Bing Crosby was known as a crooner, and his musicals and comedy films of the 1930s and 40s cemented his stardom. But by the mid 1940s the folks at Paramount had figured out they could cast Bing in musicals with a dramatic theme.
He won an Oscar for Going My Way. Then then cast him as a country doctor in Welcome Stranger. That’s him above with costar (and then lover) Joan Caulfield.
By the 1950s they were casting Crosby in straight dramas (though he was always able to work in a song). Two of those successes were Little Boy Lost and The Country Girl.
1954’s The Country Girl, based on a Clifford Odets stage play about an alcoholic ex-star and his resilient, long-suffering wife (Crosby and Grace Kelly, pictured immediately above). William Holden plays a director struggling to re-ignite the star’s sputtering career, and along the way, falls in love with his wife.
Crosby was nominated for a best actor Oscar as a result of his Country Girl performance (he lost out to winner Marlon Brando for On The Waterfront.)
And then there is this, a small gem, 1953’s Little Boy Lost.
Here, Bing is cast as an American war correspondent in Europe whose French wife (Nicole Maurey) is killed during the German occupation of Paris from 1940 to 1944. The couple’s young son (Christian Fourcade) is lost in the fog of wartime bombing raids, and is believed to living in a French orphanage.
Barred entry to wartime Paris, Bing returns postwar to the City of Light — where the movie was actually filmed, somewhat unusual for the time — to find his son.
No Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour nor Danny Kaye. No coquettish priestly performances as the “with it” cleric. No Barry Fitzgerald. And few chances for Bing to let loose and warble. And, absolutely, no White Christmas.
Directed by the underrated George Seaton, Little Boy Lost allows Bing to sing some pretty children’s songs but no chart-busting ballads. According to one source, a ballad sung by Maurey (Mon Cour Est Un Violon or “My Heart Is A Violin”) in the movie was later recorded in French by Crosby. It’s considered a rare specimen of Crosby-anna today.
But let’s appreciate Little Boy Lost for the excellence of Crosby’s acting. The complexity of his performance may have had something to do with Bing’s personal life. His first, wife, Dixie, was dying of cancer when the movie was made (it was released theatrically 11 months after her death.)
In any case, this is one forgotten Crosby film that shouldn’t be.