Guest Post – gpcox – Hooray for Hollywood…

gpcox has done a fantastic job of research for this Guest Post. I learned quite a bit about their participation and personal sacrifice. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Hollywood was aware of the threat of war long before Pearl Harbor.  The show biz paper “Variety” called the films

Abbott and Costello

Abbott and Costello

‘preparedness pix’ and by the end of 1940, there were 36 titles concerning the subject: “I Married a Nazi,” “Sergeant York” and “British Intelligence” were among them.  Non-Japanese oriental actors or Caucasians were hired to play the roles of Japanese villains, such as Peter Lorre as ‘Mr. Moto.’  War movies came out in the theatres as though popping off an assembly line.  Greer Garson seemed to save the entire British Army from Dunkirk in “Mrs. Minivier.”  Abbott and Costello continued their comedy routines in such films as “Keep’em Flying” and “Buck Privates.”  The home front craved to be entertained and listened to the comedy skits performed on radio, where the message was often ‘loose lips sink ships’.

The OWI had objections as to the content of some films, such as the youthful character ‘Andy Hardy’ that seemed oblivious that a war was being fought at all and the famous “Casablanca” that provided no message of purpose or example of U.S. patriotism.  Archibald MacLeish said that the theaters were “escapist and delusive.”  The OWI had no problem with radio programs such as “Amos & Andy” and “Fibber McGee and Molly,” both of which not only entertained the public, but got the war time messages out – loud and clear.  Singers were popping up not just in the radio shows.  Now the sweep of juke boxes was found in diners, taverns, barber shops and even gas stations.

 Shirley Temple serving the G.I.s

Shirley Temple serving the G.I.s

But, the actors and behind-the-scenes crews did far more for the war effort than the movies and radio shows.  The charismatic Clark Gable headed the Actor’s Committee for Stage, Screen & Radio and immediately began organizing tour groups to provide benefit performances for the Red Cross, Navy Relief Fund and many more.  Carole Lombard, actress and Gable’s wife, was killed during one of these tours and Dorothy Lamour (of the “Road to…” movies fame) finished her schedule of 10,000 miles to different defense plants and shipyards.  After recovering from a horrific bout of depression, Gable joined the Air Force.

The Hollywood Canteen was started by John Garfield and he made Bette Davis the President of the organization.

Hollywood Canteen

Hollywood Canteen

Hollywood Canteen

Hollywood Canteen

The actress converted a livery stable into the social center of Hollywood with the aid of studio workmen.  Hedy Lamarr, when asked to help out in the kitchen, replied that she couldn’t cook.  Davis put her to work washing dishes and Lamarr ended up meeting her future husband at the canteen.  Wikipedia lists 300 celebrities that contributed to the canteen’s success.

A movie was made in 1944 simply called, “Hollywood Canteen,” and was filled with a cast that played themselves.  To name only a few that appeared: Andrew Sisters, Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor, Sydney Greenstreet, Alan Hale, and Peter Lorre.

Glen Miller

Glen Miller

With all that Hollywood was doing for the war effort, General Lewis Hersey provided draft deferments, but many enlisted anyway.  Jimmy Stewart gained ten pounds so that he would pass the physical.  I have greatly shortened the list from to give everyone an idea of their service.

Don Adams  (“Get Smart”) – USMC Guadalcanal

James Arness (“Gunsmoke”) –  U.S. Army – wounded at Anzio, Bronze Star & Purple Heart

James Arness

James Arness

Ernest Borgnine  (“McHale’s Navy”) – U.S. Navy, 12 years, joined before WWII

Mel Brooks  (Director, Producer, Actor) – U.S. Army, Battle of the Bulge

Julia Child  (Chef) – OSS service in Ceylon and China

Charles Durning (TV, movies & stage) – U.S. Army, Omaha Beach D-Day, 3 Purple Hearts & Silver Star

Glen Ford (movie star) – U.S. Navy Captain, remained in reserves after the war, retired after Vietnam

Lee Marvin (movie star) – USMC, Saipan

Gene Kelly

Gene Kelly

Gene Kelly (Dancer, movies & stage) – U.S. Naval Air Service

Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson (“Tonight Show”) – U.S. Navy Ensign

Ed McMahon (“Tonight Show”) – USMC captain, Corsair fighter pilot, also served in Korean War

Ed McMahon

Ed McMahon

Bea Arthur  (“Maude,” “Golden Girls”) – USMC SSgt.

Bea Arthur

Bea Arthur

During WWII, the Greatest Generation proved that all needed to work together, and the same goes today.  Judy and I want every story put down for posterity, so let us know your stories…

RESOURCES:  “Let the Good Times Roll” by Paul D. Casolorph; “Americans Remember the Home Front” by Roy Hoopes; Wikipedia; Hollywood, Internet Movie Database;; tumbler; midatlanticnostalgia

Do you have any memories of war movies or stories about entertainment during the War? Share them in your comments.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back in 1943 with news from Grandpa and the boys.

Judy Guion

27 thoughts on “Guest Post – gpcox – Hooray for Hollywood…

  1. Great post. It made me go and look up Carole Lombard’s life. We happened to bump into Ernest Borgnine on a visit to Chicago in 2009, when he was an Honorary Marshal for the Columbus Day Parade!

