Sunday, June 7, 2015

Bing Crosby's Wild and Carefree Days

For our latest addition to the Movie Magazine Article Collection, we have unearthed this very entertaining article from a great issue...the December 1935 edition of Modern Screen magazine. In addition to this juicy write-up, other articles in this issue included "Women with Careers Should Be Shot!" Says Bette Davis; Mary Carlisle's Tips on Catching a Beau; The True Story Behind Loretta Young's Illness; and a contest from Ruby Keeler ( one of the prizes is a Buffeteer Toaster Service diggity! ). We've included some of the ads in this post, just to spice it up a bit. 

Obviously Ms.Walker disapproves of Der Bingle's flippant attitude in life, although we wonder how much of this is really true. This article paints a different picture than the ones told about Crosby in his later years and his children's strict upbringing.

To read the article in its full context click here, otherwise read on dear reader, read on. 

Success a la Crosby

By Helen Louise Walker

Most successful actors have had some definite ambition, some goal, some plan of life. Circumstances or their own limitations may have frustrated them, altering their courses sometimes, but they have known, if not where they were going, at least where they wanted to go. But Bing Crosby's career seems to have just happened to him, like measles. He has broken every copy book maxim for success and neither his growing maturity nor professional eminence seem to have improved him one bit. He is, if anything, growing worse! 

You doubtless know the story of how, at an early age, he set out from Spokane for Los Angeles to try to get a job pounding his beloved drum . . . and how he ran out of money before he arrived and had to sell the drum. So there he was, broke and drum-less. But a job caught up with him anyhow . . . and that's the way things have always gone for Bing. 

As for his present business and professional methods ... well, he recently sold his Toluca Lake place to Al Jolson as a home for Ruby Keeler's mother. He promised to vacate the property by the first of October. But he didn't because, he averred, he couldn't find another house big enough to accommodate two careers, three young sons, a brace of nurses and the sizable staff of servants he maintains. 

At this writing the Crosby family is, to all intents and purposes, homeless. They are living in Ruby Keeler's mother's house and, I must say, Mrs. Keeler is being pretty nice about it. But what if she should decide to turn them out into the California climate at this point? The evenings have been right chilly. . . . And what does Bing mean he can't find a house which is "large enough" when I have heard a dozen film luminaries wailing lately that they couldn't find buyers for their dwellings because those dwellings were too spacious? I know where there is a very pretty hotel for sale, too. 

One doesn't know whether to cry, "Oh come now, Bing! Be your age!" or to hope that, for his own sake, he will keep on being the irresponsible playboy until he is eighty. Maybe it's partly that quality in him which makes you and you and you . . . and me ... enjoy him so much on the screen. There is something attractive, to all of us plodding folk, about the fellow who breaks all the sober rules and still comes out on top. 

Years ago he obtained a release from his contract with Paul Whiteman because of a sudden whim to remain in Los Angeles when the Whiteman orchestra was going east. He refused several promising radio offers for the same reason. Then suddenly he became panicky, thought he was getting nowhere and couldn't imagine why. In his frantic search for advice, he signed with numbers of shrewd gentlemen, who volunteered to manage him for a percentage of his potential salary. When he decided, at last, to accept the radio offer which was to bring him sudden fame and fortune, he found himself thirty-five thousand dollars in debt for advice which he had not taken. 

His own account of that episode is characteristic. "My brother, Everett, took charge of me then and the first thing he did was to pay off the thirty-five thousand dollars. With this off my mind, I decided to go fishing. I forgot to tell anybody about that." 

One wonders whether Brother Ev was able to dismiss that transaction so lightly from his mind, since it was his thirty-five thousand dollars which had gone to pay for the unused advice. Three days later Bing walked into Brother Ev's office to find that worthy fit to be tied. He had accepted a pretty spectacular offer for Bing from an Eastern broadcasting company . . . and then he hadn't been able to find Bing! 

Brother Ev must have his troubles, even today. Bing dislikes to go to the studio unless he is actually working on a picture and one gathers that he goes rather grudgingly even then. One of the executives of his studio wished to see him on important business and Bing, notified of this fact, sent the executive an invitation to play golf. The "conference" resulted in a pleasant golf game but an unsatisfactory (to the busy executive) interview which sent that gentleman back to his office in something of a pet. (An executive in a pet is really something to contemplate. I saw one once and I've been a little jumpy ever since.) But Bing won whatever point he was trying to make, so there you are.

He won his initial success playing traps with an orchestra, his later success singing and his latest, combining singing with acting. Every rising actor I have talked to in the past two years has expounded to me about how one must work hard, study, strive, struggle, learn and grow . . . lots of things like that. It all sounds so grim. But Bing, who is one of the most highly paid singers in the country, never had a voice lesson in his life and can't read a note of music. He scarcely knows the names of the instruments which accompany him. 

