Fire (1957), and his last major film Stagecoach (1966). He also starred in the television movie Dr. Cook's Garden (1971) and won much critical acclaim for his performance.
42 He appeared on approximately 4,000 radio broadcasts, nearly 3,400 of them his own programs, and single-handedly changed radio from a live-performance to a canned or recorded medium by presenting, in 1946, the first transcribed network show on ABC, thereby making that also-ran network a major force.
43 On the day of his death he played a full 18 holes of golf, where he scored a respectable 85 and won the match. Walking off the 18th green of the La Moraleja Golf Club, in a suburb of Madrid, Spain, he suffered a massive heart attack. His last words were reported as, "That was a great game of golf, fellas." However, according to the Summer 2001 issue of Club Crosby's BINGANG magazine, he then said, "Let's go have a Coca-Cola." According to his biographer Gary Giddens, Crosby's last words were, "Let's go get a Coke.".
44 Between 1915 and 1980 he was the only motion-picture star to rank as the #1 box-office attraction five times (1944-1948). Between 1934 and 1954 he scored in the top ten 15 times.
45 In 1960 he received a platinum record as First Citizen of the Record Industry for having sold 200 million discs, a number that doubled by 1980.
46 According to ticket sales Crosby is, at 1,077,900,000 tickets sold, the third most popular actor of all time after Clark Gable and John Wayne. He is also, according to Quigley Publishing Company's International Motion Picture Almanac, tied for second on the "All Time Number One Stars List" with three other actors - Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks and Burt Reynolds. Crosby was the #1 box office attraction for five years, beaten only by Tom Cruise who was #1 for seven years.
47 According to the Guinness Book of Records, his "White Christmas" has sold over 100 million copies around the world, with at least 50 million sales as singles.
48 He received 23 gold records and was awarded platinum discs for his two biggest selling singles, "White Christmas" in 1960 and "Silent Night" in 1970.
49 Is one of only five actors/actresses to have a #1 single and an Oscar for best actor/actress. The others are Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Cher and Jamie Foxx.
50 Until the late 1970s he had been listed in the Guinness Book Of World Records as having sold more recordings than any other entertainer.
51 His father was of English descent, with many family lines tracing back to New England of the 1600s. His mother's family, which was from New Brunswick, Canada, was of Irish descent.
52 He is only one of five actors to be nominated for an Oscar twice for playing the same role in two separate films. He played "Father O'Malley" in Going My Way (1944) (for which he won the Oscar) and The Bells of St. Mary's (1945). The others are Paul Newman as "Fast Eddie Felson" in The Hustler (1961) and The Color of Money (1986), Peter O'Toole as "Henry II" in Becket (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968), Al Pacino as "Michael Corleone" for The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974) and Cate Blanchett as "Elizabeth I" in Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007).
53 Uncle of Chris Crosby and Cathy Crosby
54 At the time of his death in 1977, he was the biggest selling recording artist of all time.
55 Became seriously ill around Christmas 1973, with chest pains and respiratory problems. Both Bing and wife Kathryn Grant thought he had lung cancer. In January 1974 he felt so ill he consented to be hospitalized, and a large tumor was found in his left lung. The tumor and three-fifths of the lung were removed, and over the next months he slowly recovered. Since the tumor was benign, it was believed his illness was caused by a fungal infection from a recent safari in Africa.
56 Pictured on a 29 cent U.S. commemorative postage stamp in the "Legends of American Music" series, issued September 1st 1994.
57 Through the electronics lab he funded, he was heavily involved in the initial development of both audio and video tape recording in the late '40s and early '50s, primarily for use on his own TV and radio projects. One of the very first commercial uses of audio tape in the USA, in fact, was the recording and editing of his radio program on the ABC network around 1946-1948. His early videotape format, however, was quickly obscured by Ampex's industry-standard Quadruplex format.
58 Phil Crosby, Jr., Bing's grandson, formed a jazz quartet in the Los Angeles area and is bringing a semi-resurgence of interest in Bing and his music.
59 Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith, pg. 122-124. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
60 On October 13, 1977, the day before Crosby's death, independent producer Lew Grade announced that he was reuniting Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour onscreen for the film "Road to the Fountain of Youth," ending several years of speculation at to whether the trio would reunite professionally or not.
61 He and his second wife and younger children did TV commercials for Minute Maid orange juice, because he owned considerable stock in the company.
