Bing Crosby Talking Pictures


Bing Crosby

A look at TV appearances made over the years by Bing Crosby, with interviews from the archive and classic clips capturing the milestones and highlights of his life and career.


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Transcript


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MUSIC: A Mellow Bit Of Rhythm by Andy Kirk

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Bing Crosby might just have been

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the entertainment world's greatest all-rounder.

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Count box office ticket sales,

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and he's one of the five most successful actors ever.

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As for music, well, it's unlikely

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White Christmas will ever lose its spot

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as the best-selling single of all time.

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And he had a few other hits along the way.

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He won the Best Actor Academy Award in 1944 for Going My Way,

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saying, at the time, that America was the only country

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where an old broken-down crooner could win an Oscar for acting.

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Audiences loved the casual manner and light touch

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he brought to the big screen,

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especially in the seven Road To movies he made with Bob Hope.

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The pair were one of Hollywood's great double acts

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and here they are, on the BBC,

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promoting their 1962 film The Road To Hong Kong.

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Listen, tell me something.

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What's so special about YOUR performance, old boy,

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in The Road To Hong Kong?

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Well, I happen to be an actor and I can handle any role.

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Mmm-hmm, I'm sure you can, as long as there's plenty of ham in it.

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Hey, why don't you tell the folks here

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about some of the acting you do in the picture.

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I play the part of an unsuccessful variety comedian

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with a stupid cowardly disposition.

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Mmm-hmm, now tell the folks about the acting you do in the picture.

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LAUGHTER

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Listen, you crumbling como, I'm a great actor! I'm a great actor!

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I could be another Marlon Brando if I had all my teeth removed.

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-He can mumble pretty good.

-Anyhow, let's save this brawl for later.

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You're right. We're supposed to be telling everybody

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-what The Road To Hong Kong's all about.

-That's easy enough.

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You see, this is the story.

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I'm an astronaut who makes a crash landing and then I lose my memory

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and then I meet this girl who's working as a spy

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for a secret power, you see?

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Mmm-hmm, and we're double-crossed by the leader of the Third Echelon.

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Yeah, that's after we met the Grand Llama, of course,

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-but we manage to escape. Now...

-Hold it, buster, hold it.

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-Yeah, what's the matter?

-Buster, you're giving away the whole story.

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Who's going to buy tickets? Who's going to come and see the picture

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if they know what it's all about?

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-I've got a little loot in this thing too.

-You have?

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-A little lolly?

-Let's keep a modicum of secrecy.

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-A little lolly-pop.

-I've got a great idea.

-What's this?

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We'll just show you one itsy-bitsy scene from The Road To Hong Kong

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-and you can see who gives the best performance, right?

-Right.

-OK.

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-Come on, watch the threads there.

-Please, I just had this pressed.

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Hey, you guys like American pictures?

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Yeah, did you ever see any of the old Road pictures,

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like Singapore, Zanzibar and Morocco?

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-You haven't?

-Well, watch this.

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-TOGETHER:

-Patty-cake, patty-cake, baker's man

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Bake a cake as fast as you...

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-Hey, it still works!

-I guess they haven't seen The Late Late Show.

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APPLAUSE

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-Bing, I'd like to admit something.

-Yeah?

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It's eight years since the last time we were on the road together

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and I guess I have put on a few pounds here and there.

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-Yeah, a little bit.

-Especially there.

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That's spoken like a true sportsman. You know, Bob, maybe I don't hit

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quite as many of the high notes as I used to.

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But the studio say this might be the best Road movie

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we ever made together. How do you account for that?

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-I think, probably, it's teamwork.

-That's right, teamwork.

-Teamwork.

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We do a routine at the beginning of the picture

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-that really proves our point.

-Why don't we do it now?

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-In one take?

-Let's have a bash at it.

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Without the cars and everything? All right.

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# When two guys pull together, it's teamwork

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# In foul or sunny weather, it's teamwork

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# What does it take to make any business climb?

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-# You'll find it takes teamwork

-Let me have it

-Every time

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-# Incidentally, we'll have no talk of noses, it's

-Teamwork

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-# That pot's no pot of roses, it's

-Teamwork

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# Your teeth are still as bright as when they were bought

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-# Nice to have to have teamwork

-Like I thought... #

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Bing Crosby's break into acting came with a 1930 film

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called the King Of Jazz,

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in which he was part of a trio called The Rhythm Boys.

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It was a financial flop but it got Crosby noticed

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and eventually led to him appearing in several short comedies,

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directed by Mack Sennett,

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the man known in Hollywood as the master of slapstick.

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You started work for Mack Sennett, didn't you?

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Shorts. Two-reelers, they called them.

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They ran about 20 minutes, I think.

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This involves you, a piano and a lion and it's coming up.

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-Argh, argh.

-LION ROARS

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-LION ROARS

-Argh!

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-LAUGHTER

-Argh!

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LION ROARS

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Argh! Help!

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LION ROARS

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-Argh!

-LION ROARS

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-Argh!

-LION ROARS

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LAUGHTER

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LION ROARS

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LAUGHTER

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LAUGHTER

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LAUGHTER

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RANDOM PIANO NOTES

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LAUGHTER

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LOUD CRASH

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APPLAUSE

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PARKINSON CLEARS THROAT

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-Sheer artistry, huh?

