What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) Roundup Featuring… Bing Crosby

Welcome back to my new “Whats Old Is A New Release Again Roundup” series! This time around, I’m focusing on titles released in 2022 featuring Bing Crosby, whether they be on DVD, Blu-ray or 4K UHD. Short of something having been released that has escaped my notice (which is always possible), this post should essentially be completed now (outside of adding links if and when I do full reviews for any of these films). So, let’s dig into some of Bing’s films that have seen a new release in 2022. That list includes Here Is My Heart (1934), Holiday Inn (1942), Blue Skies (1946), Welcome Stranger (1947) and A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949)!

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Notes: Due to the fact that I had already added some comments on different shorts to my original reviews of Holiday Inn, Blue Skies and A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court, I will not be adding any more to those posts or this one (except for two shorts to accompany the films not yet reviewed).

Table Of Contents

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Lucky Corner (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 16 minutes, 21 seconds)

Scotty (Scotty Beckett) and his grandfather are selling lemonade, but a bully and his father (who have a store of their own) force them to move their stand when some potential customers go to them for lemonade. So, with Scotty and his grandfather now situated in a different spot where almost nobody goes, it’s up to the Gang to help them drum up some business! This one was an all-round entertaining entry in the series. I thought that the kids’ “parade” was fun to see, as were some of the performances as they got the crowd together. Of course, the rivalry between the bully and the kids added to the fun (especially when the bully’s attempts to steal away their customers backfired on him). This one was very enjoyable, and worth giving a chance (I certainly know that I want to keep coming back to it)!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Second Childhood (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 19 minutes, 11 seconds)

A cranky old lady (Zeffie Tilbury) is miserable on her birthday (and making her servants miserable) until a toy airplane comes flying in and breaks her vase. Spanky (George McFarland) and the Gang volunteer to do some work around the yard for her when they can’t pay for the vase, and in the process, help her start to enjoy life again! This was yet another fun short. Zeffie Tilbury was fun as the grouchy old lady (even with her brief moments of happiness when she caused trouble for her servants), and her performance as she regains her joy for life helped make this short work! The scene with Spanky and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) joining her in a rendition of “Oh, Susanna” was fun, especially with her learning to use Spanky’s slingshot after it accidentally hit her. Overall, this one was a lot of fun, even though it did use some obvious rear-screen projection when Zeffie Tilbury was on roller skates (but, at the same time, I can’t blame the filmmakers, since the actress was legally blind at the time she made this short, not that you can tell from her performance). Certainly one that I would gladly come back to again and again!

Here Is My Heart (1934)

  • Plot Synopses: Singer J. Paul Jones (Bing Crosby) has achieved some success, and is looking to fulfill many dreams that he couldn’t do when he was poor. One of those ambitions is to buy the two original pistols that belonged to Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones, and present them to the Naval Academy. He’s got one already, but the other currently belongs to the Russian Princess Alexandra (Kitty Carlisle), who refuses to sell to him. In his attempts to buy the pistol, he is mistaken for her waiter, and makes use of the opportunity to spend some time with her and her associates. Will he achieve his dream and get the pistol, or will he find himself with a greater goal (love)?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 17 minutes
  • Extras: None
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Universal Studios
  • My Rating: 7/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions.
    • On The Transfer: The new Blu-ray appears to be making use of an HD scan. For the most part, it looks quite good. The opening credits look a bit rough, and there are some scratches present throughout (although nothing so terrible as to take away from the movie itself). It looks good enough for me, and is likely to be the best this movie will look for the near future.

Holiday Inn (1942)

  • Plot Synopses: A three person song-and-dance team splits up when one of their members, Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) gets the urge to buy a farm where he can rest and retire from show business. Farming doesn’t prove to be as easy or as restful as he thinks, and he decides to turn the farm into an inn that is only open for holidays (fifteen days a year). Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) is sent to the inn to audition, and she gets a job there. Jim falls for her, but one of his former partners, Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), finds himself partnerless. Upon meeting Linda, Ted also falls in love with her and wants to dance with her. Will Linda stay at the inn with Jim, or will she become a big star with Ted?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Extras (on both the 4K disc and the included Blu-ray): “A Couple Of Song And Dance Men;” “All-Singing All-Dancing;” “Reassessing ‘Abraham;'” Theatrical Trailer; and Feature Commentary By Film Historian Ken Barnes, including Audio Comments From Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby And John Scott Trotter
  • Format: 4K UHD
  • Label: Universal Studios
  • My Rating: 8/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions or see the full review here.
    • On The Transfer: Honestly, this is a bit of a disappointing release. The 4K disc looks terrible, with a picture that is darker at times and loses some of the detail, and grain tends to be very distracting here, as if they are working from elements (or an older transfer) that doesn’t have 4K worth of data, although there are some moments here and there where the 4K disc actually looks good. Frankly, the included Blu-ray (which appears to use the same transfer, or close enough) actually looks better throughout. The Blu-ray is lighter and the grain is nowhere near as prevalent as it is on the 4K. Also, depending on your feelings about this, the film starts with a vintage Universal logo preceding the film’s Paramount logo. I only mention this because the film was originally produced by Paramount, was part of a large group of films sold to Music Corporation Of America (MCA)/EMKA , Ltd. in the 1950s, before becoming part of Universal Studios’ library when MCA took over the studio in the 1960s. Realistically, this release is at best recommended to those who don’t have the Blu-ray already (and even then it is questionable). If you already have the Blu-ray, then don’t bother with this one. If you want either the Broadway show or the colorized version of the film (neither of which is included as extras with this release), then I would suggest going with one of the earlier Blu-ray releases.

Blue Skies (1946)

  • Plot Synopses: Dancer Jed Potter (Fred Astaire) likes chorus girl Mary O’Hara (Joan Caulfield), but he makes the mistake of taking her to a nightclub owned by his friend, Johnny Adams (Bing Crosby). Mary falls instantly for Johnny, and he for her, much to Jed’s regret. However, Mary takes a slight issue with Johnny not being too responsible, as he has a bad habit of constantly buying and selling his nightclubs. That’s not enough to stop them from getting married, but Johnny’s refusal to change his ways really comes between them after they have a child, and they divorce. With Jed’s love for Mary growing over time, will she give him a chance, or will things go sour between them, too?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 44 minutes
  • Extras: Audio commentary by film critic and author Simon Abrams, Trailers for Road To Morocco (1942), Daddy Long Legs (1955), Love Me Tonight (1932) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions or see the full review here.
    • On The Transfer: According to the Blu-ray case, the transfer is coming from a new 2K master with newly remastered audio. In general, this release looks quite wonderful. It improves on Universal’s earlier DVD by fixing the previously windowboxed opening and closing credits, and the colors look quite good in general. It’s not quite as perfect as similar releases from Warner Archive, but it’s about as good as I can hope for with this film. The image has been cleaned up of scratches, dirt and debris. Quick note: on the initial pressing of this Blu-ray, there were some audio issues in which Fred Astaire’s taps were a lot more muffled. Kino Lorber Studio Classics looked into it and decided to fix the issue (it’s already been taken care of by this time). Customers are guaranteed to get the right copy at Kino’s own sites, but in case you get the incorrect copy from somewhere else, this link will take you to their replacement program.

Welcome Stranger (1947)

  • Plot Synopses: Dr. Joseph McRory (Barry Fitzgerald) has served the town of Fallbridge, Maine faithfully for nearly thirty-five years, and is looking forward to a well-deserved vacation. However, his temporary replacement being sent by the medical board is the younger Dr. Jim Pearson (Bing Crosby), whom Dr. McRory takes an instant dislike to, and encourages him to leave (advice that the younger doctor ignores). Dr. McRory’s opinions are shared by many of the townspeople, including schoolteacher Trudy Mason (Joan Caulfield) (whom Dr. Pearson takes an immediate liking to). Things start to change when, upon trying to leave for his vacation, Dr. McRory suffers from appendicitis, with no choice but to have Dr. Pearson operate on him (an operation that goes successfully). However, Trudy’s boyfriend, Roy Chesley (Robert Shayne), REALLY doesn’t like Dr. Pearson, and tries to use his influence to take away Dr. McRory’s position at a new hospital in the process of being built. Can Dr. Pearson help Dr. McRory regain the town’s favor, or will they both leave town with their tails tucked between their legs?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 47 minutes
  • Extras: None
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Universal Studios
  • My Rating: 8/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions.
    • On The Transfer: This Blu-ray appears to be using an HD scan which looks pretty good for the most part. Most of the dust, dirt and other debris has been cleaned up. The opening credits are just a little shaky (but that’s the only part of the movie that has that problem), and there are a few (very) light scratches still present throughout the movie (but nothing that takes away from the movie itself). Overall, likely the best this movie will look, and it’s certainly the recommended way to see it!

