Poor Little G-String

Greg Van Beek posted 04/29/06 07:33 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
In doing a little research on the uncompleted MGM film "The March of Time" (1930), for which Bing recorded the song "Poor Little G-String", I found that 7 of the filmed songs from this scrapped film were used in a 1933 MGM feature titled "Broadway to Hollywood" (aka "Ring Up The Curtain"), and one other number ('The Lock Step') was used in MGM's "That's Entertainment, Part 3" (1994).

"Broadway to Hollywood", as the book "The Hollywood Musical" by Clive Hirschhorn notes, is a backstage musical spanning almost 50 years and 3 generations, telling the life and hard times of a vaudeville family called Hackett. It starred Frank Morgan, Eddie Quillan, 10 year-old Mickey Rooney, Jackie Cooper, Jimmy Durante, Una Merkel, Fay Templeton, and Nelson Eddy, in his film debut.

"Broadway to Hollywood", as quoted from 'The Hollywood Musical' book, contains several sequences in color from the abandoned "March of Time" revue. The sequences, with dance direction by Sammy Lee, were Dimitri Tiomkin's 'Snow Ballet', 'Hansom Cab Drivers' (Jean Schwartz), 'The March of Time' (Louis Alter, Howard Johnson), 'Bedelia' (Jean Schwartz, William Jerome), 'There'll Be A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight' (Theodore Metz, Joe Hayden), 'POOR LITTLE G-STRING' (Fred Alhert, Roy Turk), 'Melody In F' (Anton Rubinstein).

So if someone can locate a copy of MGM's 1933 feature film "Broadway To Hollywood" (UK title "Ring Up The Curtain"), we may be able to see just how 'Poor Little G-String' was presented on film by a young Bing Crosby!

As Gary Giddins notes on Page 216 of 'A Pocketful of Dreams': "Bing sang 'Poor Little G-String' backed by an all-girl orchestra and the Albertina Rasch Ballet". Gary notes that "all that remains of Bing's labors is an eight-by-ten glossy", so perhaps it's a long shot, but one that's still worth investigating.

Anyone happen to have a copy of "Broadway to Hollywood"??
Greg Van Beek posted 04/29/06 09:27 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I've had the book "The Hollywood Musical" for about 25 years, and it is quite comprehensive. It's unclear whether the author actually saw "Broadway to Hollywood", or simply relied on MGM studio records concerning the film. But, as was the case with "The King of Jazz", perhaps prints of the film found in other countries may be more complete. Somewhere in the UK may be lurking a print of "Ring Up The Curtain" with an uncredited Bing Crosby appearance. It does seem suspect, however, that MGM would release a film in 1933 -- the same year they produced and released "Going Hollywood" -- with an appearance by Bing Crosby and not promote it as such. Where as in 1929 when "March of Time" was made, he might not have been a household name, Bing Crosby certainly was so by 1933, and promoting him in "Broadway to Hollywood" no doubt would've been a tremendous boost to the film at the box office.
Dave Duncan posted 05/01/06 06:36 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
It's amazing! I've been a Crosby collector and fan since I was 10 years of age (I'm now 42) and I know just about everything in regards to Bing's early career/recordings/films. I've read "Pocketful of Dreams" of course but over a year ago and the mention of "Poor Little G String" was very brief and was said to be lost. If you had asked me yesterday which 1930 film did Bing record and film the song 'G string' I would have said that he never did record it or appear in a film called 'March of Time'. It goes to show you learn something everyday. Listening to the link yesterday that plays about 15 seconds of the song was like finding gold in a cave. Had it been a 60's recording it would not have had me that excited because there are hidden recordings from the later years that tend to surface quite often but not from this early period. It costs about $80 to buy the whole "That's Entertainment" set which is a lot of money to obtain just one recording (I have a lot of the others and am only interested in Bing's song). Does anyone have the full version of Bing's song as an MP3 or some other audio file to download?<

