Baby Sandy Gets Bing Crosby A Job In Radio

Who The Heck Is Baby Sandy?

Shirley Temple, Hollywood’s #1 box office draw from 1934 to ’38
Most of us have heard of the iconic child star of the 30s and 40s, Shirley Temple. There’s no denying she was the early darling of films and was Hollywood’s #1 box office draw as a child actress from 1934 through ’38. She eventually retired from films in 1950 at the age of 22. Following her movie career she was surprisingly successful as a diplomat. Temple was the ambassador to Ghana (appointed by Gerald Ford) and Czechoslovakia (appointed by George H.W. Bush). If a child movie star of early Hollywood films is the subject, chances are most will think of curly haired Shirley, but what about Sandy? “Baby Sandy” to be specific. And what did Spokane’s actor-crooner Bing Crosby have to do with helping to launch her meteoric but brief career?
Baby Sandy gracing the covers of Movie-Radio Guide Magazine
I discovered Baby Sandy quite by accident. I was looking for some information about an old time radio actor and came across a slew of old movie and radio fan magazines and on the cover of a couple was Baby Sandy. I thought, who the heck is Baby Sandy? In reality it wasn’t all that easy to discover her story, but with a little persistent detective work, gradually my question was answered. Here’s what I unearthed.
Early publicity movie photo of Baby Sandy
Sandy’s real name was Alexandra Lee Henville. She was born Jan. 14, 1938 in Los Angeles and was only 11th months old when her father, a Los Angeles milkman, read in the newspaper that Universal Studios was looking for a baby for a soon to be filmed Bing Crosby movie. He decided to leave some pictures of his daughter on the doorstep of the film’s musical director Charles Previn (father of composer, conductor, jazz pianist Andre), along with the morning milk delivery. One look at the photos of the milkman’s daughter by studio casting and she was hired. It is said that Sandy was on the set of the film for two days before most realized she was a girl. The original script for the Crosby film called for a boy, but the sex of her characters in subsequent films seemed, for the most part, unspecific.
Her appearance in that 1939 Crosby comedy, “East Side Of Heaven,” marked her screen debut and made her the youngest contract player in films. She was a hit. Her expressions and big doe-like eyes had won her that first movie role, but it was her happy temperament on set that won her a $50 a week contract from the studio. Soon there were Baby Sandy Dolls, mugs, paper dolls, diapers, baby food, story books and coloring books. Both movie mags and some major magazines of the day featured cover photos stories of Sandy. The Aug.14, 1939 issue of Life Magazine featured Sandy on the cover with a 2-page spread. There was also a 4-page article in Look Magazine.
Top: A small sample of the Baby Sandy merchandise. Below: Baby Sandy makes the cover of  two major magazines of the day.
Sandy’s popularity in the Bing Crosby film caused Universal Studios to launch a “Baby Sandy” film series. She was considered Universal’s “wonder baby” and their answer to Shirley Temple. The series, produced by Universal through 1941, consisted of 6 films … the last of which was “Melody Lane.” In the first few films her character was supposed to be a boy, but in the end the series never did specify Baby Sandy’s sex.
Part of The Baby Sandy film series
That original film, “East Side of Heaven,” was partially produced by Bing Crosby. Under his contract with Paramount, Crosby was allowed to make one outside production a year. The movie starred Bing and Joan Blondell. Crosby plays the part of a crooning telegram messenger who through complicated circumstances loses his job, but lands a new job as a cruising troubadour for a taxi company when a baby, played by Baby Sandy, is left in his cab.
Joan Blondell, Baby Sandy & Bing Crosby in scenes from the movie “East Side of Heaven” 
Baby Sandy was in the movies and in the Toy Stores 
So, Crosby’s movie character attempts to find the baby’s parents and in the process eventually discovers the baby is the grandchild of a man who is the owner of a radio station. The film’s story has the usual movie plot twists and turns, but eventually Crosby’s character discovers the identity of the missing baby’s grateful parents. The grandfather, and radio station owner, rewards Crosby’s character with a permanent job crooning at the radio station. This happy circumstance results in Crosby finally being gainfully employed and ultimately being able to marry the Joan Blondell character. And, believe it or not, everyone lives happily ever after.
Bing sings the movie’s title song, “East Side of Heaven” for Joan Blondell and Baby Sandy (run time 1:54).

What happened to Baby Sandy? By 1948 she was basically a has-been in films.

