Thursday, July 30, 2015



Today, Joan Crawford (1905-1977) is mostly known for "supposedly" beating her adopted daughter after the young girl used a wire hanger. However, what is not known is Joan enjoyed cooking and knew her way around a kitchen.

Here is one of Joan's recipes:

Joan Crawford’s Pork Chops with Red Onions and Apple Rings
(for four to six)

6 loin pork chops, one inch thick
¼ pound margarine or butter
2 large Italian red onions, sliced
1 cup flour
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

Salt chops on both sides. Dip lightly in flour. Place chops in ¼ pound melted butter or margarine in skillet. Add sliced onions and cook till golden. When onions are cooked, place on top of chops. Brown chops on one side, then turn, replacing onions on the top side.

Place chops in skillet in preheated 250° oven. Cover. Cook 15 minutes. Then reduce oven heat to 200° and bake for an additional 25 minutes. Top each chop with 2 fried apple rings...


Monday, July 27, 2015


Sarah Bernhardt had an affair with a Belgian nobleman, Charles-Joseph Eugène Henri Georges Lamoral de Ligne (1837–1914), son of Eugène, 8th Prince of Ligne, with whom she bore her only child, Maurice Bernhardt (1864–1928). Maurice did not become an actor but worked for most of his life as a manager and agent for various theaters and performers, frequently managing his mother's career in her later years, but rarely with great success. Maurice and his family were usually financially dependent, in full or in part, on his mother until her death. Maurice married a Polish princess, Maria Jablonowska (see Jablonowski), with whom he had two daughters, Simone (who married Edgar Gross, son of a wealthy Philadelphia soap manufacturer) and Lysiana (who married the playwright Louis Verneuil ).

Bernhardt's close friends included several artists, most notably Gustave Doré and Georges Clairin, and actors Mounet-Sully and Lou Tellegen, as well as the famous French author Victor Hugo. Alphonse Mucha based several of his iconic Art Nouveau works on her. Her friendship with Louise Abbéma (1853–1927), a French impressionist painter, some nine years her junior, was so close and passionate that the two women were rumored to be lovers. In 1990, a painting by Abbéma, depicting the two on a boat ride on the lake in the bois de Boulogne, was donated to the Comédie-Française. The accompanying letter stated that the painting was "Peint par Louise Abbéma, le jour anniversaire de leur liaison amoureuse" (loosely translated: "Painted by Louise Abbéma on the anniversary of their love affair.")

In 1905, while performing in Victorien Sardou's La Tosca in Teatro Lírico do Rio de Janeiro, Bernhardt injured her right knee when jumping off the parapet in the final scene. The leg never healed properly. By 1915, gangrene set in and her entire right leg was amputated; she was required to use a wheelchair for several months. Bernhardt reportedly refused a $10,000 offer by a showman to display her amputated leg as a medical curiosity. (While P.T. Barnum is usually cited as the one to have made the offer, he had been dead since 1891.)

She continued her career, sometimes without using a wooden prosthetic limb, which she did not like. She carried out a successful tour of America in 1915, and on returning to France she played in her own productions almost continuously until her death. Later successes included Daniel (1920), La Gloire (1921), and Régine Armand (1922). According to Arthur Croxton, the manager of London's Coliseum, the amputation was not apparent during her performances, which were done with the use of an artificial limb. Her physical condition may have limited her mobility on the stage, but the charm of her voice, which had altered little with age, ensured her triumphs.

Sarah Bernhardt died from uremia following kidney failure in 1923. Newspaper reports stated she died "peacefully, without suffering, in the arms of her son." She is believed to have been 78 years old. She was the Meryl Streep of her generation even before Meryl Streep was even a thought...

Saturday, July 25, 2015


One of the unsung greats of the big band era was vocalist Art Lund. Many of the vocalists of that era (other than Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, and Jo Stafford) have faded into obscurity after the big band era was over. However, after Lund was done with the bands he had a varied and interesting career.

Born Arthur London on April 1, 1915 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Lund was a popular baritone of the Big Band era whose recording of "Blue Skies" was an enduring hit throughout the 1940s. At 6 feet, 4 inches and with rugged good looks under a mop of blond hair, Lund also had a dramatic career in films, stage and television. 

