Julie Andrews and Bing Crosby in “High Tor”

hightormaxwellanderson1937.jpgPulitzer Prize-winning playwright, author, poet, reporter and lyricist Maxwell Anderson, came to the aid of High Tor Mountain in 1936 when he wrote an immensely popular verse play of the same name, “High Tor.” The United States Traprock Company was interested in purchasing the peak at the time and planned to remove the rear side of the mountain for the aggregate it contained. Traprock, now called Tilcon, had already tore down the peak directly south of High Tor. Anderson wove an intricate tale of bribery and the supernatural and eventually prompted the Palisades Interstate Park Commission to save the mountain from industry shovels. The story, as told by the Dramatists Play Service, begins as follows:

“Towering above the Hudson River stands a magnificent headland, High Tor, which has been known to river folk ever since Hudson first sailed up the river. Some years ago a company mined the mountain south, leaving only a false front. Now High Tor may meet with the same fate. Van Dorn, young heir to High Tor, is about to lose his rights to a double-dealing firm of real estate men. Van Dorn meets Judith, who wants him to leave High Tor and live in New York, but this he does not wish to do. Complications arise from a bank robbery in a neighboring town and the appearance of the robbers on High Tor. This is further complicated by the introduction of the ghosts of the Dutch crew of Hudson’s lost ship “Onrust,” with a resulting duel of wits between the conflicting groups.”

On March 10, 1956, the CBS network presented “High Tor” as part of its “Ford Star Jubilee” evening movie. The film starred Bing Crosby, Julie Andrews, Nancy Olson, Hans Conreid, and Keenan Wynn. It has been said that, “Bing Crosby had seen Julie Andrews in herbing-high-tor.gif Broadway debut in The Boy Friend (in which she was still appearing at the time), and invited her to appear in the film”. This was Julie Andrews film and television debut. Because Bing Crosby was used to shooting movies on film and was not familiar with live television broadcast, he demanded “High Tor” be conventionally filmed and then broadcast over television. Because of this, “High Tor” is considered the first made-for-TV movie in history. Segments of the movie are shot in Haverstraw and at High Tor Mountain. Haverstraw and several local legends and sites are mentioned by name dozens of times in the film by Nancy Olsen and Bing Crosby. At one point, Crosby and Olsen exclaim, “the Nanuet bank’s been robbed!” and at another segment Crosby reminisces his work at “the Chair Factory” (the Empire Chair Factory, which was just recently demolished) and compares it to Sing Sing across the Hudson River. The plot of the movie is very similar to the Broadway counterpart and is as follows:

“Crosby portrays Van Van Dorn, who owns a mountain (“High Tor”) near the Hudson River on the Tappan Zee. Van Dorn is under pressure to sell his real estate, and, at the same time, is having doubts about his impending marriage to Judith (Nancy Olson). Judith leaves him because she feels that he should sell High Tor, as the profits would provide for their future. A freak rock slide traps Van Dorn and the realtors on High Tor; as Van searches for help, he meets the spirit of a Dutch girl by the name of Lisa (Julie Andrews). Lisa and the spirits of Dutch sailors have inhabited High Tor for over 300 years since they were killed in a shipwreck. Of course, Lisa falls in love with Van. Songs include “Once Upon a Long Ago”, a duet for Crosby and Andrews, “Sad is the Life of a Sailor’s Wife”, a solo for Andrews, and “When You’re in Love”…”

No doubt, “High Tor” as the mountain, as the play and movie, is an integral part of the history that shaped the Village of Haverstraw. Few residents even realize that legendary actors like Bing Crosby and Julie Andrews starred in a film about their city and their mountain. As Haverstraw remains in the shadow of High Tor Mountain, it remains shrouded in its history as well…

1956, High Tor, Julie Andrews performs “Once Upon a Long Ago” with Bing Crosby:

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24 thoughts on “Julie Andrews and Bing Crosby in “High Tor”

  1. Just a minor correction: The original 1936 work was not a musical, but a verse play. Anderson remade High Tor into a musical for the 1956 broadcast, writing the lyrics to Arthur Schwartz’s music.

  2. No DVD, but I did find a VHS on eBay for sale. I would google the movie for sale, and see what you find. It is a very interesting movie, and if you’re from the area, very weird to see Crosby and Andrews talking about Haverstraw and other local places.

