Harry Lillis Crosby (1903-1977) Singer/Actor – Films, Radio
Harry Lillis Crosby is one of the most popular entertainers of the 20th Century. Born May 3, 1903 in Tacoma, Washington, Harry was the fourth of seven children. He received the nickname Bing from a friend, Valentine Hobart, because they were both interested in a comic strip, The Bingville Bugle. Bing’s idol was Al Jolson, and he helped resurrect Al’s career in the late ’40s. After college, Bing was signed up by Paul Whiteman, and joined his band. Bing made his first record, “I’ve Got the Girl,” in 1926. Two months later he cut a couple more records with Whiteman. Bing got started in films with the Whiteman band, in The King of Jazz. Bing was supposed to have a solo, but ended up in jail for drunken driving the night before, and so was not able to do the solo. Whiteman let go of Bing after the film was finished. Soon after, Mack Sennett, creator of the Keystone Kops, signed Bing. With Sennett he made six two-reelers. These were highly successful, and lead to Bing’s first feature film, The Big Broadcast. By now Bing was an established network radio star.
Big Broadcast established Bing as a motion picture actor, and lead to more films, many of which featured lame plots, only needed to get Bing to sing. By the ’40s, however, he began to get better films. By 1940, he and Bob Hope were engaged in a fictional radio feud. Paramount, which had contracts with both men, decided to team them up in Road to Singapore. The film was a huge success, and lead to the Road series, which lasted from 1940 to 1952, along with The Road to Hong Kong in 1962. In 1942, he starred in the classic musical Holiday Inn, with Fred Astaire. From 1944 to 1948, Bing was the top box-office attraction. In 1944, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his work in Going My Way. In 1954, Bing was again nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, for his work with Grace Kelly in The Country Girl. Two years later, Bing starred in a remake of his own earlier film, Anything Goes, first produced in 1936. Throughout this time Bing also made uncredited cameo appearances in many of Bob Hope’s films. In 1964, he starred in the unsuccessful situation comedy, The Bing Crosby Show. Bing’s last film appearance was as a Narrator of That’s Entertainment! in 1974. After that, he made a few more albums and his yearly television special. Bing Crosby died of a heart attack on a golf course in Madrid, Spain, on October 14, 1977. At the time, he was beginning work on Road to the Fountain of Youth, with Bob Hope. What would that have been like? We can only imagine….