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949)

  • Plot Synopses: In the early twentieth century, blacksmith Hank Martin (Bing Crosby) tries to return a horse to his owner during a storm, but gets knocked out when he runs into a tree. When he awakens, Hank finds himself in the past, in the kingdom of Camelot under King Arthur (Sir Cedric Hardwicke). At first, Hank is mistaken for a monster, but quickly becomes popular with the people when he uses some basic tricks to make himself look like a powerful sorcerer. He falls for King Arthur’s niece, the Lady Alisande “Sandy” la Carteloise (Rhonda Fleming), but has to contend with her betrothed, Sir Lancelot (Henry Wilcoxon). Having also earned the ire of the wizard Merlin (Murvyn Vye), Hank finds himself in a lot of trouble. Will he be able to return to his own time, or gain the affections of Sandy if he stays?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 47 minutes
  • Extras: None
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Universal Studios
  • My Rating: 9/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions or see the full review here.
    • On The Transfer: This Blu-ray seems to be working with an HD scan that looks pretty good. Most (if not just about all) of the dust, dirt, and other artifacts have been cleaned up. For the most part, the color looks pretty good, similar to the recent Blu-ray release of Blue Skies (1946) from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. There are some minor sections where the color doesn’t look quite as vivid as it seems like it should, but it’s an overall good release of a wonderful film (and certainly as good as it is likely to get anytime soon).

My Overall Impressions

Like all of my previous “What’s Old Is A New Release Again” posts focusing on the stars or screen teams that I picked for my “Star/Screen Team Of The Month” in 2022, I have gone without comments on the individual films as I reflect on my Star (from way back in March), Bing Crosby. Here Is My Heart (1934) is the oddball of this bunch, as it’s a film from fairly early in Bing’s career (and as such, his singing style and voice are quite different from the later films). He really only has three songs in this film, with the tune “June In January” being the most memorable. He has some comedic moments, especially when he poses as an alternate “incompetent” waiter, and when he is drunk interacting with Roland Young’s Prince Nicholas near the end of the film. For the rest, we move into the 1940s, when his career had taken a different direction. Holiday Inn finds us early in the decade, when his star was on the rise after finding success through the Road series with Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. Holiday Inn follows a similar formula, with Bing and Fred Astaire competing for the affections of two different ladies. Of course, the biggest highlight for Bing is his introduction of the classic Irving Berlin song “White Christmas,” which became a major hit for both Bing and Irving. He also croons a few other big tunes, including “Easter Parade,” “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” (which was actually the initial hit song from the movie) and “Happy Holiday”, plus we have him singing (and “dancing” if you can call it that) with Fred Astaire to “I’ll Capture Your Heart Singing.” Moving ahead a few years, Blue Skies follows up his Oscar win for Going My Way (1944) and his nomination for The Bells Of St. Mary’s (1945). As such, his role in Blue Skies is more dramatic, even though his character still competes with Fred Astaire’s Jed Potter for the affections of Joan Caulfield’s Mary O’Hara. Bing’s main highlights are him singing the title tune and the Oscar nominated “You Keep Coming Back Like A Song,” as well as dancing with Fred Astaire to “A Couple Of Song and Dance Men.” Welcome Stranger (1947) reunites Bing with his Going My Way co-star Barry Fitzgerald in what almost feels like a remake of Going My Way (except this time with the two of them as doctors instead of Catholic priests). The music is decent (personally, I prefer the song “Country Style”), but the main fun is in watching the developing friendship between Bing’s Dr. Jim Pearson and Barry Fitzgerald’s Dr. Joseph McRory as they go from bickering to working together. A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949) was made during the same time period, when Bing’s popularity at the box office gave him enough clout to choose his directors and castmates. The movie has some comedic moments, including Bing’s character “modernizing” the music and dancing at a ball, and the jousting tournament. On the musical side, Bing’s romantic duet with Rhonda Fleming to “Once And For Always” and him singing along with William Bendix and Sir Cedric Hardwicke to “Busy Doing Nothing” are the film’s big highlights.

Well, now that I’ve commented on these films, I’ll give you my rankings on these releases, from highly recommended (1.) to least recommended (5.):

  1. (tie) Blue Skies (1946)
  1. (tie) A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949)
  1. Welcome Stranger (1947)
  1. Here Is My Heart (1934)
  1. Holiday Inn (1942)

I’ll admit, this is a slightly harder group to pick one film that I would solidly recommend. I’m not trashing any of the movies, as I think they are all good, and worth giving a chance. Transfer-wise, I think that Blue Skies (1946) and A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949) are pretty similar, and look the best. Here Is My Heart (1934) and Welcome Stranger (1947) look pretty good, although they have some minor issues that pull them down. Holiday Inn (1942)’s transfer is the weakest of the bunch (in spite of the fact that it is a 4K UHD and not a Blu-ray like the others). In a normal situation, my top pick would be easy: Blue Skies. I think the film looks just a hair better with this new release, it’s got some extras and I prefer the film itself overall. However, we’re discussing Bing Crosby here, and the things I like about that film are Fred Astaire, the Irving Berlin music and some of Fred’s dances. It’s not otherwise remembered as much for Bing’s presence. If it had a better transfer, I would be recommending the other Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire/Irving Berlin collaboration, Holiday Inn, since it features Bing introducing that classic song “White Christmas” (which became Bing’s best-selling song, and one of the biggest selling of all time), along with a few other fun tunes. But, again. the weak transfer leaves me not wanting to recommend the 4K UHD at all. A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court is also very much Bing’s film, and he is what makes it fun (even if I don’t think the film itself is quite as good as Blue Skies). Thus, I would put Blue Skies and A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court at a tie for the top recommendations if we are talking strictly about Bing’s films. Welcome Stranger (1947) mainly suffers from its similarity to the far better (in my opinion) Going My Way (1944), although it’s certainly still an entertaining film in its own right. Here Is My Heart (1934) is still a little too early in Bing’s career, without the music or story coming off quite as memorably. Still, I have enjoyed all of these films off and on for years, and the four Blu-ray releases are all worth it to me, and certainly worth a recommendation (again, ignore the 4K UHD for Holiday Inn)!

“Star Of The Month (March 2022)” Featuring Bing Crosby in… The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad (1949)

And now we have one final film featuring Bing Crosby as our Star Of The Month! In this instance, he does some voice work alongside Basil Rathbone in the 1949 Disney animated film The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad! However, due to the nature of the film, I will take a similar approach to last year’s Invitation To The Dance (1956) review, and throw in a table of contents to help find the different sections quicker!

Table Of Contents

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Reckless Driver (1946)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)

While driving on the highway, Woody sees a billboard reminding him to renew his driver’s license. Going to the department of motor vehicles, he tries to renew it with officer Wally Walrus. This one was quite entertaining, as Woody dealt with Wally’s attempts to flunk him on the test. The various gags did their job, providing me with a few good laughs throughout. Woody and Wally still make for good enemies here, which makes it easier to keep coming around for more!

And Now For The Main Feature…

After Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs turned out to be such a hit for Walt Disney, he was approached about doing an animated movie based on the 1908 Kenneth Grahame book The Wind In The Willows. Walt was initially reluctant, but he ended up buying the film rights in 1938. A few years later (in 1941), his animators started working on the film. However, the movie suffered some delays in between his animators striking, and the project being shelved because he thought the quality wasn’t good enough. After the second World War ended, he went back to the idea, but decided to shorten the story and make it part of a package film. At first, the plan was to combine it with The Legend Of Happy Valley and The Gremlins (an original story by Roald Dahl), but The Gremlins ended up not happening, and The Legend Of Happy Valley ended up being paired with the story Bongo for the 1947 film Fun And Fancy Free. Meanwhile, work had begun on The Legend Of Sleep Hollow in 1946, and a decision was made to pair that up with The Wind In The Willows, with Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby brought in to narrate the two stories due to their audience appeal. The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad turned out to be a hit, and was Disney’s last package film until the much later The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh (1977). When aired on television in the 1950s, the two segments were separated (with The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow having a fourteen minute prologue on the life of author Washington Irving added to it), which was the only way to see the segments until the advent of home video (although the Washington Irving prologue has yet to be made available on home video).