-Absolutely!

-LAUGHTER

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-In fact, that's unmistakably Sennett, isn't it?

-You bet.

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-All those gags from the old silent movies.

-Oh, yeah, they were great.

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A lot of great directors came out of the Sennett school,

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the two-reel comedies - McCarey, Frank Capra, to name a couple.

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What was Sennett like to work with? How DID he work, Bing?

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If you were going to do a picture,

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they'd generally get a song or two and use that for the title

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and then they'd have a story conference and a couple of writers,

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a stenographer and Sennett and myself would sit around a room.

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He chewed tobacco and he'd have a big spittoon there and he'd...

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-HE SPITS

-..bang into the spittoon

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and we'd talk over a story

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and the stenographer would jot down some notes, what we talked about.

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I didn't do much talking cos I was just a callow youth then,

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but the writers would - how they were going to start it

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and what was going to be said

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and then the next day, we'd start to shoot.

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Never had a complete script or anything like that.

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Sennett, he'd drop the handkerchief when the scene was over

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and make an exit, you know. He'd hit the spittoon - boing!

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-Scene's over, cut.

-LAUGHTER

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Of course, at this time, at this point in your film career,

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the studios are sort of pushing you

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-as a great romantic idol, weren't they?

-Oh, yeah.

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Yeah, beating up an empty road, I'm afraid.

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What lengths did they go to to sort of change you physically?

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I remember, one time, they said my ears stuck out too far.

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I looked like a taxi with both doors open, you know.

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LAUGHTER

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So, they got the make-up man to study it and he glued them back.

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And then I looked like a whippet in full flight.

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LAUGHTER

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And the glue used to itch back there, you know.

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And in those days, they used a lot more light,

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when they were lighting a set, than they do now,

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and it was very hot on the set and that would make the glue come loose

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and they'd pop out and then it would be cut

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and back to the make-up department, big glue job again.

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So one day they popped out and I said they're going to stay out.

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By that time, I'd made a few pictures

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that were moderately successful,

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-so they let them go on that way.

-Yeah.

-Sticking out.

-Yeah.

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I remember when I first tried to get in pictures in Hollywood -

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that's when I was in the Cocoanut Grove -

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an agent took me around to see the head of 20th Century Fox studio

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and I sang a song for him and read some lines for him.

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He said, "Very good." But he said, "The ears are wingy."

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I thought he said, "The years are winging."

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I said, "Oh, I'm not that old."

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He said, "No, I don't mean that. Your ears stick out.

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"There's no way we can photograph you

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"because the ears would be such a...

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"People would right away look at the ears

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"and the scene would go down the drain."

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So he says, "I'm afraid we can't use you."

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And later on, I got signed up by Paramount and was doing very well

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and we used to go to the same church, Catholic church,

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and on the way back from communion,

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I'd pass his seat and I'd give it this, you know.

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LAUGHTER

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LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE

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What about when you made a film called The Bells Of St Mary's?

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-How was the voice then?

-I don't know. I can't remember.

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Well, let's have a reminder of it cos we've got a clip of that.

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We couldn't, of course, do the...

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You can't pick a sequence from that film

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-without doing the title song from it.

-Oh, great.

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I didn't know, until I did this programme,

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it was written for an English review in 1917.

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SHE PLAYS THE PIANO INTRODUCTION

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# Ding, dong

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# Ding, dong

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# Ding, dong, ding

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-# Oh, bells of St Mary's

-Ding, dong, ding, dong

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-# We always will love you

-Ding, dong, ding, dong

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-# With your inspiration

-Ding, dong, ding, dong

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-# We never will fail

-Ding, dong, ding, dong

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-# Your chimes will forever

-Ding, dong, ding, dong

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-# Bring sweet memories of you

-Ding, dong, ding, dong

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-# So proudly ring out

-Ding, dong, ding, dong

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-# While we sing out

-Ding, dong, ding, dong

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-# Hail, hail, hail

-Ding, dong, ding. #

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APPLAUSE

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You know, Ingrid Bergman, a great lady and a great actress,

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she's a great practical joker.

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In that picture, we had a priest on the set all the time,

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as they always did, in any religious picture,

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to see that everything was according to the proper dogma and everything.

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This priest's name was Father Devlin and he was very severe.

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We couldn't do anything.

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It was a delicate relationship - a priest and a nun.

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On the last day of shooting, there was a very sad scene

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where she knows she's not going to live much longer

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and I come to say goodbye to her and it's quite a tearful scene.

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Father Devlin was watching and everybody else.

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I didn't know this had been cooked up between Ingrid and the director.

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I finally said goodbye and she took me in her arms

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and gave me a great big wet kiss, gave me a...

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LAUGHTER

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Father Devlin fainted almost.

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LAUGHTER

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And then we went back and did the scene right.

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-And

-I

-damn near fainted. I couldn't imagine.

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-I thought she'd lost her mind!

-LAUGHTER

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Just bent me over and gave me one of those big soul jobs, you know.

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There was, in fact, in any case, some trouble about the suggestion,

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implicit in the look, in that scene, of a love relationship between...

