9 August 2004 | bkoganbing
Dear Doctor Crosby
Back in 1938 Gonzaga University which Bing Crosby attended, but never graduated from, decided to honor their most famous student with an honorary doctorate. For several weeks on Bing's Kraft Music Hall, guests and cast member ribbed him unmercifully about the degree and called him Doctor Crosby. So coincidentally when Paramount adopted and updated the O Henry story, The Badge of Patrolman O'Roon which is about a doctor and a policeman exchanging jobs, it seemed a natural to get doctor into that title somewhere.
Bing plays Doctor Bill Remsen who due to some hilarious circumstances has to exchange jobs with friend NYPD patrolman Larry O'Roon for the day. O'Roon is played by Andy Devine and his assignment for the day is to bodyguard heiress Mary Carlisle. Mary has a ditzy aunt who is played by Beatrice Lillie in one of her very few screen appearances.
Since this a Bing Crosby Paramount picture in the late 1930s, I suppose you can say that Bea Lillie's function her is to be the comic female like Martha Raye had previously served. But she was far more than that. One of the great stage acts in both Europe and America, Bea Lillie's comedy could be best described as a sort of sophisticated slapstick. Movie audiences in the those red states never quite took to her, but thank God that Doctor Rhythm preserves the artistry of a very great talent.
Bea Lillie has several high points, her famous double damask dinner napkins routine with Franklin Pangborn, her tilt a whirl in Doctor Remsen's medical office with Andy Devine and finally her Only A Gypsy Knows Number with Crosby in support. Support is not something Bing did in his films, but he does so here and gladly. Bing respected Bea Lillie's talent a great deal and had her as a guest on his radio program a few times over the years.
Louis Armstrong was supposed to be in Doctor Rhythm, but Paramount in regard to southern racial feelings unfortunately cut his numbers out of the film.
Mary Carlisle did her third and last film with Bing Crosby tying her with Martha Raye for second most appearances by a female performer in a Crosby film. Only Dorothy Lamour with all those Road picture credits and Dixie appeared in more.
The rest of the cast fills their roles out nicely. Bing was given three songs to sing, My Heart Is Taking Lessons, On the Sentimental Side, and This Is My Night To Dream by Jimmy Monaco and Johnny Burke. The first song was the one that became the hit from Doctor Rhythm.
A nice bill of health for Doctor Crosby er Rhythm.