Monday, December 30, 2019


Another year, and another list of people we have lost. 2019 is another year where some great talents have left us, but as I always say the person is gone but their memory will live on always. Here are just some of the great talents that left us in 2019...

Carol Channing

Actress, Carol Channing died at the age of 97 on January 15th. Notable for starring in Broadway and film musicals, her characters typically radiate a fervent expressiveness and an easily identifiable voice, whether singing or for comedic effect. She began as a Broadway musical actress, starring in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1949, and Hello, Dolly! in 1964, when she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. She revived both roles several times throughout her career, most recently playing Dolly in 1995. Channing was nominated for her first Tony Award in 1956 for The Vamp followed by a nomination in 1961 for Show Girl. She received her fourth Tony Award nomination for the musical Lorelei in 1974. As a film actress, she won the Golden Globe Award and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Muzzy in Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). A documentary on her life came out in 2012, and her last major appearance was for her 95th birthday in 2016.

Actor Robert Forster died on October 11th of brain cancer at the age of 78. He was known for his roles as John Cassellis in Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool (1969), Lebanese terrorist Abdul Rafai in The Delta Force (1986), and Max Cherry in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown (1997), for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He also had prominent roles in television series such as Banyon (1971–1973), Heroes (2007–2008), and Twin Peaks (2017). He won the Saturn Award for Best Guest Starring Role on Television for his performance in the Breaking Bad episode "Granite State" (2013), reprising his role in the series' sequel film El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, which premiered the day of his death.

Singer, Christina McGuire died on December 28, 2018 but it was not reported until January 4th. She was 92 and died of a stroke. With her sisters, Phyllis and Dorothy (1928-2012), Christina was part of the popular singing group the McGuire Sisters. The sisters formed their group in 1952 and stayed together until 1968. Among their most popular songs are "Sincerely" and "Sugartime", both number-one hits. They made a comeback in the 1980s and performed sporadically until 2004.

Big band leader Bob Wilber died on August 4th at the age of 91. Although his scope covers a wide range of jazz, Wilber was a dedicated advocate of classic styles, working throughout his career to present traditional jazz pieces in a contemporary manner. He played with many distinguished jazz leaders in the 1950s and 1960s, including Bobby Hackett, Benny Goodman, Sidney Bechet, Jack Teagarden and Eddie Condon. His final two albums were released in 2010 and 2011.

Actress and singer Kaye Ballard died on January 21st at the age of 93 from heart failure and kidney cancer. She established herself as a performer in the 1940s with Spike Jones Orchestra. In 1957, she and Alice Ghostley played the two wicked stepsisters in the live telecast of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, starring Julie Andrews in the title role. From 1967 to 1969, she co-starred as Kaye Buell, a woman whose son marries her next door neighbor's daughter, in the NBC sitcom The Mothers-in-Law, with Eve Arden playing her neighbor. She also appeared as a regular on The Doris Day Show as restaurant owner Angie Pallucci from 1970 to 1972. She continued to perform until a few weeks before her death. A documentary on her life was released in January of 2019.

Albert Finney

Actor Albert Finney died on February 7th at the age of 82. He worked in the theatre before attaining prominence on screen in the early 1960s, debuting with The Entertainer (1960), directed by Tony Richardson, who had previously directed him in the theatre. He maintained a successful career in theatre, film and television.He is known for his roles in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (also 1960), Tom Jones (1963), Two for the Road (1967), Scrooge (1970), Annie (1982), The Dresser (1983), Miller's Crossing (1990), A Man of No Importance (1994), Erin Brockovich (2000), Big Fish (2003), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007), The Bourne Legacy (2012), and the James Bond film Skyfall (2012).

Pianist Andre Previn died on February 28th at the age of 89. His career was three-pronged. Starting by arranging and composing Hollywood film scores for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Previn was involved in the music for over 50 films over his entire career. He won four Academy Awards for his film work and ten Grammy Awards for his recordings (and one more for his Lifetime Achievement). In jazz, Previn was a pianist-interpreter and arranger of songs from the Great American Songbook, was piano-accompanist to singers of jazz standards, and was trio pianist. He also was married to actress Mia Farrow from 1970 to 1979.