The Wind In The Willows

As narrated by Basil Rathbone, we are told the story of one J. Thaddeus Toad (Eric Blore), who resides in Toad Hall near London, England. Toad Hall is a source of pride for many in the community, but trouble is at the door. Toad, famous for obsessively following the latest fads (or “manias”), is facing bankruptcy due to his escapades. His friend, Angus MacBadger (Campbell Grant), has taken over as his bookkeeper, but he has come to the conclusion that Toad must stop with these manias. So, Angus recruits some mutual friends, Ratty (Claude Allister) and Mole (Colin Campbell), to stop Toad’s latest mania: roaming around the countryside in a gypsy cart led by his horse friend, Cyril Proudbottom (J. Pat O’Malley). Ratty and Mole try to stop him, but he develops a new interest: motor cars! They try to lock Toad up in his room, but he escapes, and is soon arrested for “stealing a motor car.” At the trial, Toad says that he had gone to a tavern, where he bought a motor car from some weasels. Since he hadn’t any money, he traded them the deed to Toad Hall. When Toad asks the bartender, Mr. Winkie (Ollie Wallace), to give his testimony, Mr. Winkie instead declares that Toad had tried to sell HIM a stolen motor car! This results in the court throwing the book at Toad and sentencing him to twenty years in the Tower Of London. On Christmas Eve, Cyril comes to visit (disguised as Toad’s “grandmother”) and gives him an outfit to escape. Toad makes his way to Ratty’s home, where they all find out from Angus that the weasels (led by Mr. Winkie, no less!) have moved into Toad Hall. His friends now know the truth, but can they get the deed back and prove Toad’s innocence to the law?

Due to the two segments being separated for the early part of my life, I’m not sure if I ever saw the The Wind In The Willows as a kid (and if I did, it was maybe one time). That being said, I KNOW I saw the song “Merrily On Our Way (To Nowhere In Particular)” many, MANY times (mainly due to the song being included as part of a Disney Sing-A-Long VHS that I wore out from frequent viewings as a little kid). I finally got around to seeing the entire film in 2020 (the first time I had seen much of ANYTHING from the movie, including the sing-a-long in nearly two decades), and I can tell you this: that song STILL sticks with me, even after all this time! Even ignoring that, I also find the whole segment to be a lot of fun. Of course, one thing that makes watching this as an adult enjoyable is the voice acting. As a kid, you could have told me the narrator was Basil Rathbone, or that Mr. Toad was Eric Blore, and that would have meant nothing to me. Now, as a fan of classic cinema, those two names mean a lot more to me, which makes it just that much more appealing! Of course, it’s also easy to tell that some of the footage was “recycled” later on for part of the Disney film The Jungle Book, but it’s still fun to see how it was done the first time. Overall, The Wind In The Willows is an entertaining segment that I’ve come to enjoy seeing every now and then!

The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow

As narrated (and sung) by Bing Crosby, we are told the tale of traveling schoolteacher Ichabod Crane. He has just come to the New England town of Sleepy Hollow, where he becomes the new teacher. He maintains a firm hand in the classroom (except, of course, with students who have mothers that are good cooks). His ways are odd, which causes him to become a victim of the pranks of the most popular man in town, Brom Bones (although Ichabod just shrugs him off). The two quickly become rivals for the hand of Katrina Van Tassel, one of the most beautiful women in town (and daughter of Baltus van Tassel, the richest farmer in the area). Ichabod manages to outwit Brom Bones at every opportunity (helped by Katrina stoking the rivalry, since she doesn’t want to make things easy for Brom Bones, who always seems to get what he wants). On Halloween night, when Baltus Van Tassel throws a party, Brom Bones notices how superstitious Ichabod is, and tells the story of the Headless Horseman, who haunts an area nearby every Halloween as he looks for a new head (and of course, the area he haunts would have to be right along the way Ichabod has to travel to get home). So now, Ichabod has to face this long, scary ride back in the dark. Will he get back alright, or will he run into the Headless Horseman?

Ah. The Legend Of Sleep Hollow. The reason for this package film being included as part of this month’s Star Of The Month blogathon. Unlike the Wind In The Willows segment, I saw this one many a time as a kid (but stopped watching it long before I got into classic live-action films). As a kid, I always found this one entertaining (but, again, the fact that Bing Crosby narrated it meant zilch to me at that time). As an adult (and a classic film fan), not only is it more fun that Bing Crosby is narrating, I can now see the different ways that they incorporated elements of Bing Crosby and his persona into the segment, whether it be his manner of speech in his narration, the style of crooning (when Ichabod is leading the three women as part of their choral society), or Ichabod’s ears. Of course, having always thought of the character Brom Bones as being similar to the character Gaston from the later Disney film Beauty And The Beast, it feels weird to hear Bing’s voice coming out of that character as well, but certainly not enough to throw me. All three songs in this segment (“Ichabod,” “Katrina” and “The Headless Horseman”) are quite fun, but it’s definitely “The Headless Horseman” that is the most memorable! But the final section, with Ichabod going through the woods at night (and facing off against the Headless Horseman) is very effective in being scary, as the narration almost disappears, leaving us to endure Ichabod’s imagination slowly running wild (and who can blame him?) up until he realizes that (and then, of course, the Horseman shows up). It’s as scary as anything I can think of from a Disney cartoon, and yet, in spite of the fact that I just do not care for horror/scary stuff (as I’ve indicated in the past), I actually like to watch it! I can’t deny that this one is definitely a different Disney story, since it can be quite ambiguous, not only in the story’s ending, but in whether the story actually has a “hero” for us to cheer for (since Ichabod is interested in Katrina’s father’s wealth as much as he is her). As a kid, this one was fun for me, and as an adult, it’s even better!

My Overall Impression

While I left this film (or rather, I should say the segment The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow) behind for a long time, it was one that I had a lot of fun coming around to when I saw the whole thing in 2020. I’ve had the good pleasure to revisit it a few times since, and it’s been a fun Disney film! In some respects, it’s one that works well for two different holidays, what with part of The Wind In The Willows taking place around Christmastime (even if it barely touches on that in the story), and then The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow‘s most famous part being on Halloween night. With the now familiar-to-me voice talent behind-the-scenes, and the very enjoyable tales onscreen, it’s one that I very much enjoy, and have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Disney.

Film Length: 1 hour, 8 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949)Bing CrosbyHere Comes The Groom (1951)

International Lady (1941) – Basil Rathbone – We’re No Angels (1955)

Romance On The High Seas (1948) – Eric Blore

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“Star Of The Month (March 2022)” Featuring Bing Crosby in… Rhythm On The Range (1936)

We’re back for our third Bing Crosby film as we celebrate him as the Star Of The Month! This time, it’s his 1936 film Rhythm On The Range, also starring Frances Farmer, Bob Burns and Martha Raye!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Loose Nut (1945)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker is out playing golf, but his ball goes into a wet patch of cement. He quickly gets into a fight with the city worker who was trying to smooth it out, and they keep fighting as the worker tries to get Woody to fix it. This one was quite entertaining, with Woody being pushed into helping out (until the city worker makes fun of him, and then it’s every man and bird for himself). I enjoyed the gags, which came fast and furious (and certainly kept me laughing). While the story itself might be getting old for Woody Woodpecker, this one was still entertaining enough that I look forward to coming back around to it again in the future!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Heiress Doris Halloway (Frances Farmer) is currently getting ready to get married to a man she doesn’t love. However, her visiting aunt, Penelope “Penny” Ryland (Lucile Gleason), advises her against the idea. Upon listening to her aunt’s speech at Madison Square Garden (where a rodeo is being held), Doris agrees with her, and makes plans to join her aunt on her return trip out west. Meanwhile, at the rodeo, two of Penny’s ranch hands, Jeff Larabee (Bing Crosby) and Buck Eaton (Bob Burns), attempt to win enough money to buy a bull that Jeff wants (and they win just enough). Jeff and the bull get in Penny’s boxcar, where Doris is hiding out. Penny and Buck are delayed, which causes them to miss the train. When Jeff finally discovers Doris, she pretends to be a cook named Lois. He’s more concerned with his bull (much to her annoyance) and tries to get her to leave when the train stops. She sticks it out with him, and gives Shorty (George E. Stone) (one of a group of three hoboes traveling on the train) a telegram to send to her father. Upon returning to the boxcar, she accidentally agitates the bull with her red scarf, and he chases her off the train. Jeff comes to save her from the bull, but the train pulls away in the process. Shorty’s two hobo buddies, Big Brain (Warren Hymer) and Wabash (James Burke) realize (from reading her telegram) that she is an heiress that had run away, and hightail it after her in the hopes of getting a reward. Jeff and Doris have a few adventures together as they continue to make their way towards Penny’s ranch (including briefly being locked up in a barn by the three hoboes before the bull helps them escape). Meanwhile, Penny gets Buck on a passenger train while opting to stay behind and help find the missing Doris. On the train ride, Buck keeps running into Emma Mazda (Martha Raye), and finds out (when the train reaches his destination) that Emma is also bound for Penny’s ranch, as she is going to see her brother who works there. Jeff, Doris, Buck and Emma all meet up at Jeff and Buck’s cabin, before they finish the trek to Penny’s ranch. With Doris falling hard for Jeff, will she be able to tell him the truth about herself (and if she does, will he stay with her or leave)?