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That's right. Father Devlin was watching it like a hawk.

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LAUGHTER

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Most people, I suppose, when they think of you,

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think automatically, as well, of Bob Hope.

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-That's to give him his polite name, isn't it?

-Oh, yes, yes.

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-It's been a great relationship.

-How did it start, that relationship?

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We were both in vaudeville and one of those times I told you about,

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he was on the bill once or twice with me.

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We were at the Capitol Theatre one time, in New York.

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He used to do an act with a young lady, a two-act.

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Oh, he was a gay one then.

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He had the straw hat and the spats and the cane.

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Have you ever seen him...? He always looks so, kind of, unflappable,

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in charge of a situation.

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Have you ever seen him embarrassed, visibly embarrassed, Mr Hope?

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Er, not very often. Once, yes, once I did, yeah.

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We'd made a picture here, at the Shepperton Studios.

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We both liked to play golf,

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so we tried to find a house in the country

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and we found a house out near Windsor somewhere.

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And the golf course was right between Shepperton

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and the house, you know, about 15 minutes to the golf course

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and another 15 home, which was an ideal setup

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because it was summer and you had those long English twilights

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and we'd finish at 5.30 or 6 o'clock,

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and we'd just whip to the golf course,

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play till dark and then home to dinner.

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So, one day, we were doing a scene.

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It was supposed to be in a harem and the villains had captured us

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and they decided to give us a soiree, a big orgy,

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with dancing girls and wine and dancing

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and everything going on, and merriment,

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because they thought they were sending us to our death

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in a moon capsule to never return.

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And Hope was stretched out on a chaise longue

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and girls were curling his hair

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and another girl was painting his toenails red

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and they were doing his nails and carrying on like that,

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and I was laying on another chaise longue

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and they were squirting the wine into me

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and they were covering us with unguents and oil

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and frankincense and myrrh, all those things.

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And we finally finished the scene.

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The director says, "Cut," and we whipped over to the golf course,

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played 13 holes, came back in the locker room at Wentworth.

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The locker rooms at British golf courses are very austere.

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They just have a bench,

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a nail to hang your sweater on or your coat on

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and a cold basin over in the corner.

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And we're sitting down and he took off his golf shoes and his socks

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and I noticed there's two British gentlemen

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sitting on the bench across from us -

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typical British country types, you know,

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with the 'stache and the tweed coats.

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I saw one of them, his eyes went to Hope's feet, you know,

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and then he turned to his companion and nudged him

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and his companion looked down and they looked at me and I...

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LAUGHTER

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And they looked down again at these red toenails

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and finally one of them said to me,

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"Mr Crosby, sir, is your friend with the ballet?"

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LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE

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He put on his shoes and socks and he went out

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and didn't say not a word, not a word.

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I don't blame him. Follow that.

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We talked about professional friendship there.

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What about the professional rivalry that was drummed up

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about you and Sinatra when Sinatra first arrived on the scene?

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-Was that rivalry real?

-Oh, no, no.

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We were very good friends and, as you say, it was drummed up,

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just to get something in the newspapers.

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I'm sure neither one of us took it as a serious rivalry.

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I admired his work and I hope to believe that he admired mine.

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We saw a lot of one another.

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He was on my radio show several times

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and I went on a couple of shows he had.

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Can I just give you a quote that he said about you once,

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he's alleged to have said about you? It's a famous one.

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It says that Sinatra said about you,

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"Crosby happens once in a lifetime. Why does it have to be MY lifetime?"

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Yeah, I've heard that. Yeah.

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LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE

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I didn't influence Frankie in any way

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and I certainly didn't halt his progress in any way

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cos he's a brilliant performer and he proved it.

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I was going to ask you what your assessment was

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-of Sinatra as a singer.

-He's a great singer.

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He creates a mood, which very few people are able to do.

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I don't think I create a mood when I sing. Nat Cole could do that.

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-Sinatra does it in a memorable way.

-Mmm.

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When he walks on, with the topcoat over his shoulders and the hat,

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and he goes into Black Magic or one of those kind of things,

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-he's created a mood right away and the audience is with him.

-Mmm.

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-Very few people can do that, that I know of.

-Mmm.

-Lena Horne can do it.

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Yes. There's a marvellous moment - well, a marvellous film,

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-High Society, you made together.

-Mmm-hmm.

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We've got, I think, the best sequence from that,

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the moment when you collided in song

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and that lovely song Well, Did You Evah.

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-Oh, yeah.

-Let's have a look at that. One of my favourites.

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# I drink to your health

0:17:030:17:06

# Nah, let's drink to your wealth

0:17:060:17:09

-# You're my bon ami

-Hey, that's French!

0:17:090:17:13

-# Liberty

-Fraternity

0:17:130:17:16

# Have you heard? It's in the stars

0:17:200:17:23

# Next July, we collide with Mars

0:17:230:17:26

# Well, did you evah

0:17:260:17:29

# What a swell party

0:17:290:17:31

# Swell party

0:17:320:17:34

# Swellegant, elegant party this is. #

0:17:350:17:42

APPLAUSE

0:17:450:17:48

I can't think of any number that illustrates the old axiom

0:17:580:18:01

that when you have somebody writing something good for you,

0:18:010:18:04

a piece of material like that, it's got to be pretty good,

0:18:040:18:07

if you just sing what he's written. And that was Cole Porter.

