Dixie Lee

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Dixie Lee
Dixie Lee 1935.jpg
Lee in 1935
Born Wilma Winifred Wyatt
(1911-11-04)November 4, 1911
Harriman, Tennessee, U.S.
Died November 1, 1952(1952-11-01) (aged 40)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Ovarian cancer
Resting place Holy Cross Cemetery
Culver City, California
Years active 1929–52
Spouse(s) Bing Crosby
(m. 1930)
Children 4

Dixie Lee (November 4, 1911 – November 1, 1952) was an American actress, dancer, and singer. She was the first wife of singer Bing Crosby.

Biography[edit]

Born Wilma Winifred Wyatt in Harriman, Tennessee on November 4, 1911 to Evan Wyatt and the former Nora Scarborough. She adopted the professional name "Dixie Carroll" to enter an amateur singing contest in Chicago in May, 1928. She won the contest and the prize was a job as a singer at a roadhouse called College Inn. Whilst working there, she was spotted by a talent scout and given a part in the traveling company of Good News. A film contract was subsequently offered and Winfield Sheehan of the Fox film studio changed her name to Dixie Lee, to avoid confusion with actresses Nancy Carroll and Sue Carol. [1]

Marriage[edit]

She met Bing Crosby at the age of 18 and they married on September 29, 1930 at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Hollywood. Dixie Lee was more well-known than Crosby at that time as illustrated by the incorrect news release issued by the Associated Press that was used by many papers including the New York Times but the Los Angeles Times got most of the facts right.

Hollywood. Sept 29 (AP)
Dixie Lee, film actress, was married today to Murray Crosey, 26 years old, orchestra leader, at a simple church ceremony. Miss Lee, 20, was born in Hillman, Tenn. Her name was Wilma Wyatt. She began her career as an amateur while attending school in Chicago. The maid of honor was Miss Elizabeth Zimmermann of Chicago. (Associated Press)
Dixie Lee weds Bing Crosby
Another romance in Hollywood culminated in marriage yesterday when Dixie Lee, under contract to Fox, was wed to Bing Crosby, a member of Gus Arnheim’s Orchestra and one of the original Rhythm Boys. Although the two have been going together ever since last January, they were able to keep their plans to wed secret and even Mrs. M. M. Wyatt, Dixie’s mother, did not know of the projected marriage until yesterday morning. The wedding took place in the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Hollywood with Father Stack performing the ceremony. Betty Zimmerman, an old school friend of Miss Lee’s was bridesmaid, while Edward [sic - it was Everett] Crosby, the bridegroom’s brother was stood up as best man.[2]

There were early problems with the marriage and on March 4, 1931, Dixie announced that they had separated and that she would soon be filing a divorce suit charging mental cruelty. She went on to say "We have only been married about six months, but we have already found out that we are not suited for each other. Our separation is an amiable one, and the only reason for it is that we just cannot get along. ‘Bing’ is a fine boy as a friend, but married he and I just cannot be happy.”[3] Within a week, a reconciliation came about. Dixie had gone with a party of friends to Agua Caliente for the weekend. To one of the girls in the crowd she confided she was not half as angry with Crosby as she was at the parting a week ago. The girl got Crosby on the long-distance telephone and presently he and Dixie were talking to each other. An hour and a half later, Crosby appeared at Agua Caliente, having flown down in an airplane, and all was well again.[4]

Dixie Lee had four sons with Crosby: Gary (1933); twins Phillip and Dennis (1934); and Lindsay (1938). Lindsay and Dennis both committed suicide as adults, Lindsay in 1989 and Dennis in 1991.

After the birth of the twins, she made a brief return to show business. Dixie Lee made two appearances on the Shell Chateau radio program in 1935 and she made three more films. Her most notable film is probably Love in Bloom (1935). Her last film was Redheads on Parade but the reviews were mediocre.[5] She made a couple of records on March 11, 1935, “You’ve Got Me Doing Things,” a song she introduced in the film Love in Bloom. This was her first record and she backed it with “My Heart Is an Open Book.”[6] She was encouraged back in to the recording studio again on July 27, 1936 and she recorded "Until the Real Thing Comes Along" and "When a Lady Meets a Gentleman Down South" for Decca Records.[7] Her final recordings were two duets with her husband recorded on August 19, 1936 - A Fine Romance and The Way You Look Tonight.[8] She then retired from show business.

