Nationality: American. Born: Harry Lillis Crosby in Tacoma, Washington, 2 May 1901 (year of birth also given as 1903 and 1904 in various sources); nickname "Bing" acquired in grade school through avid reading of comic strip "The Bingville Bugle." Education: Attended Gonzaga High School; Gonzaga University, 1920–22. Family: Married 1) Wilma Winnifred Wyatt ("Dixie Lee"), 1930 (died 1952), sons: Gary, Philip and Dennis (twins), and Lindsay; 2) Kathryn Grant, 1957, children: Harry Jr., Mary, and Nathaniel. Career: 1922—drummer and vocalist with band "The Musicaladers"; 1926—singer with Paul Whiteman band; 1927—dropped from Whiteman show reportedly due to heavy drinking; teamed with Al Rinker and Harry Barris as "Paul Whiteman's Rhythm Boys" appearing on Keith circuit; 1929—initial film work in Hollywood at Pathe and for Sennett; 1930—solo singer on nightly broadcasts from Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles; 1931—began broadcasting for CBS; five-picture Paramount contract: association with Paramount lasted until 1956; 1932—debut as featured actor in The Big Broadcast ; 1934—signed with Decca Record Co.; 1935—coast-to-coast broadcast for Kraft Music Hall; 1936–46—host of Kraft program; 1945—two films produced by Bing Crosby Productions do poorly at box office; 1964–65—actor in TV series The Bing Crosby Show . Awards:
Two Plus Fours (Ray McCarey—short); Ripstitch the Tailor (Ray McCarey—short, unreleased); King of Jazz (Anderson); Check and Double Check (Brown) (cameo role); Reaching for the Moon (Goulding)
Confessions of a Co-ed ( Her Dilemma ) (Burton and Murphy) (as voice); I Surrender Dear (Sennett—short); One More Chance (Sennett—short)
Dream House (Lord—short); Billboard Girl (Pearce—short); The Big Broadcast (Tuttle)
Blue of the Night (Pearce—short); Sing, Bing, Sing (Stafford—short); College Humor (Ruggles); Too Much Harmony (Sutherland); Please (Gillstrom—short); Going Hollywood (Walsh)
Just an Echo (Gillstrom—short); We're Not Dressing (Taurog); She Loves Me Not (Nugent); Here Is My Heart (Tuttle)
Star Night at the Cocoanut Grove (Lewyn—short); Mississippi (Sutherland); Two for Tonight (Tuttle); The Big Broadcast of 1936 (Taurog)
Anything Goes (Milestone); Rhythm on the Range (Taurog); Pennies from Heaven (McLeod)
Waikiki Wedding (Tuttle); Double or Nothing (Reed)
Doctor Rhythm (Tuttle); Sing You Sinners (Ruggles); Don't Hook Now (Short)
Paris Honeymoon (Tuttle); East Side of Heaven (Butler); The Star Maker (Del Ruth)
Road to Singapore (Schertzinger); If I Had My Way (Butler); Swing with Bing (Polesie—short); Rhythm on the River (Schertzinger)
Road to Zanzibar (Schertzinger); Birth of the Blues (Schertzinger)
Angels of Mercy (short); My Favorite Blonde (Lanfield) (as guest); Holiday Inn (Sandrich); Road to Morocco (Butler); Star Spangled Rhythm (Marshall) (as guest)
Going My Way (McCarey) (as Father O'Malley); The Road to Victory (Prinz—short); The Princess and the Pirate (Butler) (as guest); Here Come the Waves (Sandrich); The Shining Future (Prinz—short)
All Star Bond Rally (Audley—short); Hollywood Victory Caravan (Russell—short); Out of this World (Walker) (as voice); Duffy's Tavern (Walker) (as guest); The Bells of St. Mary's (McCarey) (as Father O'Malley); Road to Utopia (Walker)
Monsieur Beaucaire (Marshall) (as guest); Blue Skies (Heisler); The Road to Hollywood (compilation of early Crosby shorts)
My Favorite Brunette (Nugent) (as guest); Welcome Stranger (Nugent); Road to Rio (McLeod); Variety Girl (Marshall) (as guest)
The Emperor Waltz (Wilder)
A Connecticut Yankee ( A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court ; A Yankee in King Arthur's Court ) (Garnett); "Ichabod Crane" ep. of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (Geronimi and Algar) (as narrator); Top o' the Morning (Miller); The Road to Peace (Webb—short); You Can Change the World (McCarey) (as guest)
Riding High (Capra); Mr. Music (Haydn)
Angels in the Outfield ( Angels and the Pirates ) (Brown) (as guest); Here Comes the Groom (Capra); A Millionaire for Christy (Marshall) (as voice)
The Greatest Show on Earth (DeMille) (as guest); Son of Paleface (Tashlin) (as guest); Just for You (Nugent); Off Limits ( Military Policemen ) (Marshall) (as guest)
Scared Stiff (Marshall) (as guest); Little Boy Lost (Seaton); Faith, Hope and Hogan (Denove—short) (as guest)
White Christmas (Curtiz); The Country Girl (Seaton)
Bing Presents Oreste (Dmytryk—short)
High Society (Walters); Anything Goes (Lewis—not a remake of 1936 film)
Man on Fire (MacDougall); The Heart of Show Business (Staub) (as narrator)
Showdown at Ulcer Gulch (Culhane—short)
Alias Jesse James (McLeod) (as guest); Say One for Me (Tashlin)
Let's Make Love (Cukor) (as guest); High Time (Edwards); Pepe (Sidney) (as guest)
The Road to Hong Kong (Panama)
Robin and the Seven Hoods (Douglas)
Cinerama's Russian Adventure ( Bing Crosby in Cinerama's Russian Adventure ) (doc) (as narrator)
Bing Crosby's Washington State (Gardner—short) (as narrator)
Golf's Golden Years (Evans—short) (as narrator)
Dr. Cook's Garden (Post—for TV) (title role)
Cancel My Reservation (Bogart) (as guest); The World of Sport Fishing (Morgan—for TV)
That's Entertainment! (Haley Jr.) (as narrator)
Call Me Lucky , as told to Pete Martin, New York, 1953.