He was a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University, and received his master's degree from the United States Naval Academy in aerological engineering. Lund was a high school math teacher in Kentucky who worked as a musician on the side. He left teaching to tour with Jimmy Ray and his band. He originally billed himself as Art London.

His recordings of "Blue Skies," "My Blue Heaven" and "Mam'selle" became the foundation of a career that began in the late 1930s with the Benny Goodman band. One of my favorite recordings Lund made during the big band era was the song "If You Build A Better Mousetrap" in 1941, a duet with fellow Goodman vocalist Peggy Lee. The song was taken from the Paramount movie The Fleet's In.

Lund was on Broadway first in the early 1950s in a musical adaptation of "Of Mice and Men" and later in "The Wayward Stork." He was seen across the country in touring companies of "Fiorello," "No Strings" and "Destry Rides Again." "The Most Happy Fella," the Frank Loesser adaptation of "They Knew What They Wanted," was one of Broadway's biggest hits of the 1950s.

In 1968, Lund moved into films as Frazier, biggest of "The Molly Maguires" in the picture about the Irish rebel miners. His other movies included "Ten Days Till Tomorrow," "Decisions, Decisions," "Bucktown" and "The Last American Hero."

On TV he was a frequent guest on "Gunsmoke," "Police Story," "The Rockford Files," "Little House on the Prairie" and "Daniel Boone."

Lund was still singing the 1980s. He was a frequent guest at Big Band nights in Southern California, toured with the Harry James ghost band and recently sang in Australia.

Art Lund died May 31, 1990 of liver cancer in Holladay, Utah...not far from where he was born. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015


"Can't act. Can't sing. Balding. Can dance a little."

Though that evaluation of Fred Astaire's first screen test may be more Hollywood legend than fact, Astaire proved them wrong by acting, singing and dancing his way through some of the best-loved and most memorable musicals ever made. (And he wore a toupee, so he overcame that "balding" problem, too.)

The son of an Austrian immigrant, Astaire started in show business in vaudeville and on Broadway, dancing with his sister, Adele. From 1917 to 1932, the Astaires were a successful Broadway dance team, appearing in such musicals as "Over the Top," "Lady Be Good," and "Funny Face." After Adele retired from the act in 1932 to marry Lord Charles Cavendish, Astaire headed to Hollywood. After his first film, "Dancing Lady" (1933), Astaire appeared in "Flying Down to Rio" (1933), which was his first pairing with Ginger Rogers. Astaire and Rogers made 10 films together, usually light comedies with even lighter plots which followed a standard format. But the slim plots were just an excuse for Astaire and Rogers to do what they do best - him in top hat, white tie and tails; her in a flowing, feathery gown, combining the elements of ballroom, tap and other dance styles in a seamless picture of grace and elegance. Most fans agree that "Top Hat" (1935) was their best film together.

Astaire danced with many other partners in his film career, including Eleanor Powell in "Broadway Melody of 1940," Rita Hayworth in "You'll Never Get Rich" (1941), Judy Garland in "Easter Parade" (1948), Cyd Charisse in "Silk Stockings" (1957) and Audrey Hepburn in "Funny Face" (1957). Taking nothing away from his human partners, but Astaire could even make the coat rack he danced with in "Royal Wedding" (1951) seem graceful and elegant. Altogether, Astaire appeared in 54 films. In 1975, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in "The Towering Inferno." Astaire was awarded an honorary Academy Award in 1950, "for his unique artistry and his contributions to the technique of musical pictures." He was also a three-time Emmy winner.

Astaire married his first wife, Phyllis, in 1933, and had two children, Fred Jr. and Ava. Phyllis also had another child, Peter, from a previous marriage. Phyllis died in 1954. In 1980, the 81-year-old Astaire married jockey Robyn Smith -- who, at 35, was younger than both of his children. 

Astaire's gravestone is as you might expect it to be, simple and elegant: "Fred Astaire, I Will Always Love You My Darling, Thank You." And, for an entertainer with endless and timeless talent, it does not include the dates of his birth or death.