  2. bennythomas says:

    Wasn’t Bob Hope entertaining troops during the War effort?Jimmy Stewart joined Air Force I remember. As a war child the War impacted me though I was never anywhere in the conflict zone. I had an uncle who was Army doctor in Singapore when the city fell. Another uncle of mine was in the hospital which was bombed and nothing more was known.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      bennythomas – Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you’ll come back and read some of my posts also. On the left, below my picture, you can read about the letters my posts are based on.
      Yes, I believe Bob Hope was traveling all over the world with a USO troupe. Google “World War II, Bob Hope” and you’ll find a tom of articles about him entertaining the troops.

    • gpcox says:

      The USO was covered in the previous guest post and Bob Hope has always been the main star in that theatre. I chose to write about the others who were not quite so flamboyant about their war efforts and did not get the exposure that Hope received.

  3. Mrs. P says:

    Gpox, this is a fantastic post. I just love it when a post makes me want to jump to other sites to explore and get a broader understanding of a subject and this one did just that. I find it quite interesting how humble most of Hollywood veterans are about their service to their country, having done their duty quietly an honorably, even when they could have stayed home.

    • gpcox says:

      Mrs. P – Great to hear from you and find that Judy and I are continuing to supply you with stories that interest you. It was quite a pleasure to do the research for all the guest posts as they got me out of my usual area and helped me to see other sides of the total picture. Yes, our celebrities back then quietly branched out to help this country – not so much with today’s stars.

  4. Gallivanta says:

    Gosh, it’s hard to say which guest post has been my favourite so far. They have all been fascinating.

    • Judy Guion says:

      I really enjoy this collaboration also. I learn so much from a broader perspective but I also like the focus on each separate post. Thank you, gpcox.

  5. There were so very many Hollywood celebrities who were at their peak in stardom who gave it all up to serve their country. I ran across this website that has 25 pages with multiple stars on each page who served in some capacity:

  6. swabby429 says:

    Julia Child and Bea Arthur were the surprises on the list for me.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      swabby429 – gpcox was only able to add a few pictures and names. There was a link in the post that directed you to another site that had further information. It really was very interesting. Why not take a look?

  7. Sugar Bee Chronicles says:

    This is just fabulous; I am SO glad I stumbled into this blog! Can’t hardly wait for the next installments!

  8. Pierre Lagacé says:

    I enjoyed every post you did.
    As for having any memories of war movies or stories about entertainment during the War… None but the movie Air Force I saw when I was 10 (1958) got me hooked to aviation and history.
    Did I say hooked?

    • Judy Guion says:

      Pierre – “Hooked?” – I would say that is a very mild word to describe your obsession…. but I’m very glad you saw “Air Force” when you were so impressionable. Imagine all you have done in making the sacrifices of pilots, around the world, known and truly honored for their part in this world wide event.

  9. gpcox says:

    Reblogged this on pacificparatrooper and commented:
    This is the 6th article I have written for Greatest Generation Lessons and since I value the opinion of the readers, I would like to ask you all to tell me which one you enjoyed the most:
    1- American Family Life in the 1940’s
    2- Technical & Ground Force Coordination
    3- When Making a Car Was Illegal
    4- It was hard to keep the good times rollin’
    5- There’ll Be a Hot Time…
    6- Hooray For Hollywood…
    Thank you all for being such loyal readers and friends.

    • I enjoyed this post and the others as well. Bea Arthur as a Marine Staff Sergeant–somehow it made sense. Post #1 was especially meaningful as it puts life on the home front in perspective.

      • gpcox says:

        Your vote is recorded with my thanks, also the re-blog – I’m honored. Doesn’t Bea Arthur’s photo look like a mug shot?

      • Judy Guion says:

        warturoadam77p – I think this collaboration I have going with gpcox is especially important because gpcox broadens the scope of the viewpoint of that era but my posts bring everything down to a very personal view of one family. Yes, it is the story of my family, but it is also the story of every other family who lived through this time period.

        • I agree, there are many parallels. The letters written by your family members reminded me of my relationship with my brothers and sister growing up.

          • Judy Guion says:

            I would like it if you would share your experiences in your comments. I believe that it is family traditions and stories that hold a family together like glue and encourage you to share them with my readers but also with your family. Have you written any of them down for future generations? My grandfather had no idea what he was starting when he wrote the first letters to Lad and Dan in Venezuela, but I feel that his legacy continues to affect many more than just his children. I know they are having an effect on his great-grandchildren because they let me know. Just last week, a cousin commented that her father gave each of his children a present on HIS birthday and she had no idea why. In one of my posts, Grandpa mentions the gits he has given to his children on HIS birthday! The legacy continues.

            • Yes, I have memoirs written a little over a year ago. My compilation inspired my brother and sister to also write down memories. My older brother and myself have exchanged our stories. What fun it was to read each other’s stories. The story about my blue car was an excerpt from my memoirs. Other snippets written about in my blog are: “The Old Barn,” Blackberry Quests,” “Playing Second Fiddle,” “Babbling Bob, and Others Like Him,” “Stick to the Basics, Please.” My older brother was left in charge of preparing the evening meals when my mother went to night school to finish degree requirements and to keep her teaching certificate current.

              My younger brother and I teased him unmercifully–which I am not proud of today, in reflection. My father would be still working late farming. I’ve since made peace with my older brother. The aforementioned is what reminded me of your family’s story. I hope you were nicer to your siblings. BTW, my memoirs are in a story entitled, “Reflections: My Journey from Childhood to Adulthood.”

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