Riding High (1950): Capra’s Poor Remake of his Own Film, Broadway Bill, Starring Bing Crosby

One of Frank Capra’s least known (and least remarkable) features, Riding High is a modest racetrack musical, starring Bing Crosby.

Grade: C (*1/2* out of *****)

Riding High

The songs were sung as Riding High was being shot, instead of the customary lip-synching to previous recordings.

The film is a remake of an earlier Capra and screenwriter Robert Riskin film, Broadway Bill (1934).

Crosby plays Yale graduate Dan Brooks, who’s expected to marry wealthy boss J.L. Higgins’ (Charles Bickford) daughter Margaret (Frances Gifford) and join the family business. However, he’s is more interested in racing a horse he owns, Broadway Bill.

Doing poorly at work, Dan and his groom Whitey (Clarence Muse) leave town to enter Bill in the Imperial Derby, but first must find money for the fee. He and old pal Professor Pettigrew (Raymond Walburn) try to con the other out, then end up singing the Yale school song to get out of restaurant tab they cannot pay.

Maggie’s younger sister Alice (Coleen Gray), secretly in love with Dan, offers him money by pawning her belongings. Whitey is beaten up trying to win in a craps game, and Broadway Bill is carted away because Dan doesn’t pay his feed bill. Dan is jailed, too.

A rich man makes a bet on Bill, leading to false rumors that the horse is a shoo-in. The odds drop fast, but gamblers try to make sure their own favorites win the race. Broadway Bill manages to win, but then collapses at the finish line and suffers fatal heart attack.

A saddened Dan takes comfort in buying and racing Broadway Bill II, and his enthusiasm persuades Alice and her dad to support him.

Bing Crosby as Dan Brooks
Coleen Gray as Alice Higgins
Charles Bickford as J.L. Higgins
Frances Gifford as Margaret Higgins
William Demarest as Happy
Raymond Walburn as Professor Pettigrew
James Gleason as Racing Secretary
Ward Bond as Lee
Clarence Muse as Whitey
Percy Kilbride as Pop Jones
Harry Davenport as Johnson (final film)
Frankie Darro as Jockey Ted Williams
Douglass Dumbrille as Eddie Howard
Joe Frisco as himself
Irving Bacon as Hamburger man
Charles Lane as Erickson
Margaret Hamilton as Edna


Directed, produced by Frank Capra
Written by Mark Hellinger (story), Robert Riskin, Melville Shavelson (add. dialogue), Jack Rose (add. dialogue)
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography George Barnes, Ernest Laszlo
Edited by William Hornbeck

Production and Distribution: Paramount Pictures

Release date: April 12, 1950

Running time: 112 minutes
Budget $1,920,000
Box office $2,350,000 (US rentals)