Bing Crosby, the relaxed, easygoing, golden-voiced baritone whose career as a singer and actor spanned five decades, died yesterday of a heart attack after playing golf in Madrid, Spain. He was 73.
He collapsed after finishing 18 holes at La Moraleja golf club in Madrid's suburbs and was rushed to a Red Cross hospital in the city, where he was pronouced dead on arrival.
Crosby was playing golf with Spanish champions Manuel Pinero, Valentin Barrios and Cesar de Zulueta when he was stricken.
In addition to being a singer with a golden voice, Crosby was also a song-and-dance man, master of the ad lib and an Oscar-winning actor. Radio brought Crosby to national prominence in the 1930s, and he became the most popular show business figure for a generation of people, both in this country and broad.
The same qualities that propelled him to stardom proved durable, and he became a legendary figure in the world of entertainment.
He also became a millionare, married two beautiful show business personalities fathered two families and made a name for himself in sports.
Dubbed "The Groaner" (which he preferred to crooner). "Der Bingle" (bestowed by the Germans), and plain old "Dad" (imposed by Hope), Crosby was one of the 10 top money making stars for many years.
An enthusiastic golfer, Crosby had gone to Spain to relax after a tour of Britain that had included a sell-out performance at London's Palladium.
He was to have joined in a partridge hunt today and then had planned to fly to the Spanish island of Majorca on MOnday for more golf.
His family was not with him in Spain. His second wife actress Kathryn Grant had returned two days earlier from Britain to their home in Hillsborough south Calif a suburb on the peninsula south of San Francisco.
Trudy Berger a cook at the Hillsborough home, said.
"He had been felling fine - we were expecting him back in a day or two."
Crosby had suffered a back injury earlier this year in a fall from the stage while taping a television show in Los Angeles to celebrate his 50th year in show business.
Berger said the only family member at home at the time was Crosby''s youngest son Nathaniel, 14.
"We just picked him up from school. He's very distressed naturally," she said. Mrs. Crosby arriced at the home shortly afterwards.
Corsby's daughter Mary Frances, 17 was rehearsing for a part in a Shakespearean play at the American Coservatory Theater in San Francisco and headed home immediately when she heard of his death.
His longtime friend golf companion and fellow entertainer comedian Bob Hope was at the Waldorf Astoria in New York when he was told Corsby's death.
"I don't believe it. I'm absolutely numb. I saw him a couple of months ago and he seemed fine . . . I can't understand what happened. I guess he was more hurt in that fall than we realized," Hope said.
Hope was scheduled to make a benefit appearance in Morristown, N.J., last noght but cancelled it.
"I just can't get funny tonight," he said. "It's just not in me. I'm getting calls from all over the world but I just can't talk."
Expressions of grief came from other old friends.
"It's a terrible shock to me. He was one of the greatest," said comedian George Burns.
Frank Sinatra a fellow actor and singer said:
"The death Bing Crosby is lamost more than I can take. He was the father of my career the idol of my youth and a dear friend of my maturity. Bing leaves a gaping hole in our music and in the lices of every body who ever loved him. And that's just about everbody."
First Lady Rosalynn Carter also expressed grief through her press secretary Mary Hoyt.
"Only yesterday she (Mrs. Carter sent him a letter asking him to sing some of his wonderful Christmas songs at the traditional Christmas party for the press on Dec. 17," Mrs. Hoyt said.
There were other future plans afoot for the celebrated crooner who was a millionaire many times over but allowed as how =I'll go on singing . . . as long as I'm asked."
Hope said that contract details had been worked out to make a sequel to the famous "Road" pictures with Dorothy Lamour that came on the screen in the 1940s. It was to be called. "The Road to the Fountain of Youth."
He added that he and Crosby also had been scheduled to tape an exchange of quips on Oct. 24 for a TV special saluting Hope's 40 years in films.
When he began in films. Crosby did not project the image of a matinee idel.
To compensate for the famous Crosby jug ears, which he refused to have taped back there were the blue eyes and the winsome smile.
Most of all there was the voice.
It has brought Crosby nationwide popularity by way of radio in 1932. It brought him further fame by way of motion pictures and then carried him into television in the 1950s.
The voice also entered an untold number of homes around the world by way of recordings. By latest count Crosby record sales had totaled well over the 300 million mark and "White Christmas" and "Silent Night" were still-selling.
To what did he attribute his extraordinary success?
"Hard work and Lady Luck," Crosby once replied. He emphasized that in an autobiography. "Call Me Luck," published in 1953.
If luck played a role, it was in the choice of partners in show business.
This dated back to the 1920s, when Crosby. Al Rinker and Harry Barris formed the Rhythm Boys and sang with Paul Whiteman's band.
It continued in the 1940s when he joined with Hope and Lamour in six "Road" films - "Roads to Singapore, Zanibar, Morocco, Utopia, Rio and Bali."
It took him to "Going My Way," a 1944 film in which he costarred with Barry Fitzgerald and won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a priest.
Luck remained with him in later years when he came out of what was never officially a retirement to team with his second family in Christmas television specials and the sellong of orange juice.
