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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

3 - Radio Nights


In February 1934, director Norman Taurog assembled an excellent cast on Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles to shoot a movie to be called We’re Not Dressing. The movie, based on the appealing fantasy of a group of rich people on a yacht who get stranded on an island and are forced to rely on a working-class crew member’s survival skills, was made in an efficient manner and opened at the end of April. The shoot veered from the routine, however, in that Taurog had to work around the complicated schedules of four of the six principal actors. These folks needed to be on the mainland once a week to rehearse and perform their radio programs. Radio, a comparatively new force in mass entertainment, had begun to intrude on the movies.

Bing Crosby and the Crooners

Bing Crosby, the star of We’re Not Dressing, represented a new phenomenon in American entertainment. He owed his fame not to vaudeville or Broadway but to singing in nightclubs and on the radio. His first feature film, made in the summer of 1932, highlighted his connection with radio, as opposed to Al Jolson’s or Eddie Cantor’s first films that played on their Broadway and vaudeville backgrounds. In the Big Broadcast, Bing Crosby portrayed himself, a popular singer and a popular radio star. People classified Crosby as a crooner, a term that referred to someone who adjusted his voice to sing in front of a microphone. In the movie, Crosby played a crooner in the same way that Fred Astaire played a song and dance man in his first movie; in both cases they put their already established personas on the screen. They came pre-sold to the audience.