Friday, January 24, 2014


It has been a long time since I had the time to sit down and watch a Bing Crosby movie all the way through. When I finally got a little bit of time to do so, I picked a film I had not seen since I was a little boy watching it as an afternoon movie. I wanted to rewatch the early Bing film - Mississippi (1935). The film was a delightful pairing of singer Bing Crosby and master comedian W.C. Fields. The film marked the first "costume movie for the crooner, and the plot was better than any film Bing had mad up to that time.

Commodore Jackson (W. C. Fields) is the captain of a Mississippi showboat in the late nineteenth century. Tom Grayson (Bing Crosby) is engaged to be married and has been disgraced for refusing to fight a duel with Major Patterson (John Miljan).

Accused of being a coward, Grayson joins Jackson's showboat. Over the duration of the film, the behaviour of the meek and mild Tom Grayson alters as a consequence of the constant representation of him, by Commodore Jackson, as "The Notorious Colonel Steele", "the Singing Killer", and the constant attribution, by Jackson, of duelling victories by Grayson to unrelated corpses freshly dragged from the river beside the showboat as "yet another victim of the notorious Colonel Steele, the Singing Killer".

The film provides sufficient opportunities for Crosby to sing the Rodgers and Hart songs, including the centerpiece number, "Soon", while Fields gets to tell some outlandish stories.

Crosby and Fields worked well together and there is one memorable scene in which Fields tries to tell Crosby how to act tougher. In the film, Crosby does a number of brilliantly engineered sight gags involving a chair and a bowie knife. Another highlight is Fields' remarkable story about his exploits among one notorious Indian tribe.

The score by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart is good, but not great as compared to their Broadway score. Supposedly Bing did not like the many of the songs that the team had written, and many of them were cut. My personal favorite number though is "Down By The River". Bing in 1935 had such a strong voice that he sang it in nearly the operatic range. I am so glad this film is finally out on DVD, because you can tell by the print in some parts that the film was not saved properly through the years. The plot and the roles that the African-American actors had in the film is quite dated by today's standards, but the film was made in 1935. I enjoyed it immensely here in 2013...


1 comment:

  1. This is a new one to me, Lobosco! I adore W.C. Fields and would love to see him paired with Bing. Here's one for my must-see list!