Riding High (1950 film)
Riding High is a 1950 black-and-white musical racetrack film featuring Bing Crosby and directed by Frank Capra. The songs were sung as Riding High was being filmed instead of the customary lip-synching to previous recordings. The film is a remake of an earlier Capra film called Broadway Bill (1934). While the film is generally a light musical comedy, it has an unexpected tragic turn in its story.
|Directed by||Frank Capra|
|Produced by||Frank Capra|
|Written by||Mark Hellinger (story)|
Melville Shavelson (add. dialogue)
Jack Rose (add. dialogue)
|Music by||Victor Young|
|Edited by||William Hornbeck|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$2,350,000 (US rentals)|
Yale grad Dan Brooks (Bing Crosby) is expected to marry wealthy boss J.L. Higgins' (Charles Bickford) daughter Margaret (Frances Gifford) and join the family box-making business. He is far more interested in racing a horse he owns, Broadway Bill.
Doing poorly at work, Dan and his groom Whitey (Clarence Muse) leave town to enter Bill in the Imperial Derby, but first must find money for the entry fee. He and old pal Professor Pettigrew (Raymond Walburn) each try to con the other out of a few bucks, then end up singing the Yale school song to get out of a restaurant tab they cannot pay.
Maggie's younger sister Alice (Coleen Gray) is secretly in love with Dan, so she offers him some money, pawning her belongings. Whitey is beaten up trying to win some in a craps game, and Broadway Bill is carted away because Dan does not pay his feed bill. Dan is jailed, too.
A rich man makes a bet on 100-to-1 shot Bill, leading to false rumors that the horse is a shoo-in. The odds drop fast, but gamblers and a crooked jockey try to make sure their own favorites win the race. Broadway Bill somehow manages to win, but collapses at the finish line and suffers a fatal heart attack.
A saddened Dan takes comfort in deciding to buy and race Broadway Bill II. His enthusiasm persuades Alice and even her dad to lend Dan a hand.
- Bing Crosby as Dan Brooks
- Coleen Gray as Alice Higgins
- Charles Bickford as J.L. Higgins
- Frances Gifford as Margaret Higgins
- William Demarest as Happy
- Raymond Walburn as Professor Pettigrew
- James Gleason as Racing Secretary
- Ward Bond as Lee
- Clarence Muse as Whitey
- Percy Kilbride as Pop Jones
- Harry Davenport as Johnson (final film)
- Frankie Darro as Jockey Ted Williams
- Douglass Dumbrille as Eddie Howard
- Joe Frisco as himself
- Irving Bacon as Hamburger man
- Charles Lane as Erickson
- Margaret Hamilton as Edna
- Rand Brooks as Henry Early
- Willard Waterman as Arthur Winslow
- Marjorie Lord as Mary Winslow
- Dub Taylor as Joe
- Paul Harvey as Mr. Whitehall
- Stanley Andrews as Veterinarian (uncredited)
- Oliver Hardy as Gambler at Racetrack (uncredited)
Filmed from March 9 to May 1949, some of the scenes in both Broadway Bill and Riding High were filmed at the Tanforan Racetrack in San Bruno, California. The track burned to the ground in July 1964, just before it was to be demolished.
Release and reception
To raise funds for a sports stadium, Crosby arranged for the world premiere of the film to be held in Front Royal, Virginia, on April 1, 1950. Crosby’s initial involvement came about on April 30, 1948, after acting as grand marshal of the Grand Feature Parade of the 21st Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, Virginia, and he went on to Front Royal where he sang on the courthouse steps as part of a concert to help raise money for a new stadium. Bing was the first contributor to the Front Royal Recreation Center Building Fund when he donated $1,000. On April 1, 1950, Front Royal celebrated “Bing Crosby Day” and starting at 11 am, Crosby led a two-hour parade through the streets in front of a crowd of 20,000 to Recreation Park for the dedication of the baseball stadium. Park Theater was the venue for the official world premiere of Riding High at 8:30 pm, where Crosby entertained the audience with several songs. During his appearance at the Park Theater, Bing wrote out a personal check for $3,595 to bring the gross receipts of the day to $15,000.
The film had its New York premiere at the Paramount on April 10, 1950. The critics liked it, with Bosley Crowther of The New York Times saying; "Inspiration is something which strikes rarely in Hollywood—and when it does, it is usually tagged “genius,” out of customary deference to restraint. But whatever you want to call it, it is certainly what hit Frank Capra hard when he thought of recruiting Bing Crosby to play a remake of the oldie, “Broadway Bill”. And it is surely what stuck with Mr. Capra—and rubbed off on Mr. Crosby, too—all through the redoing of that classic into the current “Riding High”. For this Capra-Crosby project, which came to the Paramount yesterday, is a genial and jovial entertainment that ties the original...The final word goes to “Der Bingle”, whose lovable way with a horse—as well as with music and people—gives that quality of richness to this film that makes it not only amusing, but deeply ingratiating, too...Even though light and familiar, sentimental, and even absurd, “Riding High” is his feedbox full of barley. Bing has a stakes winner in Broadway Bill."
Variety′s review was favorable, too. "Big yen by the Hollywood film factories recently for remaking past hits is bound to get another hypo when this one gets around. Frank Capra has taken Mark Hellinger’s yarn, “Broadway Bill”, which he produced and directed for Columbia in 1934, and turned it into one of the best Bing Crosby starrers that’s come along for a considerable time..." The film fan magazine Photoplay was very positive: "Just when folk were wondering when Bing Crosby’s lean season was due to end, along comes Frank Capra with a tailor-made story worthy of Bing’s considerable talents... Full of high spirits, as fresh as a newly-cut sward, and deliciously humorous, this is without question the best Crosby film for years." Harrison's Reports called the film "as good and even better than the original, for the leading role is a 'natural' for Bing Crosby, whose easy-going style and nonchalant glibness give the picture much of its charm." John McCarten of The New Yorker also liked it, writing, "Besides including interesting stuff about racing, 'Riding High' offers several pleasant songs, rendered genially by Mr. Crosby."
- "A Sure Thing" (Jimmy Van Heusen / Johnny Burke): sung by Bing Crosby
- "Someplace on Anywhere Road" (Jimmy Van Heusen / Johnny Burke): sung by Bing Crosby and Clarence Muse
- "The Whiffenpoof Song": sung by Bing Crosby, Raymond Walburn, William Demarest, and group
- "Sunshine Cake" (Jimmy Van Heusen / Johnny Burke): sung by Bing Crosby, Clarence Muse, and Coleen Gray
- "The Horse Told Me" (Jimmy Van Heusen / Johnny Burke): sung by Bing Crosby and group
- "Camptown Races": sung by Bing Crosby, Coleen Gray, Clarence Muse, and children
- 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1950', Variety, January 3, 1951
- American Movie Classics
- Macfarlane, Malcolm. "Bing Crosby - Day by Day". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
- Reynolds, Fred (1986). Road to Hollywood. Gateshead, UK: John Joyce. p. 196.
- Crowther, Bosley. "The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
- "Variety". January 11, 1950. Cite journal requires
- "Photoplay". April 1950. Cite journal requires
- "'Riding High' with Bing Crosby, Charles Bickford and Coleen Gray". January 14, 1950: 6. Cite journal requires
- McCarten, John (April 22, 1950). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 113.
- "A Bing Crosby Discography". A Bing Crosby Discography. Retrieved January 25, 2016.