Rhythm On The Range is one of those movies that I’ve seen many a time over the last nearly two decades (so you can tell that I like it). Bing Crosby has long been one of the reasons that I’ve enjoyed the film so much. “I’m An Old Cowhand (From The Rio Grande),” one of the film’s biggest hit songs, has long been the most fun to see over and over again (and is more enjoyable considering the Sons Of The Pioneers appear during it, with Roy Rogers making an early appearance here). I would also say that I enjoy some of Bing’s solo songs, like “I Can’t Escape From You,” “Empty Saddles” and “Roundup Lullaby.” I’ll admit, as time has gone on, I can also in some respects see that he is also some of the movie’s problems as well. He does seem miscast here as a cowboy, and that seems to have been the general opinion, as, outside of a few cameo appearances, he didn’t really do any more Westerns, outside of his final theatrical film, Stagecoach (1966) (and even then, he wasn’t a cowboy). But that’s not enough to take away my enjoyment of his performance in this movie.

As for the rest of the cast, it’s a somewhat mixed bag. Bing’s leading lady, Frances Farmer, is the biggest strike against the film, as I find her performance as a whole very unbelievable, particularly where her line readings are concerned (but she’s not so terrible as to stop me from ever watching the movie again). VERY much in this film’s favor are Bob Burns as Buck Eaton and Martha Raye (who made her film debut here) as Emma Mazda. Their characters’ relationship provides much of the humor here, especially when the two are eating together in the train’s dining car (complete with jolts that add to the humor), and when they are explaining their relationship to Emma’s brother “Gopher” Mazda (as played by Charles Williams). Those two moments alone keep me laughing, and wanting to come back! As a whole, the movie feels like Paramount’s answer to the then-recent It Happened One Night (1934). Personally, I think that Rhythm pales in comparison to that or the similar also Western-ized version Can’t Help Singing (1944). Still, for me, it’s good comfort cinema that I like to come back to periodically, and therefore, I have no problems in recommending it!

This movie is available on DVD from Universal Studios, either individually, as part of a double-feature with Rhythm On The River (1940) or as part of the twenty-four film set Bing Crosby: The Silver Screen Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Mississippi (1935)Bing CrosbyPennies From Heaven (1936)

Martha Raye – Waikiki Wedding (1937)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

“Star Of The Month (March 2022)” Featuring Bing Crosby in… Mississippi (1935)

We’re back for another film featuring this month’s Star, Bing Crosby! This time, it’s his 1935 musical comedy Mississippi (based on Magnolia, a 1923 play by Booth Tarkington), co-starring W. C. Fields and Joan Bennett!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Woody Dines Out (1945)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 42 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker is hungry, but all the restaurants that he can find are closed. Finally, he discovers a place that specializes in stuffing birds, but it turns out to be the establishment of a taxidermist! This cartoon was fun, but it was only so-so. There was too much set-up going on, and the actual interplay between Woody and the taxidermist was virtually non-existent. There was barely any “battle” between them, which takes away from the fun. It was still enjoyable, just not the Woody Woodpecker series at its best.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Southern plantation owner General Rumford (Claude Gillingwater) is throwing a party to celebrate the engagement of his daughter, Elvira (Gail Patrick), to his ward, Tom Grayson (Bing Crosby), and he has invited a nearby showboat troupe, under the leadership of Commodore Jackson (W. C. Fields), to perform at the party. However, the festivities are interrupted when Elvira’s former beau, Major Patterson (John Miljan), arrives and challenges Tom to a duel for Elvira’s hand. When the pacifist Tom declines the duel, Elvira turns him down and he is ostracized by everyone. Well, everyone but Elvira’s younger sister, Lucy (Joan Bennett), who admires him for sticking to his convictions, and reveals to Tom as he is leaving that she has had a bit of a crush on him. He thinks that she is too young (since she is getting ready to go back to school), so he doesn’t make much of her confession. The commodore had offered Tom a job with his troupe, so Tom takes him up on the offer. When Tom saves the commodore’s life during a game of poker, the commodore responds in kind by trying to help Tom out. The commodore suggests the stage name of “the notorious Colonel Steele,” and builds him up as a singing killer, which is made much easier when Tom accidentally kills tough guy Captain Blackie (Fred Kohler, Sr.) in a brawl. The commodore continues to build up Colonel Steele’s reputation, by adding more “victims” (including a cousin of Lucy’s), regardless of whether anything actually happened. On a trip with her school, Lucy runs into Tom, and they fall for each other. However, when she learns that he is the notorious Colonel Steele, she rejects him. When Tom later learns that Lucy is engaged to Major Patterson’s brother, Joe (Ed Pawley), he must decide whether he will fight back this time or not. But will he be able to win out (and win back Lucy’s heart in the process)?

The role of Tom Grayson was actually planned for actor Lanny Ross, but Bing Crosby (a much more popular star at the time) was cast instead. My own opinion is that, nearly two years after doing College Humor (in which, as I stated last week, I thought his acting wasn’t quite natural yet), his performing skills had much improved (although I think he looks a little odd with the sideburns he is sporting, as well as the mustache he wears for the last part of the movie). I think he works much more effectively here (although there are some obvious moments with some of the stunts where the camerawork and editing don’t work as well to hide the fact that it wasn’t him doing the stunts), in a manner similar to most of his other thirties output (but still different from the persona he finally established going into the forties). Obviously, he’s in good voice here, crooning a few songs from Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (including the song “It’s Easy To Remember,” which was written for the film at Bing’s request after the two songwriters had returned to New York), plus “Swanee River.” As I had said in my review of Nice Girl? (1941), Bing’s version of “Swanee” was for a time my favorite for that tune (at least, until I saw that Deanna Durbin film). “It’s Easy To Remember” is honestly the only other song in the film that is that memorable. I would also say that his comedic skills were improving a little, helped by working with comedy legend W. C. Fields.

Speaking of W. C. Fields, he is one of the reasons that I’ve come to enjoy this movie as much as I have. It was the second film of his that I had seen (following The Big Broadcast Of 1938), and I particularly enjoyed his poker game, as he played with some men who claimed to hate cheaters (and yet, they were cheating themselves), all the while he kept drawing (and trying to get rid of) a fifth ace! Fields also gets some humor out of the song “Swanee River,” as it dates the film’s events as being around the time the song was written (since he is told that it is a new song), and then he claims that nobody will remember it (and then he keeps humming it throughout the rest of the movie)! It’s not a perfect film, as it struggles with some of the old stereotypes for blacks (since it is set in the Old South), as well as the way that Native Americans are treated (none really show up, it’s just Fields’ constant story of fighting off some Shug Indians). Still, it’s an entertaining film that I enjoy coming back to every now and then, and I think it’s worth trying (especially if it’s included as part of a set of Bing Crosby films)!

