Dixie Lee

Dixie Lee

Dixie Lee was an American actress, dancer, and singer but is most remembered as being the first wife of legendary singer and actor Bing Crosby. Dixie was born Wilma Winnifed Wyatt on November 11, 1911 in Harriman, Tennessee.  Her parents, Evan and Nora Wyatt, were stage performers. Very beautiful and talented as a teenager she entered and won a competition to find “the girl who could most sing like Ruth Etting”.  She then landed a part in the hit Broadway musical, “Good News” where she caught the attention of Fox Studios. She signed a contract with Fox and at only eighteen years of age was soon on her way to Hollywood. Renamed Dixie Lee, she sang and danced in films such as “Fox Movietone Follies of 1929”, “The Big Party” (1930), and “Cheer Up and Smile” (1930).

Dixie Lee promo from the movie "Love In Bloom" (1935)

Dixie Lee and Bing Crosby first met in November of 1928 and Bing was immediately smitten. They met again at a party in Hollywood in early 1929. A hectic courtship ensued and she finally accepted his proposal for marriage over  dinner at the Cocoanut Grove. They married September 29, 1930, at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Hollywood. Dixie and Bing had four children together: Gary Crosby arrived first in October 1933, the twins, Phillip and Dennis came along in 1934, and Lindsay was born in 1938. Today, Phillip is the only child still living of Dixie and Bing’s  children. Dennis and Lindsay both reportedly committed suicide and Gary died of lung cancer in 1995.

Bing Crosby and Dixie Lee with their four children (L - R) Gary, Lindsay, Phillip, Dennis c.1938-39

When they were first married, Bing was just getting started and Dixie Lee was the more well known of the two. After their wedding Dixie became a stay at home wife and mother while letting her career recede, only appearing in a few more films and recording “The Way You Look Tonight” and “A Fine Romance” with Bing in 1936. According to Bing, Dixie “was very timid, terribly shy. It was awfully difficult to get her to make any kind of public appearance and that was the reason she never did anything more in show business. She just hated the exposure and the necessity to work with strangers and people she did not know.” With Bing gone constantly with his career, Dixie was mostly left at home by herself with the children. Battling her shyness Dixie gradually turned into a recluse and chronic depressive. To help cope with her problems Dixie began abusing alcohol and became an acute alcoholic.

Dixie Lee

On November 1, 1952 Dixie Lee Crosby died from ovarian cancer just three days before her 41st birthday. She was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City. In his biography ‘Call Me Lucky’ Bing wrote, “I’m going to miss her love, her steadfast and constructive support. She was the most completely honest person I’ve ever known, and one of the most courageous. I don’t ever want anything more in life than the memory of all she did for me.”

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