Saturday, April 12, 2014


Bing Crosby was one of the biggest movie stars of all-time. He was the number one box office draw from 1945 to 1949. After his contract with Paramount Studios was over in 1956, Bing moved away from making movies and concentrated on raising his second family. However, even in Bing's "golden years" he did make an occasional movie. One of his last screen appearances was in the television movie Dr Cook's Garden on ABC television in 1971. Bing was 68 at the time the movie came out.

Dr. Cook's Garden was originally a Broadway play written by Ira Levin. It premiered on Broadway in 1967 with a cast including Burl Ives and Keir Dullea. George C. Scott was meant to direct but was replaced during rehearsals by Levin. When the play was made for television Bing took over the Burl Ives roles as a seemingly friendly elderly doctor. Frank Converse plays the young doctor that looks up to Bing, and a young Blythe Danner plays Bing's secretary and Converse's love interest. Originally airing as the ABC "Movie of the Week", Dr. Cook's Garden seems more relevant with the passage of time with the real world bringing us Doctor Kevorkian types in the decades since.

Der Bingle is a kindly G.P. in a Greenfield, arguably the most beloved person in this idyllic area. How idyllic? The town boats a very low crime rate and few unpleasant citizens. Greenfield is about to host recent medical school graduate Converse, returning to visit high school sweetheart Danner and mentor Crosby. The budding young doctor is pleasantly surprised by his home town's evolution into a paradise---and increasingly concerned about the number of abrupt, mysterious deaths occuring in heavenly Greenfield. Crosby's Dr. Cook is calm and rationalizing as his describes the thought he puts into his decisions, and admits that marking the "R" is always difficult for him. His unfailing composure adds creepiness that helps make up for the missing uncertainty and almost raises this otherwise average tale into the must-see category.

Two decades before Alec Baldwin brazenly declared himself God in Malice, Crosby let actions speak louder than his downright humble words possibly could, giving us a thriller more than interesting enough to watch despite its deficiencies. By 1971, Bing was no longer the leading man who made Dorothy Lamour or Mary Carlisle swoon with the notes of his beautiful voice. At an age now when many people were retired, Bing could pick and choose what movies he wanted to make. I am glad he picked the role of Dr. Cook. Some of the dialogue is as dated as a 1971 television movie, but I think Bing should have done more dramas. He definitely had the acting chops to do so. The ending of the movie is completely different than the ending of any other Bing Crosby movie, and Dr. Cook's Garden proved that Bing still had "IT" at the age of 68...


  1. I remember when this first aired. It was such a shocker for this young Bing fan, but impressive. Too often his work in comedies is taken for granted, but stuff like "Dr. Cook's Garden" and "The Country Girl" showcase Bing's under-used talent for drama.

  2. Definitely agree that he had the acting chops as well as that great voice - i love him in 'The Country Girl', where he gets to combine the two. Haven't seen this one, but you make it sound well worth doing so.

  3. A "Dr. Kevorkian type," eh? That definitely sounds like an atypical Crosby role.

  4. As Rich said, this sounds atypical... but very interesting. Bing also looks very different in these pictures. Maybe it was the beard?
    Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)

  5. I should admit that I've never taken the time to watch any of Bing's later films - I think I might have to rectify that. In my head though, he's like Peter Pan. I guess it's time to break the illusion!

  6. This sounds like a fascinating film! I never heard of it before. Blogathons are always wonderful because they introduce us to the most interesting "new" films.

  7. If I recall, this was broadcast on the ABC MOVIE OF THE WEEK and it was one of my favorite telefilms of that umbrella series. Bing is very good, especially his big scene with Converse near the end. This popped up on the SyFy Channel (of all places) about 10 years ago, but I haven't seen it since. It deserves a DVD release.