Baby Sandy and co-star Mischa Auer from “East Side of Heaven”
 She eventually became a legal secretary for the city of Los Angeles and fortunately the money she made from her films, products and endorsements kept her afloat for most of her life. She had two sons and was married and divorced twice. When she retired she moved to North Carolina to be close to one of her sons. Her final appearance as an actress was in 2005 when she appeared in a Life Alert commercial for television.

And what about this Bing Crosby guy … what became of him? From what I understand he kept on singing and acting in movies and 6 years later, in 1945, he won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of a priest in the film “Going My Way.” A few years earlier Bing was the first to sing what would become a Holiday classic “White Christmas,” written by Irving Berlin. In the film “Holiday Inn” Bing sings “White Christmas” as a duet with actress Marjorie Reynolds (whose vocals were actually sung by Martha Mears) and that performance won the song an Oscar for Best Original Song in 1942. So, all in all, you might say the crooner, born in Tacoma and raised in Spokane, had a fairly successful career. For sure he had a few blemishes in his personal life … but don’t we all. On Oct.14, 1977, after playing a round of golf with friends at a golf course near Madrid Spain, he collapsed about 20 yards from the Clubhouse entrance and died instantly of a massive heart attack. He was 74.
Who the heck is Baby Sandy? Well now you know!

Author: Jay Hamilton

Jay Hamilton is a veteran disc jockey, program director, music director and radio programming consultant. In the Pacific Northwest, he is best remembered for his time at KMPS AM/FM during the '70s and '80s. Jay is now retired and lives on the Olympic Peninsula. Music, of nearly every genre, has always been an important aspect of his life and he frequently contributes opinions, articles and "Collectibles" to Puget Sound Media.
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21 thoughts on “Baby Sandy Gets Bing Crosby A Job In Radio

  1. Jay….my mom loved Bing and loathed Frankie. Myself, I liked Frank’s music better. But I have Bing’s Christmas album. I never heard of Baby Sandy. But it is an interesting story.

  2. Thanks so much for this great post! I always loved Bing’s singing, but I really enjoyed his earlier voice so much more than the way he sang in his later years. Really interesting info about Baby Sandy!

  3. Well Dick, I found that you not only share your birthday with “The Tall Texan” – Mr. Walker, but I discovered (curiosity got the best of me I’m afraid) you also share that birth date with Faye Dunaway, lead singer of the Seattle band The Foo Fighters – Dave Grohl, singer Jack Jones and believe it or not Benedict Arnold! Now there’s a claim to fame!

  4. Dick ~ What a fun video find! I’ve never been a huge fan of “The Sausage King” – Jimmy Dean, but throw in Jack Jones & “The Arizona Cowboy” – Rex Allen, Sr. and you’ve got something! •• Jack Jones won 2 Grammys, with one in ’62 for Best Pop Male Performance ~ “Lollipops & Roses” and in ’64, the same award, for “Wives & Lovers”. – Rex, Sr. had a huge hit in 1953 with “Crying In The Chapel” • #4 Country & #8 Pop. (Lots of folks recall the Elvis version, but that wasn’t until 1965). I was a fan of Rex’s son – Rex, Jr. – who had quite a number of Country hits in the 70s … including “Lonely Street” in ’77.

    Let me take this opportunity to make a correction. My original information source mistakenly listed the Crosby movie’s musical director, Charles Previn, as Andre’s father. He was, in fact, a cousin to Andre’s father. – As a mea culpa, here, “Just In Time”, is Andre with a little jazz piano.

    1. Jay,

      My favorite by Rex Allen Jr. is “Can You Hear Those Pioneers?” With Jack Jones it’s “L. A. Break Down (and Take Me In)”, and I’m always ready to hear Rex sing “Don’t Go Near the Indians”.

      Jack’s father, Allan Jones, recorded RCA Victor’s third biggest selling single ever the day Jack was born. The song was “The Donkey Serenade”. We played it occasionally on KLFF and I liked referring to it as “about as kinky as we get around here”.

      1. Rex Allen Jr’s “Goodbye” was great, but “Can You Hear Those Pioneers” was prettier. By the way, who were the other jocks at KLFF when you were there, Dick?

        1. Jason,

          There was Jim Spero’s Early Bird Show at 6:00 A. M, I worked from 10 to 2, Johnny McKinney 2 to 6, Karl Leuba from six to midnight, and Jim Murdock did the all-nighter.

          Tom Coulson the Jazz Mechanic, Stu Shelley, Gorgeous George, OM Dave Hixson, Dave Teller and others worked various shifts, behind the scenes and also on KONC-FM, the automated classical station. Tom lobbied for a long time and finally got a weekly jazz show. Frank Pollock did The Vintage Show Saturday Mornings.

