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Saturday, November 26, 2016

HOLLYWOOD AND THE WORLD WAR II YEARS

Would you believe that during World War II Hollywood matinee idol Clark Gable flew several B-17 missions to acquire film footage? How about leading man Jimmy Stewart flying B-17s and B-24s in raids over Germany?

It’s true and as a veteran, Stewart was highly decorated for his bravery while rising to the rank of Brigadier General. Gable flew many missions and rose to the rank of Captain. These are just two examples of how Hollywood got immersed in the war effort during those perilous times between 1941 and 1945.

Seventy-five years ago this month on December 7, 1941, “A date which will live in infamy,” the Japanese attacked the American base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii thrusting the United States into World War II. By June of 1942 the Office of War Information was established and one of its duties was to advise Hollywood about what they thought were appropriate films to depict the war. Various themes were used like glorification of the war, attempts at showing a balanced point of view, morale builders, and some “Let’s mow ‘em down" flicks.

Clark Gable in a B-17 during WWII
Some of the efforts in the 1942-1943 era were not only considered good “war” movies  but are remembered as great films in general  as they have withstood the test of time. “Guadacanal Diary” (1943),“Wake Island” (1942), and “Objective, Burma!” (1945) are good examples. They were based on real events insofar as they concerned themselves with actual places and combat initiatives, but another purpose was to pump up the audience as much as to present information. By doing so, they usually depicted an ethnically mixed group of US soldiers drawn together despite their differences by their patriotism, while illustrating their hatred of a common enemy. 

After dismal early failures, the war pendulum began to swing back toward the allies in 1943 and 1944. At that time Hollywood began producing more films aimed at depicting life on the home front. Movies like “Tender Comrades” (1943) and “Since You Went Away” (1944) showed moviegoers how the families of servicemen coped with the war while they were gone.

Many upbeat musicals were made during wartime with some of them slipping in negative remarks about the enemy and praising the American point of view.  Patriotism was “in” and great support was given to activities like scrap metal drives and “victory gardens” to help offset rationing and support the war effort. Films like Jimmy Cagney’s award winning “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (1942) exemplified those feelings.

Other musicals like “Stage Door Canteen” (1943) and Hollywood Canteen” (1944) were star studded favorites that dealt more directly with the current war effort.  In these films various Hollywood stars would perform in a USO Club setting while serving food and drinks and mingling with servicemen, mostly enlisted.

There were also song and dance extravaganzas like “Holiday Inn” (1942) with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire that made no mention of the war but were produced to serve as enjoyable reminders of American life and what our veteran servicemen were fighting for. “Christmas in Connecticut” with Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan was released after the war in 1945 and dealt with a Navy veteran returning home to post war America.

Besides the many films made about World War II, Hollywood also went on the road as screen stars traveled far and wide on USO tours to entertain the veteran troops. The USO (United Service Organizations) was established in 1941 and by 1944 had 3,000 clubs operating. These clubs went a long way to provide entertainment and a touch of home for troops worldwide.

While many stars were involved with entertaining the troops, none were more famous than Bob Hope.  His first show was at March Field in California in March of 1941. Hope did his show before the United States was even involved with World War II. He then traveled tirelessly throughout the war with his litany of military jokes entertaining thousands of troops at the front. Hope wasn’t alone as songwriter Irving Berlin, character actor Reginald Gardner, harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler, singer Frances Langford, comedian Jack Benny, and actress Marlene Dietrich were among many others who visited the troops.

Other stars like pinup girl Betty Grable, Bette Davis, Greer Garson, and Rita Hayworth stayed on the home front and were instrumental in raising support for war bonds and other war related causes like scrap drives. Hayworth even contributed the bumpers off her personal car.

This activity by the stars showed the American people that if the movie stars could deprive themselves of certain niceties, it certainly would be all right for Mary and John Q. Public to do likewise.

The era of World War II was a time of unity in the United States when our people pitched in together toward the war effort.  It also was a time when Hollywood was there to do its part.