0:18:070:18:09

And with a piece of material like that,

0:18:090:18:12

it had to be fairly entertaining.

0:18:120:18:13

It's a beautiful song but magnificently executed.

0:18:130:18:17

It's absolutely perfect,

0:18:170:18:18

one of my all-time favourite clips from a movie.

0:18:180:18:20

Well, the material was there, Michael, you know.

0:18:200:18:22

When you get something like that,

0:18:220:18:24

-you really feel like rolling, you know.

-Yeah, that was great.

0:18:240:18:27

As someone who had experienced huge success in both film and music,

0:18:270:18:33

Bing Crosby wasn't precious about how he reached audiences.

0:18:330:18:37

For years, he had radio shows and appeared in television specials

0:18:370:18:41

and the mid-'60s even saw him in his own sitcom,

0:18:410:18:44

called, simply, The Bing Crosby Show.

0:18:440:18:48

And here he is, talking with Joan Bakewell,

0:18:480:18:50

and comparing working in TV to working in film.

0:18:500:18:54

Mr Crosby, this is the first time

0:18:570:18:58

you've done situation comedy on television, isn't it?

0:18:580:19:01

-It's true, Joan, yes.

-How do you feel about it?

0:19:010:19:03

Well, it was a very enriching experience because it gave me

0:19:030:19:08

an opportunity to do something different every week

0:19:080:19:10

and to work with some new people.

0:19:100:19:12

I won't say it was easy because the hours were long.

0:19:120:19:15

You haven't got much time to waste standing around.

0:19:150:19:19

We shot a film in three days.

0:19:190:19:22

-We tried to average that, and we came very close to doing it.

-Yeah.

0:19:220:19:26

And we started working in August and didn't get through till February.

0:19:260:19:30

You did say, once, that no entertainer

0:19:300:19:33

who's in everyone's home once a week, can survive for long.

0:19:330:19:36

-Have you revised that opinion?

-I guess I'll have to.

0:19:360:19:39

But this is just going to be for one year,

0:19:390:19:41

but I think I could enlarge on that

0:19:410:19:43

and say if he was in one's home once a week for SEVERAL years.

0:19:430:19:47

Let's put it that way.

0:19:470:19:49

Now, coming from films into television work,

0:19:490:19:52

does this mean you're not going to do any more films?

0:19:520:19:55

No, I'm on my way to do one now - Stagecoach, at 20th Century Fox,

0:19:550:19:59

a remake of the old classic that John Ford directed.

0:19:590:20:03

I think it was the picture that launched John Wayne into stardom,

0:20:030:20:07

and I'm playing the bibulous doctor.

0:20:070:20:10

Which do you prefer working in - the hectic television studios

0:20:100:20:14

or more relaxed atmosphere of film?

0:20:140:20:16

Well, I would never want to do a series again,

0:20:160:20:18

although we did have a good crew and we had a lot of fun.

0:20:180:20:22

It's just too confining. You just can't think of doing anything else.

0:20:220:20:25

When you're through at 7.30, 8 o'clock,

0:20:250:20:28

by the time you've had dinner,

0:20:280:20:29

it's bedtime because you have to get up again at 6,

0:20:290:20:32

and five days a week for six months, that is a little confining.

0:20:320:20:36

I think a spectacular on television -

0:20:360:20:39

a big musical show, with singing and dancing stars -

0:20:390:20:42

that's all right, three or four of those a year.

0:20:420:20:45

And I plan to do nine Hollywood Palace shows.

0:20:450:20:48

Has that come over here, the Hollywood Palace?

0:20:480:20:50

It's a variety show, like Ed Sullivan. And I'll MC it.

0:20:500:20:53

-That's easy. That's two or three days' work for each show.

-Mmm.

0:20:530:20:57

But in a situation comedy, which is sort of acting television,

0:20:570:21:00

do you find television is a different skill than films?

0:21:000:21:04

Well, they settle for much less in the way of quality

0:21:040:21:07

in the situation comedy on television,

0:21:070:21:09

cos they don't have the time or the budget.

0:21:090:21:12

Film, they take more time because they want to get the quality.

0:21:120:21:16

But prices of production costs being what they are in television,

0:21:160:21:20

they just can't waste time fooling around. They have to go.

0:21:200:21:23

Of course, we've been seeing you - I don't know whether you know this -

0:21:230:21:26

in the Road films, which are going out on BBC television at the moment.

0:21:260:21:29

-Oh.

-And this was the start, wasn't it,

0:21:290:21:33

-of your famous partnership with Bob Hope?

-Well, I knew him before.

0:21:330:21:37

We played theatres together in the early '30s.

0:21:370:21:40

He was a stand-up monologist and I was a singer,

0:21:400:21:44

-so we knew one another before that.

-Yeah.

0:21:440:21:46

But that was the first time we worked together,

0:21:460:21:48

was in The Road To Singapore.

0:21:480:21:50

And this is where you hit on this tremendous partnership gimmick,

0:21:500:21:53

-if you like to call it, of mutual insults.

-Uh-huh.