          I was also doing weekends on the Real Country Network at KCWW 1580. Karl Leuba was listening and phoned one day from somewhere in the midwest. He was out of radio and driving an eighteen wheeler for some produce company. As he put it, “I’m a vegetable hauling vegetables”.

          I remember my first shift at KLFF, Sundays six until noon. Apparently, my predecessor hated his job. Tom Coulson relieved me and we hadn’t met. He walked in and said, “What a f—ing shock! I turned on the radio this morning and there was somebody who actually sounded like he was having a good time.” That’s about the best critique I ever got from anyone.

            1. About 1989 KLFF went satellite with Stardust Network.

              Frank Pollock, Jim Spero, Johnny McKinney and Jim Murdock had been in Phoenix radio for decades. Jim Murdock had also been a TV news anchor.

              I moved back to Seattle in 1993.

              1. Did you ever have the pleasure of hearing Matt Gerson’s Person To Person interviews on (KXAM)? They were a hoot! He repeatedly interrupted his big-name guest stars, often answering the questions that he had asked the guest. He did an interview with Eddie Albert, which I did enjoy. Eddie Albert seemed like a very kind, down to earth gentleman, much like the character he played on Green Acres. He tolerated Matt’s interruptions, taking it all in stride.
                I found this description online, of a Matt Gerson interview: “A Matt Gerson review contains no less than Matt Gerson’s SOUL. This is a man who cares about movies. This is a man who’s not afraid to show you he cares about movies. This is a man who’s not afraid to empty his thesaurus of adjectives, pile nouns on top of one another, and link dependent clauses together in trains longer than any ever joined by Southern Pacific. This is a man who’s not afraid to indulge in the purplest prose since Lord Bulwer-Lytton.”

                1. The name kind of rings a bell but that’s all. Wikipedia says he was heard on a station (then KIHP) owned by his family, and on nearly ten additional stations. Nearly??! Would that be nine? Would eight “almost” be nearly ten?

                  Dave Teller, KLFF’s PDINO, ended up at KXAM which I think was in Mesa. The station barely came in at my house way out west at 91st and Indian School, so I didn’t listen.

                  1. KIHP are the new call letters, owned by Catholic radio. Gerson’s family sold KXAM to the church. I lived out in Queen Creek, so reception was good.

      1. Andy Williams was great. My favorite tune of his is still “The Hawaiian Wedding Song”.

        I thought it was weird when he recorded “In the Summertime”, kind of like when Jack Jones recorded “The Race is On”.

        1. Andy’s actual 1st name was Howard. Can’t imagine listening to Howie Williams singing! Anyway, I remember his 1st hit “Butterfly” (3wks #1-’57) and his 1st LP, “Andy Williams Sings Steve Allen” (with all songs written or co-written by Allen), both on Cadence Records. Back then, Andy was a regular on Steve’s TV show. I’ve always been a fan of the original “Tonight Show” host, Steve Allen. Such an amazing renaissance man. So talented in so many different areas and he always made me laugh … especially when he got the giggles and had a laughing fit. Here’s Steve laughing (appears he sees how goofy he looks in his TV monitor) & Andy singing his 1st hit … in that order:

  5. Dick ~ 1st, I had meant to thank you for the wonderful Eggs Benedict pun. We’re still chortling about that one around our house! • I have to give my nod to “Dear Heart” as my favorite Jack Jones tune.

    • As for Rex Allen, Sr., I really admired his ability as a wonderful narrator … all those great Disney films like “The Legend Of Lobo”, “The Incredible Journey” and the Hanna-Barbera movie of “Charlotte’s Web”. Besides being one of the better “Singing Cowboys”, the guy had a truly wonderful speaking voice.

  6. I LOVE Baby Sandy! Started researching her about 5 years ago when someone gave my daughter a composition doll they found in their great aunt’s basement. It freaked them out but we think she’s adorable. Discoverer that she is a Baby Sandy doll.

    Her clothes have seen better days so I’m making her new period appropriate clothing.

    I had never heard of her before the doll gifting.

    Great article.

    1. Laurie:
      Thank you for the kind words about the Baby Sandy article. My wife is a sewer (quilt maker) and can relate to you wanting to update the doll’s clothing.
      There is no doubt, Baby Sandy was a beautiful baby! As they would have said back in her day: “She’s as cute as a button!”
      Thanks again, Jay

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