Throughout his life, Astaire was generally known as a very private person who kept close ties to his family. So it's natural that he is surrounded by the people he loved most. Buried near Astaire is his sister Adele Astaire Douglas (1897 - 1981) -- after her first husband died, she married Kingman Douglas. Next to Adele is Ann Astaire (1878 - 1975), Fred and Adele's mother. Next to Ann Astaire is Phyllis Livingston Astaire (1908 - 1954), Fred's first wife. Next to Phyllis are the graves of her aunt and uncle, Henry Worthington Bull (1874 - 1958) and Maud Livingston Bull (1875 - 1962). Fred had known Henry Bull for several years before he met Phyllis, due to their mutual interest in horse racing, and the two couples remained close throughout their lives.

In his will, which was signed less than two years before he died, Astaire requested "that my funeral be private and that there be no memorial service."

Astaire was born Frederick Austerlitz on May 10, 1899, in Omaha, NE. He died on June 22, 1987, in Los Angeles, CA. Fred was buried in Oakwood Memorial Park in California...

Monday, July 20, 2015


Sarah Bernhardt's stage career started in 1862 while she was a student at the Comédie-Française, France's most prestigious theater. She decided to leave France, and soon ended up in Belgium, where she became the mistress of Henri, Prince de Ligne, and gave birth to their son, Maurice, in 1864. After Maurice's birth, the Prince proposed marriage, but his family forbade it and persuaded Bernhardt to refuse and end their relationship.

After being expelled from the Comédie Française, she resumed the life of courtesan to which her mother had introduced her at a young age, and made considerable money during that period (1862–65). During this time she acquired her famous coffin, in which she often slept in lieu of a bed – claiming that doing so helped her understand her many tragic roles.

Bernhardt then reverted to the theater, securing a contract at the Théâtre de L’Odéon where she began performing in 1866. Her most famous performance there was her travesty performance as the Florentine minstrel in François Coppé's Le Passant (January 1869). With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war performances were stopped and Bernhardt converted the theatre into a makeshift hospital where she took care of the soldiers wounded on the battlefield. She made her fame on the stages of Europe in the 1870s and was soon in demand all over Europe and in New York. In between tours Bernhardt took over the lease of the Théâtre de la Renaissance, which she ran as producer-director-star from 1893 to 1899.

In 1899 Bernhardt took over the former Théâtre des Nations on the Place du Châtelet, renaming it the Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt and opening on 21 January in one of her most admired parts, the title role in Victorien Sardou's La Tosca. This was followed by revivals of Racine's Phèdre (24 February), Octave Feuillet's Dalila (8 March), Gaston de Wailly's Patron Bénic (14 March), Edmond Rostand's La Samaritaine (25 March), and Alexandre Dumas fils's La Dame aux Camélias on 9 April. On 20 May, she premiered her most controversial part, the title role in Shakespeare's Hamlet, in a prose adaptation which she had commissioned from Eugène Morand and Marcel Schwob. The play was greeted with rave reviews despite its running time of four hours. She developed a reputation as a serious dramatic actress, earning the title "The Divine Sarah"; arguably, she was the most famous actress of the 19th century.

Bernhardt also participated in scandalous productions such as John Wesley De Kay's "Judas." It performed in New York’s Globe Theatre for only one night in December 1910 before it was banned there, as well as in Boston and Philadelphia. In New York’s art scene of 1910 the story line of the play was nothing short of scandalous. Mary Magdalene, who at first became a lover of Pontius Pilate, then of Judas Iscariot, got involved with Jesus. Judas, after realizing that Mary Magdalene had given herself to Jesus, decided to betray his friend to the Romans. To top the provocation of New York’s theater lovers, Judas was played by the voluptuous Sarah Bernhardt.

In Paris, Bernhardt continued to direct the Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt until her death, when her son Maurice took over. After his death in 1928, the theatre retained the name Sarah Bernhardt until the Occupation by the Germans in World War II, when the name was changed to Théâtre de la Cité because of Bernhardt's Jewish ancestry...

Saturday, July 18, 2015


Here is a great print ad featuring the beautiful Ginger Rogers (1911-1995). I never knew she was a model for Max Factor. This is a 1943 ad that also mentions the "new" Ginger Rogers movie Lady In The Dark...