41 comments:

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks for reading my latest blog concerning Hollywood's part in supporting our troops during World War 2. Please leave comments you may have below.

Regards, JM

Rick Kepple said...

I always thought that Rita Hayworth looked like my mom in her youthful photos.

Nice blog, Jimmy! You mentioned a few films that I'm unfamiliar with and will have to watch.

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks for the comment, Rick.

Those are all great films and are nice examples of the types of movies produced during WWII.

It definitely was a hectic time in American history and those films played a big part in keeping the positive attitude on the home front. I think That "Objective Burma" with Errol Flynn was particularly good. It was a time when this country needed something to cheer about and those films played an important role.

I hope you and your friends had a nice Missouri Thanksgiving.

Steve Cimino said...

Love reading this Jim hope you and Barb are having a relaxing holiday.

Jim McAllister said...

Hey Steve!

Great to hear from you. I don't get to hear from many fellow airmen these days.

Thanks for the nice comment about the blog. Hope all is well with you and your family.

Take care.

Greg Bartnicki said...

As always a thoughtful piece Jim! I was familiar with several of the movies, but not all. Certainly look forward to looking them up to pass the Chicago winter!

And great spending some time with you and Barb over the Thanksgiving weekend! Look forward to catching up next month!

Arizona Dave said...

Nice article Jim...makes you proud of a great country pulling together...I can remember my parent giving me permission to honk our car horn for a long period of time when World War II ended in 1945.

Where did all the time go...Thanks again for the 75 year ago memories.

Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable were two of the best...remembering going on a tour of Hollywood years ago and seeing Jimmy Stewart's home, across the street from Lucille Ball.

Glo, Daughter & Niece of WW II Vets said...

Hi Jim,
Yeah, that was the era when Americans pulled together for a common philosophy and cause. I still have a few ration tickets from my Mom from that time. One of her WW II jobs was in Sperry Gyroscope, just like so many other women ‘man’d up’ and pulled together to help the war cause – can you say Rosie the Riveter? I loved learning about the war and the Allies and bad guys, and grew up with TV shows about the war – 12 O’clock High, Combat, Garrison’s Gorillas, The Gallant Men, and the like. With apologies to my female compatriots, that time in history was when men were men. I remember watching all of those 1940s movies about the war when I was a kid in the early-mid-60s. And I have to admit, I am addicted to the AHC channel on Cox cable and have been watching many shows recently about the war and quite a few about Hitler – he was a fascinating if totally evil being.

Can you imagine the young men and women ‘stars’ of today volunteering to go out and fight for their country (exceptions like Pat Tillman notwithstanding?) Yeah, I can see Sean Penn suiting up and saluting the American flag …

Trivia: The first woman who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the first woman killed in the line of duty in World War II was Jane Alice Peters. Most people know her better as Mrs. Clark Gable, or Carole Lombard. She was killed in a plane crash flying home from hawking war bonds to help the effort. I’m sure Susan Sarandon would be doing the same …

Steve Kloscak said...


How about that, the good old days when Hollywood actors actually loved America. Now we have these worthless America hating lib morons.

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks, Greg.

That was a fun evening. It's always a good time to party with you, Audrey, Barb, and Chris especially in your great decorated yard.

Yes, those were great films and I only mentioned a few. It was a different Hollywood then; there was a lot of loyalty from the actors of those days. A lot different today with the spoiled crew out there now. Now we have a bunch of protesters who wouldn't know how to be loyal to the country that has made them rich.

Jim McAllister said...

Living in Tuba City I saw most of those films in the early 50’s as they were no longer first run and could be had on the cheap. All in the audience were appreciative of our servicemen’s sacrifices and this was long before the Code Talkers were finally revealed. (1968) For some reason the Navajo’s picked the Marine Corps for enlistment.

I did not know then that my stepmother and older 3 sisters were at Topaz (near Delta, Utah) in the mid 40’s. Martha was a teacher and taught the Japanese kids and my 3rd sister was in with them for the early grades while the other two went to Hinckley, Utah for their grade school. That is a shameful part of history. My closest sister (#4), parents, and I were in Cannonball, N.D. at that time with my Dad being a teaching Principal at the Cannonball Day School (yes, where all the pipeline protests are taking place).

