The Catholic Crooner


When Going My Way was released on its star’s 41st birthday, May 3, 1944, it gave Bing Crosby one of his biggest box office hits. It also gave him his lone Oscar, winning seven Academy Awards, including Best Actor, the following year.

The film was the perfect vehicle for Crosby, offering him five songs that showcased his legendary bass-baritone voice. Moreover, Crosby’s role– a young Irish priest charged with taking the reins of a New York City parish from it’s aging pastor– solidified the actor’s reputation as one of Hollywood’s most devout Catholics.

Crosby certainly wasn’t a perfect Catholic, but he was serious about his faith, and his lived it more intentionally than many in Hollywood. When he married, he stayed married. He lost his first wife to ovarian cancer in 1952, and his second marriage lasted until his death in 1977. Crosby also gladly welcomed children into the world– seven in total– and raised them in the Church.

Crosby himself was one of seven children and attended the Jesuit Gonzaga University before deciding his future lay in music.

And what a future it was.

As a singer, Crosby put 383 songs onto the charts, including 41 number one hits. His 1942 single, “White Christmas,” remains the best selling single of all time. As an actor, he proved equally successful. For 15 years, he was one of the top 10 box office draws in the country, and for five of those years, he ranked number one.

Crosby was active behind the camera as he was in front of it, pioneering new techniques in recording and broadcasting. He also was a devoted baseball fan (co-owning the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1946 until his death) and an avid golfer.

It was actually on a golf course in Madrid, Spain, that Crosby died in October 1977. He left strict instructions for his funeral– a low Mass, closed to the public– and was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Los Angeles.

{Excerpt from The American Catholic Almanac, A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States. Buy your copy of The American Catholic Almanac on Amazon today! }

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  1. I have to take issue with the description “not a perfect Catholic”. This seems to severely minimize the problems Crosby had.,Alcohol abuse and domestic violence should not just be swept under rug as “less than perfect.” I think it you could have chosen a much better phrase. You don’t have to drag his name through the mud, but a little more honesty would be a good thing.

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