Russ Columbo and the Crooner Mystique

Overview

In the early '30s, Russ Columbo, dubbed the "Vocal Valentino," rivaled Bing Crosby in a widely publicized "Battle of the Baritones." But his looks, charm, and beautiful voice also had a haunted side. Just two days after he attended a Hollywood sneak preview of the movie that gave him his first leading role, Columbo was killed by a wayward bullet - the climax in a chain of mysterious circumstances. In a narrative full of passion, as well as showbiz personalities like Pola Negri and Carole Lombard, Russ Columbo and...
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Overview

In the early '30s, Russ Columbo, dubbed the "Vocal Valentino," rivaled Bing Crosby in a widely publicized "Battle of the Baritones." But his looks, charm, and beautiful voice also had a haunted side. Just two days after he attended a Hollywood sneak preview of the movie that gave him his first leading role, Columbo was killed by a wayward bullet - the climax in a chain of mysterious circumstances. In a narrative full of passion, as well as showbiz personalities like Pola Negri and Carole Lombard, Russ Columbo and the Crooner Mystique combines a remarkable collection of Columbo's letters, diary entries, scrapbook clippings, and other personal effects - all woven with an intimate biography that pleads the case for romantic balladeers.

When I was a kid my folks used to play Russ Columbo's records. I remember his voice. My folks loved Russ. When he was killed my mom told me she cried like a baby. Something about Russ Columbo stayed with me, he was my inspiration.—

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Lanza (Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak) and character actor Penna have concocted a fascinating glimpse into the world of early 20th-century music and film with this biography of crooner Columbo (1908-34), a rival of Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee now largely relegated to obscurity. The authors trace Columbo's brief life as the youngest of 12 children of Italian immigrants, recounting his early violin studies, performances accompanying silent movies, years on the club circuit to radio fame, motion picture roles, and untimely death owing to the accidental firing of a pistol by his longtime friend, photographer Lansing Brown. Along the way, he encounters stars such as Pola Negri, dates comedienne Carole Lombard, runs afoul of organized crime figures through gambling, and suffers both contractual disputes with managers and up-and-down financial situations. The period photos, supportive documentation, and catchy wording add to the impact of this item, while some bizarre musings in a chapter on his "spirit" strain the reader's credulity. This effort is welcome, but Michael Pitts and Frank Hoffmann's recent The Rise of the Crooners, which includes a chapter on Columbo, should be sufficient for most libraries. Recommended where interest warrants or for comprehensive American popular culture or popular music collections.-Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780922915804
  • Publisher: Feral House
  • Publication date: 11/1/2002
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

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