0:21:530:21:58

Has it ever got out of hand?

0:21:580:22:00

No, no, it's just a rib, a gentle sort of a rib.

0:22:000:22:03

We're very good friends and I have a lot of admiration for him.

0:22:030:22:07

He's done tremendous things for people

0:22:070:22:09

and for humanity all over the world,

0:22:090:22:11

let alone the entertainment that he's provided.

0:22:110:22:14

He's done so many great things in the humanitarian way,

0:22:140:22:17

that I think he's an outstanding person.

0:22:170:22:20

It's a pretty close-fought battle of wits in these Road films.

0:22:200:22:24

Does he always come out on top?

0:22:240:22:25

Oh, he's a little funnier, quite a bit funnier than I am -

0:22:250:22:28

a little more adroit, shall we say, at the bons mots.

0:22:280:22:32

-Now, your name isn't really Bing, is it?

-Harry.

0:22:330:22:36

How did the Bing come about?

0:22:360:22:38

Oh, way, way back, I guess, when I was a child, there was a comic strip

0:22:380:22:42

called The Bingville Bugle in our newspapers

0:22:420:22:45

and there was a character named Bingo in there.

0:22:450:22:47

And, somehow or other, they called me Bingo,

0:22:470:22:50

and then they knocked off the "O", and now I'm Bing.

0:22:500:22:53

So, it's been Bing since you were very small.

0:22:530:22:55

A baby, yeah, since I was a child.

0:22:550:22:57

Now, the other tab is, of course, the classic "Old Groaner" one.

0:22:570:23:01

Where did that come from?

0:23:010:23:02

Tommy Dorsey hung that on me, I think, the band leader.

0:23:020:23:05

-Oh, yes, that arose out of a...

-We used to work together a lot.

0:23:050:23:09

He was with Whiteman when I was with Whiteman.

0:23:090:23:11

And then, later, he had his own band and I did some shows with him

0:23:110:23:16

and we were very old friends

0:23:160:23:18

and he hung that cognomen on me - The Old Groaner.

0:23:180:23:21

You're the sort of classic crooner,

0:23:210:23:23

but where does the phrase "crooner" come from?

0:23:230:23:26

You've made that your own.

0:23:260:23:27

I think it started with Vallee, Rudy Vallee.

0:23:270:23:29

He was the first one I can remember that was called a crooner.

0:23:290:23:33

He sang with a megaphone, at first, in front of his band,

0:23:330:23:36

and then later, with radio, with a microphone and a PA system.

0:23:360:23:40

I think he was the first crooner.

0:23:400:23:43

Since you began recording, styles of singing have changed very much.

0:23:430:23:48

What do you think of the modern pop idiom of singing nowadays?

0:23:480:23:52

-What do you think of the Beatles?

-I think they're very good.

0:23:520:23:56

They might change their...pace a little,

0:23:560:23:59

singing different types of songs, once in a while.

0:23:590:24:02

I know sometimes, programmes, they do everything just the same.

0:24:020:24:05

Somebody in there's a very talented writer,

0:24:050:24:07

because they took a couple of their songs,

0:24:070:24:10

the Boston Symphony Orchestra,

0:24:100:24:12

and made records of them without lyrics

0:24:120:24:15

and they were very successful and they sounded very good,

0:24:150:24:18

so there's a good constructionist in the group.

0:24:180:24:20

I don't know which one it is.

0:24:200:24:22

Er... I think they're very entertaining.

0:24:220:24:25

The picture they made was a big success. I don't like their hairdo!

0:24:250:24:30

-You don't?

-The barbers' union must be really disgruntled about that.

0:24:300:24:34

-Mr Crosby, will there ever be a time when you retire?

-Not completely.

0:24:340:24:39

I thought of it every once in a while,

0:24:390:24:41

but I go fishing for a month or go hunting for a month,

0:24:410:24:45

go travelling for a month, and it begins to get dull.

0:24:450:24:48

And I wonder what's going on

0:24:480:24:51

and I get the itch to get my hand back in again.

0:24:510:24:53

I don't think I could ever completely retire.

0:24:530:24:56

There'd always be something to do, I'm sure.

0:24:560:24:59

-I can play crotchety old curmudgeons or something...

-Yeah, for sure.

0:24:590:25:03

-..as I get older.

-Well, we hope you never do retire.

0:25:030:25:06

-Thank you very much indeed.

-Thank you, Joan.

0:25:060:25:08

It's been very nice to have this chat

0:25:080:25:10

and have an opportunity, through you,

0:25:100:25:12

to say hello to the viewers of the BBC too.

0:25:120:25:15

The Bing Crosby Show was a modest success and lasted 28 episodes.

0:25:150:25:21

But audiences really wanted a big-screen Bing -

0:25:210:25:25

or at least wanted to hear him talk about the good old days,

0:25:250:25:28

which is what he did,

0:25:280:25:30

when he returned for another chat with Michael Parkinson, in 1975.

0:25:300:25:34

Can I talk to you now a bit about another aspect of your career,

0:25:340:25:37

which you touched on earlier, which was Hollywood?

0:25:370:25:41

In those great days of Hollywood, in the '30s,

0:25:410:25:43

what kind of place was it to be?

