The Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane will be hosting a holiday film festival Dec. 4, featuring three of Bing Crosby’s films as well as a chance to listen to his niece and nephew talk about him.
The three films to be shown are “Holiday Inn” at noon, “Road to Zanzibar” at 2:30 p.m. and “White Christmas” at 7:30 p.m.
The theater is located at 901 W Sprague Ave in downtown Spokane.
Hosting the festival are the Advocates for the Bing Crosby Theater, an organization that promotes the theater. Admission is free, though the Advocates suggest a $1 contribution.
Bill Stimson, president of the Advocates and a journalism professor at Eastern, stated that the festival is a part of an effort to bring more awareness of Crosby’s history in Spokane, specifically of the theater where he first began his career in show business.
“He didn’t want to be an actor at first,” Stimson said. “He wanted to be a jazz musician. He took up the drums, which he wasn’t very good at, and started performing.”
Crosby spent five months at the theater before leaving to go to California.
“It really got him ready,” Stimson said, “because as soon as he left and went to Hollywood, he was number one on the radio and number one in the movies.”
Stimson said that being a part of the organization is mainly due to his interest in the history of the city.
“I’m a Spokane historian,” he explained, “so obviously it’s pretty important that a guy like Bing came from this area. The theater is a perfect monument to him.”
Between 5 and 7:30 p.m., Carolyn Scheider and Howard Crosby, niece and nephew to Bing Crosby, will be giving recollections of their uncle. Scheider will hold a book signing for her recently published book “Bing: On the Road to Elko.”
According to Stimson, this will hold a strong appeal for those who never had the chance to see Crosby in his lifetime as well as for those who were alive when Crosby was making the films.
“There are still plenty of people who knew him,” he said.
Stimson recalled seeing Crosby during the dedication of a Spokane library in 1957.
“I saw him give a speech there,” Stimson said. “But I was 11 then, and you don’t notice those things at that age.”
Besides the Davenport Hotel and Gonzaga University, Crosby’s alma mater, Spokane has relatively few places named after one of its most famous citizens, a fact that puzzles Stimson. It was this observation that led him to advocate that the theater name be changed in 2006.
“Spokane understates Crosby,” he said. “I thought the city badly needed something to be named after him, because if you look around in Spokane, nothing else really is.”
As far as Crosby’s immense success goes, Stimson said that he feels it was his down-to-earth quality and unpretentious attitude that people liked about him.
“He was the sort of movie star that didn’t care about being a movie star,” he said. “He had that everyman appeal. He always said, ‘I remind people of the guy they know next door.'”The festival has been held annually since 2006 when the theater name was changed.