Having proved to his employers' satisfaction and that of the public that he can act passably well, he doesn't mind telling you that he never had an elocution lesson in his life, never read a: volume of Shakespeare and has seen very few plays. He doesn't waste time studying in his spare moments. He plays golf, goes fishing or fusses 'round his racing stables. 

Other actors diet, exercise, and equip elaborate gymnasiums to keep their figures fit, their tummies under control. Steam baths, massage, tossing heavy balls about . . . all an uncomfortable and strenuous part of pursuing their careers. 

A year or so ago Bing began to take on weight in a really alarming fashion. His employers were agitated. His brothers were agitated. Critics raised concerted eyebrows and opined that here, unless something pretty drastic was done about it at once, was the beginning of the end of the Crosby career. Whereupon the imperturbable Bing, declining to take any steps at all about this growing front of his, strolled to the studio, excess weight and all, and made his most successful picture to date, Mississippi. There is no use in anyone's getting into a lather over a guy like that!

Years ago, doctors told him that he had a growth in his throat which should certainly be removed at once. Bing didn't like the idea of having any snipping done about his tonsils and declined firmly to permit anything of the sort. Now, eminent specialists tell him that it is that very same little growth which has given him his special and individual style of singing. His chief capital! 

No wonder he indulges his whims and behaves like a spoiled child upon occasion. Recently he had Mae West's pet cameraman, Carl Struss, on his picture, Two for Tonight. The company was a bit behind schedule and had not finished when it came time for Mae to start her new opus, Klondike Lou. Mae wanted her cameraman. Bing, apparently, decided that he liked to be "photographed pretty" too, so he declined to relinquish Mr. Struss. There was considerable tartness apparent on the Paramount lot while production on Mae's picture was delayed until she, at last, consented to content herself with George Clemens, Mr. Struss' assistant. Meanwhile Mae lost her leading man. Owing to the delay in starting, we understand, it was necessary to recall Victor McLaglen to the Fox lot to prepare for Professional Soldier. Bing, of course, was completely within his rights . . . but, dear me! We do expect him to be a handsome so-and-so in the forthcoming picture! 

Recently he notified the studio that he would like to be free of all picture assignments while the horse races are in progress at the Santa Anita track. If any assignments come up, however, one imagines that Brother Ev will take steps about that! 

When he planned the house at Toluca Lake, he called an architect. "What type of house do you want, Mr. Crosby?" he was asked. 

"Oh, I don't know. Just a house, comfortable and big enough for my family." 
 "No choice of period or style, or expense?" gasped the architect. 
 "My brother will tell you how much I can spend on it and I'll leave the rest to you." 

The architect had never encountered so delightful a client before, nor had the interior decorator, who followed him and received a similar carte blanche order. The results, one must say, did credit to both architect and decorator, and Bing, in his easy way, has enjoyed the whole thing very much. It's really a pleasant way to live, when you think of it! 

He has consistently broken Hollywood's most inviolable copy book maxim, which says that, in order to succeed, you must cultivate important people who may advance you by their favor. Bing does little entertaining. He has a few cronies with whom he likes to play cards, frolic or sing. None of them is likely to "advance" him. He will NOT make public appearances at which he must wear evening clothes, be gaped at or sign autographs. Despite his long experience as a public figure, he is really inherently shy. He used to have to do those things to earn his living. He doesn't have to any more . . . so he goes fishing. 

He sulks and becomes downright pettish if anyone or anything interferes with his whims or his convenience. He was arrested a day or two ago for driving forty-two miles an hour in a twenty mile zone on a Hollywood thoroughfare. The arresting officer found a revolver in his car and Bing had left his gun permit at home. So the cop trundled him off to the station to explain these matters. 

"It's a pity," Bing complained afterward, "a downright pity that I can't just drive down the street without some officer picking on me!" 

Well, there you are. You and I drive our careful twenty miles an hour, smile prettily at the big shots, eat our spinach, remember that haste makes waste and that the only way to succeed at your job is to work, study, struggle and strive. And where do we get? And where is Bing? 

I was a little impatient with Bing when I began to write this piece . . . but now, I dunno. I think I'll sleep until noon tomorrow, thumb my nose at the first cop I see and maybe at the first important producer. Maybe even at Will Hays  I'll let you know what happens ... if I live through it!

Movie Magazine Articles, our newest series, will feature articles like these reprinted for our reader's entertainment. Links to the original sources are available within the body of the text. In the future, simply search "Movie Magazine Articles" to find more posts in this series or click on the tag below.Enjoy! 


  1. Hah! That was hilarious. I really dig this new series :-)

    1. We thought it was an amusing article too...glad you enjoyed it Hamlette!