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Judy Garland is making headlines? Over 45 years after her death? Well, Judy Garland’s shoes are. The ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Ozhave been missing for almost 10 years, and a friend of Judy thinks it’s time they come back home.

The Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota said the shoes were stolen from the museum 10 years ago. They were owned by collector Michael Shaw, who would deliver them to the museum once a year for display in a plexiglas case. Ten years ago, as Hurrican Katrina raged and no one was watching, police believe some youths did a smash-and-grab, taking the slippers.

A reward was offered, places were searched, including homes of other collectors. Judy Garland’s shoes never turned up.

When a fan realized the anniversary of the theft was coming up, they offered a reward of $1 million to get them back.

The reward specifies that the exact location of the slippers and the name of the person who stole them be divulged. Perhaps the hope is that, over the past 10 years, someone has gotten loose-lipped about having stolen the slippers. All it takes is for a former acquaintance of the thief to want to cash in and the theft could finally be solved.

John Kelsch, executive director of the Judy Garland Museum says the donor is a Judy Garland fan from Arizona.

“We didn’t think the offer was legitimate at first,” said museum spokesman Rob Feeney. “They wanted to remain anonymous. They only wanted to share that they are a huge Wizard of Oz fan, based in Arizona.”

There are three other pairs of the slippers used in the film. One pair is in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Another is now owned by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences for its planned Oscars Museum.

Kelsch says the shoes were insured for $1 million, but could be worth $2 or $3 million now. It is unclear if the museum or original collector must give back the insurance money collected at the time of the theft if the shoes are recovered.

Apprehending the thief could be difficult, given the teleportation powers of the shoes...

Monday, July 13, 2015


For some reason the name Sarah Bernhardt has been sticking in my head. She was one of the first "superstars" of acting. I have never seen an early movie she made, but I did a little research to learn more about her.

Sarah Bernhardt was a French stage and early film actress, and was referred to as "the most famous actress the world has ever known." Bernhardt made her fame on the stages of France in the 1870s, at the beginning of the Belle Epoque period, and was soon in demand in Europe and the Americas. She developed a reputation as a serious dramatic actress, earning the nickname "The Divine Sarah."

Bernhardt was born on October 22, 1844 in Paris as Rosine Bernardt, the daughter of Julie Bernardt (1821, Amsterdam – 1876, Paris) and an unknown father. Julie was one of six children of an itinerant Jewish spectacle merchant, "vision specialist" and petty criminal, Moritz Baruch Bernardt, and Sara Hirsch (later known as Janetta Hartog; c. 1797–1829). Five weeks after his first wife's death in 1829, Julie's father married Sara Kinsbergen (1809–1878). He had abandoned his five daughters and one son with their stepmother by 1835. Julie, together with her younger sister Rosine, left for Paris, where she made a living as a courtesan and was known by the name "Youle." Julie had five daughters, including a twin who died in infancy in 1843.

Sarah Bernhardt changed her first name and added an "h" to her surname. Her birth records were lost in a fire in 1871. To prove French citizenship—necessary for Légion d'honneur eligibility—she created false birth records, in which she was the daughter of "Judith van Hard" and "Édouard Bernardt" from Le Havre, in later stories either a law student, accountant, naval cadet or naval officer.

When Sarah was young her mother sent her to Grandchamp, an Augustine convent school near Versailles. In 1860 she began attending the Conservatoire de Musique at Déclamation in Paris and eventually became a student at the Comédie Française where she would have her acting debut (11 August 1862) in the title role of Racine's Iphigénie to lackluster reviews. Her time there was short lived; she was asked to resign after slapping another actress across the face for shoving her younger sister during a birthday celebration for Molière.

Much of the uncertainty about Bernhardt's life arises because of her tendency to exaggerate and distort. Alexandre Dumas, fils, described her as a notorious liar...

Saturday, July 11, 2015


When you hear about acting families, you instantly think of The Barrymores and to a much less extent even The Baldwins. However, one of the best group of sisters to hit Hollywood were the Lane Sisters of actresses. The Lane Sisters were four siblings who achieved success during the 1930s as a singing act, with their popularity leading to a series of successful films.