0:25:430:25:45

Well, working in pictures then was tremendous fun,

0:25:450:25:48

because everybody was friendly. For instance, Paramount studio,

0:25:480:25:51

they had a long line of dressing rooms, and just to name a few,

0:25:510:25:55

there'd be Freddie March, Jack Oakie, Maurice Chevalier, Bob Hope,

0:25:550:25:59

Bill Holden, Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich, Claudette Colbert...

0:25:590:26:03

I don't know. And James Stewart. Go on and on.

0:26:030:26:06

And every evening, after you finished work at 5 o'clock,

0:26:060:26:09

they had a big mall on the lawn and we'd sit out there and have a drink

0:26:090:26:13

and talk and discuss and go home leisurely

0:26:130:26:15

and come back the next day and have a nice day.

0:26:150:26:17

There was no drive to do it under a certain amount of days,

0:26:170:26:20

a certain amount of money. It was just fun and the directors were fun.

0:26:200:26:24

They had a lot of gags going on, local jokes and private jokes,

0:26:240:26:28

ribbing people and needling people.

0:26:280:26:30

In that field of having fun while you were working,

0:26:300:26:34

who was the actor or actress or director

0:26:340:26:36

who was most fun to work with, that you found?

0:26:360:26:38

-Billy Wilder was really great fun to work with.

-Mmm.

0:26:380:26:41

I did a picture with him with Joan Fontaine called The Emperor Waltz,

0:26:410:26:45

and he was a prankster. Blake Edwards is another.

0:26:450:26:48

-He's notorious.

-Great prankster. He does pictures with Peter Sellers,

0:26:480:26:51

and I think either one of them would work for nothing,

0:26:510:26:53

they have so much fun.

0:26:530:26:55

What about somebody that I know that you knew and liked,

0:26:550:26:58

although I never actually met, but I've seen a couple of her films

0:26:580:27:01

and she was a staggeringly beautiful woman,

0:27:010:27:03

-and that was Carole Lombard?

-Oh, priceless! A wonderful woman!

0:27:030:27:07

She was so beautiful and she could say the most outrageous thing

0:27:070:27:11

and get away with it because of her pretty face

0:27:110:27:14

-and she had a delivery that you didn't mind.

-Mmm.

0:27:140:27:16

I did a picture with her once and, in the picture,

0:27:160:27:20

the writer says they'd written a big routine with a trained bear.

0:27:200:27:24

In fact, I had to sing to the bear.

0:27:240:27:26

LAUGHTER

0:27:260:27:28

We had a director named Norman Taurog and he was a little feisty,

0:27:280:27:31

a nervous sort of director,

0:27:310:27:33

and he just hated delays and he wanted to get everything right.

0:27:330:27:36

So, they auditioned a lot of bears and...

0:27:360:27:39

-LAUGHTER

-Yeah!

0:27:390:27:41

They had trainers come by and showed them the script,

0:27:410:27:43

what the bear was supposed to do.

0:27:430:27:45

He was supposed to roller-skate and do all kinds of things.

0:27:450:27:48

And they finally selected a bear.

0:27:480:27:50

He gave the guy, like, 300 a week or something.

0:27:500:27:53

And we started working with the bear and he wouldn't do a darned thing.

0:27:530:27:56

He wouldn't do anything. He bit the trainer,

0:27:560:27:59

-he bit the assistant director and...

-LAUGHTER

0:27:590:28:02

..Taurog, the director, was going out of his mind.

0:28:020:28:04

He was going bonkers, trying to...

0:28:040:28:06

Cos we had to get these scenes, it can't drag on forever.

0:28:060:28:09

He finally sent the bear over with the assistant director.

0:28:090:28:11

"You spend a week with him on the stage."

0:28:110:28:13

And the assistant director took a club over

0:28:130:28:16

and he beat this bear on the head until he whimpered a little

0:28:160:28:20

and he'd finally do what he was supposed to do.

0:28:200:28:22

He was just a difficult bear.

0:28:220:28:23

Then they came back, they brought him back to the scene,

0:28:230:28:26

and he did...right into the same kind of conduct.

0:28:260:28:29

And, again, Taurog was out of his mind.

0:28:290:28:31

He finally scraps some scenes and scrubs some others and we got by.

0:28:310:28:35

The picture's finished and we had a big cast party, as they always do

0:28:350:28:38

after the picture finishes, on the set, and then everybody went home.

0:28:380:28:42

And Taurog arrived home.

0:28:420:28:43

Carole Lombard had bought the bear and it was tied to his front porch.

0:28:450:28:48

LAUGHTER

0:28:480:28:50

Now, you think that didn't kill him? Cos her about 500 for the day.

0:28:500:28:54

Who was, then,

0:28:540:28:56

of all this extraordinary assembly of people that you've met

0:28:560:28:59

throughout your career, who was the most talented, do you think?

0:28:590:29:02

-Judy Garland, I think.

-Really?

-In the women, surely Judy Garland.

0:29:020:29:06

-Yeah.

-For many reasons, Mike.

0:29:060:29:08

We all know she's a great singer and a wonderful dancer.

0:29:080:29:11

She can do any kind of a dance.

0:29:110:29:13

We know she's a great dramatic actress.