62 Refused the role of Columbo due to the fact that he felt that it would interfere with his golf game.
63 Star of CBS Radio's "The Bing Crosby Chesterfield Show" (1949-1952). When Chesterfield left, General Electric took over as sponsor for 1953 and 1954.
64 In March of 1950, he had his appendix removed.
65 Star of CBS Radio's "The Bing Crosby Show" (1954-1956).
66 Star of ABC Radio's "Philco Radio Time" (1946-1949).
67 Star of NBC Radio's "Kraft Music Hall" (1935-1946).
68 During the Vietnam War, a secret code was to have been broadcast informing all US personnel that an immediate evacuation had been ordered. The code was the playing of Crosby's "White Christmas" twice on the Armed Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN), followed by the announcement "The temperature in Hanoi is 105 and rising.".
69 "White Christmas" became the bestselling single for more than 50 years until overtaken in 1997 by "Candle in the Wind", Elton John's tribute to the late Princess Diana.
70 The balding actor hated having to wear a toupee during filming and specifically looked for scripts that had outdoor scenes where he could wear a hat or bed scenes in which he could wear a nightcap.
71 As a young adult he enjoyed carousing and drinking and actually received another nickname: "Binge" Crosby. He once spent two months in jail (weekends only) for DUI after a minor car accident, and surprised and shocked interviewers by advocating that pot be decriminalized.
72 Sang on radio at least once a week from 1931 to 1962.
73 One of his early inspirations was Louis Armstrong, who returned the admiration. Louis once described Bing's mellow voice as "like gold being poured out of a cup."
74 When he married his first wife actress/singer Dixie Lee in 1930, her fame at the time was greater than his. One headline actually read: "Well Known Fox Movie Star Marries Bing Croveny." Dixie eventually retired to raise four sons.
75 He was the 20th century's first multi-media entertainer: a star on radio, in movies and in chart-topping recordings. He had 38 No. 1 singles, which surpassed even Elvis Presley and The Beatles.
76 Inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1998.
77 Opened the Del Mar racetrack in Del Mar, California in 1937 and collected tickets at the turnstile on opening day. Before the start of every day of racing his song "Where the Turf Meets the Surf" is played. This song was written for Del Mar and never sold commercially.
78 Was the first choice of "Columbo" creators Richard Levinson and William Link to portray the famed detective.
79 Was nicknamed "Bing" after a character named "Bingo" in a comic strip titled "Bingville Bugle."
80 Left a clause in his will stating that his sons could not collect their inheritance money until they were 65. They had already been amply taken care of by a trust fund set up by their mother, Dixie Lee, which is truth was totally funded by Bing. All four sons continued to collect monies from that fund until their deaths.
81 Interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California, USA, in the Grotto section, L119, #1.
82 Three things about Bing were frequent sources of jokes in Hollywood: His inability to sire a daughter, prior to the birth of Mary Crosby; his investment in racehorses that rarely won; and his rather bad, almost colorblind, taste in casual clothes. These jokes often made their way into radio and TV shows, movies and, most often, into the comedy routines of Bob Hope.
83 From the 1940s to the 1960s he owned 15% of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team. His cameo in Angels in the Outfield (1951) was as part-owner of the team.
84 His large ears were pinned back during his early films, until partway through She Loves Me Not (1934).
85 Older brother of bandleader Bob Crosby.
86 Grandfather of Denise Crosby, L. Chip Crosby Jr. and Gregory Crosby.
87 Father, with actress Kathryn Grant, of sons Harry Crosby and Nathaniel Crosby, and of actress Mary Crosby.
88 Father, with singer Dixie Lee, of sons Gary Crosby, Phillip Crosby & Dennis Crosby (twins) and Lindsay Crosby. All 4 deceased. Both Dennis and Lindsay died due to suicide.
89 His eldest son Gary Crosby was vocal in criticizing Bing's violent ways as a father. He wrote a sensationalist tell-all biography titled "Going My Own Way" in 1983 which was touted as a "Daddy Dearest" about Bing. Though Lindsay Crosby and Dennis Crosby fluctuated between agreeing and disagreeing with Gary's criticisms of their father, Phillip Crosby defended Bing after the book was published. Two of the sons suffered bouts of depression, much as their mother Dixie Lee had, throughout their lives and committed suicide(Lindsay and Dennis, in 1989 and 1991, respectively). Gary died of lung cancer in 1995. Phillip died of a heart attack in 2004, having defended his father to the end. Bing's children from his second marriage, including daughter and actress Mary Crosby, praised him as a kind and loving father in later life.
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