Those films today are very schmaltzy and heavy on propaganda. Corny,even!

Jim Johnson

Jim McAllister said...

Hi Jim,

No question about it; there was some propaganda and schmaltz in those films. Usually at the end of the film there would be scenes of guys marching or fighting with the flag in the background while heroic music played. It sure goosed up the audiences into a "Let's go get those bastards!" attitude.

Today, we have a lot of people who don't know the definition of "patriotism." People like Michael Moore and others in Hollywood who feel that this country will always be in the wrong even though they sure like living here and enjoying a rich lifestyle that the U.S. has allowed them to have.

I truly believe that one of the biggest mistakes the U.S. Has ever made was discontinuing the military draft in 1973. A lot od those pretesting clowns could stand to do a hitch.

Jim McAllister said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim McAllister said...

Hi Dave,

Yeah, 75 years sure disappear in a hurry especially when we see that we were alive at that time.

One of my fave photos from that era is of that sailor grabbing that gal on the street in Times Square after the war was over and laying a gigantic kiss on her. That appeared on the cover of "Life" magazine in the days when magazines were still a popular thing.

Jim McAllister said...

Glo,

It definitely was a different world and different attitudes in those war years. The Hollywood wimps of today are a bunch of draft dodgers and whiners. they just want to take what they can get and give nothing back.

I loved the film "12 O'Clock High" and they followed it in the 60s with a nice TV show of the same name starring Robert Lansing.

Very true about carole Lombard. She was flying from Las vegas after a fund drive and died in a palne cras. Very sad; great actress and comedian. I have read that Gable never got over losing her.

CJinPhoenix said...

Hi, Jim. Just thought I would stop in & see what the good old days were like again for a moment ... All the war activity of the World War years certainly had a downside but I truly believe that the good outweighed the bad in our country. Now all the strength of character & discipline & humble respect that it built in our people is slowly but surely going away. BTW, I got a new job. Nowadays, I work in the jail downtown.

Jim McAllister said...

CJ,

Good to hear from you. You and Gloria were two of my first blog responders back in 2006 and both of you have responded to this one. That's a neat coincidence.

I agree on the attitude changes in this country now. "Strength of character & discipline & humble respect" says it all today. The younger generation never had it so good yet they act as though they are persecuted. It's sad; it's as though they feel they should be rebels just to be rebels. I say they are just a bunch of spoiled brats.

Take care and good luck with your job at the jail.

Joe Finnerty said...

Nice commentary, Jim.

I saw many war time movies while a teen during the years 1942-1945 before I got drafted into the Army Air Force. Thanks to TCM, I have seen many of them numerous times since. Although you mentioned a few, the studios released few block buster musicals during those years that I can recall except for “Yankee Doodle Dandy,”

The movies showed civilians how Doolittle bombed Tokyo and gave us a fairly good understanding of what our military had to overcome to win the battles of Guadalcanal, Midway, Wake Island and Tarawa, something newspapers and radio could not match.

But the best movies Hollywood made at the time were those graphic and horrifying depictions of men infected by venereal disease. After seeing them, many warriors including myself preferred to be shredded by shrapnel rather than become maimed by VD.

Rick Kepple said...

Wow Jimmy, you're getting some comments on this story! Good job! Even CJ made another rare appearance. I hope she and Gloria are doing well.

If Trump's son does have Autism, then I'm in like Flint.

Jim McAllister said...

Hi Joe,

Great to hear from you. I hope all is well.

"Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942) has always been a favorite of mine. I'm a Cagney fan and he had a great supporting cast with Frances Langford and George Tobias; great character actors.

Cagney had it all: He could range from a snarling little gangster into great song and dance shows like "Footlight Parade" from 1933. I love the scene in YDD when he skips down the steps at the end after talking to FDR. Great stuff!