Singer Jim Pike died on June 9th at the age of 82 of Parkinson's Disease.. He was the co-founder of the singing group The Lettermen. Pike and Bob Engemann, a college buddy from Brigham Young University, formed The Lettermen in Los Angeles in 1961 with fellow singer Tony Butala. The groups had numerous hits throughout the 1960s. The Lettermen, with Butala as the only remaining founding member, continues to tour. Engemann died in 2013.

Actor Peter Fonda died on August 16th of lung cancer. He was the son of Henry Fonda, younger brother of Jane Fonda, and father of Bridget Fonda. He was a part of the counterculture of the 1960s. Fonda was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Easy Rider (1969), and the Academy Award for Best Actor for Ulee's Gold (1997). His final portrayal will be in the Vietnam War movie The Last Full Measure. 

Actress Julie Adams died at the age of 92 on February 3rd. She starred in a number of films in the 1950s, including Bend of the River and Creature from the Black Lagoon. She was also known for her roles as Paula Denning on Capitol and as Eve Simpson on Murder, She Wrote on television.

Tim Conway

Comedian Tim Conway died on May 14th at the age of 85. He was an American actor, comedian, writer, and director. He portrayed the inept Ensign Parker in the World War II situation comedy McHale's Navy from 1962 to 1966, was a regular cast member on the variety and sketch comedy program The Carol Burnett Show, and he co-starred with Don Knotts in several films in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was particularly admired for his ability to depart from scripts with spontaneously improvised character details and dialogue, and he won six Primetime Emmy Awards during his career, four of which were awarded for The Carol Burnett Show, including one for writing.

Actress and singer Diahann Carroll died of cancer on October 3rd at the age of 83. She rose to stardom in performances in some of the earliest major studio films to feature black casts, including Carmen Jones in 1954 and Porgy and Bess in 1959. In 1962, Carroll won a Tony Award for best actress, a first for a black woman, for her role in the Broadway musical No Strings. Her 1968 debut in Julia, the first series on American television to star a black woman in a nonstereotypical role, was a milestone both in her career and the medium. In the 1980s she played the role of a mixed-race diva in the primetime soap opera Dynasty. She retired in 2014.

Film historian Ron Hutchinson died of colon cancer at the age of 68 on February 2nd. Ron who led a campaign to restore scores of largely forgotten short sound films from the 1920s and ’30s that featured comedians, vaudevillians, opera singers and musical acts.

Actress Valerie Harper died at the age of 80 on August 30th. She began her career as a dancer on Broadway, making her debut in the musical Take Me Along in 1959. Harper is best remembered for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–77) and its spin-off Rhoda (1974–78). For her work on Mary Tyler Moore, she thrice received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, and later received the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on Rhoda.

Actress and model Carol Lynley died of a heart attack at the age of 77 on September 3rd. Lynley is perhaps best known for her film roles in Return to Peyton Place, Under the Yum Yum Tree, Bunny Lake Is Missing, The Pleasure Seekers, The Cardinal, and The Poseidon Adventure, in which she performed the Oscar-winning song "The Morning After" (although her singing voice was dubbed by studio singer Renee Armand. She made her last movie in 2006.

Bill Macy
Actor Bill Macy died at the age of 97 on October 17th. Macy played Walter Findlay, the long-suffering husband of the title character on the television situation comedy Maude, starring Bea Arthur from 1972 to 1978. Macy made more than 70 appearances on film and television. He appeared as the Jury Foreman in The Producers in 1967. Other memorable roles include the co-inventor of the 'Opti-grab' in the 1979 Steve Martin comedy The Jerk, and as the head television writer in My Favorite Year (1982). He remained active in movies and television until his retirement in 2010.

Actor and television host Bob Dorian died on June 15th at the age of 85. He was most widely known for being the host of classic movies on AMC from 1984 to 2001. He also appeared in such movies as He is an actor, known for The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001), The Last Confederate: The Story of Robert Adams (2005), and Evil Dead (2013),

Actress Katherine Helmond died at the age of 90 on February 23rd. She was an actress for over five decades of television. She was known for her starring role as ditzy matriarch Jessica Tate on the sitcom Soap (1977–1981) and her co-starring role as feisty mother Mona Robinson on Who's the Boss? (1984–1992). She also played Doris Sherman on Coach and Lois Whelan (the mother of Debra Barone) on Everybody Loves Raymond. She also appeared as a guest on several talk and variety shows.