0:29:130:29:15

But she is the best, or was the best low comedy comedienne

0:29:150:29:18

I've ever seen.

0:29:180:29:20

I mean, baggy pants, red nose, Dutch-accent comedy.

0:29:200:29:22

She was sensational.

0:29:220:29:24

Could do Italian, anything. She got very little chance to do it.

0:29:240:29:27

We did it on radio shows.

0:29:270:29:28

I had her for 12 weeks on a radio show I had

0:29:280:29:30

and she did a lot of it then.

0:29:300:29:32

But that's a broad spectrum,

0:29:320:29:35

to be able to do all those things and look lovely,

0:29:350:29:38

sing like a bird, and get sympathy, be dramatic

0:29:380:29:42

and still be a hokey comedian, which she was.

0:29:420:29:45

But, ultimately, tragic. Couldn't pick the right fellow, could she?

0:29:450:29:48

Married all kinds of fellows. I don't know who they all were

0:29:480:29:51

but none of them pleased her or made her happy.

0:29:510:29:53

And she deserved happiness cos I had great times with her,

0:29:530:29:57

never had a moment when there was any concern.

0:29:570:29:59

She was laughing and kidding and having fun

0:29:590:30:02

-all the time I ever worked with her.

-Mmm.

0:30:020:30:04

Two years after that interview,

0:30:040:30:06

Crosby was back on these shores, still touring at the age of 73.

0:30:060:30:11

He was, famously by then, one of the wealthiest stars on the planet,

0:30:110:30:17

with a fortune estimated at over 500 million.

0:30:170:30:23

So this conversation with Vincent Hanna

0:30:230:30:25

starts with what is, perhaps, the most obvious question.

0:30:250:30:30

The thing that strikes one is why bother at all?

0:30:300:30:33

-Why do you need to do shows any more?

-Well, there's no real need.

0:30:330:30:37

I've always been an actor for over 50 years

0:30:370:30:40

and it's very hard to get out of something like that.

0:30:400:30:44

You might say I'm almost in a rut.

0:30:440:30:46

But there's a desire on the part of every actor

0:30:460:30:48

to continue to appear, to see if there's an audience for him.

0:30:480:30:52

If he's accepted, it makes you feel good.

0:30:520:30:55

I don't do enough of it to become tired or anything.

0:30:550:30:58

It's just three hours at night, and not every night.

0:30:580:31:02

That's the chief reason, I guess, just to be in action,

0:31:020:31:05

to know that there is an audience for you that'll accept you.

0:31:050:31:08

You've chosen a pretty tough way to do it.

0:31:080:31:10

You're touring around Britain,

0:31:100:31:11

you're on the stage for a long period every night.

0:31:110:31:14

There are periods when the other people are on,

0:31:140:31:16

I go and get my feet up and take a breather.

0:31:160:31:19

You've no need for money to do this, obviously.

0:31:190:31:22

No, I need a certain income. I have all kinds of obligations.

0:31:220:31:26

You're always behind with your taxes, with the government.

0:31:260:31:29

You're always a couple of years behind.

0:31:290:31:32

I've got to have an income to keep things on the status quo.

0:31:320:31:36

-How rich are you, can I ask?

-I can't say. I really wouldn't know.

0:31:360:31:39

So much is real estate.

0:31:390:31:41

We don't know whether it's worth anything, how much it IS worth.

0:31:410:31:44

These things could be valued at practically any price,

0:31:440:31:48

-you don't know.

-Are you, in fact, richer than Bob Hope?

0:31:480:31:51

Oh, no, I don't think so. He has got...

0:31:510:31:54

He started buying real estate around Hollywood in 1937, '38,

0:31:540:32:00

and at that time...

0:32:000:32:02

You know what's happened to that part of California?

0:32:020:32:05

Values have gone up tremendously.

0:32:050:32:07

Of course, he says he pays a lot of taxes,

0:32:070:32:09

and I suppose he does on all that property.

0:32:090:32:11

Who's the richest of you all, do you think, in Hollywood,

0:32:110:32:14

-of this generation?

-It's hard to say.

0:32:140:32:16

Fred MacMurray is very well-to-do.

0:32:160:32:17

He's been very canny in his investments and has had good advice.

0:32:170:32:21

Fred Astaire must be in good shape. We're all...

0:32:210:32:25

I have nothing to complain about and I'm sure Hope doesn't either,

0:32:250:32:28

but when you say, "How much are you worth?",

0:32:280:32:30

for an actor, that's hard to say

0:32:300:32:32

because he's got so many things outstanding,

0:32:320:32:34

obligations that he has to meet.

0:32:340:32:37

The thing to do is try and arrange your estate

0:32:370:32:39

so that you leave something for your children.

0:32:390:32:41

The other thing is, how do you actually last the pace?

0:32:410:32:44

I see recent reports of Elvis Presley dying of old age at 42.

0:32:440:32:49

That's a tragic, tremendous shame.

0:32:490:32:51

He got overweight, I guess, and worked very, very hard.

0:32:510:32:54

I've never read the final story of what was the matter with him.

0:32:540:32:57

Some said heart attack, a stroke, or something.

0:32:570:33:01

They said he had the insides, the arteries,

0:33:010:33:03

of a very old man when he died, and I wondered what your secret is.