This movie is available on DVD from Universal Studios, either as part of the six film The Bing Crosby Collection or as part of the twenty-four film set Bing Crosby: The Silver Screen Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 14 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

We’re Not Dressing (1934)Bing CrosbyRhythm On The Range (1936)

The Old-Fashioned Way (1934)W. C. FieldsMy Little Chickadee (1940)

Joan Bennett – Big Brown Eyes (1936)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

“Star Of The Month (March 2022)” Featuring Bing Crosby in… College Humor (1933)

We’re here to start off the month of March with an early film from this month’s Star, Bing Crosby!  That film, of course, would be the 1933 movie College Humor, also starring Jack Oakie, Richard Arlen, Mary Carlisle, George Burns and Gracie Allen!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Chew-Chew Baby (1945)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)

Wally Walrus kicks a very hungry Woody Woodpecker out of his boarding house (for nonpayment of rent).  Looking in the newspaper, Woody finds a personal ad for Wally, and decides to answer it disguised as a woman.  This one was fun, as we had more back-and-forth between Woody and Wally!  Woody’s antics in disguise were quite funny, but things were even funnier once Woody was no longer in disguise, and we got a quick series of gags as Wally tries to get rid of Woody!  I know I had fun with this one, and certainly look forward to revisiting it in the future!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Star high school football player Barney Shirrel (Jack Oakie) has come to Mid-West University, where he plans to study engineering (instead of going to work at his father’s big creamery).  He quickly becomes friends with his new football teammates/roommates Mondrake (Richard Arlen) and Tex Roust (Joseph Sauers), who invite him to join the Omicron fraternity.   Tex ends up leaving the college before the end of the term to get married.  As a parting gift, he gives Barney his helmet, and advises him to keep Mondrake away from booze and women.  When the next term begins, Barney has changed his focus to law, and is joined at Mid-West by his younger sister, Barbara (Mary Carlisle).  She quickly becomes Mondrake’s girlfriend, but she also catches the eye of the drama teacher, Professor Danvers (Bing Crosby).  With her spending a lot of time with Danvers, Mondrake becomes jealous and starts drinking heavily.  On the day of the big game against Nebraska, Mondrake gets so drunk that he ends up in jail.  At Barbara’s insistence, Professor Danvers helps get him out to play in the game (which they win). Even though the win nets the college a big game with another big college, Mondrake gets expelled and Danvers is forced to resign. When the big game finally arrives, Barney is nervous at having to lead the team without the aid of either of his friends. Will he be able to pull himself together in time to help the team, or will he fall completely apart?

College Humor was Bing Crosby’s second starring role in a full-length movie, following The Big Broadcast (1932) (alongside his appearances with the Rhythm Boys in various films, plus some of the two-reelers he did for Mack Sennett). And, quite frankly, it feels like it. Compared to some of his later films, he really isn’t quite a natural fit as an actor yet in this film (and it seems like the filmmakers thought the same, for, although he was the top-billed star, it feels more like he is a secondary character to Jack Oakie’s Barney Shirrel). While I don’t think his acting was as strong here as it would later become (at least, in my opinion), he still handles the singing chores well, singing along as part of the group for the sexual innuendo-filled “Down The Old Ox Road,” as well as handling the songs “Moonstruck” and “Learn To Croon.” Of course, “Learn To Croon” comes out as the song with the most lasting impact here, as it seems to be fairly well-associated with him (although, if you don’t care for the song, it will be that much harder to like the movie, as he sings it several times, and the music itself can be heard in the background throughout the movie). Now, I first saw this movie about ten years ago. I had previously seen the same year’s Going Hollywood for a number of years before that, and I had heard Bing sing part of the song “Just An Echo In The Valley” as part of the big “Going Hollywood” number in that (but I had thought it was part of THAT song, as opposed to being part of a different song entirely). When I first saw College Humor, I recognized the lyrics (when it was used as part of a medley when he is “teaching” his students), and figured that it must have been a hit song for him (which then-modern audiences would have recognized). In reading up on it for this post, I found out that “Just An Echo In The Valley” was apparently the closing theme for a radio show he was working on for the period of January to March 1933, which makes it that much more interesting and enjoyable to me! Like I said, though, Bing is not a great actor here yet, but he is still one of the film’s biggest strengths.

Now, I more or less commented briefly on this film a few years back when talking about the screen team of George Burns and Gracie Allen, in which I more or less stated it was not that great of a film (and that was originally all I had intended to do as far as commenting on the movie). I decided, in planning to feature Bing Crosby as my Star Of The Month for March 2022, that I should at least try to revisit it and elaborate a bit further. I will admit, this time around, my opinion of the film did improve a little bit, but most of my prior assessment is still the same. I think the biggest problem for me is Jack Oakie. As I commented when I reviewed The Eagle And The Hawk (1933), I just don’t care for the actor at all, and with him essentially in the lead role here, that is a big strike against the movie. What’s worse, I don’t think his character’s relationship with Amber (Mary Kornman) works very well, as very little screen time is devoted to it. They meet at a party and go out (although, when he drops her off back at her place, he ends up chasing another girl). The rest of the time, he seems to neglect her for football and his studies (and yet he needs her support for the big game several years later). As I mentioned in my post about George and Gracie, their presence here is little more than a couple of quick appearances (they’re funny for what screen time they do get, but it’s just not enough). Plain and simple, I think the bad stuff is represented too much here, and the good not enough. My opinion of this movie has improved a little with time, but I’ll still go on record stating that this film is still mainly for completists for any of the cast and crew involved. In short, I still can’t bring myself to recommend it.

This movie is available on DVD from Universal Studios, either as part of the six film set The Bing Crosby Collection or as part of the twenty-four film set Bing Crosby: The Silver Screen Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 21 minutes

My Rating: 5/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

King Of Jazz (1930)Bing CrosbyGoing Hollywood (1933)

Mary Carlisle – Kentucky Kernels (1934)

George Burns/Gracie Allen (screen team) – We’re Not Dressing (1934)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you).  If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

TFTMM Presents “Star Of The Month (March 2022)” Featuring Bing Crosby

Now that we’ve finished celebrating Deanna Durbin as the Star Of The Month (for February), it’s time to move on to our next Star! For the month of March, that would be actor and singer Bing Crosby!

Table Of Contents

Quick Film Career Bio

Birth: May 3, 1903

Death: October 14, 1977

Harry Lillis Crosby, Jr., the fourth of seven children, was born to Harry Lowe Crosby and Catherine Helen in 1903 in Tacoma, Washington. The family moved to Spokane, Washington a few years later. While there are several different versions of how he got his nickname, the more common one seems to be that he got the nickname from a neighbor who called him “Bingo from Bingville” (referring to a comic strip from the local paper, The Bingville Bugle). After graduating from Gonzaga High School, he went to Gonzaga University. While there, he joined the Musicaladers, a band of students that included Al Rinker. After the group disbanded, Bing and Al continued to be part of various musical groups, and went out to California together. They were part of different acts in show business, that eventually got the eye of someone in bandleader Paul Whiteman’s organization. They were hired to work with him, and pianist/songwriter Harry Barris was added to the group to form the Rhythm Boys. The Rhythm Boys starred alongside Paul Whiteman in King Of Jazz (1930), but they later broke off from Whiteman’s orchestra. The group did some work in other films, either singing or actually appearing onscreen, while continuing to perform at the Cocoanut Grove in California. With Bing becoming the star attraction (and the other members having diverging interests), the group broke up.

Bing started doing radio shows in 1931 (doing 15 Minutes With Bing Crosby to start), and his popularity took off from there. He did some short films for Mack Sennett and had his first starring role in The Big Broadcast (1932) for Paramount Pictures. He worked pretty steadily at Paramount throughout the decade, with a few brief one-film detours at MGM (Going Hollywood) and Columbia Pictures (Pennies From Heaven). However, it wasn’t until he made Road To Singapore in 1940 that he established his screen persona and himself as part of a comedy team with Bob Hope, partnering with him and Dorothy Lamour for five more films (and one more without Dorothy in the lead). In 1942, he made Holiday Inn with Fred Astaire, which provided him with his biggest song hit in the form of the Irving Berlin tune “White Christmas.” 1942 also saw the start of a new “tradition,” where Bing made cameo appearances in some of his Road co-star Bob Hope’s films (starting with My Favorite Blonde, and ending nearly thirty years later with Hope’s last starring role in Cancel My Reservation). Two years later, he made Going My Way, for which he won the Best Actor Oscar (and followed up with a nomination for the following year’s The Bells Of St. Mary’s, marking the first time that somebody was nominated for playing the same role in two different films). Starting in the mid-1930s, he was in and out of the list of the top ten stars in terms of box office draw, but 1944 saw the start of a five-year streak where he was the largest in the world.