Singer Leon Redbone died on May 30th at the age of 69 of dementia. Recognized by his Panama hat, dark sunglasses, and black tie, Redbone was born in Cyprus of Armenian ancestry and first appeared on stage in Toronto, Canada, in the early 1970s. He also appeared on film and television in acting and voice-over roles. Redbone favored material from the Tin Pan Alley era, circa 1890 to 1910. He sang the theme to the 1980s television series Mr. Belvedere and released eighteen albums. He also appeared in the 2003 movie Elf as a Leon The Snowman. Ill health forced him to retire in 2015.

Director Stanley Donen died at the age of 94 on February 21st. He was an American film director and choreographer whose most celebrated works are On the Town (1949) and Singin' in the Rain (1952), both of which starred Gene Kelly who co-directed. His other films include Royal Wedding (1951), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Funny Face (1957), Indiscreet (1958), and Charade (1963).

Doris Day

Singer and actress Doris Day died at the age of 97 of pneumonia on May 13th. After she began her career as a big band singer in 1939, her popularity increased with her first hit recording "Sentimental Journey" (1945). After leaving Les Brown & His Band of Renown to embark on a solo career, she recorded more than 650 songs from 1947 to 1967, which made her one of the most popular and acclaimed singers of the 20th century. Day's film career began during the latter part of the Classical Hollywood Film era with the 1948 film Romance on the High Seas, and its success sparked her twenty-year career as a motion picture actress. She starred in a series of successful films, including musicals, comedies, and dramas. She played the title role in Calamity Jane (1953), and starred in Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) with James Stewart. After her final film in 1968, she went on to star in the CBS sitcom The Doris Day Show (1968–1973).

Actress Fay McKenzie died at the age of 101 on April 16th.She starred in silent films as a child, and then sound films as an adult, but perhaps she is best known for her leading roles opposite Gene Autry in the early 1940s in five horse opera features.She also appeared on Broadway, radio and television, having appeared on screen at 10 months old in 1918. She was still appearing on screen at the time of her death, with her latest project opposite her son Tom Waldman Jr. in the comedy Kill a Better Mousetrap, based on a play by Scott K. Ratner, filmed in the summer of 2018 and not yet released at the time of her death.

Actor Danny Aiello died on December 12th at the age of 86. He was a versatile character actor who appeared in numerous motion pictures, including The Godfather Part II (1974), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Moonstruck (1987), Harlem Nights (1989), Hudson Hawk (1991), Ruby (1992), and Lucky Number Slevin (2006). He had a pivotal role in the Spike Lee film Do the Right Thing (1989) as Salvatore "Sal" Frangione, earning a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He played Don Domenico Clericuzio in the miniseries The Last Don (1997). He retired from acting in 2017.

Songwriter Jerry Herman, died at the age of 88 on December 26th. Jerry was an American composer and lyricist, known for his work in Broadway musical theater. He composed the scores for the hit Broadway musicals Hello, Dolly!, Mame, and La Cage aux Folles. He was nominated for the Tony Award five times, and won twice, for Hello, Dolly! and La Cage aux Folles. In 2009, Herman received the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. He was a recipient of the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors.

So much talent lost, but so much memories left behind...

Friday, December 27, 2019


Legendary Broadway songwriter Jerry Herman has died. The author of the hit musicals Hello, Dolly!, Mame and La Cage aux Folles was 88.

Publicist Harlan Boll said Herman was taken to a Miami hospital Thursday night complaining of chest pain and later died of pulmonary complications.

Born July 10, 1931, Herman grew up in Jersey City, N.J. His parents held elaborate costume parties and took him to the theater often. Seeing Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun changed his life, as he told NPR in 1994.

"I walked out of that theater singing all those wonderful Berlin songs and, from that moment on, that's all I wanted to do with my life," he said.

Herman had some modest success on and off-Broadway in the late 1950s and early '60s, but didn't hit the big time until producer David Merrick called him about working on an adaptation of a Thornton Wilder play, The Matchmaker.

"I went home with a script that he had given me to look at," Herman told NPR, "and I wrote four songs over a weekend and came back to his office on Monday morning with four brand new songs and bowled him over, not only with the songs, but with the speed that I had been able to work at. And I got the job!"