The sisters were Lola (1906-1981), Leota (1903-1963), Rosemary (1913-1974), and Priscilla (1915-1995). Lola was born in Macy, Indiana and Leota, Rosemary, and Priscilla were born in Indianola, Iowa. They changed their surname from "Mullican" when they began their careers. Lola began her career as an actress in 1929 and made several films during the early 1930s. She was actor Lew Ayres's first wife. By 1932 she had joined her three younger sisters to form a singing act. First performing as a quartet with a dance band in 1932, the sisters toured the United States, and gradually their popularity grew.

In 1937 Priscilla was signed to a contract with Warner Brothers Studios. She and Rosemary made their film debuts together in "Varsity Show" in 1937. In the same year Lola played a strong supporting role in the Bette Davis crime melodrama "Marked Woman", as the type of hardboiled character that exemplified many of her later roles with Warner Brothers. The following year Davis was offered a role in the film version of Fannie Hurst's novel "Sister Act" and when she turned down the part, Lola suggested to Jack Warner that the Lane Sisters would be suitable. Each was tested for the roles of the four sisters, with only Leota being rejected as unsuitable. The film was released in 1938 as "Four Daughters" with the fourth sister played by Gale Page. The three Lane Sisters were promoted as "The Picture of American Girlhood" and the film was a great success, leading to more joint film appearances by the three sisters in sequels. "Daughter's Courageous", and "Four Wives", (both 1939), and "Four Mothers" (1941) were popular successes.

By this time Priscilla was being recognized for her individual potential. While the sisters were all regarded as beautiful, Priscilla conveyed the softest and most wholesome quality, and was also seen as having the most natural talent. For that reason she was able to emerge as a personality in her own right. She was considered for the role of Melanie in Gone with the Wind, and although she did not win the role, she impressed several producers. She was cast in such successes as Alfred Hitchcock's "Saboteur" (1942) and "Arsenic and Old Lace" (1944). While her career was building, she was suspended several times by Jack Warner for refusing to take roles she did not want. Her older sisters Rosemary and Lola were finding the quality and frequency of their roles steadily decreasing. Leota's attempt at a film career had failed completely. Despite Priscilla's successes, by the end of the decade each of the sisters had retired from films.

Leota married once and died in Glendale, California on July 25, 1963.

Lola married five times, and was married for two years to the actor Lew Ayres. She died of arterial disease in Santa Barbara, California at the age of 75.

Rosemary died from diabetes and pulmonary obstruction in Woodland Hills, California at the age of 60.

Priscilla never acted after her retirement but made a comeback as a hostess for a Boston, Massachusetts talk show some years later. She died from lung cancer in Andover, Massachusetts at the age of 79...

Thursday, July 9, 2015


With the heat of July opon us, I figured we could use a dip to cool down. Here are some great pictures of classic Hollywood stars and their swimming pools. Some of them looked afraid to get wet...

MARY PICKFORD (1892-1979) and DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS SR. (1883-1939)

AUDREY HEPBURN (1929-1993)

RONALD REAGAN (1911-2004)

PRESTON STURGES (1898-1959) and JOEL MCCREA (1905-1990)

MARLENE DIETRICH (1901-1992) and her daughter

BETTY GRABLE (1916-1973)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


Of all Bing Crosby's sons from his first marriage to Dixie Lee (1911-1952), there is the least information on the one twin - Dennis. In the new documentary on the legendary crooner "Bing Rediscovered, which haired on PBS last December, it is reported that twins Dennis and Phillip Crosby might have suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome due to their mother's alcoholism, which was common knowledge to Hollywood insiders in the 1930s and 1940s.

Sadly, Dennis ended his life. Bing Crosby's 56-year-old son Dennis turned a 12-guage shotgun on himself following a drunken night of heartbreak just two weeks after his divorce became final.

"It was drink and the disease of alcohol that caused him to do this," Dennis' ex-wife Arlene told STAR in an exclusive interview.

"Over the years, I'd urged him to go to Alcoholics Anonymous, but he had gone only a couple of times. Someone has to decide for themselves that they are going to make the effort to stop drinking."