Things slowed up a little for him going into the 1950s, but he still enjoyed some successes, particularly with White Christmas in 1954 and his final Oscar nomination for his more dramatic role in The Country Girl that same year. With his box office star power waning (particularly as he ended his longtime association with Paramount after 1956’s Anything Goes remake), he made the transition into TV, mainly via TV specials and his own production company. His theatrical film career finished in the 1960s, with The Road To Hong Kong (which would turn out to be the final film in the Road series when plans for another film in the late 1970s fell through because of his death) and a few supporting turns in the likes of Robin And The 7 Hoods and his final movie, the 1966 Stagecoach remake (although he made some cameo appearances in other films and was one of the hosts for the first That’s Entertainment after that). On TV, he made an attempt at starring in a short-lived sitcom (The Bing Crosby Show), did more TV specials and frequently hosted The Hollywood Palace. His final TV special, Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas (in which he did a duet of “Peace On Earth/ Little Drummer Boy” with David Bowie) aired nearly a month after he suffered a fatal heart attack while playing golf in Madrid.

Filmography

This is a list of all the films that I personally have reviewed from his filmography so far (cameo appearances included). Obviously, I will be adding to it throughout the month of March, and it is my plan to add to it as I review more and more of his films even beyond this month’s celebration.

King Of Jazz (1930)

College Humor (1933)

Going Hollywood (1933)

We’re Not Dressing (1934)

Mississippi (1935)

Rhythm On The Range (1936)

Pennies From Heaven (1936)

Waikiki Wedding (1937)

Double Or Nothing (1937)

Road To Singapore (1940)

Road To Zanzibar (1941)

My Favorite Blonde (1942) (cameo)

Holiday Inn (1942)

Road To Morocco (1942)

Going My Way (1944)

The Bells Of St. Mary’s (1945) (Original) (Update)

Road To Utopia (1946)

Blue Skies (1946)

Road To Rio (1947)

The Emperor Waltz (1948)

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949)

The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad (1949)

Here Comes The Groom (1951)

Son Of Paleface (1952) (cameo)

Road To Bali (1952)

White Christmas (1954)

Anything Goes (1956)

High Society (1956)

Alias Jesse James (1959) (cameo)

High Time (1960)

The Road To Hong Kong (1962)

Robin And The 7 Hoods (1964)

Stagecoach (1966)

Entries For This Month

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man –

College Humor (1933)

Mississippi (1935)

Rhythm On The Range (1936)

The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad (1949)

Rules:

Since this blogathon lasts a month, I’ll keep the rules here in case anybody is still interested in joining in:

  1. At this point, I am not putting any restrictions on topics related to the various stars, whether it be any of their films, or biographies, lists of favorites, etc.
  2. These celebrations are intended as tributes to these stars, so I would ask that any participating posts be respectful of the stars themselves. Obviously, if you don’t care for that specific star, that would probably not be a good month to join in.
  3. I’m requesting that all posts would be new material, and not any previously published ones.
  4. As previously indicated, these celebrations of the stars and genres will last a whole month each, so you will have that whole month to work with. I myself will be publishing about four or five posts per month (depending on the number of Sundays and whether there are any recent disc releases that would fit the bill), so you can decide how many you want to do (within reason).
  5. If you are interested in joining, I would certainly suggest you either comment on this post, email me at astairefan7@gmail.com, or, for the Facebook savvy, contact me at my FB page. And feel free to use the banners I have put together (I’m still unsure of how much space I will have to work with over time on pictures, so for now I am doing one each).

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Alias Jesse James (1959)

I’ve covered two of comedian Bob Hope’s western comedies previously, and now I’m back for the third one, the 1959 film Alias Jesse James, which also stars Rhonda Fleming and Wendell Corey!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bargain Day (1931)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 2 (1930-1931) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 19 minutes, 1 second)

Wheezer (Bobby Hutchins) and Stymie (Matthew Beard) take the other kids’ things, and try to sell them door-to-door. When they come to the home of a poor little rich girl (Shirley Jean Rickert), they come in and get into trouble. This was another fun one, particularly following Stymie around the house as he got into various mischief. I particularly got a good laugh out of the three kids doing their little “Watt Street” comedy bit (a strong reminder of “Who’s On First” and similar comedy routines). Again, this one was a lot of fun, and one I certainly would recommend for its charm and humor!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s the early 1880s. At the Plymouth Rock Insurance Company in New York City, Titus Queasly (Will Wright) is looking at how his insurance salemen are doing. When he sees that Milford Farnsworth (Bob Hope) hasn’t sold a good policy in quite some time, he decides to fire Milford. At a local bar, Milford tries to get his job back by selling a policy to the bartender when he is overheard by a stranger in town. That stranger likes what he hears, and decides to buy a $100,000 policy and pays it in full. Taking the policy back to his boss (after getting a doctor to sign off on the policy), Milford is welcomed back with open arms. That is, until Mr. Queasly gets a look at a newspaper, and sees that the infamous outlaw Jesse James (Wendell Corey) has been in the city. When he shows the picture to Milford, he realizes that the stranger he had sold the policy to was indeed the famous outlaw. Mr. Queasly orders him to take the train to Angel’s Rest, Missouri to either buy back the policy from Jesse or protect him at all costs. On the train ride there, Jesse James stops the train and robs everybody, including Milford. Once he gets to town (after the robbery), Milford has the telegraph operator send his boss a message to wire him more money to pay Jesse. He tries looking for Jesse in town, but Jesse’s men pick on him and chase him out of town on the train. When Jesse learns from the telegraph operator that Milford had sent for more money, Jesse goes after him on the train, and brings him back to the James ranch as a guest. That night at a party being held at the ranch, Milford formally meets and falls for saloon singer Cora Lee Collins (Rhonda Fleming), who is Jesse’s “girlfriend” (as in, she doesn’t like him, but he likes her and he always gets what he wants). Afterwards, Milford finds out that a gunslinger has come calling for Jesse, planning to shoot him in the morning in the town. To prevent that, Milford dresses himself in Jesse’s clothes and rides into town. When facing the gunslinger, Milford pretends to surrender, then lifts his hat to fire his two guns (which were wired together), wounding the gunslinger. Impressed, Cora Lee kisses him and asks him to leave town before he gets hurt, although he refuses, still believing he needs to protect Jesse. When Jesse comes riding in, he realizes that, if Milford is killed (while dressed like Jesse), then they can claim that Jesse James is dead, and he can collect the insurance money (that would go to his beneficiary, Cora Lee). With Jesse now planning to kill him, will Milford be able to survive? Or will he need the insurance that he’s been peddling?

With Bob Hope returning to spoof the Western genre again, following his earlier films The Paleface (1948) and Son Of Paleface (1952), it’s a natural that this one is a lot of fun, too! Personally, I feel that Alias Jesse James‘ tone is somewhere in between those two, as it does have some elements that are almost cartoonish in nature, while still not going full-fledged live-action-cartoon (like Son Of Paleface). Regardless of tone, it’s a film that promises a lot of hilarity, and keeps that promise! I know that I get a good kick out of watching Bob Hope’s Milford getting pushed by his horse into the gunfight with Snake Brice (played by Jack Lambert), and then winning by lifting his hat (which, as I said, had strings tied to the triggers of his gun, which wing the gunslinger enough to end the fight). Then, of course, when Wendell Corey’s Jesse James first tries to kill Milford after holding up the train, Milford later arrives at the ranch while riding a cow! Then, of course, there is the slow-motion fight when Jesse and his men are all under the influence of mushrooms! I could also mention the film’s finale (and I will, but I’ll do that to end this post under a spoiler alert). Plain and simple, this is a fun film! Sure, it’s not perfect. The film certainly treats the Native Americans better than the earlier two films (where they were essentially one-dimensional villains), although Milford referring to two Native Americans on the train as “foreigners” hasn’t aged the best (even if it was the character being angry at discovering that they were salesmen for another insurance company after he gave them his sales pitch). To a degree, there’s not a lot of character work here, as far as arcs are concerned. And, for better or worse, Bob Hope’s age was showing, particularly off-camera, as he passed out (when trying to film what I can only assume was the final chase sequence, which was done on a treadmill in front of a rear projection screen) and had to be taken to the emergency room. Still, for a film made when it seems like Bob Hope’s movie career was already going downhill, I feel like it’s his last really great comedy (with the rest after it ranging from decent to awful). I think it’s one that anybody can enjoy (and I certainly like watching it with some frequency!), so I have no problem whatsoever in recommending it!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. This release seems to be using an older HD scan. It’s definitely got some good moments, where the detail looks quite good, as well as the color. That’s not completely true of the whole film, but most of those other issues are still relatively minor, and likely source-related. As good as this film is, I wish it could get a full restoration to improve the detail and color (but it’s owned by the current MGM, which would seem to mean that that is unlikely in the near future). So, for now, this is as good as it gets (and that’s good enough for me)!

