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Bing Crosby's first venture into the production end of the film business was with this independent production The Great John L. about the life and times of John L. Sullivan. Of course any resemblance to the real Sullivan is coincidental here. It's pretty typical of Hollywood biographical films back in the day.
Of course the legend is well taken care of. The poor Irish kid from Boston handy with his fists who made good almost every time his boast of 'I Can Lick Any Man In The House'. It eventually took him to the heavyweight championship of the world defeating Paddy Ryan in 1882 and retaining it until 1892 when Jim Corbett dethroned him.
Sullivan's spendthrift ways and prodigious drinking are shown as well. Another boast was that he could drink any man under the table and too often did.
His romantic entanglements with the girl next door Barbara Britton and entertainer Linda Darnell are a complete work of fiction however. But they might have been acceptable but for the casting of the workmanlike, but distinctly non-charismatic Greg McClure. It's no wonder we didn't hear from this man again.
Bing certainly did what he could to help this film. Frank Tuttle who directed him in a couple of features at Paramount did the direction, he's best known for directing Alan Ladd in This Gun For Hire. Barbara Britton who was under contract at Paramount was no doubt obtained for this film for favors at Paramount. They usually granted Crosby anything they wanted. Bing's favorite songwriters Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke did two songs for the film, A Perfect Gentleman and A Friend Of Your's.
Bing also recorded A Friend Of Your's and so did Frank Sinatra and I'm sure that one was a favor as well. I have a bootleg recording of a radio commercial that Crosby did with Sinatra and Bob Hope promoting The Great John L. with Crosby and Sinatra stepping into the ring with Hope refereeing. That was far better than the film.
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