Corsby also found luck by his side in 1974, when a growth removed by surgery from his lung was found to be nenmalignant and again this year when he suffered only minor injuries in the concert stage fall.
Born Harry Lillis Crosby in Tacoma, Wash he was one of seven children of Harry Lowe Crosby a brewery bookkeeper and Kate Harrigan Crosby.
The family moved to Spokane while he was child and he attended grade school and Gonzaga High School there. He also earned the nickname of Bing from his fondness for a comic strip called the Bineville Bugle featuring a character called Bingo.
Corsby had his first and only singing lessons while in grade school. They ended when his teacher tried to make him do breathing and tone exercises.
Later he took orainry and elocution at the Jesuit high school who's helped him develop the "phrasing" that late made his singing clear and easy to understand.
In his classes he recited many o f Robert W. Service's poems such as "The Spell of the Yukon" and "The Shooting of Dan McGrew." He did the classic. "Horatius at the Bridge" and "Spartacus to the Gladiators. "I took those eloquent lines in my teeth and shook them as a terrier shakes a bone," he wrote later. They also brought him awards.
During his school days Crosby worked at a number of jobs delivering newspapers thinning apples, janitoring at a working man's club and doing topography at a loggers' camp.
"Dad was in lock most of the time," he once explained. "As soon as he finished paying for a sewing machine, he'd buy a victrola or lawn mower or one of us would need new clothes. We soon found out there wasn't a lot of money on hand for baseball bats or sodas. Whatever we got we earned."
Always easual seeming to do things without effort Crosby often gave the impression of being downright lazy. But it was only a pose. Actually he was a hard worker.
He entered Gonzaga University in Spokane in 1921 and eventually switched to the study of law working part-time for a local law firm.
But he also had joined a college band called the Musicaladers which played at local dances and private parties. He played drums and sang. Another member of the band was Al Rinker who played piano.
They decided to quit school and go on the road Billed as "Two Boys and a Piano," they went to Los Angeles. There Crosby had his first brush with Lady Luck.
It was Rinker sister known professionally as Mildred Bailey, who became famous as a jazz and blues singer. She helped them get billings.
They were in Los Angeles when Paul Whiteman heard them and hired them for his band in 1927. They went on to Chicago with him and the audience liked them.
Then the band hit New York and Crosby and Rinker fell flat. Crosby said later he never did understand why. A short time after that, Whiteman added Harry Barris to his organization and the Rhythm Boys were born.
They made a big hit with "Mississippi Mud," and put together a repertoire of numbers that nobody else was inging. In 1930, they went to Hollywood with the Whiteman band to film "The King of Jazz."
In the meantime Crosby admitted later the trio wasn't doing anything about learning new songs. There was a talling out with Whiteman and a parting of ways in Seattle.
It was back to Los Angeles, where they joined Gus Arnheim's band at the cocoanut Grove. It was then that Barris composed the songs for some of Crosby's biggest hit records.
These included "I Surrender Dear," "Just One More Time" and Wrap also helped compose a ballad that became his radio theme song.
"When the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day" left today's grandmothers sighing before their radio sets. So did the boo-boo-boo-booing and whistling that Crosby produced to vary the choruses. He later abandoned that style.
He also appeared in a number of Mack Sennett movie shorts. He went to New York where he broadcast for the first time on a nationwide netwoeK.
He appeared at the Paramount Theater, where he set a record - a 29-week run singing five and six shows daily. He qas an emcee at the Capitol Theater where he met a young comedian Bob Hope.
Between theater, radio and recording dates, he also almost managed to ruin his voice. His overworked vocal chords developed nodes and a raspy hoarseness. Two weeks of rest cured his problem but left his voice a permanent tone or so lower.
In the meantime, Crosby had met and married Wilma Winifred Wyatt, better known by her professional name of Dixie Lee. She was an established star of several Broadway musical comedies and a rising screen star.
She had accompanied him to New York and when they returned to Hollywood in 1932 she decided to give up her budding career and become a homemaker.
Because of his success on radio, it was Crosby's turn to try for film stardom. Faramount Pictures asked him to appear in "The Big Broadcast," a movie featuring prominent radio entertainers.
He reached stardom with Paramount and stayed there appearing in such hits as "College Humor" with George Burns and Gracie Allen, "Going Hollywood" with Marion Davies, and "We're Not Dressing" with Carole Lombard.
He also signed a contract with the newly formed Decca Records and produced consistent best sellers. They included such all-time favourites as "Swinging on a Star," "Sweet Lerlani" and "Don't Fence Me In."
In 1935, Crosby became the star of the Kraft Music Hall, a weekly radio show that was relaxed and concersational. His guests included such concert artists as Chaliapin and Piatigorsky.
Later Corsby instituted the taping of his shows. This not only allowed him the freedom to edit, but also to produce shows in advance so he could get away for his three major hobbies.
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He was devoted to fishing hunting and golfing (he mastered all three) next to his now growing family. There were four sons, Gary, named after his friend, Gary Cooper then the twins Dennis and Phillip and finally Lindsay.
The boys later tried show business but were never as successful as their famous father.
