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on November 20, 2010
If you're a baby boomer you likely grew up watching Bing Crosby on television at least once a year, in his annual and much anticipated Christmas specials. They may have even been the only things you knew him for, if you were too young to remember the astonishing career that preceded those festive end-of-year broadcasts. Bing's holiday shows with his family, which began in the 1960s when he hosted the Hollywood Palace's (ABC's answer to the Ed Sullivan Show) Christmas programs, and continued into the 1970s when he and his family starred in their own Christmas specials, were practically an institution back in the 3-channel, pre-cable days. If you were born prior to the Second World War you likely remember Bing as the most beloved entertainer of the 20th century, with the TV Christmas shows serving as an endearing coda to a legendary performer's long career. In either case, this set of four vintage Crosby specials (plus a bonus show, outtakes and TV spots), not seen in more than three decades, should be a warm and welcome sight to your world weary eyes. This is "comfort television" of the highest order.

Bing's first two holiday TV specials--which weren't entirely devoted to a Christmas theme--comprise the first of the two discs. 1961's "Bing Crosby Show," which was filmed in England and aired on December 11th, features Terry-Thomas and Shirley Bassey, with a surprise appearance by one of Bing's old buddies. "The Bing Crosby Show for Clairol," from December 24th, 1962, was Bing's first color special, and his guests are broadway star (and two-time movie co-star with Bing) Mary Martin and pianist-conductor-composer André Previn. Filling out disc 1 are outtakes from the Clairol Special and the half-hour "Happy Holidays with Bing and Frank" (Dec. 20, 1957), in which Frank Sinatra shares a "toddy for the body" with guest Bing, in Frank's faux late-`50s swingin' bachelor pad.

Disc two features a pair of the best of Bing's 1970s Christmas shows with his wife Kathryn and children Harry, Mary Frances and Nathaniel. The first, "Bing Crosby and the Sounds of Christmas" (December 14, 1971), is truly a feast for the eyes and ears, and a rare example of just how appealing that oft-denigrated genre, the variety show, could be, with bravura comedy and musical performances by Robert Goulet and Mary Costa, and sublime caroling by the Mitchell Singing Boys choir. Finally, perhaps the best-remembered and most beloved Christmas special of them all, "Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas," taped just weeks before Bing's death and aired posthumously on November 30, 1977, closes out this delightful set. Shot in England, it of course features Bing's now legendary--but at the time surprising and anomalous--duet with David Bowie, "Little Drummer Boy"/"Peace on Earth," as well as engaging performances by supermodel pioneer Twiggy, Brit comedians Stanley Baxter and Ron Moody, and The Trinity Boys Choir.

Produced by veteran DVD maven Robert S. Bader ("The Dick Cavett Show - Hollywood Greats," "Groucho Marx: You Bet Your Life - The Best Episodes"), the visual and audio quality of these 33- to 53-year-old shows has been beautifully restored. In fact, they look and sound better than they did when they first aired--whether your television set had rabbit ears or a rooftop antenna!
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on November 17, 2010
This second DVD release from the Bing Crosby Archive has four of Bing's Christmas specials and while I have had poor video versions of these for many years, it's wonderful to have them at last in great quality. In particular, the 1961 special filmed in England is a revelation. Several of my friends were at the filming of this and they have always raved about it. The 1962 show was Bing's first in colour and even if the quality is not as crisp as the 1961 special, it's still much better than I have ever seen before. On disc 2 are Christmas shows from 1971 and 1977 (Bing's last) and these are perfection itself. The bonus items of outtakes from the 1962 show, the Sinatra show from 1957, Bing's Britain and the Toys for Tots PSA are excellent and make this package a very attractive one indeed.

