Monday, December 15, 2008

A Bing Crosby Christmas




Like many who grew up in the 1950's and 1960's, I miss variety shows.


The Ed Sullivan show on Sunday night was a family event, and Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton, Carol Burnett, and Dean Martin were weekly visitors to our living rooms.   


Variety shows were family fare.  Something for everyone, no matter their age.


Acts were generally short enough that boredom seldom set in.   The formula was simple.  A genial,  oft times talented host.   Dancers. An orchestra.  And guest stars who would perform, and then graciously appear in some skit.


And it was traditional for nearly every variety show to have a Holiday themed show Christmas week.


No performer was more closely associated with Christmas during the mid-1960's than Bing Crosby.   His two Christmas themed movies, Holiday Inn and  White Christmas, along with his best selling record  White Christmas, practically made him a poster boy for the holiday.




Bing appeared on his own Holiday TV specials practically every year, and would show up as a guest on other's as well.   His Christmas albums sold millions.


In 1965 and 1966, Bing hosted the Hollywood Palace Christmas shows for ABC television.    We are fortunate that both of these shows are available on the Internet Archive.


In the 1965 edition,  Bob Crane and the cast of Hogan's Heroes joins Bing for this Christmas day broadcast.   A bit unusual because the Hollywood Palace was an ABC show, while Hogan's hailed from CBS.


The mystery is cleared up when you realize that Hogan's Heroes was a Bing Crosby Production.  Bing's company also produced shows such as Ben Casey and Slattery's People.


Hogan's Heroes had premiered in September of 1965, and was headed for a long and very successful run.  Having them appear on a Christmas special was, no doubt, a great boost to the show.



The Hollywood Palace : 1965 Christmas Special - Gary Lockwood
"The Hollywood Palace" Episode #3.13 (1965) Original Air Date: 25 December 1965 (Season 3, Episode 13) Directed by Grey Lockwood Produced by William O. Harbach .... producer Nick Vanoff .... executive producer Bing Crosby ... Himself - Host / Singer John Banner ... Himself - Singer Robert Clary ... Himself - Singer Dorothy Collins ... Herself - Singer Bob Crane ... Himself - Singer Richard Dawson ...



The next year, Bing was back on The Hollywood Palace, this time on Christmas Eve with his family as his guests, along with Bob Newhart.



The Hollywood Palace : 1966 Christmas Special - William O. Harbach
The Hollywood Palace (1966) Season 4, Episode 14 Original Air Date: 24 December 1966 Directed by Grey Lockwood Produced by William O. Harbach Nick Vanoff .... executive producer Bing Crosby ... Himself - Host / Singer Harry Crosby ... Himself - Singer Mary Crosby ... Herself - Singer (as Mary Francis Crosby) Nathaniel Crosby ... Himself - Singer Excess Baggage ... Trained Dog Act Roy Fitzell ... Himself - Dancer Kathryn Grant .....


Both of these shows are wonderful time capsules of the mid-1960's, along with being delightful Christmas fare.  



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