The May 4, 1991  tragedy in a California boarding house where Dennis had been living mirrored the suicide of alcoholic younger brother Lindsay, who ended his life with a single shotgun blast to the head in 1989.

Arlene says Dennis moved to Novato, Calif, 18 months ago. She admits he walked out on her because she was "difficult to live with," but insists that her only desire had been to encourage him to stop boozing.

"I think he had his own pain about him," she says. "But you will not find anyone who would say a bad word about him. He was sweet, kind, gentle and a wonderful father. He had a wonderful sense of humor.

"But Lindsay's suicide devastated him. He was very close to him. For the last two years, he's been distraught. Everything builds up on him. His trust fund also ran out two years ago and he had been living on very little money."

According to Marin County Sheriff's Lt. William Donovan, Dennis was found late that Saturday night by his roommate. Arlene identified the roommate to STAR as Peter Murphy.

"They were old army buddies," she says. "They had been best friends since serving together in Germany."

Arlene met Dennis in 1963 when he worked for Bing Crosby Productions in Los Angeles. She was a secretary at the time. "We fell in love and married," she says. "We had been married for 27 years."

Dennis also had three daughters - who are now are 53, 47, and 43 respectively.

Arlene last saw Dennis a couple weeks before his death: "We had lunch together just one and half weeks ago, and he was saying how very glad he was that our three children were doing so well. But it was clear that, like me, he was also very sad about our divorce.

"It's very sad. I think we both felt alone, although we still saw each other and he knew that I would always be there to support him."

In addition to his three daughers with Arlene, Dennis was the father of Denise Crosby, 56, who played Security Chief Tasha Yar in the syndicated TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

On May 4, 1958, Crosby married Pat Sheehan, a Las Vegas showgirl and model who had once dated his father. She was also Miss San Francisco of 1950, Playmate of the month of October 1958, and part-time actress. Within days, Crosby was sued by another woman, Marilyn Miller Scott, over the paternity of her daughter, Denise Crosby. The sensational lawsuit lasted three years and ended with Dennis being ordered to pay Scott child support and legal fees. This and the marriage to Sheehan and other details caused deep embarrassment for both him and his famous father. Although Bing died when his granddaughter was 19, the two reportedly never met.

Crosby and Sheehan had two sons: Dennis Michael, Jr., and Patrick Anthony. In 1963, while working in Los Angeles for Bing Crosby Productions, he met Arleen Newman. On July 3, 1964, Crosby and Sheehan were divorced. Later that year, Crosby married Newman, with whom he had three daughters, including Kelly Lee Crosby and Erin Colleen Crosby. Dennis was the second of four sons born to the legendary crooner and his first wife, Dixie Lee Crosby. The quietest of the four, Dennis joined his brothers in a nightclub act during the late Fifties, often appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show.

But Dennis always had trouble coping with showbiz. "I guess I wasn't cut out to be an entertainer," he once acknowledged. "I was always painfully self-conscious out here in the spotlight with my brothers."

Bing Crosby died on October 14, 1977, at the age 74 while playing golf in Spain. On January 14, 2006, Dennis's former wife, Pat Sheehan, died at the age of 74. Their son Dennis Michael Crosby, Jr. died on January 15, 2010, and the other son, Patrick Anthony Crosby (born New Year's Eve 1960), died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, on September 19, 2011, after a lengthy illness. He was 50. Of all the Crosby sons, I think Dennis Crosby was probably the most tragic of all of them. They all deserved happiness in their life, but the shadow that Bing Crosby cast was impossible to overcome especially when you mix in depression and alcoholism...

Saturday, July 4, 2015


For my readers who are not from the United States, or even those Americans that know nothing about their history, I wanted to write about the history of the National Anthem - The Star Spangled Banner. 

Again, The Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem of the United States. The lyrics come from "Defence of Fort M'Henry", a poem written in 1814 by the 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in the Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812.

The poem was set to the tune of a popular British song written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men's social club in London. "To Anacreon in Heaven (or "The Anacreontic Song"), with various lyrics, was already popular in the United States. Set to Key's poem and renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner", it would soon become a well-known American patriotic song. With a range of one octave and one fifth (a semitone more than an octave and a half), it is known for being difficult to sing. Although the poem has four stanzas, only the first is commonly sung today.