These are great Christmas shows which are bound to bring back some wonderful memories.
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on November 9, 2010
I've been oh-so looking forward to this! These specials always showcased outstanding performances, and for me it's a great trip back to simpler years! Christmas was never the same without a Bing Crosby Christmas Special. My favorite (although not on these discs) was the 1973 special because it was filmed on location in real snowy weather, and had all the guests (like Michael Landon) in a real horse-pulled sleigh. None of these I fully remember as a kid except Bing's final special that featured David Bowie singing that now-famous duet with him, "The Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth", which is included here. (I remember how we all commented on Bowie's hair.) I had seen the highlights show (narrated by Gene Kelly) for most of my life and could not remember seeing any uncut shows on TV after the early eighties. A few years ago, I bought a copy of the Sinatra holiday team-up (a nice bonus feature included with this) and love it! I am excited to get to share these year after year with my friends and family! Thank you so much for releasing these! Bing Crosby: The Television Specials Volume 2- The Christmas Specials
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on December 5, 2012
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby died on October 14, 1977, at age 74, less than two months after Elvis Presley died (August 16, 1977; age 42). While Elvis' birthday and death are remembered every year, particularly at five-year intervals, few people remember Crosby today. As the late Rosemary Clooney once wrote, "Only aficionados remember Bing." Oddly enough, Bing was one of Elvis' idols and early influences. Whether the two of them actually met, I have no idea; if they did, it was probably in Las Vegas or in Hollywood. John Lennon was also a Crosby fan; Bing's rendition of "Please" inspired The Beatles' "Please Please Me." And according to Crosby biographer Gary Giddins, Lennon had a jukebox of nothing but Crosby records at The Dakota.

This two-DVD set is the second volume of Bing Crosby television specials, released by his widow Kathryn and Bing Crosby Enterprises, and produced by Robert S. Bader. Four of Bing's Christmas specials are included in this set.

Disc 1 contains two shows that I was too young to remember, so this DVD was my introduction to them. They are not really Christmas shows per se, but Bing sings "White Christmas" at the end of both shows, and "The Little Drummer Boy" in the second show. The first show, which aired in December 1961 on ABC, was taped in England and features an all-British cast, including Ron Moody, Terry-Thomas, and the gorgeous Shirley Bassey, plus a cameo by British-born Bob Hope (in drag). The second show was Bing's first color special, sponsored by Clairol, and aired on Christmas Eve, 1962, also on ABC; it features Broadway legend Mary Martin, André Previn (who was still a jazz musician, not yet a symphony conductor and film composer), and the United Nations Children's Choir. Bonus material on Disc 1 includes a rare episode of ABC's THE FRANK SINATRA SHOW from 1957, entitled "Happy Holidays With Bing and Frank." Although normally broadcast in black-and-white, this particular episode was shot in color for showing in theaters, which never materialized. The film was discovered in the Sinatra vaults decades later. Also included are a few outtakes from the 1962 Clairol special, including one Mary Martin number that did not make the final cut.

Disc 2 features two shows from the '70s, which I vaguely remember. The first one, which aired on NBC in December 1971, was titled "Bing Crosby and the Sounds of Christmas," and featured Bing's "second family," his wife Kathryn, sons Harry and Nathaniel, and daughter Mary Frances (who would get her 15 minutes of fame later, in 1980, when she played villain Kristin Shepard, who shot the evil J.R. Ewing, played by the recently deceased Larry Hagman, on DALLAS). Other guests included Robert Goulet, the Mitchell Boys Choir, and a long-forgotten opera singer named Mary Costa. The second special, which was taped five weeks before Bing's death, and which aired on November 30, 1977 on CBS, was titled "Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas," and in addition to the Crosby family, featured Twiggy, Ron Moody, Stanley Baxter, the Trinity Boys Choir, and David Bowie, who performed the legendary "Peace On Earth/The Little Drummer Boy" duet with Bing. I hadn't seen this footage in years, and thought that Bing and Bowie were not comfortable together; their banter seemed forced, although they sang the duet very well. Bowie also performs his then-current hit "Heroes," but it seems out of place on a Bing Crosby Christmas special. I'm not sure why Bowie was chosen; perhaps Crosby's kids lobbied for his inclusion, or maybe the "network suits" at CBS told Bing, "You gotta put a rock star on, Bing, so that the kids will watch!" UPDATE: According to the 2014 PBS documentary American Masters: Bing Crosby - Rediscovered, Bowie balked at singing "The Little Drummer Boy" because he hated the song; he agreed to do the special only because his mother was a Crosby fan, so to appease him, the show's musical director wrote the "Peace On Earth" counter-melody for Bowie to sing. Bing was VERY comfortable with Twiggy, though. And of course, Bing closes the show, as always, with "White Christmas"; sadly, it was his last television performance. His final public concert was held at England's Brighton Centre just four days before his death on a golf course in Spain. Oddly enough, his last U.S. concert was held on August 16, 1977 - the same day that Elvis passed away.