0:33:030:33:06

You seem to be as young and as fresh...

0:33:060:33:08

Well, my mother and father achieved...

0:33:080:33:11

Well, my mother was 93 and my father was in his late 80s,

0:33:110:33:15

so maybe it's a family trait.

0:33:150:33:16

Maybe it's because I do get a normal amount of rest.

0:33:160:33:20

If I'm not at a dinner party or some kind of a function,

0:33:200:33:24

I'm in bed at 10.15, maybe for days on end,

0:33:240:33:28

and I always get up at 7, no matter what time I go to bed.

0:33:280:33:31

And lately, if time allows, I take a little nap, get my feet up.

0:33:310:33:34

If it's only for 30 minutes, just lie down on your back,

0:33:340:33:37

with your feet a little higher than your head

0:33:370:33:40

and it revives you a little bit.

0:33:400:33:42

I don't do it every day cos I don't have...

0:33:420:33:44

I'm playing golf, or something, and just skip it.

0:33:440:33:47

I understand you're planning to make one more Road picture

0:33:470:33:49

-with Bob Hope.

-There's talk about it.

0:33:490:33:52

We have a treatment, you know - a treatment, like a synopsis -

0:33:520:33:55

but it hasn't been fleshed out with enough scenes

0:33:550:33:57

to tell whether we want to do it.

0:33:570:33:59

What the thing needs is a lot of lunacy,

0:33:590:34:01

like Monty Python and Marty Feldman

0:34:010:34:04

and Mel Brooks and those guys have been using so successfully.

0:34:040:34:07

-Do you watch Monty Python, things like that?

-Oh, sure, I see them all.

0:34:070:34:10

I like these sketches that Hill does. What's his name? Benny Hill?

0:34:100:34:16

And Dave Allen.

0:34:160:34:18

Those wild sketches - it needs a lot of that kind of stuff,

0:34:180:34:21

and they're trying to fix it up.

0:34:210:34:22

You seem to be very happy in London and in Britain.

0:34:220:34:25

It's my favourite city of all the world.

0:34:250:34:27

I've been all over and this is my favourite city, London,

0:34:270:34:29

and England has everything I like - the horse racing on turf,

0:34:290:34:33

with lots of long-distance racing, the golf, the shooting, the people.

0:34:330:34:37

There's such civility in England.

0:34:370:34:39

You don't find it in any other country in the world.

0:34:390:34:42

It has an atmosphere. The cabbies are funny, everybody's funny.

0:34:420:34:46

I know you people are going through a trying time, a difficult time...

0:34:460:34:49

But you came over to cheer us up.

0:34:490:34:50

But when I come here, I'm cheered up.

0:34:500:34:52

I get a kick out of the English people. The chief...

0:34:520:34:55

If I were to describe England,

0:34:550:34:57

I'd say it's an atmosphere of civility that no other nation has.

0:34:570:35:02

Three weeks after that encounter,

0:35:020:35:04

the British producer Lew Grade announced

0:35:040:35:07

that Crosby and Bob Hope would be reunited for one more Road To film.

0:35:070:35:12

This one was going to be called Road To The Fountain Of Youth.

0:35:120:35:17

The day after Grade's news, whilst on a golf course in Spain,

0:35:180:35:23

Bing Crosby died from a sudden heart attack.

0:35:230:35:26

His last words? "That was a great game of golf, fellas."

0:35:280:35:33

He'll be forever remembered as one of Hollywood's biggest stars -

0:35:330:35:38

the singer who conquered cinema,

0:35:380:35:40

with a voice that Louis Armstrong once said sounded

0:35:400:35:43

like gold being poured out of a cup.

0:35:430:35:46

We'll end now with a clip that doesn't just showcase that voice,

0:35:470:35:51

but also the humour and charm that made fans love Bing Crosby

0:35:510:35:56

and, in this case, made a certain chat show host

0:35:560:36:00

feel rather special too.

0:36:000:36:03

APPLAUSE

0:36:030:36:06

# Hello, Parky

0:36:140:36:17

# Oh, hello, Parky

0:36:170:36:20

# It's so nice to see you back on your show again

0:36:200:36:25

# Now don't you say a single word, Parky

0:36:260:36:30

# Because it's absurd, Parky

0:36:300:36:34

# To keep yakking when we've got this backing

0:36:340:36:37

# With this fine bunch of young men

0:36:370:36:41

# In London town, there's nowhere

0:36:410:36:45

# I can ever go where

0:36:450:36:48

# I'm as welcome as I am when I'm with you

0:36:480:36:53

# So, don't you get bored, Parky

0:36:530:36:59

# Listen to the folks applaud, Parky

0:36:590:37:03

# You'll get your chance to talk when we're all through

0:37:030:37:07

# Mr Parkinson

0:37:100:37:11

# Cock your ear and hark it, son

0:37:130:37:16

# The folks are glad to see you back again. #

0:37:160:37:22

-There you are!

-APPLAUSE

0:37:230:37:26

A retrospective look at television appearances made over the years by American actor Bing Crosby, with interviews from the archive and classic clips capturing the milestones and highlights of his life and career.

Narrated by Sylvia Syms.


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