Not only did the 1964 show, starring Carol Channing, become a smash hit, it won Herman his first Tony Award. A recording of the title tune by Louis Armstrong knocked the Beatles off the Hit Parade, Herman told the Press in 2000.

"When a man from my publishing company called me and said, 'Louis Armstrong wants to record that,' I laughed," Herman recalled. "I thought it was the silliest idea that I had ever heard! And when I heard the recording, I fell out of my chair, because he turned my 1890s valentine into one of the most famous pop songs of all time!"

Jerry Herman's next show, Mame, starring Angela Lansbury, was another smash. He says he wrote songs for the eccentric character of Auntie Mame in memory of his mother, who passed away when he was a young man.

"It really was very natural material to me, because I had a mother who was a glamorous lady who believed in all the things that Mame believes in. And so, I didn't have to study the subject matter! I grew up with it."

But as the 1960s came to an end, Jerry Herman's kind of bright, gaudy show tunes seemed to go out of style. He suffered several failures in a row. Then, in 1983, he wrote the gay-themed hit La Cage Aux Folles, which won him a second Tony Award.

Shortly after the show opened, Herman's companion, Marty Finkelstein, died of complications from AIDS. And Herman was diagnosed as HIV-positive at a time when that seemed like a death sentence.

Herman was one of the first people to receive the complex cocktail of drugs that has kept so many HIV patients alive, and he helped raise millions of dollars for AIDS research. Co-author Marilyn Stasio says Herman's HIV status spurred him to write his memoirs — and to also set some things straight.

"One thing that really got him mad was he thought people really felt he was putting it on, the optimism and the joy and the happiness and the way he loved life. And he wanted to make it clear that it was true. He did. He loved every minute of life."

Tuesday, December 24, 2019


Here was a song that Irving Berlin wrote for Bing and Danny Kaye to sing in White Christmas. It was cut from the movie, but this unreleased track still exists!

Sunday, December 22, 2019


“White Christmas” is one of the most covered songs of all time. Some sources say it’s the most covered song, and it seems like every major artist has recorded it at some point. Since its first studio recorded was released in 1942, the tune has attracted everyone from Tony Bennett to Barbra Streisand, Tiny Tim, the Flaming Lips and Iggy Pop and Ringo Starr.

Although there are simply too many covers to, well, cover, we’ve compiled a list of seven of the best versions of “White Christmas” currently available through streaming services. They’re listed chronologically:

• The Drifters (1954) – The legendary doo-wop group the Drifters had crossover pop hits with “Under the Boardwalk,” “Up on the Roof” and “Save the Last Dance for Me,” but their take on “White Christmas” was mostly relegated to black radio stations when it was released in ’54. With its complex vocal arrangements, it’s one of the most spirited and distinct versions of the song, and its prominent placement on the “Home Alone” soundtrack (Macaulay Culkin actually lip synchs to it) later ensured its classic status.

• Frank Sinatra (1954)
– Ol’ Blue Eyes took on Berlin the same year that the Drifters did, and although his version is more traditional, it confidently announces itself as one of the best. This one might seem like an obvious choice – without even hearing it, you know Sinatra’s take on “White Christmas” is going to be great – but his voice marries so beautifully with Berlin’s music that it’s further proof that Sinatra could do no wrong in front of a mic.

• Ella Fitzgerald (1960) – Another of the greatest vocalists of all time, Ella Fitzgerald never met a song she couldn’t make her own. Her “White Christmas,” which appeared on 1960’s “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas,” is no exception: It’s as effortlessly classy and lovely as you might expect, and the song’s jazzy percussion and swooning brass give you the impression you’re in the company of the world’s best lounge act.

• Darlene Love (1963) – Phil Spector’s “A Christmas Gift for You,” a holiday showcase for the infamous producer’s contracted artists, was a flop upon its first release (it came out the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated). It’s now frequently cited as the greatest of all holiday albums, and many of its 13 tracks, including the Crystals’ “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and the Ronettes’ “Sleigh Ride,” have become Christmas classics. Darlene Love’s soaring “White Christmas” opens the record in all its Wall of Sound glory, a slice of glossy L.A. pop that’s perfect for a snowy afternoon.