Personal life[edit]

Crosby's biographer, Gary Giddins, describes Dixie Lee as a shy, private person with a sensible approach to life. Giddins recounts that Dixie and Bing, as young marrieds, were often invited to parties where liquor was plentiful, and Dixie drank socially to keep up with Bing.[9][10] She succeeded in curbing Bing's alcohol consumption, but ironically her own alcoholism worsened.[11] This led to problems with the marriage and divorce was briefly contemplated by Crosby in January 1941.[12] In January 1945, Dixie Lee was rushed to St. Vincent’s Hospital after collapsing with a “respiratory infection.” Crosby accompanied his wife to the hospital in an ambulance and remained at her bedside during the night. A later article in Picturegoer magazine suggested that she had taken an accidental overdose of sleeping tablets and that her life was in the balance for over a week.
Press reports stated:

Bing’s Wife Improves After Collapse
Mrs. Dixie Lee Crosby, wife of the crooner and mother of his four sons, was reported improving today at St. Vincent’s Hospital, where she was rushed after collapsing at her home with a respiratory infection. “She’s going to be all right,” Bing declared today, after announcing that Mrs. Crosby had spent part of the night in an oxygen tent in an effort to avert pneumonia. He remained at the hospital throughout the night. The former actress was sped to the hospital late yesterday on orders of her physician, Dr. George Hummer, after she collapsed at the Crosby Holmby Hills home.[13]

Bing Crosby went to Europe in 1950 for an extended visit and there were headlines stating that the Crosby marriage was strained but this was subsequently denied.[14]

Crosby persuaded her to take part in his radio show broadcast on December 20, 1950, her first ever appearance with him on radio. It was her first professional appearance since 1936. In January 1951, Press reports indicated that Crosby had recently moved back into his Holmby Hills home with Dixie Lee. He had been spending much of his time at his home at Pebble Beach.[15]

Dixie Lee died from ovarian cancer on November 1, 1952, three days before her 41st birthday.[16]. She was interred in the Crosby plot at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California after a Requiem High Mass at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills on November 3.[17] There were 600 mourners at the service. The funeral was upset by the media.

Filmography[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Giddins, Gary (2001). Bing Crosby - A Pocketful of Dreams. Little, Brown and Company. pp. 219–220. ISBN 0-316-88188-0. 
  2. ^ "Los Angeles Times". September 30, 1930. 
  3. ^ "Los Angeles Examiner". March 5, 1931. 
  4. ^ "Los Angeles Examiner". March 16, 1931. 
  5. ^ "Variety". September 4, 1935. 
  6. ^ "The Online Discographical Project". 78discography.com. Retrieved August 1, 2017. 
  7. ^ "The Online Discographical Project". 78discography.com. Retrieved August 1, 2017. 
  8. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved August 1, 2017. 
  9. ^ Malcolm Macfarlane Bing Crosby: day by day - 2001 Page 148 "... they were rewarded with a million-dollar impromptu show, when Bing Crosby sang "Dinah" and "I Kiss Your Hand, Madame," Dixie Lee sang "Lucky Star "."
  10. ^ Jim Heimann Out with the stars: Hollywood nightlife in the golden era -1985 Page 141 "Bing Crosby and wife Dixie Lee treated an audience at the Century Club on Beverly Boulevard one Sunday night, when Bing took the stage and belted out "Dinah" and "I Kiss Your Lucky Hand, Madame," and Dixie sang "Lucky Star" to a crowd ..."
  11. ^ Giddins, Gary (2001). Bing Crosby - A Pocketful of Dreams. Little, Brown and Company. p. 221. ISBN 0-316-88188-0. 
  12. ^ Macfarlane, Malcolm. "Bing Crosby - Day by Day". www.bingmagazine.co.uk. Retrieved August 1, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Los Angeles Evening Herald Express". January 10, 1945. 
  14. ^ "Citizen News". May 9, 1950. 
  15. ^ Gwynne, Edith (January 22, 1951). "Hollywood Reporter". 
  16. ^ "Cancer kills Dixie Crosby". Sunday Herald. (Bridgeport, Connecticut). United Press. November 2, 1952. p. 1. 
  17. ^ "Citizen News". November 3, 1952. 
  18. ^ "Forgotten Ones: Dixie Lee Crosby"

External links[edit]