The Crosbys lived for years in the Toluca Lake district of the San Fernando Valley. When their home there was destroyed by fire they moved to an estate in Holmby Hills near Beverly Hills.
They also had homes in Pebbie Beach, Calif., where the annual Crosby golf tournament is still held at Hayden Lake Idaho and in Palm Spings, Calif. For years, they spent summers at their huge cattle ranch in Elko Nev.
After making several other films in the late 1930s. Crosby teamed up with Hope in the first of the very successful "Road" pictures marked the start of Hope and Crosby public ly heckling each other in jest. It spilled over from films and the stage to the golf tournaments in which they often appeared together.
Crosby might refer to Hope, "of the nonclassic profile and the unlissome midsection." Hope called Crosby "skin-head."
Each comfortable in his own wealth they could afford to take pot shots at each other's money. Said Hope of Crosby.
He doesn't pay taxes. He just calls up the Treasury and asks them how much they need.
Actually Crosby once said he gave 30 per cent of his earnings to charity and taxes didn't leave much more.
While making some of the "Road" pitures. Crosby also appeared in a number of other films. "Birth of the Blues." "Holiday Inn" and "Here Come the Wave."
Then in 1944 film director Leo McCarey approached him with a new idea the role of a young priest opposite an old one to be played by Barry Fitzgerald in "Going My Way."
Corsby balked at first, declaring the didn't think the Catholic Church would stand for that kind of casting. McCarey prevailed and Corsby appeared in whatt became one of the singers' most highly praise movies. It won him the Oscar.
He repeated his role as a priest a year later in "Bells of St. Mary's with Ingrid Bergman.
Those films were followed in turn by more musicals - "Anything Goes." "Bluue Skies," "A Conneccticut Yankee," "Ridding High" and "Mr. Music."
Then came "Holiday Inn" with Fred Astaire, and its Irving Berlin song. "White Christmas," which Grace Kelly won an Oscar. He then left Paramount to free-lance. Later, he made "Highhhg Society" with Kelly and Sinattra for MGM. All told he stared in 577 movies.
In the early paaart of World War II, he formed Crosby Camp Shows and traveled more than 50,000 miles entttertaining troops. In 1944 he made a four-month tour of battlefields in France. The story was told that he actually found himself at one point inside the German lines.
Crosby made his television debut in 1952, when he appeared on a "telethon" with Hope to raise money for the United States Olympic Fund.
A newspaper critic noted that "Bing's relaxed style and easygoing ways were made to order for home viewing."
He continued to appear on television in specials that often teamed him with Hope through the 1950s and '60s and into the 70s. Many of the perfomances gave them both a chance to show off not only their wisecracks but the old soft shoe.
Dixie Lee died of cancer on Nov. 1, 1952 three days before her 41st birthday and the nation mourned with Crosby and their sons.
Three years later, he began a two-year courtship of Olive Kathryn Grandstaff of Houston Tex., better known as Kathryn Grant. She was an actress at Paramount where they met.
The public eagerly followed the courtship. She was almost 30 years younger than he and five months younger than his oldest son.
Just 10 days after their marriage in 1957. Corsby took his bridge to Spokane where he dedicated a $700.000 library he had given to his old school, Gonzaga University. The school in turn awarded his an honorary doctorate of music.
Except for occasional acting the new Mrs. Crosby gave up her screen career. She became the mother of Crosby's second set of children. Harry Lillis born in 1958. Mary Frances born in 1959 and Nathaniel Patrick born in 1961.
This second family was a closely knit as had been the first.When the children grew a little older the entire family made dozens of television commercials on frozen orange juice. Each year the family appeared on a Christmas television special.
Crosby's autobiography was written in collaboration with Peter Martin of The Saturday Evening Post. It appeared in eight installments in the magazine and was published in book form by Simon and Schuster.
Later Kathryn Crosby wrote her own book. "Bing and Other Things."
Family unity had always been important to Crosby. His brother, Exerett became his manager early in his career and another brother Larry handled his public relations.
His father had supervised his fan mail and handled his checking accounts until his death in 1950. Another brother , Bob became well known as a singer and band leader.
The family was involved in such projects as Bing Crosby Enterprises and the Corsby Research Foundation. They were into everything - oil wells distribution for frozen orange juice by dogs, a luxurious trailer village in Palm Springs real estate and TV.
Crpsby also devoted much of his time and money to sports. He once owned 15 per cent of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team and about 5 1/2 per cent of the Detroit Tigers.
He began acquiring race horses in 1935 and formed a racing and training partnership the Bing-Li stable with Howard Lindsay which at one time numbered 21 horses.
In the mid-1930s. Crosby also helped establish and became presideat of the Del Mar racetrack in San Diego County. He sold his nearly hall-million-dollar interest in 1946.
But golf was his greatest avocation. Starting in 1937 he sponsored a proamateur golf teurnament annually at Del Mar and then at Pebble Beach. He payed all the expeases including the prize money with proceeds going to youth recreation center and other charities.
The things I have done are the things I have wanted to do. Doong them was no great sacrifice and I have been heavily paid for having fun while I did them. So I don't know that my story contains an inspirational point of view. However it iscertainly shot full of another American commedity - luck."