DATELINE:Haunted by Uncle Bing
The nephew and godson of Bing Crosby has been documenting his uncle Bingle for decades. Now, he has produced, directed, and written up, all his film records as he tries to uncover the truth behind the legendary crooner.
The film is not merely vanity; it serves a genuine purpose in dissecting a legend. Chris Crosby was close to greatness, and he documents it well.
And Bing has had his share of Mommie Dearest moments. His eldest son Gary wrote a scathing book about his father’s cruelty and bad parenting. A few think he added the worst to sell the book to publishers. Yet Bing was at heart a Daddie Dearest, and nasty too.
Chris Crosby is fairly even-handed, trying to learn how bad his uncle truly was. What he finds from his father Bob Crosby, and Bing’s friends like Bob Hope, Anthony Quinn, Mel Torme, Stewart Granger, Donald O’Connor, Terry Moore, Rhonda Fleming, and many others, is that he was exactly what you saw: an easy-going, charming person with a hard veneer. He was always friendly, but you never broke below the surface.
Like many celebs, he was smart with money, shrewd with people, and kept his foibles well-hidden. Oh, you will hear the stories of his womanizing, his drinking, and his sadistic treatment of his sons (two of whom committed suicide after his death).
You will hear he cut you if you did not adhere to his strict Catholic views. If you were divorced, you may have lost him forever. He went to church every Sunday, and he was secretly charitable to a fault.
Many show biz friends knew the image, and never wanted much more. He never gave more because it was generous in a cut-throat business. He meant it when he sang “White Christmas.”
He died on a golf course in Madrid, whistling and singing, one day after visiting a long-time friend after 20 years. It was spooky.
Chris shows the drickle down talent, watering by generation. He seems to be haunted, if not possessed, by Bing. His sister was less fortunate. When she chose to live with a man they disapproved of, she was kidnapped and given electro-shock treatments.
But, if you were a fan, or a friendly associate, that stuff never intruded on what you saw and knew. Bing was complicated, as they say nowadays.