Spoiler Alert:

Well, now that we’re under the spoiler alert, we can talk about this film’s very memorable finale. The whole thing starts with the aforementioned chase sequence, with Milford (Bob Hope) and Cora Lee (Rhonda Fleming) riding through the countryside on a buckboard (well, she’s riding, as he is forced to run in the hole he created when he tried to jump on the buckboard from a roof). Once they get to town, Milford faces off against the James gang. Like in The Paleface, Hope’s character is a poor shot with a gun. However, he doesn’t know that, as he is being secretly helped in what I can only call “the Western crossover to end all Western crossovers!” On the TV side, we’ve got Roy Rogers (from The Roy Rogers Show, as well as Bob’s Son Of Paleface co-star), Hugh O’Brian (Wyatt Earp, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp), Ward Bond (Major Seth Adams, Wagon Train), James Arness (Sheriff Matt Dillon, Gunsmoke), Fess Parker (Davy Crockett, Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett), Gail Davis (Annie Oakley, Annie Oakley) and Jay Silverheels (Tonto, The Lone Ranger). We also get Western movie star Gary Cooper and the requisite “Bing Crosby cameo in a Bob Hope film” (because, as he says in the movie, “This fella needs all the help he can get.”) Granted, all of these appearances feel like the stars just filmed them whenever their schedule allowed, so nobody interacts with each other (or the film’s main characters). That, and a few of them do something that feels out of character (not only for their characters, but for anybody in a Western): they put their guns back in their holster even before the gunfight is finished! Still, this scene is a lot of fun, and the movie is worth seeing just for this sequence alone!

End Spoiler Alert

Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Road To Bali (1952)Bob HopeThe Road To Hong Kong (1962)

The Killer Is Loose (1956) – Rhonda Fleming

The Killer Is Loose (1956) – Wendell Corey

Love In The Afternoon (1957) – Gary Cooper – They Came To Cordura (1959)

High Society (1957)Bing CrosbyHigh Time (1960)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… The Bells Of St. Mary’s (1945)

And now we’re coming back to that wonderful movie, The Bells Of St. Mary’s with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Klondike Casanova (1946)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

(Length: 8 minutes, 5 seconds)

Popeye and Olive run a saloon in the Klondike, when Dangerous Dan McBluto comes in and kidnaps Olive. Yet again, we have Popeye and Bluto fighting over Olive in a different setting. Still a lot of fun, with enough fun gags to keep me laughing throughout! From Olive performing on stage and holding her movements/notes when her piano player, Popeye has to double as the waiter for the all the customers, to the bears at McBluto’s place randomly going into a “radio”-type advertisement for McBluto’s furs, everything worked well for me! While it was still Harry Welch as Popeye, it still worked well enough for me to enjoy this one as I have the others!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Father O’Malley (Bing Crosby) is sent to be the pastor at a parochial school, and soon finds out what it means to be “up to his neck in nuns.” He and the head nun, Sister Mary Benedict (Ingrid Bergman), butt heads over how to run the school, and what they want to teach the students. Their most fervent disagreement is over Patsy Gallagher (Joan Carroll), who is in the school at Father O’Malley’s insistence, after her single mother asks him if Patsy could come there, since she was getting old enough to realize her mother was essentially a prostitute, which seemed to be one of the few ways she could pay the bills after her husband left her. Patsy isn’t as interested in school, hoping to get a job on her own, until Father O’Malley helps her build her confidence (at least, until she sees her father coming out of her mother’s apartment, mistaking him for somebody else). Father O’Malley and Sister Mary Benedict are also trying to figure out how to save the school, which is in bad shape and in danger of being condemned by the city council (with businessman Horace P. Bogardus, played by Henry Travers, building a new office building next door and hoping to use land from the school for parking space). Of course, the nuns are all praying that Mr. Bogardus will end up giving them his building for them to use for the school.

Well, since I already reviewed this movie and Going My Way previously, and I really don’t have anything new to add, then I’ll just make my comments on the new release. On November 26, 2019, Olive Films re-released the movie as part of their “Olive Signature Collection,” which features a new transfer of the movie (compared to their previous release) and a host of other extras. As far as the new transfer is concerned, it looks wonderful, better than I’ve ever seen the movie look! And, finally, one minor nuisance has been removed, the mask in the opening credits that had long covered up the fact that this movie was originally released by RKO Studios (since the movie is currently owned by Paramount through Republic Pictures)! Among the extras, there are two radio adaptations by the Screen Guild Theater, both featuring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman in their roles from the movie, along with a featurette on director Leo McCarey, one on the history of film franchises, and another discussing faith and how it worked within the movie, plus an essay written by Abbey Bender (which is both on the disc and in a written booklet that comes with the set). Overall, I would definitely say that this is the best way to view this movie!

Film Length: 2 hours, 6 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Going My Way (1944)Bing Crosby (original review of The Bells Of St. Mary’s) (here) – Road To Utopia (1946)

Gaslight (1944) – Ingrid Bergman (original review of The Bells Of St. Mary’s) (here) – Notorious (1946)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Stagecoach (1966)

Happy New Year, everyone! And what better way to start the new year than with a long-delayed review of the 1966 western Stagecoach, starring Ann-Margret, Red Buttons, Mike Connors, Alex Cord, Bing Crosby, Bob Cummings, Van Heflin, Slim Pickens, Stefanie Powers and Keenan Wynn!

As the movie starts, we find Crazy Horse and the Sioux attacking the cavalry. Meanwhile, in a local town, there is a fight between two Army men over dance hall girl Dallas (Ann-Margret), with the two men killing each other, while the boozy Doc Boone (Bing Crosby) looks on. Dallas and Doc Boone are both thrown out of town by Army Captain Mallory, and decide to leave on the stagecoach. They are joined by an embezzling banker (Bob Cummings), a whiskey salesman (Red Buttons), the pregnant wife of Captain Mallory (Stefanie Powers) and a gambler (Mike Connors), with the marshal (Van Heflin) joining the regular stagecoach driver (Slim Pickens) to go to Cheyenne. Due to the Sioux war party, they are accompanied on the first part of the trip by a troop of cavalrymen. They run into escaped convict Ringo Kid (Alex Cord), who joins them on their trip, under the watchful eye of the marshal. Along the way, the group constantly argues on whether to keep going, as they continue to hear about Crazy Horse’s war party.

This is a movie that I enjoyed very much. I saw it originally, for one reason, and one reason only: Bing Crosby. As a fan of his films, this was one that I wanted to see. For him alone, this movie is worth viewing, as he provides a lot of the humor, and does pretty well with the role (although it saddens me that this ended up being his last theatrical movie, as he pretty much made a complete switch to television after this, mainly doing his various TV specials).

I would say that my feelings towards the rest of the cast are mixed (although they do well enough to make the movie enjoyable). Bob Cummings does great as the thieving banker, who proves himself a jerk as he continues to insist on pushing forward in spite of the danger (even when the doctor says they shouldn’t move on after Mrs. Mallory gives birth). In spite of his brief appearance at the end, Keenan Wynn makes for a very despicable Luke Plummer, making it easy for the audience to cheer for the Ringo Kid. Mike Connors as the gambler and Stefanie Powers as Mrs. Mallory really don’t make much of an impact in their roles, but I feel they fare better than Alex Cord as the Ringo Kid. He does decently, BUT he is taking over the iconic role from John Wayne, who became a big star after appearing in the 1939 film, and Alex Cord just doesn’t compare to him.

What this movie does have in its favor is the improvements that came with time. This movie is in color, and widescreen, allowing us to see some wonderful scenery from the Colorado location shooting. This movie came out around the time that things were changing with the Production Code (whether you like that or not is up to you), so they were able to show a little more, as evidenced by attacks by Crazy Horse and the Sioux (although the blood more or less looks quite fake, which is fine by me). I have seen all three versions of Stagecoach, and this is the film I prefer. Is it perfect? No, but it is a fun ride just the same, and one I would recommend seeing.

Getting back to why this review has been long-delayed, I originally had planned to post it on March 3, 2019, after watching my copy of the out-of-print DVD from Twilight Time. However, before it could be published, Twilight Time announced an upgrade to Blu-ray and I pulled the review until I could see the new Blu-ray and see how it looked. I have seen it now, and I can say that it is a definite improvement over their earlier DVD release. The picture shines in high definition, allowing the beauty of the different locations to really shine. And of course, the color is great, too, showing off the different costumes for the main cast. An easily recommended way to see this movie!

