The non-profit Bing Crosby Advocates (BCA) presents the festival annually at the Bing Crosby Theater at Sprague and Lincoln in downtown Spokane each December as part of the community’s celebration of the holiday season. It was at this theater, then known as the Clemmer, that a young Bing Crosby began his career by performing skits in between the silent films shown there. The theater was renamed for him in 2006.The 11th Annual Bing Crosby Holiday Film Festival will be held on Saturday, Dec 3, 2016, featuring some of the best loved films of Spokane’s own Bing Crosby, along with a gallery of photos of the famous entertainer and a special live musical performance, A Tribute to “White Christmas” at 75,” by Hot Club of Spokane, a group of local musicians dedicated to the preservation of jazz, swing and blues.
Tickets for the festival are $10 each and are good for the entire day’s events. Tickets are available at the door only (no advance sales) and must be purchased by check or cash (no credit/debit cards). Children age 12 and under will be admitted free.
More information is available at BingCrosbyAdvocates.org.
In addition to the films being shown, this year’s live performance features Spokane’ own Hot Club of Spokane, local musicians whose work features works by Spokane music royalty – Bing Crosby, Mildred Bailey and Al Rinker. Their 6 p.m. program is a tribute to the 75th Anniversary of Irving Berlin’s song “White Christmas.”
The song made a bittersweet entry into the American music scene, according to Bill Stimson, BCA president. “It was the fall of 1941, and the song was going to be released the following spring. However, the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7 that year and America’s entry into World War II prompted Bing to push for an accelerated release of the song. And so, he sang it publicly for the first time – on Christmas Day 1941 on his Kraft Music Hall radio program. We are celebrating the 75th anniversary of that performance at our film festival this year.”
Two of this year’s films have parallels to Bing’s own life growing up in Spokane, Stimson added. Birth of the Blues, the story of a group of white musicians who cut a jazz record in 1917 and perform with some controversy in conservative communities, is loosely patterned on his own experiences as a young man leading a jazz band in Spokane. In The Bells of St. Mary’s Bing drew on his own experiences growing up in the St. Aloysius Church parish in his portrayal of a parish priest.
“He had known priests all his life,” Stimson said. “They taught him in school, coached him in sports and preached to him on Sundays. Some of his childhood friends became priests, and like the young priest in the film who works to save his church, Bing himself, because of his own faith, was tireless in working toward saving churches, hospitals and institutions. This was not a role he had to study for.”
In addition to the films to be shown during the day, there will be a display of many photos from Bing Crosby Enterprises, the Gonzaga University Archives and the Jerry and Patty Dicker Foundation.
Doors open at 10 a.m. The festival begins with the 10:30 a.m. showing of Bing Crosby’s traditional and much beloved holiday film White Christmas (1954), which also stars Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen and Danny Kaye. The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945), with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman, shows at 1 p.m.
Birth of the Blues (1941) will be shown at 4 p.m. The film also features Mary Martin and Brian Donlevy, with brief appearances by such jazz greats as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Paul Whiteman.
This year’s Festival will feature a live tribute to “White Christmas” and to the works of Spokane music royalty — Bing Crosby, Mildred Bailey and Al Rinker. Spokane’s own Hot Club of Spokane will present a program at 6 p.m. that features several singers, a dozen top musicians, and historic films of the 1920s and 1930s.
And at 7:30 the festival concludes with a repeat showing of the classic White Christmas.