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Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire: A Couple of Song and Dance Men (1975)

Ava Astaire McKenzie in conversation with Ken Barnes. Memories of their past performances and lifestyle images. Provided also are some entertainment clips from the early years providing a good video biography of them both.
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Harry Lillis Crosby Jr. ...
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Nathaniel Crosby ...
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Herself (as Kathryn Crosby)
Ken Grant ...
Dancer
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Himself
Ava Astaire MacKenzie ...
Herself
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'Young American' singer / dancer
Cherie Steinkellner ...
Young American singer / dancer (as Cherie Eichen)
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Ava Astaire McKenzie in conversation with Ken Barnes. Memories of their past performances and lifestyle images. Provided also are some entertainment clips from the early years providing a good video biography of them both.

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Documentary | Music

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3 December 1975 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Very good documentary on two of the greatest entertainers
15 December 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Those who enjoy song and dance on stage and on film should enjoy this one-hour documentary. "Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire: A Couple of Song and Dance Men" aired on CBS in 1975. I didn't catch it then, but it came as a bonus special on a DVD of "Holiday Inn." Having seen that film a number of times, I decided to watch the documentary. It's a fine, somewhat closer look at two of the great icons of dance and song of the 20th century.

In this film, Ken Barnes, an author, producer and film historian who had known Crosby and Astaire in their late careers, talks with Astaire's daughter, Ava McKenzie. The two swap tidbits and share memories and background details about Crosby and Astaire. The film includes scenes from some of their individual careers, and from the two films that Crosby and Astaire made together. Besides "Holiday Inn" of 1942, they made another Irving Berlin film together in 1946 – "Blue Skies."

The discussion in this documentary isn't organized by time or any other method, but randomly looks at the two stars, their work, their friendship and some personal things about them. Those who especially like Crosby and Astaire should enjoy watching this documentary. For those who may be interested but don't want to watch or obtain the documentary, I offer these few bits of information that I found interesting or novel.

Away from work, both men loved to play golf and both owned racehorses. Professionally, they both started in show biz as part of a team. Most know of Fred and his older sister Adele, his first dance partner. They became stars dancing together for 27 years, from when Fred was just five until he was 32 years old. The team broke up when she quit dancing to marry Lord Charles Cavendish in 1932.

But, Crosby also started with a partner, Al Rinker, who played piano for his singing. When they joined the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, Whiteman added Harry Barnes as a piano player and songwriter and the group was now a trio call the Rhythm Boys.

Astaire's top hat became a trademark from his youth, not from the movie by that name. Because he was three years younger than Adele and therefore shorter in his youth, he donned a top hat to give him some height. Crosby attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, and joined the college band. Barnes said that his start in singing was in the pre- microphone days. Rumors that Fred and Ginger Rogers feuded were false. They probably started with one incident. When they were making "Top Hat" in 1935, they had a dance routine for the song, "Cheek to Cheek." Ginger's costume was made with many fluttering feathers. As they danced, her costume would shed feathers. They got in Fred's nose and eyes and bothered him. Apparently, he got angry about the costume and raised cane. But it wasn't aimed at Ginger. Astaire had a reputation of being a real gentleman and kind person, even in the sometime grueling dance rehearsals.

The documentary showed the telegrams that Fred and Phyllis received in March 1942, congratulating them on the birth of Ava. They came from Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and Bing and Dixie Crosby. Crosby and Astaire were friends of Berlina and Porter long after working with them on films. Ava read a couple of letters that her father had sent home to her mother during World War II when he was in England entertaining the troops.

In his autobiography, Crosby said that Astaire worked so hard on "Holiday Inn." When they started shooting the picture, Fred weighed 140 pounds, and when they finished he weighed just 126 pounds. Ava said the firecracker dance in Holiday Inn needed 38 takes to get it right.

This is a very good and interesting documentary on two of the greatest entertainers of all time. Barnes said, "I don't think we'll ever see their likes again."


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