• Otis Redding (1968) – One of the most expressive vocalists in pop music history, Otis Redding tackles “White Christmas” with the same soulful power he did his other timeless R&B ballads. Redding’s arrangement is heavy with horns and an organ, giving the song a bluesy swagger while maintaining its inherent melancholy. That his version was released a year after his death imbues it with a bittersweet edge.

Sunday, December 15, 2019


The song "Snow" was originally written for Call Me Madam with the title "Free," but was dropped in out-of-town tryouts. The melody and some of the words were kept, but the lyrics were changed to be more appropriate for a Christmas movie. The song "What Can You Do with a General?" was originally written for an un-produced project called Stars on My Shoulders.

Trudy Stevens provided the singing voice for Vera-Ellen, who did not have a suitable singing voice. It was not possible to issue an "original soundtrack album" of the film, because Decca Records controlled the soundtrack rights, but Clooney was under exclusive contract with Columbia Records. Consequently, each company issued a separate "soundtrack recording": Decca issuing Selections from Irving Berlin's White Christmas, while Columbia issued Irving Berlin's White Christmas. On the former, the song "Sisters" (as well as all of Clooney's vocal parts) was recorded by Peggy Lee, while on the latter, the song was sung by Rosemary Clooney and her own sister, Betty.

Berlin wrote "A Singer, A Dancer" for Crosby and his planned co-star Fred Astaire but when he was unavailable, Berlin re-wrote it as "A Crooner – A Comic" for Crosby and Donald O'Connor, but when O'Connor left the project so did the song. Another song written by Berlin for the film was "Sittin' in the Sun (Countin' My Money)" but because of delays in production, Berlin decided to publish it independently.] Crosby and Kaye also recorded another Berlin song ("Santa Claus") for the opening WWII Christmas Eve show scene, but it was not used in the final film. Their recording of the song survives though, and the song is cute but not great.

One of the greatest moments of the film is a bit Bing and Danny Kaye did off the cuff. According to Rosemary Clooney, Bing and Danny’s “Sisters” performance was not originally in the script. They were clowning around on the set, and director Michael Curtiz thought it was so funny that he decided to film it. In the scene, Crosby’s laughs are genuine and unscripted, and he was unable to hold a straight face. Clooney said the filmmakers had a better take where Crosby didn’t laugh, but the version with Crosby laughing was one that they used.

I find myself always comparing White Christmas to Holiday Inn, and I think that is unfair. The movies were done a decade apart and movie musicals were much different in 1954 than 1942. I prefer Holiday Inn, but I have a much better appreciation for White Christmas now that I have seen the film in a move theater. From the understated performance of Dean Jagger as the retired general to the superb dancing of Vera-Ellen to the banter of Crosby and Kaye, White Christmas is really a great film. Yes, the film is sentimental and cheesy at times. While I went to see the film in a theater my wife and kids ran errands, and I am glad. I had tears in eyes at the end when the general was recognized and realized he was not forgotten. I think that is a sign of a great movie that a movie made more than 60 years ago can still evoke emotion in 2017. At the end of the movie screening, the audience stood up and applauded, and I smiled to myself and thought of what a great Christmas gift this film was and is. Thanks again Bing!


Friday, December 13, 2019


Danny Aiello, the Oscar-nominated actor best known for movies including Do the Right Thing and Moonstruck, has died, PEOPLE confirms. He was 86.

“It is with profound sorrow to report that Danny Aiello, beloved husband, father, grandfather, actor and musician passed away last night after a brief illness,” his family said in a statement. “The family asks for privacy at this time. Service arrangements will be announced at a later date.”

Aiello died on Thursday night at a medical facility in New Jersey,  According to the outlet, he was in the facility being treated for a sudden illness and had suffered an infection related to his treatment.

The actor broke into Hollywood in 1973 with a role in the Robert De Niro-starring baseball film Bang the Drum Slowly. Shortly after, he played Tony Rosato in The Godfather: Part II, where he said the famous line, “Michael Corleone says hello!”

Aiello received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the classic 1989 Spike Lee film Do the Right Thing. In the movie, he played the character of Salvatore “Sal” Fragione, the owner of a pizzeria in Brooklyn.

