August 24, 2022

The Bing Crosby Show, 1964

Here's something you don't see often: a Bing Crosby special that's not for Christmas. It was aired on CBS February 15, 1964 (preempting The Defenders), but it had actually been recorded nearly a year earlier, in June 1963.* Talk about a star-studded lineup; Bing's guests are Rosemary Clooney, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Gennaro, and Bing's wife Kathryn. Now that's a special

*And it was recorded at the NBC studios in Burbank. I know that Bing was supposed to be one of the wealthiest entertainers in Hollywood, but I didn't realize he owned all three networks.

One of the interesting sidelights is that this CBS special comes in the midst of Bing's work with ABC. His 1961 and 1962 Christmas specials had been on the network, as had a non-Christmas special in May 1962; his long association with The Hollywood Palace (he hosted it 31 times) began in January 1964 (before the Crosby special on CBS; evidentially Bing's contract with CBS didn't have the same clause as Sammy Davis Jr.'s! But I forgot—Bing owned all the networks), and his weekly series, with Beverly Garland, premiered on ABC in September 1964. 

This was not the first time Crosby had been on CBS, though; he had a history with CBS radio dating back to the late 1940s and had aired a television special on the network on November 7, 1963, so these two programs might have been part of a package. And then there's Bing's production company, fittingly named Bing Crosby Productions, which had programs on both CBS and ABC and was famous for cross-pollinating variety shows with stars from series on opposing networks (e.g. the cast of Hogan's Heroes on The Hollywood Palace).  

Something interesting about that November show; according to several sources, Sinatra and Martin were scheduled to be guests on that special but were bumped to the later one. (It might have had something to do with music rights, I don't know. I could have paid The New York Times to get access to their archive, but that's not in the budget for a starving artist.) At least The Bing Crosby Show is broadcast in time for the opening of the movie that starred Crosby, Sinatra, and Martin: Robin and the 7 Hoods, which opened in June 1964.

Anyway, here it is, from February, 1964: The Bing Crosby Show. See what it's like to watch a Bing Crosby special that doesn't end with "White Christmas."  


1 comment:

  1. Just back from watching this program, and I have a possible answer (make that answers) to your queries:
    If this was in fact made in mid '63, but didn't get on until the following season, most likely it was produced independently of any commitments of the stars, network or otherwise.
    Note that the producer-director is Nick Vanoff, who went on to fill those same functions for The Hollywood Palace - after this show was produced.
    The other clues suggest that this special was put together by whatever advertising agency represented Quaker State and Pepsodent at the time.
    This was the common practice of the time: an agency-controlled production could have been placed on any of the three networks, or even in syndication (if the necessity arose).
    Most likely, all the talent involved had existing deals that they were burning off, and this show was a quick-'n-easy way to do it.
    The commercials were another clue:
    Start with the Pepsodent spot at the beginning, with Jerry Colonna popping up unbilled for a Hope joke; part of the informality of the whole show.
    Other spots involving the talent - standard practice of the times.
    The kind of network exclusivity you're referring to didn't really kick in until later - with the Crosby-ABC deal for his sitcom at the head of the pack, ditto Nick Vanoff's taking over the Palace after Jerry Lewis's flame-out at the turn of '63-'64.
    These latter may have led the agency to speed-track getting the first available hour (which happened to be at CBS) to get the show on the air at all. (Things like this were a lot more common in the early days, before the networks took fuller control of such matters.)
    The foregoing was mainly speculation ("educated guess" variety), and should be regarded as such; I'm basing it on many years of TV Guide reading, which was an education in and of itself.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!