"The Star-Spangled Banner" was recognized for official use by the Navy in 1889, and by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, and was made the national anthem by acongressional resolution on March 3, 1931 which was signed by President Herbert Hoover.

Before 1931, other songs served as the hymns of American officialdom. "Hail, Columbia" served this purpose at official functions for most of the 19th century. "My Country, 'Tis of Thee", whose melody is identical to "God Save the Queen", the British national anthem, also served as a de facto anthem. Following the War of 1812 and subsequent American wars, other songs emerged to compete for popularity at public events, among them The Star-Spangled Banner.

Countless people have recorded the Anthem from Bing Crosby to Whitney Houston. However, professional and amateur singers have been known to forget the words, which is one reason the song is sometimes pre-recorded and lip-synced. Other times the issue is avoided by having the performer(s) play the anthem instrumentally instead of singing it. The pre-recording of the anthem has become standard practice at some ballparks, such as Boston's Fenway Park, according to the SABR publication The Fenway Project. 

The 200th Anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner occurred in 2014 with various special events occurring throughout the United States. A particularly significant celebration occurred during the week of September 10–16 in and around Baltimore, Maryland. Highlights included playing of a new arrangement of the Anthem arranged by John Williams and participation of President Obama on Defender's Day, September 12, 2014, at Fort McHenry...

Thursday, July 2, 2015


Guest reviewer Bruce Kogan is back with another guest movie review. This time around he reviews the 1934 Bing Crosby classic We're Not Dressing...

For those who've never seen Carole Lombard, but have heard about her genius for screwball comedy, go check out We're Not Dressing. Simple plot, Bing's a sailor on the Lombard yacht and he, Lombard, her uncle Leon Errol, her friend Ethel Merman and two princes/gigolos, Ray Milland and Jay Henry are shipwrecked after a drunken Leon Errol runs the yacht up on a reef. In order that they survive the sailor has to take charge and does. Oh, and also surviving is Lombard's pet bear, a creature named Droopy.

Droopy comes pretty close to stealing the picture, especially after Leon Errol persuades Crosby to put roller-skates on him while they're still on the ship. He also has another trick, he won't hear any other song but Goodnight, Lovely Little Lady one of the songs written for this film by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel.

Gordon and Revel's best known numbers from this are "May I" and "Love Thy Neighbor" which sold a few platters for Bing back in 1934. Soon after writing a score for another Crosby picture Two For Tonight, they moved over to 20th Century Fox where they scored some of Alice Faye's films.

Ray Milland in his autobiography "Wide-eyed in Babylon" recounts a tragic story during the filming of We're Not Dressing. The bear trainer gave specific instructions that any women whose time of the month it was were not to be on the set that day. One of them lied and the trainer was badly injured and later died of those injuries sustained at the paws of a super hormonally charged bear. He also said that Paramount signed him to a long term contract on the strength of that film.

The six castaways were not quite alone on the island. Burns and Allen were there also with their brand of surreal comedy. Hollywood never knew quite what to do with them. God knows they were funny as all get out, but rarely were asked to carry a whole film. 

Ethel Merman was another problem. Like her famous Broadway rival Mary Martin, she never quite made it in Hollywood. Her biggest success was always on Broadway. During the 1930s she would support, Crosby, Eddie Cantor, and most memorably Ty Power and Alice Faye and Don Ameche in Alexander's Ragtime Band. Her number "It's The Animal In Me" was cut from the picture, although it's briefly sung at the end. Paramount saved it and put it intact into their Big Broadcast of 1936 the following year.

At the time We're Not Dressing was shooting, Carole Lombard was romantically involved with Bing Crosby's singing rival crooner Russ Columbo. Columbo visited the set often and he and Crosby were friendly rivals and were known to do some impromptu singing during breaks. If only some sound man had left the microphone on. Columbo later died that year of a gunshot wound from an antique dueling pistol, a case that a lot of people felt was never satisfactorily solved.

So with Crosby, Lombard, Burns and Allen, Ethel Merman, Leon Errol just the sound of that casts spells some wacky wonderful fun...