The movie is available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time as a limited edition with 3000 total copies available through either www.screenarchives.com or www.twilighttimemovies.com

Film Length: 1 hour, 54 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Robin And The 7 Hoods (1964)Bing Crosby

They Came To Cordura (1959) – Van Heflin

The Bride Wore Boots (1946) – Robert Cummings

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2019) with… Holiday Inn (1942)

It’s certainly time for a holiday celebration, and what better movie than the classic Holiday Inn (1942), starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Pinch Singer (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 17 minutes, 26 seconds)

A local radio station holds an amateur talent contest with a $50 prize. The Eagles Club (that’s the Gang) decide to have Darla (Darla Hood) perform, but when she’s late, it’s up to Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) to go on in her place! This was yet another fun short! Some of the fun was in seeing various other kids (not otherwise connected with the Little Rascals) performing to various songs. Of course, with the regular cast, the auditions where Alfalfa attempted to sing (but kept getting the gong), and Buckwheat (Billie Thomas) lip-synching (if you can call it that, since he’s supposed to be whistling) to a record were comic bits that all managed to keep me laughing! There are a few problematic moments, such as Alfalfa wearing blackface as a “disguise” during one of his auditions, and another trio also wearing blackface during their performance. But, realistically, these moments didn’t really detract from this short that much, as I thought it was entertaining throughout (and I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing it again)!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby), Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire) and Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale) are a song-and-dance team working together in nightclubs. Jim, who is in love with Lila, has decided to retire from show business, marry Lila, and live on a farm. Lila loves Jim, but she also loves Ted and wants to keep dancing, so she decides to stick with the act. Jim still goes to live on the farm, but his dreams of a lazy life are quickly proven false. So, instead, he comes up with an idea to turn the farm into an inn that is open holidays only (as in, only fifteen days a year). Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), a wannabe singer and dancer, is steered his way by Jim’s former manager, Danny Reed (Walter Abel), and she gets the job at the inn. On New Year’s Eve (when Jim’s “Holiday Inn” opens), Ted learns that Lila has left him to marry a millionaire, and, after getting drunk, makes his way to the inn. Upon his arrival, he dances with Linda, but passes out at the end of the dance. However, the audience appreciated the dance, and the late arriving Danny is ecstatic about the reception to Ted’s “new partner.” However, Danny never saw who Ted’s partner was, and, upon waking up in the morning, Ted doesn’t remember what she looked like, either. Jim (who likes Linda), sees Ted’s reaction of falling for his new partner (even if he doesn’t know who she is or what she looks like), decides to try to hide Linda’s existence at the inn on the next few holidays. However, it’s not enough, and Ted and Danny do find out who she is. However, Ted and Danny want to take her away from the inn, but she’s promised to stay at the inn (and she thinks she is engaged to Jim). So, Ted comes to the inn under the guise of wanting to work with them and “enjoy life’s simple pleasures.” Jim is suspicious of Ted’s motives, which is all but confirmed when, on July 4, he overhears Ted and Danny discussing some Hollywood agents who are coming to the inn to see Ted and Linda perform. Jim tries to keep Linda away, but she still manages to arrive (although after the show). Jim and Linda have an argument and break up, with Linda going to Hollywood with Ted while Jim stays at the inn. The question remains: will her Hollywood success with Ted be enough, or will Jim be able to convince her to return to the inn (and him)?

In 1917, composer Irving Berlin wrote a song called “Smile And Show Your Dimple.” It didn’t enjoy much success initially. At least, not until he repurposed the music for the 1933 Broadway musical revue As Thousands Cheer, in which he gave it new lyrics and a new title: “Easter Parade.” With the song now a hit, Irving Berlin came up with the idea to have a revue based on the various American holidays. On the stage, this idea never got off the ground, but a meeting with movie director Mark Sandrich (who had collaborated with Irving Berlin on three of the Astaire-Rogers pictures) resulted in them pursuing the idea for a film. Since they were both at Paramount Pictures, they wanted to go with the studio’s big musical star, Bing Crosby, and decided to bring in Fred Astaire (who had been freelancing after his contract with RKO had ended a few years before). Big female stars like Ginger Rogers and Rita Hayworth were considered, but a budget-conscious Paramount had fought hard enough against Fred being cast (since he and Bing were two of Hollywood’s highest paid stars), so they ended up going with some unknowns for the female leads, nightclub dancer Virginia Dale and Marjorie Reynolds (who had up to that point been known for her roles in various Poverty Row Westerns). The resulting film went over well with audiences, with the song “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” becoming a hit at first. The song “White Christmas” (which won Irving Berlin his only Oscar for “Best Song”) became more of a hit over time due to the war and homesick soldiers requesting it on the Armed Forces Radio.

I will readily admit that the song “White Christmas” is one that I enjoy listening to (as long as there isn’t any actual snow on the ground), but I can also definitely say that there are a few other songs and dances that I enjoy in this movie. One of them is the song “You’re Easy To Dance With,” sung and danced by Fred Astaire and Virginia Dale. Amongst Fred’s early Irving Berlin film musicals, it continues the trend of him doing a dancing-related song. He reprised it with Marjorie Reynolds at the New Year’s Eve party, except this time he was drunk (and I do mean drunk, as Fred had two drinks of bourbon before the first take, and one more between each take, with the seventh and final take being what we see in the movie). Even drunk, Fred still proves that he can dance better than others can sober.

Then, of course, there is the more patriotic song “Let’s Say It With Firecrackers” to go along with July 4. This is Fred’s big tap solo in the movie, and he worked with actual firecrackers for it! Apparently, it took about 38 attempts before Fred was satisfied with it, but it is very impressive to watch him do, just the same! Apparently, a little bit of animation was used to further emphasize some of the blasts, but I still have to give Fred credit for trying to pull this one off (and doing pretty well, at that)!

I will admit, this movie is certainly not a perfect one. I personally think that the lyrics for the song “I Can’t Tell A Lie” are rather cringeworthy, and the music itself is rather forgettable. The only redeeming quality with that song-and-dance is the fun of watching the music changing styles and “throwing off” Fred and Marjorie’s characters in their dance (since Bing’s character was trying to stop them from kissing in their dance). Then there’s the song “Abraham,” where the use of blackface really drags it down (and I have a really hard time understanding why Bing did it, especially since he had been so instrumental a few years earlier in getting Louis Armstrong cast in 1936’s Pennies From Heaven). The lyrics don’t help, either, and I certainly appreciate them not being used when the song was brought back for the “not-quite-a-remake” film White Christmas (1954) when Vera-Ellen and John Brascia danced to it. Still, in spite of those flaws, I do like this movie and would definitely recommend trying it out (for any holiday associated with this movie)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios.

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) with… Holiday Inn (1942)

On November 1, 2022, Universal Studios released Holiday Inn (1942) on 4K UHD. Honestly, this is a bit of a disappointing release. The 4K disc looks terrible, with a picture that is darker at times and loses some of the detail, and grain tends to be very distracting here, as if they are working from elements (or an older transfer) that doesn’t have 4K worth of data, although there are some moments here and there where the 4K disc actually looks good. Frankly, the included Blu-ray (which appears to use the same transfer, or close enough) actually looks better throughout. The Blu-ray is lighter and the grain is nowhere near as prevalent as it is on the 4K. Also, depending on your feelings about this, the film starts with a vintage Universal logo preceding the film’s Paramount logo. I only mention this because the film was originally produced by Paramount, was part of a large group of films sold to Music Corporation Of America (MCA)/EMKA , Ltd. in the 1950s, before becoming part of Universal Studios’ library when MCA took over the studio in the 1960s. Realistically, this release is at best recommended to those who don’t have the Blu-ray already (and even then it is questionable). If you already have the Blu-ray, then don’t bother with this one. If you want either the Broadway show or the colorized version of the film (neither of which is included as extras with this release), then I would suggest going with one of the earlier Blu-ray releases.

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

My Favorite Blonde (1942)Bing CrosbyRoad To Morocco (1942)

You’ll Never Get Rich (1941)Fred AstaireThe Sky’s The Limit (1943)

Marjorie Reynolds – The Time Of Their Lives (1946)

Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire (screen team) – Blue Skies (1946)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!