Though Aiello is best known for Do the Right Thing, he also starred in movies including Moonstruck, Hudson Hawk and Jacob’s Ladder.

Outside of Hollywood, Aiello was also a stage actor, performing in multiple Broadway plays including Gemini, The Floating Light Bulb and The House of Blue Leaves. He also acted in television shows including Lady Blue and The Last Don.

The actor is survived by his wife Sandy Cohen, whom he married in 1955, and three children. His son, Danny Aiello III, died of cancer in 2010. His last role was in The Neighborhood (2017) as Joseph Donatello...

Sunday, December 8, 2019


"White Christmas" is a 1942 Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. The version sung by Bing Crosby is the world's best-selling single with estimated sales in excess of 100 million copies worldwide. Other versions of the song, along with Crosby's, have sold over 50 million copies.

Accounts vary as to when and where Berlin wrote the song. One story is that he wrote it in 1940, in warm La Quinta, California, while staying at the La Quinta Hotel, a frequent Hollywood retreat also favored by writer-director-producer Frank Capra, although the Arizona Biltmore also claims the song was written there. He often stayed up all night writing—he told his secretary, "Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I've ever written—heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written!"

The first public performance of the song was by Bing Crosby, on his NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall on Christmas Day, 1941; a copy of the recording from the radio program is owned by Crosby's estate and was loaned to CBS News Sunday Morning for their December 25, 2011 program. He subsequently recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers and for Decca Records in just 18 minutes on May 29, 1942, and it was released on July 30 as part of an album of six 78-rpm discs from the musical film Holiday Inn. At first, Crosby did not see anything special about the song. He just said "I don't think we have any problems with that one, Irving." The song established that there could be commercially successful secular Christmas songs —in this case, written by a Jewish-American songwriter.

The song initially performed poorly and was overshadowed by Holiday Inn's first hit song: "Be Careful, It's My Heart". By the end of October 1942, "White Christmas" topped the Your Hit Parade chart. It remained in that position until well into the new year. It has often been noted that the mix of melancholy—"just like the ones I used to know"—with comforting images of home—"where the treetops glisten"—resonated especially strongly with listeners during World War II. A few weeks after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Crosby introduced "White Christmas" on a Christmas Day broadcast. The Armed Forces Network was flooded with requests for the song. The recording is noted for Crosby's whistling during the second chorus.

In 1942 alone, Crosby's recording spent eleven weeks on top of the Billboard charts. The original version also hit number one on the Harlem Hit Parade for three weeks,  Crosby's first-ever appearance on the black-oriented chart. Re-released by Decca, the single returned to the No. 1 spot during the holiday seasons of 1945 and 1946 (on the chart dated January 4, 1947), thus becoming the only single with three separate runs at the top of the U.S. charts. The recording became a chart perennial, reappearing annually on the pop chart twenty separate times before Billboard magazine created a distinct Christmas chart for seasonal releases.

In Holiday Inn, the composition won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1942. In the film, Crosby sings "White Christmas" as a duet with actress Marjorie Reynolds, though her voice was dubbed by Martha Mears. This now-familiar scene was not the movie makers' initial plan. In the script as originally conceived, Reynolds, not Crosby, would sing the song. The song would feature in another Crosby film, the 1954 musical White Christmas, which became the highest-grossing film of 1954. (Crosby made yet another studio recording of the song, accompanied by Joseph J. Lilley's orchestra and chorus, for the film's soundtrack album.)

The version most often heard today on the radio during the Christmas season is the 1947 re-recording. The 1942 master was damaged due to frequent use. Crosby re-recorded the track on March 19, 1947, accompanied again by the Trotter Orchestra and the Darby Singers, with every effort made to reproduce the original recording session. The re-recording is recognizable by the addition of flutes and celesta in the beginning. Although Crosby dismissed his role in the song's success, saying later that "a jackdaw with a cleft palate could have sung it successfully," he was associated with it for the rest of his career...

Monday, December 2, 2019


With a busy family full of gymnastic practice, basketball games, and school functions, it is difficult for the whole family to go see a movie together. Yesterday though, all four of us went to see Frozen 2 in a packed movie theater. The sequel did not disappoint.