Bonus material on Disc 2 includes a 1965 Toys for Tots PSA, filmed on the set of Bing's movie "Stagecoach," and a 1976 tourism travelogue, "Bing's Britain." Picture and sound quality are as good as it gets; the Crosby estate did a marvelous job storing and restoring these shows, which is no surprise, as Bing invested in cutting-edge technology firms (e.g., the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M) Company) throughout his life.

If Bing Crosby were still alive, and making Christmas (or non-Christmas) specials today, who would he be performing with? I'm sure he would had loved working with Diana Krall, Michael Bublé (who has used archival Crosby footage in all of his NBC Christmas specials to date), Kristin Chenoweth, Natalie Cole (Bing was a close friend of her dad's), country stars such as Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, and Carrie Underwood, Mariah Carey, or maybe even Lady Gaga (now that, thanks to Tony Bennett, she has reinvented herself as a jazz singer). But Bing with Beyoncé, Chris Brown, Rihanna, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, or the cast from GLEE? Not on your life.

Now that David Bowie has passed on (January 10, 2016), will he and Bing duet again in Heaven?

I hope that the Crosby estate makes more specials available, if demand warrants it.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon December 5, 2010
Earlier this year Infinity Home Video released a terrific 2-DVD set of Crosby TV specials. The source material came from the Bing Crosby Archive, managed by Crosby's widow Kathryn. Not only were the performances great (and the bonus too!) but the images - especially the black and white ones - were sharp and crisp.

Now, in time for the "holiday" season comes Volume 2 - "The Christmas Specials". Its almost as good. Don't be put off by the restricted title "Christmas". The first two of the four complete hour-long shows here only have a Christmas song at the end and you can watch any time of the year without even knowing it was a Christmas Special. The first - from 1961- is in crisp black and white and was recorded in England. Though this looks better than the second show on Disc One, it is weaker because a lot of time was devoted to comedy sketches to the exclusion of Bing's singing, and the guests are little-known British actors or comedians like Dave King, Miriam Karlin and Ron Moody. The second show - in color - is a full of song with Mary Martin as guest. The color image is not as sharp - with some dropouts - but at least we have it preserved. The second disc takes us to the "family" years when Kathryn and Bing's sons would appear,. And for the second show on that disc - the 1977 special recorded just five weeks before Crosby died - we are back in England with Bing dueting with Twiggy and the "classic moment" in which Bing sings "The Little Drummer Boy" with David Bowie, a clip that probably gets a few million hits on Youtube every year.

The bonus features are also well chosen. The 1957 Happy Holidays With Bing And Frank is 30 minutes of the two of them singing in an ABC show directed by Sinatra. There are outtakes from the Crosby/Martin 1962 show noted above. And while Bing was in Britain in 1976 he did a promo film for British tourism that is worth seeing.

These DVD sets come with a nice little liner note booklet and are well packaged. I, for one, will anxiously await the next in this series from Infinity. But, for now, its nice to relive these holiday specials - which I remember fondly - again.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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on January 22, 2011
I found the Bing Crosby Christmas Specials to be a great "blast from the past" experience. The picture quality was good and getting to see Bings's guest stars, including Mary Martin and Robert Goulet, was an added bonus. The first of the four specials was not really Christmas-themed at all but was very entertaining nonetheless. Filmed in black and white in 1961, the fact that it was NOT in color brought its own nostalgic appeal.

The other three specials were in color and all seemed to "wear" pretty well over time. The third special had a strictly Christmas theme and was quite enjoyable with Bing's family joining in. The last special though, was priceless with great English sets, a fine cast and an unforgetable song duet between Bing and David Bowie.

