The Bing Crosby Collection: (College Humor / We're Not Dressing / Here Is My Heart / Mississippi / Sing You Sinners / and more)
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One of the most popular entertainers of all-time, Bing Crosby was a superstar of movies, music, radio and television during a spectacular career that lasted over 50 years. He remains beloved around the world for his easygoing charm, mesmerizing voice and on-screen charisma. The Bing Crosby Collection showcases 6 rare films including College Humor, We’re Not Dressing, Here is My Heart, Mississippi, Sing You Sinners and Welcome Stranger. Featuring Bing in top-form singing some of his most memorable songs such as “June in January,” “Swanee River”“ and “I've Got a Pocketful of Dreams,” this timeless collection will entertain longtime fans and introduce a whole new generation to the legendary style of the most popular singing star of the 20th century! College Humor (1933) A college professor (Bing Crosby) and the school’s football star (Richard Arlen) fall for the same beautiful co-ed in this comedy featuring George Burns and Gracie Allen. We’re Not Dressing (1934) A lowly deckhand (Bing Crosby) is shipwrecked on an island with several passengers including the heiress (Carole Lombard) he's smitten with plus two wacky locals (George Burns and Gracie Allen). Here Is My Heart (1934) When a wealthy radio crooner (Bing Crosby) falls for an icy Russian princess, he goes undercover as a hotel waiter in order to gain access to her suite - and her heart. Mississippi (1935) Set in the Old South, a disgraced gentleman (Bing Crosby) takes a singing job on a riverboat where the captain (W.C. Fields) tries to teach him the meaning of honor. Sing You Sinners (1938) Bing Crosby, Fred MacMurray and Donald O’Connor star as a trio of talented brothers who travel to Los Angeles seeking fortune only to get mixed up at the racetrack. Welcome Stranger (1947) In this charming musical comedy, a crotchety old physician (Barry Fitzgerald) finds himself sharing his medical practice with an impetuous younger doctor (Bing Crosby).
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First off is 1933's "College Humour". This is really a Jack Oakie vehicle with the usual assortment of comics and supporting players which was very typical of Paramount at this time. Crosby plays a college professor and really only appears to deliver his songs - but what songs! Often in such films, there will be a standout moment which belies the mediocrity surrounding it. In this case, amongst the tedious college shenanigans and the focus on football, Crosby delivers "Down the Old Ox Road" and "Learn to Croon". What is entertaining beyond the richness of his baritone at this time is that the songs are actually mixed with rhyming dialogue and choruses. Their presentation is much more creative than you could imagine. The film also contains a few pre-code moments which might raise a few eye-brows if you are concentrating.
Next off, and with Crosby now in the lead, is "We're not Dressing". This film has already been issued in the Carole Lombard Collection so it is a pity that Universal did not issue a different film for this package. Crosby sings a lot of hits ("Love thy Neighbour", "May I" etc) but it is a nasty little film, a loose and vulgar version of the J M Barrie play "The Admirable Crichton". Crosby is smug and humourless and he and Lombard make a very unromantic team. They have a confrontation which looks extremely realistic with a very unpleasant implication (Lombard is chained to a post). There is a busy supporting cast including an unattractive Ethel Merman whose timing is off, unfunny Burns and Allen, very handsome but extremely stiff Ray Milland and rubber faced Leon Errol who spends most of the film intoxicated. A running joke concerning a bear is offensive. The film is clearly "pre-code" because there are a few throw away lines which would not have survived the censors and Lombard's evening dress leaves nothing to the imagination.
"Here is my Heart" expands Crosby into a Ruritanian romance, the sort of film which might have starred Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald a few years earlier. Kitty Carlisle, of the unattractive coiffure and operatic voice, stars as a penniless princess. Crosby is a millionaire who poses as a waiter to win her heart. There is a great supporting cast including Reginald Owen and Roland Young but the film is very weak. As with all these films, the highlight is Crosby introducing major hits, the best here being the delightful "Love is just around the Corner".
"Mississippi" is next and this one benefits immeasurably from the presence of W C Fields who is hilarious. Crosby is miscast as a sharp shooter in the magnolia dripping south and Joan Bennett is his beautiful but sappy leading lady. The songs include "Down by the River" and "Easy to Remember" but the screenplay is really weak and Crosby was never convincing in a tough guy role. Also his crooning is wildly out of context in this setting. For trivia nuts, Ann Sheridan is visible as one of Bennett's finishing schools pals and her distinctive voice is obvious as she snatches a letter from Bennett.
The best film in the set is 1938's "Sing You Sinners". By this stage, Paramount had established Crosby's niche as the laid back nice guy so he is well cast as the wastrel member of a family consisting of mother Elisabeth Patterson and brothers Fred MacMurray and Donald O'Connor. With good dialogue and credible family situations, the film is a pleasant diversion and Crosby does some excellent straight acting. The highlights are the 3 brothers singing "Pocketful of Dreams" and "Small Fry". O'Connor, about 12 years old, impresses with his pleasant singing, some mild hoofing and real rapport with the older actors. His input to "Small Fry" is memorable.
The final film is the 1947 "Welcome Stranger", a much larger scale production than the earlier films, running for over 100 minutes. This is a reunion with Barry Fitzgerald with whom Bing had starred in "Going My Way". This time they are doctors. By this stage, Bing was a consummate actor who sang and the songs are not nearly as good as those from the earlier films. If you like Irish humour laid on with contrived cuteness by Fitzgerald, you'll like this one. Joan Caulfield plays a lacquered leading lady opposite Bing.
The prints of the films are generally very good with the exception of some splicing discontinuities, a few white vertical lines and a bit of dirt all of which are minor. There are no extras except an original trailer here and there.