15/2/2012 7:00 am  #1

BBC 'Mastermind' contestant

First of all, a big-thank-you to Richard for getting in touch and his extremely kind ‘welcome’ to the club. I was the fortunate contestant who won the BBC ‘Mastermind’ heat on February 10th 2012 with Bing as my specialist subject, as mentioned elsewhere on the forum. I have been truly overwhelmed by the vast compendium of material which has been assembled on this site, besides which my own knowledge pales into total insignificance! A real labour of love and surely the ultimate source of information. I actually checked in here several times during my (brief) period of research and preparation for the quiz when I needed to verify some obscure or disputed fact.

Having been asked for a bit of an ‘intro’ to my interest in the greatest popular singer of the twentieth century, here goes ... sorry if it’s a bit of an ‘essay’. The habits of an erstwhile English teacher die hard!

British TV in the 1970s – only three channels, and invariably (Sunday afternoons on BBC2) a black-and-white film, often shown as part of a series – the Fred Astaire /Ginger Rogers musicals were the catalyst for a fascination with 1930s Hollywood. Irving Berlin famously preferred Astaire as an interpreter of his songs, but easy to transfer one’s loyalty to Bing. The combination of romantic glamour, easy-going insouciance and masculine banter makes it easy to understand how Bing’s demographic was so broad for so many years. (I’m sure the Crosby-Hope-Lamour triangle provides ample material for many academic theses, but the girls always gave as good as they got when they were allowed into the act!) And Bing was still around in my teenage years, continuing to make recordings; ‘That’s What Life Is All About’ (however homespun) a gentle antidote to the self-proclamation of ‘My Way’.

I was lucky enough to go up to Oxford in 1977; while half the student population were marching against Thatcherism, the ‘Brideshead revival’ was also in full swing, harking back to a supposedly more glamorous age. Bing’s death was announced in my first weekend at university and the flood of tributes and obituaries brought an increased sense of loyalty plus media interest; a series on BBC Radio 2 of  Bing’s weekly broadcasts  (Ken Carpenter, John Scott Trotter et al, and given a retrospective introduction by the wonderful Benny Green) showed many of us a whole new facet of Crosby’s career, central to his success and his rapport with audiences.

And the ‘standards’ of the 1930s and 40s, as interpreted by Bing were so much better at dealing with the pains of young love than listening to (for example) Fleetwood Mac or the Stones! Heartbreak was commutated into music; it happened to the best of them – a few bars of ‘I guess I’ll have to change my plan'  (I know that was Astaire and Buchanan!) and perspective would be restored before the movie glided inevitably to its happy conclusion.

By my mid-twenties I’d managed to catch most of Bing’s films and knew nearly all of the movie songs; so it’s been fantastic in recent years to discover so many new gems on ‘Youtube’, including all the clips uploaded by 'Nicole Y'  (I believe) and 'bingcrosby1903' . Having taught a little bit of Film Studies alongside English, History and many other school subjects, I was able to smuggle some footage of Bing into the lessons, if only for the in-jokes about the studio system ('Paramount will protect us, ‘cos we’re signed for five more years' ) and always feel a touch of pride when students make favourable or enthusiastic comments!

At the risk of opening up what I’m sure is an ongoing controversy, I have to confess that for me the 1930s were the ‘golden age’ – films like ‘Two for Tonight’ have become new favourites. Not only was the tonality and phrasing fantastic but Bing was hitting the high notes! I’m not sure if my unashamed preference for the earlier stuff makes me a purist or a heretic! However, Bing’s later work remains a triumph of ‘graceful ageing’ and the change of tone brought new aspects to the fore; ‘High Society’ and even ‘Robin and the Seven Hoods’ bear comparison with any of the earlier films. I’ve even stopped apologising for the Crosby / Bowie duet because so many non-Crosby fans say 'But we really like that song' !

Anyway, I will write a little bit in the ‘BBC Mastermind’ thread elsewhere in the forum (‘Announcements’ section) about the actual experience of appearing on TV and answering questions on Bing. Thanks again if you got to the end of this extended story!

Last edited by MS(Cheltenham) (15/2/2012 8:32 am)


15/2/2012 5:18 pm  #2

Re: BBC 'Mastermind' contestant


I, for one, always enjoy hearing about how another Crosby fan grew into that interest.  With Bing's career covering so many kinds of work over such an extended period of time, I think most fans find that they have preferences about certain kinds of musical or acting work that he did at certain points.  I'm not nearly as fascinated about his film work with Bob Hope as some others are, but I am increasingly impressed by the dramatic depth he began to show in some of his later movies.

Please continue as a participant on this forum, adding your comments to others posts and starting topics about issues of interest to you!



16/2/2012 6:36 am  #3

Re: BBC 'Mastermind' contestant

Hi, Steve

Thanks very much for your welcome, and greetings from Gloucestershire!

You are of course absolutely right about the diversity of Bing's career and it would be amazing if all Crosby fans liked every aspect equally. I also agree about the 'dramatic depth' part, so often overshadowed by his success as a light comedian. The ability to make your performance appear effortless is one of the hallmarks of a great artist.

All the best and thank-you to you and fellow-contributors for the dedication which clearly makes this the 'definitive' site.


     Thread Starter

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