The only downside was the price. $17.95 seemed a little steep for less than four hours of T.V. re-runs. If this product were priced at $9.95 rather than $17.95 it would have been a better value. Nevertheless, for nostalgia fans, for those who can't get enough of Christmas, and for Bing Crosby lovers this collection was a real Christmas gift worth experiencing!
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on December 27, 2010
A wonderful collection for those old enough to remember when the words 'Christmas' and 'Bing Crosby' were inseparable, these specials from the 50s-70s are also an interesting retrospective on television from that period. Crosby always had the best guest stars (Mary Martin is a standout) and musical arrangers and conductors (Andre Previn appears in an early special). The last Crosby special, 'Bing Crosby in Merry Olde England,' aired after his death in 1977 and was one of the best, featuring the iconic duet with David Bowie. One of the great bonus features is a Frank Sinatra Christmas special, directed by Sinatra and featuring Bing as the sole guest. Watching these two 20th-century masters work together is holiday magic.
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on November 21, 2010
Finally the perfect Christmas--past, present, future! A cornucopia of Crosby treasures, but the greatest jewel of all in this rich compilation of Bing's incomparable family specials is the 1971 'Sounds of Christmas' show starring opera star Mary Costa. Her beauty rivals her heavenly voice, and brings Christmas alive all year round! Her hilarious medley duet of 'Jingle Bells' with Bing is itself worth the price, a bargain, of the entire set. Someone once asked Noel Coward what you have to do to be a star. His answer was one word: 'Sparkle'! Mary Costa sparkles with enough wattage to light up the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, and the chemistry with Bing is pure magic. God bless the Crosby family for sharing these memorable moments for all time!
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on December 6, 2013
It's hard not to give this four stars because it's really a grand collection, straight from the archives, presented beautifully. Two discs with four entire specials, loads of extras (most notably the entirety of the "Happy Holidays With Bing and Frank" special, but I'll address that later), the best quality that can be imagined.

If you're a Bing Crosby fan, it's a must buy.

However, if you're like me and like Crosby only in the context of Christmas, and are looking for a holiday special--look somewhere else; I'd suggest Questar's "A Bing Crosby Christmas." Why? None of the four specials presented here are the best examples of CHRISTMAS specials.

Included are Crosby's very first special--interesting presentation for TV historians for sure, but it has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas except for the closing number, "White Christmas." His second special, from 1962, has little more to offer in that regard.

I would say that the third presentation here, from 1971, probably is the most "Christmasy," but even it deviates significantly in portions. And while the last, Bing's final special (presented posthumously in its original run in 1977), is a curiosity piece because of its inclusion of David Bowie, it too hardly feels like Christmas, at least not Christmas Americana. It takes more than a few carols Scotch-taped together to get us there. This is a much "smaller" special than the others and it had all sorts of unrealized potential from a holiday standpoint. And while the duet between Bing and Bowie is one of the greatest moments in TV history, the Bowie solo act thrown into the middle is nonsensical and bizarre. It's not the only bizarre moment from this one--two ghosts show up, one of them doing a Bob Hope impersonation. Uhhhh...what?

Overall I was pretty mightily disappointed and would like to have seen some of the specials from the mid '70s which, from what I can tell, were more focused on the holiday rather than oblique storytelling.

Easily the most fulfilling part of this collection from this point of view is the included bonus "Happy Holidays With Bing and Frank," a color presentation of a Frank Sinatra show (Crosby was the guest) from 1957. It's Christmas to the core. But this has been available on DVD for years by itself, with loads of extras including a commentary from the producers. So I definitely wouldn't suggest buying this collection to get that.

I can't knock this collection too much because the hard-core fans will love it, and it really is well done. It just doesn't suit my particular tastes.
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on January 29, 2014
I grew up in a household where Bing Crosby was king. We watched every movie, all the specials, every record he ever made. My father was a huge fan and passed this on to us, his children. He died at 91 in 2007 and even though my mother still has all the records they are buried on a back porch. I bought this for her for Christmas but it brought back memories of Christmas past.
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