I've seen a few samples of the films regarding VD and if the war didn't scare a guy the thought of VD sure would. Boys will be boys!

Thanks for reading the blog.

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks, Rick.

Yeah, nice to hears from CJ. Now and then she and Gloria leave comments. Always good to hear from them. They were the first two ladies that ever commented on the original blog from 2006.

Rick Kepple said...

Yep, 2006 was a very good year. I bought a brand new John Deere tractor that year with a front end loader and lots of implements. Then two years later got some bad advice and sold it to go to a concert. I've done lots of cool things, been hanging with musicians, Nashville producers tell me to call them, or they'll call me and it's been weird. I just like the challenge of the work.

I thought of writing something for the New Yorker. A humor piece maybe. Jen's with her boyfriend tonight, the Amish dude. She likes horses, light beer and long dresses.

I'm still waiting on a rich chick. If you set impossible goals, you will never have disappointment by the reality of normal people.

Rick Kepple said...

Well, the New Yorker has to go on the back burner now. We created that PSA that hasn't been released on radios in our area yet for Loving Paws Adoption Center. New radio voice, Katie Chiles, from nearby is very impressive and she was backed up by Nick West. Jen's shouting out the next perfect place for us to move. She wants the gifted friends to have a really nice studio, plus a garden space and pasture for pony.

If I'd have kept that tractor Jimmy, it would have probably been the death of me. Jen took away my chainsaw. She would have made me stop using the heavy machinery too. I'm not sometimes right thinking mind the in, so Jen is taking over.

Re: CJ and Glo, it's always good to have such professionals backing your writing up. That's always welcome and makes you feel necessary in life to just creating something to leave behind as a legacy for others. Jimmy writes well.

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks, Rick.

I've had a lot of comments come and go through the years but you are probably my most loyal.

Thanks!

Mike Slater said...

Hi Jim. Another great blog as usual.

My Dad enlisted in the Coast Guard after graduating High School in 1942 and was sent to California. While he was there one day he had a bad nose bleed and went to the infirmary to have it looked at. He was helped by a coast Guard pharmacist's mate by the name of Gig Young the actor. Dad always enjoyed telling the story how he met Gig Young.

Some others that served in the armed services in WW11 that were not famous at the time but would be later on were actors Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and Charles Durning.

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks Mike,

Interesting stuff! Those guys are some of my all time favorites in film.

Gig Young was hilarious in "Teacher's Pet" from 1958, the year I graduated from high school. It shows up on TV occasionally and if you haven't seen it he is great.

The same goes for Borgnine, Durning, and Lee Marvin. I believe Marvin died in Tucson and just saw Durning last week on TV in "Tootsie." When i think of Borgnine I always remember him as "Marty" from 1955. Great film!

Glo said...

On this 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I salute all the brave men and women who fought to make our country and the world free. Oh, also - I spit on Japan's Prime Minister Abe for not planning to apologize for his country's despicable cowardice in a sneak attack bombing of innocent Americans. My only criticism of Harry Truman: that he didn't order more bombs and wipe out Tokyo and a few other places on that aggressive, virulent island.

Glo, The Writer said...

PS Thanks, Rick for the kind words. It's not like I have a choice to write - it's who and what I am. :)

Jim McAllister said...

Glo,

Great comment as usual: Right to the point and logical. What the hell was their point in that attack? They didn't continue it to the mainland; it was just a despicable single piece of nonsense.

I was only 7 months old at the time so I can't remember anything about it from experience. I do know that General Paul Tibbetts, a fellow Ohioan and one of my heroes, did a great service to his country when he dropped the "big one" from the Enola Gay on them a few years later. A great example of "an eye for an eye." Through the years afterward he was asked if he ever regretted doing it and he said he never lost one minute of sleep from it. The guy was a true stud!

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

Marty is a great film. Ernie Borgnine well deserved thew Oscar for Best Actor that year (1955.) Good supporting players in the film too.

Borgnine was great in character roles. He could play great characters like Marty or do slapstick crap like McHale's Navy on TV during the early 60's. Another good role of his was as a slob in Bad Day at Black Rock from 1954. He lived a long life for a fat guy dying in 2012 at 95.

