Blue Skies And More

“There’s no business like show business.”–Irving Berlin

Out of the blue, so to speak, I went on a Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby kick this month.  I didn’t watch all of their films, only a few of the best.  It all started at the Norfolk Public Library.  See “Some Downtime” .   I spotted the classic movie “Holiday Inn”.  I hadn’t seen the film in years, so, on a lark, I checked it out.  I was completely charmed.  I’d forgotten what a gem it is.

In the bonus material an out take of a scene from “Blue Skies” blew me away.  It was Fred Astaire performing “Puttin’ On The Ritz”.  I knew I just had to see that movie, too.  I’d never seen it at all.  I was familiar with the Irving Berlin song “Blue Skies” because it’s a standard that has been covered by many singers.

On my return trip to the library, I had my heart set on borrowing “Blue Skies”.  I didn’t see the DVD anywhere on the shelves.  I did find “White Christmas” though.  I picked that instead.  Upon checking out, I asked about “Blue Skies”.  The librarian said that the Norfolk Library did not own a copy.  She did say that if I wanted to view the film, they could borrow it for me from another library.  Naturally, I requested that they do so. I really wanted to see my newly favorite Astaire number in the full context of the movie.

I didn’t think a lot about the loaner because I figured the DVD would probably come from an area library, Omaha or Lincoln, Nebraska at the furthest.  Last Thursday, I was called and told that I could pick up my loaner.  I glanced at the bar code strip and found out that the movie belongs to The University of Idaho.


Because I’ve never taken advantage of Interlibrary Loaning (ILL) until now, I hadn’t given the service any thought.  I have subsequently discovered that ILL has been around since 1894.  One could almost think of ILL as a slow precurser to the Internet.

The first ILL was just between the University of California Berkeley and the rest of the University of California system.  Eventually the ILL expanded to include more area libraries and then the rest of the U.S. followed suit.  Requests were made by a standard form that was submitted to loaners via U.S. Mail or by courier.

Since around 1985 the searching and requesting have become electronic.  Now, it is common for libraries to request and loan materials via the Internet.  Basically, the older information base network that began over a century ago has been integrated with our modern World Wide Web.

Hence, my curiosity about viewing “Blue Skies” activated the first impulse over a nerve system of libraries.  That impulse led to the University of Idaho loaning me a DVD copy of that movie.  This action awakened me to yet another way that we are all somehow interconnected.

I was not only able to enjoy a top quality, classic musical, but was treated to two wonderful musicals.  It turns out that the DVD contained two movies.  The other Crosby film was “Birth of the Blues”.  If you consider yourself a student of popular music and jazz, this is a must see movie.  “Birth of the Blues” is a film that I’ve been aware of for many years, but I just didn’t have the time nor opportunity to view.

“Listen kid, take my advice, never hate a song that has sold half a million copies.”–Irving Berlin

Because of my urge to take in some Astaire and Crosby, my worldview has been expanded.  My appreciation of these two legendary artists has grown, too.  I learned about aspects of these men that I’d never before known.  One astonishing thing I learned about Bing Crosby, is that he was far ahead of his time regarding race relations.  He was not only appalled at segregation, but he actively promoted the career of Louie Armstrong.  Most of us are unaware of this humanitarian aspect of Crosby’s because he was self-effacing and shunned recognition of his good works.  I had never before thought of Bing Crosby as a progressive.

With all this in mind, I heartily recommend that you go to your local public library and scan the shelves of materials.  Especially look for something you normally would not find interesting or probably even avoid.  It might be a movie, an audiobook or a regular paper and ink book.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how these things can change your life.

Libraries are the treasure chests of the communities they serve.

Who knows, maybe you’ll want to see some classic movies.  Maybe some that star Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.  If your library doesn’t own “Blue Skies” they will probably find a copy for you to borrow.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Fred Astaire:  “The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, Entertainment, History, Hometown. Bookmark the permalink.

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