Frozen II, also known as Frozen 2, is a 2019 American 3D computer-animated musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. The 58th animated film produced by the studio, it is the sequel to the 2013 film Frozen and features the return of directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, producer Peter Del Vecho, songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and composer Christophe Beck. Lee also returns as screenwriter, penning the screenplay from a story by her, Buck, Marc E. Smith, Anderson-Lopez and Lopez, while Byron Howard executive-produced the film. Veteran voice cast Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, and Ciarán Hinds return as their previous characters, and are joined by newcomers Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton, Jason Ritter, Rachel Matthews, and Jeremy Sisto.

Set three years after the events of the first film, the story follows Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven who embark on a journey beyond their kingdom of Arendelle in order to discover the origin of Elsa's magical powers and save their kingdom after a mysterious voice calls out to Elsa.

Frozen II had its world premiere at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on November 7, 2019, and was released in the United States by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures on November 22, 2019. The film received mostly positive reviews from critics, who praised its animation, visuals, music and vocal performances, although criticism focused on its convoluted plot. It has grossed $738 million worldwide, and had the highest all-time worldwide opening for an animated film.

I do have to stay that while the movie was great, and as usual I shed a few tears, the songs may not be as catchy as in Frozen. However, my daughter especially loved the film, and it was a great movie to see on a rainy Sunday morning. It was so good, I am ready for another sequel already! If you liked the first Frozen, that don't freeze this sequel out of your heart and go see it...


Sunday, December 1, 2019


I had the the great opportunity to see 1954’s White Christmas in a movie theater a couple of days before Christmas in 2017. I actually fulfilled one of my bucket list items by seeing a Bing Crosby movie in a theater. I had never had the pleasure of seeing one like that before. I have to admit that White Christmas has never been my favorite Crosby film. I thought the story was contrite, and I did not care for the pairing of Bing with funny man Danny Kaye. However, upon seeing this movie in the theater, I have a completely new appreciation for the film.

The beloved classic that everyone watches during the holiday season is a lot different from what was proposed in the beginning. At first, Bing Crosby turned down the role due to the recent death of his wife Dixie Lee. However, Bing knew working on a musical with Irving Berlin tunes was destined to be a hit so he signed. Bing had co-star approval, and had wanted Fred Astaire for the role of his Army buddy. Crosby and Astaire had previously starred in Holiday Inn (1942) and Blue Skies (1946) earlier. Astaire read the script, but he then turned it down. The last movie that Astaire had made for Paramount was the 1950 disastrous musical Let’s Dance with Betty Hutton, and by 1954 Astaire was really being choosy on what roles he was accepting at that point. Next Bing wanted to work with dancer Donald O’ Connor again. Donald had played Bing’s younger brother in an earlier Paramount musical Sing You Sinners in 1938, and Bing and Donald had work together on radio shows since then. O’Connor was all set to be in the film, until he broke his ankle right before film rehearsals were set to begin. This sent Paramount scrambling, and they came up with the idea of pairing Bing with comedian Danny Kaye.

Even though Kaye was third choice for the film, he had this to say about Bing:

"I loved to work with him. I had the feeling he was my close personal friend. The real truth is that everybody knows Bing, but no one knows him. Through the years, he has created a legendary character that is so vivid, no one knows where the legend begins and the real Crosby leaves off. I thought I knew Bing--thought I knew all about him until we started to make White Christmas. Then I realized I actually didn't know the man at all. The truth of the matter is, there isn't a lazy bone in Bing's body. He works harder than any man I've met--but he does it with an easy casualness that makes him look lazy." (The Danny Kaye Story pg 198).

The movie plot, as flimsy as it may be, does has some serious overtones. By 1954, World War II had been over for almost a decade, and the film touches on what happens to soldiers after the fighting is over. Like many of Irving Berlin’s movie musicals, the plot of White Christmas is basically a vehicle to move from song to song. Many of Berlin’s standards are present like “Blue Skies”, “Heat Wave”, “Abraham” and of course the title song that was sung in the first minutes of the movie by Bing, and then by the group at the end. The new songs that Berlin wrote for the film were good but not up to par with the songs he was writing two decades earlier. My favorite of these new songs was the torchy number “Love You Didn’t Do Right For Me” which was sung in the movie by Rosemary Clooney. Other new songs like “Snow” and “Sisters” have also become standards....  TO BE CONTINUED...