  3. I’m looking for lyrics from Julie’s song “Sad is the Life of a Sailor’s Wife” by Maxwell Anderson. I’m helping with a major event here in Greece on the erection of a stature to commemorate the wives of sailors who went off to sea. I’m hoping some of the lyrics might be appropriate to use on the web site and program literature. I’ve been unable to find anything from a net search. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Sad is the life of a sailor’s wife
      When he’s far across the sea
      She rakes the embers, and sadly remembers
      And brews one cup of tea

      The waves roll in and the mist rolls in
      And she watches from the shore
      And the leaves are thin, and the storms begin
      When the winter shades her door

      Oh, soft are the lips that wait for you
      And there’s hunger in her eyes
      Home, home oh, you sailor man
      Turn to the morning sky

      Back to the eastward
      Back to the sunrise
      Back where your lady lies

      Sad is the life,
      Sad is the life
      Sad is the life of the sailor’s wife

  4. Well, one correction that needs to be made is the Onrust was not a Hudson ship but rather built at the tip of Manhattan by Adriaen block and his crew when their ship the Tyger burned in 1613. The replica of Onrust is now being built in upstate (www.theonrust.com) but this is an interesting part of the Onrust lore I did not know about it earlier.

  5. Yes – Anderson took some artistic license with New York Dutch History. It is not known, however, whether the Onrust traveled up the Hudson at all. It did travel around Long Island and the Jersey coast; Block Island is known after Adiraen Block . . .

  6. Nothing really directly related to the movie but I can recall climbing (from the West side) to the top, or at least near there, with my dad, when I was just a young boy. He had purchased 25 acres up past what was then High Tor Vineyards. Not sure if they still exist or not but later, I think in the early to mid 60’s, the property was acquired by the vineyard. What a beautiful view over looking the Hudson. I can still recall how strong the wind blew up and over the cliff. My dad’s dream was to one day build a home up there, but that never came to be. Had he built that house it would have been “ol’ homecoming” for us as my family was part of the early development of Rockland County back in the 1700’s.

    1. Sadly, the High Tor Vineyard is no longer in business. I believe it is now part of the State Park? Someone correct me if I’m wrong. I’m interested in seeing whether the vineyard vines are still there. It really is such a beautiful area, and it’s unfortunate that your father never got to build a house here. Thank you for posting! Always feel free to stop by and leave more comments!

  7. I am interested in the Vineyard that was purchased by bing Crosby’s brother on High Tor. The Phillips family had a home that was purchased by theVinery. Wm. Phillips father was Gilbert Philips who had been in the Havestraw area for several generation Wms. wife was Catherrine ann Knapp who is buried in Mt Respose cemetary. Her son was the summer caretaker at Bear Mountain Park. Any information on the decendants of Gilbert or Wm would be greatly appreciated. Carolee Liberatore

  8. I was completely unaware of this history! It’s incredible that Crosby’s brother owned the vineyard – you’re positive about this? I’m unaware of what happened to the Phillips family, although this is still a common Haverstraw surname. Howard Phillips is the current Supervisor of the Town of Haverstraw. I’m positive that my great-grandfather Patrick “patsy” Natale of West Street (and previously, Grassy Point) knew William Phillips’ son, as he was in WPA and helped to build Bear Mountain Park.

    1. You are correct. Wm. Phillip’s son (George) worked in Bear Mountain summers until his death. He used to drive north from Georgia for the summers for his caretaker duties. He owned a home on the property he purchased from the Crosbys. When

      George died his son Gilbert tried to recover America Revolution treasures from the home he owned on the property next to the Vineyard only to find they had been stolen. Attemtps to retrieve them where fruitless.
      Sadly gone was a sword from the Revoution.

      George brought a brick from the old home to Georgia and placed it in the foundation of his home where his grandaughter still resides.

  9. high tor vineyards was owned by everett crosby from 1949 until 1970. he wrote a book about the vineyards published in 1973. he died in 1994. i recall the fact that everett being a brother of bing being a matter of some debate. remarkable coincidence nevertheless.

  10. I worked there for a period from 1968 thru 1972, I believe he sold it later than you indicate but it was about that time.There were some rather interesting occurences over the years on that property when I was working there and I remember talking to him about some of the aspects of his consideration to sell and the omens that the land produced.

    1. Sorry for all the questions, but: You worked for a Crosby brother at the Vineyard? Are you confirming that it was Crosby’s brother that owned the High Tor Vineyard? Was the land sold directly to the State of New York? Did they ever make mention of the film? I heard that in the woods above the State Park and pool area there are still grape vines growing, which can still be harvested. Thanks for replying here!

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