As I mentioned above, General Paul Tibbitts is one of my heroes for dropping the big one on Japan. When the liberal press tried to make him look bad later because of dropping the bomb he simply said that he never lost one minute of sleep over it. He was a real stud.

Mike Slater said...

Jim, dropping the bomb saved thousands of American military lives. We probably should have used in the Korean war as well.

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

I agree. It basically put an end to the war with one big blast. Bless the crew of the Enola Gay! I always liked Tibbett's line afterwards: "They started it, we finished it."

Mike Slater said...

Jim, those that fought in WW11 were called the Greatest Generation for a reason. To bad it's not like that today.

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

There are too many generations between WWII and now who are uninformed about this country's history and the bravery of the guys who fought then so we could enjoy the lifestyles of today. The liberal educators and networks like CNN want no part of that stuff; they would rather glorify a piece of puke like Jane Fonda and then try to prove that Trump did not win the election fairly. This latest bullshit about the Russians helping him is the craziest of all. They must be down to their last hopes.

I love the old saying that "Every knock is a boost." This Russian thing is going to backfire and make those fools look even more stupid than one could imagine.

Message to liberals: TRUMP WON! HILLARY LOST! Deal with it you f-cking losers!

Mike Slater said...

Jim, liberals can't accept defeat for some reason even though they keep losing. From the president down to Governors and state legislatures they lose. I think there is only 4 or 5 states that are run by Democrats. Their lives will be terrible for the next 4 to 8 years.

I'm really going to enjoy Trump being the President and liberals whining.

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

There are 31 Republican governors and 18 Dems. California is the main Dem stronghold and probably the reason that Hillary won the popular vote along with New York which is where she lives. Ya gotta love the dummies who complain that she should be pres. because she won the popular vote. The whole 2.5 million she supposedly won by was probably from California which is a Dem and illegal alien stronghold.

I think there is too big a time frame between the election and the takeover by the new Pres. I want Obama gone NOW!

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

There are 31 Republican governors and 18 Dems. California is the main Dem stronghold and probably the reason that Hillary won the popular vote along with New York which is where she lives. Ya gotta love the dummies who complain that she should be pres. because she won the popular vote. The whole 2.5 million she supposedly won by her was probably from California which is a Dem and illegal alien stronghold.

I think there is too big a time frame between the election and the takeover by the new Pres. I want Obama gone NOW!

Mike Slater said...

Jim, I guess the liberals never read Article 2 section 1 of the U.S. Constitution on how a president is elected. It's not by popular vote but by the Electoral College. I believe this is the fifth time in our history that the winner of the popular vote lost the election. The last time it happened was in 2000 with Al Gore.

The liberals are acting like two year old's throwing a fit because they can't get their way.

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

It's what we have come to expect from the loser government dependent scum liberals. If they want more proof that Trump won the country all they have to do is look at a US map with red for the areas taken by Reps and blue for Dems. It's hard to even find a blue county. The only reason she got more popular votes is because the landslides she had in places like New York and California.

It's just more proof of what dumb asses they are. Like Jesus said; "Forgive them Lord; they know not what they do." Nice of him to feel that way but in my case I simply say "F-ck 'em."

Mike Slater said...

Jim, it's now official Trump will be the President. I hope all the liberal pukes enjoy the next 4 or 8 years especially the Arizona Republic a-holes like Montini, Valdez and Roberts. It's going to be fun.

Jim McAllister said...

I'm with you, Mike. The actual electoral votes yesterday simply reinforced the correctness of the election and that was like pouring salt in the wounds of the loser jerk dems. They just can't get used to losing this one. Personally, I'm savoring every moment of it.

Now all those worthless candy ass students and other liberals can get their asses to work and see how the world really lives. I hope one of the first things we see is the cops getting more authority instead of being told to lay down by that worthless POS Obama. Good riddance to him and Hillary; two losers along with worthless Moochelle that hopefully will disappear soon.