Bing The Film Star
As a student at Gonzaga High School and Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, Bing tried his hand at acting, but music was his priority. An acting career was not part of his plan. It wasn’t until he had some notoriety as a band singer that he made his first screen appearance, portraying himself in the 1930 film The King of Jazz, a musical tribute to his employer, Paul Whiteman. He next appeared in a series of short films, including some made by the legendary Mack Sennett.
As his radio popularity and record sales soared in the early 1930s, Bing embarked on a movie career that lasted until his final performance as one of the hosts and narrators of MGM’s That’s Entertainment in 1974. Most of his films were produced at Paramount, where he became one of the studio’s top stars.
Bing Crosby starred, co-starred, narrated or had a cameo appearance in 104 films. From 1944-1948, Crosby was the top Hollywood box-office star and ranked within the top ten Hollywood stars for fifteen years. Bing is currently ranked #7 on the Motion Picture Almanac list of the highest grossing movies stars of all time.
Bing’s affable demeanor and comedic timing lead to the enormously popular Road pictures series, co-starring Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour, which became the template for “buddy pictures” still utilized today.
While often featured in the role of a light-hearted “crooner”, Bing had a surprisingly facile dramatic aptitude, evidenced in such films as Little Boy Lost (1953), The Country Girl (1954), Man on Fire (1957), Stagecoach (1966), and the television movie Dr. Cook’s Garden (1971).
Crosby put a different spin on his “light and breezy” persona in 1944’s Going My Way, which earned him an Academy Award as best actor. Crosby’s portrayal of Father Chuck O’Malley, a Roman Catholic priest, helped humanize the Catholic Church for many Americans. He reprised the role in the 1945 sequel, The Bells of St. Mary’s and earned a second Oscar nomination, thus becoming the first performer to receive Oscar nominations for the same role in tow different films. Bing was nominated again in 1954 for The Country Girl, in which he portrayed an alcoholic actor.
Bing ranks seventh on the list of the highest grossing movie stars of all time, trailing only John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Tom Cruise, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and Tom Hanks. Films starring Bing Crosby are estimated to have sold over one billion tickets. Bing’s films appeared in the annual top ten grossing films of the year list 29 times. Bing is also one of only five actors to have a No. 1 single and an Oscar for Best Actor or Actress – along with Barbara Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Cher and Jamie Foxx.