Obituary: Bob Crosby

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The Independent Online
ALTHOUGH his acting and singing were less than mesmeric, Bob Crosby made a surprising number of films, writes Dick Vosburgh (further to the obituary by Steve Voce, 11 March).

His first feature film was Let's Make Music (1941), in which he played himself. What passed for a story concerned Malvina Adams, an elderly school-marm who is asked to sing with the Crosby band after her first song 'Fight on for Newton High' becomes a novelty hit. The screenplay was by Nathaniel West, but Crosby enlisted Helen Phillips and Bernard Dougall, two of his radio writers, to provide his own scenes. Their masterpiece was the scene in which the school-marm's niece opposes her aunt's joining the band. Crosby accuses her of meddling in Malvina's life. The niece shouts, 'Well, what do you think you're doing, you . . . you big noise from Winnetka]' Crosby's face lights up as he says, 'That'd be a good title for a song]'

Variety's film critic decreed he was 'too camera-conscious for his acting role and would have been better displayed in front of the band exclusively'. However, Crosby went on to make more than 20 movies.

His last major film was Danny Kaye's The Five Pennies, the 1959 biopic that gave the world the impression that the iconoclastic jazz cornettist Loring 'Red' Nichols was really a henna'd grotesque, given to making cute faces and singing very square scat. Crosby played 'Will Paradise', an odious amalgam of every megaphone-crooning smoothie who ever led a band in the 1920s. Paradise employed Nichols, and hated him nearly as much as he hated jazz. Announcing the marriage of his girl vocalist (Barbara Bel Geddes) to 'Red', he tremulously told a dance-hall crowd he was 'feeling a little misty tonight'. Crosby was splendid in a beautifully written part; a pity there weren't more where that came from.