P.S. Of course finding the footage from the film would be a great find but according to all accounts it looks like it was destroyed along with most of the film when it was shelved in 1930. If anyone knows anything about this or it's apparent inclusion into 'Broadway to Hollywood' it would be Bob DeFlores. Can anyone contact him?
Greg Van Beek posted 05/01/06 07:21 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Apparently "Broadway to Hollywood" exists in the MGM archives and has been shown on Turner Classic Movies in recent years. As evidenced by Glenn's post, it seems Bing did not appear in the film, at least not in the US release. He may, however, have been included in the UK release of the film, under the title of "Ring Up The Curtain". The book I have ("The Hollywood Musical") was researched and written by a London-based author (Clive Hirschhorn). So perhaps some of Bing's staunch supporters in the British Isles can do some detective work on this film for us. As I mentioned previously, it seems highly unlikely that MGM would release a film here in the US in 1933 and not promote it as having an appearance by Bing Crosby, especially when he was on their payroll at the time!
Dave Duncan posted 05/01/06 08:54 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I agree Greg however Bing was contracted out that year for 1 film only - 'Going Hollywood' which was a deal between Paramount and MGM. Bing was still on the Paramount payroll even though the deal netted him extra $$$. Maybe MGM couldn't broker a further deal with Paramount to include Bing's spot in 'Broadway to Hollywood'. Who knows? You'd think if they had the footage at their disposal and they could legally use it, they would have - it certainly would have made the film more favourable at the box office. The only conclusion I think is that they destroyed the footage of Bing's clip as they did with the rest of the film(except for a few expensive production numbers). Let's hope this is not the case and they at least included it in the UK release! We can only wait and see.
Greg Van Beek posted 05/01/06 10:17 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Yes, Dave, we'll just have to wait and see if a copy turns up in the UK or in another country outside of the USA. As far as Bing being on the "payroll", I only meant that MGM was working with / paying Bing, however directly or indirectly, at the time of "Broadway to Hollywood", so they certainly were aware of his potential at the box office. Like you said, you'd think if they had the footage at their disposal and they could legally use it, they would have. I can't imagine them purposely destroying any of the numbers shot for "March of Time", especially with the expense involved shooting them in 2-strip Technicolor. But who knows?
Malcolm Macfarlane posted 05/02/06 02:09 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
In BING magazine #111 (page 25, December 1995), Bob Achorn discussed a new history of early sound musicals called "A Song In the Dark" by Richard Barrios. In the book, Barrios discusses "The March of Time", scenes for which were filmed in the fall of 1929 and the winter of 1930. He mentions the filming of an enormous two-strip Technicolor production number with a giant violin cavorting on screen and Bing just off-camera singing 'Poor Little G-String'.
In BING #112, Geoff Milne clarified this by explaining that in the footage eventually used in the film 'Broadway To Hollywood' the violin did not cavort - it rose from the bottom of the screen, the bow placed across the strings acting as a platform for a line of chorus girls. A second line of girls appears from the bottom of the screen, at wihich point the action is cut to two of the main characters, dressed in Regency costumes, preparing to make an entrance on-stage. As they do so, the scene fades and we are denied the chance to hear Bing singing 'Poor Little G-string'. The sequence Geoff described appears only in black and white.
The information from Barrios was based on the MGM production files at the University of Southern California. As we know, the footage was put on the shelf but in late 1930 some of the footage was patched into a German-language MGM film (English title: We Broadcast From Hollywood). Was the Crosby number included? Don't think we'll ever know!
Ron Field posted 05/02/06 11:53 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Imagine what would have happened if Bing did sign up with MGM - who had more stars than there are in heaven - what a different line he would have travelled and there would not have been any 'Road' pictures etc.
Dieter Beier posted 05/03/06 08:09 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
"We Broadcast From Hollywood" - Is this film premiered with this English title in Germany? This would be unusually for this time. If I translate it back the title could be "Wir senden aus Hollywood" or "Wir funken aus Hollywood".On my first short search on Google I didnīt found anything under these titleīs.But Google is certainly no good source for such a special question-I believe traditional sources could be eventually the right way to success-that would be the great special film libraries and archieves with countless historical materials in Berlin/Babelsberg and Munich and the newspaper archives especially from Berlinian papers of that day,where the roaring and golden Twenties were celebrated as on no other place of Germany with Jazz,Rag,Black revues and Josephine Baker andwas wide open for all American style.In the cinemas were showed Hollywood filmīs and Jazz records(also Bing Crosbyīs) were sold until 1939-six years after the Nazis came on reign-until it was all forbidden absolutely with dragonical punishments-also with death.Unfortunately I live far away from Berlin or Munich-and the libraries have mosttimes only small of ttheir treasures electronically archieved and thatīs especially on old sources,because libraries and archieves have too less money and personal in Germany.It would be also interesting if MGM published their films in Germany themselves or under the control of UFA-the greatest and most important film company- or which way.In Germany exists huge archives with 10.000 and more prewar films of all genres,that no one knows what contents they have and that are endangered to get lost forever-.Will be such things in America similiar?

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