"The Bing Crosby Experience," interview by R. Kent, in Inter/View (New York), September 1973.
Crosby, Kathryn, Bing and Other Things , New York, 1967.
Pleasants, Henry, The Great American Popular Singers , New York, 1974.
Thompson, Charles, Bing: The Authorized Biography , London, 1975.
Bauer, Barbara, Bing Crosby , New York, 1977.
Bookbinder, Robert, The Films of Bing Crosby , Secaucus, New Jersey, 1977.
Church, James Thomas, Bing: The Melody Lingers On, New York, 1977.
Thomas, Bob, The One and Only Bing , New York, 1977.
Zwishon, Laurence J., Bing Crosby: A Lifetime of Music , Los Angeles, 1978.
Barnes, Ken, The Crosby Years , New York, 1980.
Shepard, Donald, and Robert Slatzer, Bing Crosby , New York, 1981.
Crosby, Gary, and Ross Firestone, Going My Own Way , New York, 1983.
Crosby, Kathryn, My Life with Bing , London, 1983.
Morgereth, Timothy A., Bing Crosby: A Discography, Radio Program List, and Filmography , Jefferson, North Carolina, 1987.
Osterholm, J. Roger, Bing Crosby: A Bio-Bibliography , Westport, Connecticut, 1994.
Mielke, Randall G., Road to Box Office: The Seven Film Comedies of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour , Jefferson, North Carolina, 1997.
Marill, A. H., "Bing Crosby," in Films in Review (New York), June-July 1968.
Passek, J.-L., "Bing Crosby," in Cinéma (Paris), December 1977.
Warner, A., "The Gold of His Day," and letter from M. Kreuger in Films in Review (New York), January 1978.
Shipman, David, in The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years , rev. ed., London, 1979.
* * *
Although Bing Crosby had made films for Paramount Pictures from the early 1930s to the mid-1950s, it was during the 1940s with his "Road" films that he achieved major box-office status. In 1944 he reached the acme of star ranking in Hollywood and remained there for five consecutive years. All his "Road" films with Bob Hope ranked among the top grossers for their respective years. But so did Going My Way , Here Come the Waves , Blue Skies , Welcome Strangers , and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court , all Crosby films sans Hope. Indeed, in l944 Crosby stood as the American film industry's number one star, earned an Academy Award, and recorded "Swinging on a Star," a record that sold a million copies.
Bing Crosby retained his ranking as a top movie star until l954. Throughout the early 1950s, he continued to win awards and generate millions for Paramount, the studio for which he had labored so long. In 1954, for example, he earned an Academy Award nomination for The Country Girl and starred in White Christmas , the highest grossing film of the year. It was in 1956, with Anything Goes , that he terminated a 24-year association with Paramount, and began to freelance as a movie actor working for Twentieth Century-Fox, Columbia, United Artists, and Warner Brothers. In the mid-l960s he ended his movie career, and turned to full-time work in television with his second wife and new brood of children.
Surprisingly, his success in the new visual medium of television never matched his popularity in films. There were the annual specials featuring family and guest star, Bob Hope. But his only weekly television series, a domestic situation comedy for ABC entitled The Bing Crosby Show , proved a major disappointment, and was canceled in l964 after only one season. In the long run, Crosby's greatest success in television came through his production company with such popular series hits as Ben Casey , The Wild, Wild West , and Hogan's Heroes .
Crosby first achieved national popularity on the radio, and would never forget these origins: he continued with a weekly radio show well into the 1950s. His popularity on radio during the Great Depression ignited his career as a phonograph recording star. It was in this sector of American show business that Crosby's impact was truly staggering. He sold 22 million single records; he recorded more than 2,600 different songs; he sold 400 million records total (by 1975). And one recording, "White Christmas," went on to sell more than 30 million copies alone.
His radio, record, movie, and television activities made Bing Crosby one of the richest persons in the history of American show business. He was one of the first stars of any media to incorporate himself—in 1936. Once his show business success was assured, he began to invest in real estate, mines, oil wells, cattle ranches, race horses, music publishing, baseball teams, and the aforementioned television production company. But his greatest wealth probably did not even come from his extraordinary movie and singing career but from his financing of what later became the Minute Maid Orange Juice Corporation. This investment alone made him a multimillionaire.
Crosby's successes as a movie star should best be thought of as an extension of his enormous popularity as a singer and radio star. Through hundreds and hundreds of "performances," he was able to project an image as the unexceptional, even lazy character who sang effortlessly, always playing himself. He became an extension of the icon of the "bashful hero." Along with Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper he represented the "average American male," who always seemed to stumble toward success. With his stable, solid image in a world of depressions, world wars, and cold wars, Bing Crosby more than any star became a symbol for his generation.