Riding High (1950 film)

Riding High
Directed by Frank Capra
Produced by Frank Capra
Written by Mark Hellinger (story)
Robert Riskin
Melville Shavelson (add. dialogue)
Jack Rose (add. dialogue)
Starring Bing Crosby
Coleen Gray
Music by Victor Young (uncredited)
Cinematography George Barnes
Ernest Laszlo
Edited by William Hornbeck
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • 1950 (1950)
Running time
112 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,920,000
Box office $2,350,000 (US rentals)[1]

Riding High (1950) is a black and white musical racetrack film featuring Bing Crosby and directed by Frank Capra in which the songs were actually sung as the movie was being filmed instead of the customary lip-synching to previous recordings. The movie is a remake of an earlier Capra film called Broadway Bill (1934). While the film is generally a light musical comedy, it has an unexpected tragic turn in its story.[2]


Yale grad Dan Brooks (Bing Crosby) is expected to marry wealthy boss J.L. Higgins' (Charles Bickford) daughter Margaret (Frances Gifford) and join the family box-making business. He is far more interested in racing a horse he owns, Broadway Bill.

Doing poorly at work, Dan and his groom Whitey (Clarence Muse) leave town to enter Bill in the Imperial Derby, but first must find money for the entry fee. He and old pal Professor Pettigrew (Raymond Walburn) each try to con the other out of a few bucks, then end up singing the Yale school song to get out of a restaurant tab they can't pay.

Maggie's younger sister Alice (Coleen Gray) is secretly in love with Dan, so she offers him some money, pawning her belongings. Whitey is beaten up trying to win some in a craps game, and Broadway Bill is carted away because Dan doesn't pay his feed bill. Dan is jailed, too.

A rich man makes a bet on 100-to-1 shot Bill, leading to false rumors that the horse is a shoo-in. The odds drop fast, but gamblers and a crooked jockey try to make sure their own favorites win the race. Broadway Bill somehow manages to win, but collapses at the finish line and must be put to sleep.

A saddened Dan takes comfort in deciding to buy and race Broadway Bill II. His enthusiasm persuades Alice and even her dad to lend Dan a hand.


Oliver Hardy had an unbilled cameo appearance as a gambler at the racetrack.


Filmed from March 9th to May 1949. Some of the scenes in both Broadway Bill and Riding High were filmed at the Tanforan Racetrack in San Bruno, California. The track burned to the ground in July 1964, just before it was to be demolished.


In order to raise funds for a sports stadium, Crosby arranged for the world premiere of the film to be held in Front Royal, Virginia on April 1st 1950. Crosby’s initial involvement came about on April 30, 1948 when after acting as grand marshal of the Grand Feature Parade of the 21st. Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, Virginia, he went on to Front Royal where he sang on the courthouse steps as part of a concert to help raise money for a new stadium. Bing was the first contributor to the Front Royal Recreation Center Building Fund when he donated $1,000. On April 1st 1950, Front Royal celebrated “Bing Crosby Day” and starting at 11 a.m., Crosby led a two-hour parade through the streets in front of a crowd of 20,000 to Recreation Park for the dedication of the baseball stadium. Park Theater was the venue for the official world premiere of Riding High at 8:30 p.m. where Crosby entertained the audience with several songs. During his appearance at the Park Theater, Bing wrote out a personal check for $3,595 to bring the gross receipts of the day to $15,000.[3]

The film had its New York premiere at the Paramount on April 10, 1950.[4] The critics liked it with Bosley Crowther of The New York Times saying; "Inspiration is something which strikes rarely in Hollywood—and when it does, it is usually tagged “genius,” out of customary deference to restraint. But whatever you want to call it, it is certainly what hit Frank Capra hard when he thought of recruiting Bing Crosby to play a remake of the oldie, “Broadway Bill.” And it is surely what stuck with Mr. Capra—and rubbed off on Mr. Crosby, too—all through the redoing of that classic into the current “Riding High.” For this Capra-Crosby project, which came to the Paramount yesterday, is a genial and jovial entertainment that ties the original...The final word goes to “Der Bingle,” whose lovable way with a horse—as well as with music and people—gives that quality of richness to this film that makes it not only amusing but deeply ingratiating, too...Even though light and familiar, sentimental and even absurd, “Riding High” is his feedbox full of barley. Bing has a stakes winner in Broadway Bill."[5]

Variety's review was favorable too. "Big yen by the Hollywood film factories recently for remaking past hits is bound to get another hypo when this one gets around. Frank Capra has taken Mark Hellinger’s yarn, “Broadway Bill,” which he produced and directed for Columbia in 1934, and turned it into one of the best Bing Crosby starrers that’s come along for a considerable time..."[6] and the film fan magazine Photoplay was very positive. "Just when folk were wondering when Bing Crosby’s lean season was due to end along comes Frank Capra with a tailor-made story worthy of Bing’s considerable talents... Full of high spirits, as fresh as a newly-cut sward, and deliciously humorous, this is without question the best Crosby film for years."[7]


Bing Crosby recorded four of the songs for Decca Records.[8] Crosby's songs were also included in the Bing's Hollywood series.

See also


  1. 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1950', Variety, January 3, 1951
  2. American Movie Classics
  3. Macfarlane, Malcolm. "Bing Crosby - Day by Day". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  4. Reynolds, Fred (1986). Road to Hollywood. Gateshead, UK: John Joyce. p. 196.
  5. Crowther, Bosley. "The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  6. "Variety". January 11, 1950.
  7. "Photoplay". April 1950.
  8. "A Bing Crosby Discography". A Bing Crosby Discography. Retrieved January 25, 2016.

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