Thanksgiving at the Hollywood Canteen

During World War II, communities pulled together to help out servicemen, and Hollywood was no exception.

The Hollywood Canteen, located at 1451 Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood, CA, was a USO nightclub exclusively for enlisted men and women (no officers) and admission was only their uniform.

Claude Rains and Edward Arnold carve turkeys

Founded by Bette Davis, John Garfield and Jules Stein, servicemen could dance with Hedy Lamarr, be served doughnuts by Rita Hayworth and Robert Benchley may be washing dishes.

The Hollywood Canteen opened on Oct. 3, 1942, and closed its doors on Nov. 22, 1945, Thanksgiving Day. During that time, they entertained 3 million military personnel.

From the year it opened in 1942 to its closing day on Thanksgiving, servicemen and women away from their families on the holiday were invited to a Thanksgiving meal. Chef Milani, famous Italian chef, was in charge of the food at the club. Chef Milani would make meals specific to different regions of the United States, from Boston baked beans and chowder to Creole shrimp, according to Oct. 23, 1944, brief in the Daily Notes of Canonsburg, PA.

Here are a few new briefs on the Hollywood Canteen’s Thanksgiving celebrations over the years:

Thursday, Nov. 26, 1942:
Eddie Cantor was the master of ceremonies at the first Hollywood Canteen celebration, according to a Nov. 26, 1942, news brief in the Los Angeles Times. Approximately 5,000 servicemen came for a buffet style meal.

Bette Davis helps carve turkeys at the Hollywood Canteen

Thursday, Nov. 25, 1943:
3,500 servicemen were served in a Thanksgiving celebration at the Hollywood Canteen. During the meal, they were entertained by Bob Hope, according to a Dec. 19, 1943, news brief in the Star Press, of Muncie, Indiana.

Chef Milani prepared 76 turkeys for servicemen at the Hollywood Canteen, according to a Nov. 27, 1943, new brief in the Los Angeles Times.

The 76 turkeys were carved by Paul Heinreid, Edward Arnold, Wallace Beery, Claude Rains, Edgar Bergen, John Garfield, Dick Powell and William Bendix, according to the Dec. 19, 1943, brief.

John Wayne also helped carve turkeys. Ward Bond was also going to carve turkeys, but got too inebriated that night before, according to the book Three Bad Men: John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond by Scott Allen Nollen.

Servicemen eating Thanksgiving dinner at the Hollywood Canteen

Thursday, Nov. 23, 1944:
Servicemen would enjoy a meal as good as what is served at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, Bette Davis said in an Oct. 23, 1944, brief in the Daily Notes of Canonsburg, PA.

On Nov. 20, 1944, the Hollywood Canteen announced they would open at 7 p.m. and have movie stars and three different dance bands for entertainment. In addition to the meals, there would be fresh fruit for the soldiers, according to a Nov. 20, 1944, brief in the Los Angeles Times.

Thursday, Nov. 22, 1945:
After serving military personnel for three years, the Hollywood Canteen shut its doors on Nov. 22, 1945. The last day of the club ended after a 10-hour stage shift that ended at midnight. They ended with a Thanksgiving celebration and show that started in the afternoon and went into the evening.

The show included performances and appearances from Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Leslie, Kay Kyser, Bette Davis, Dinah Shore, James Stewart, Hedy Lamarr, Edward G. Robinson, Henry Fonda, Ronald Colman and Jerry Colonna, according to a Nov. 23, 1945, Associated Press news brief.

Dinah Shore eats with servicemen at the Hollywood Canteen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Memorial Day Musical Monday: Hollywood Canteen (1944)

Hollywood Canteen” (1944) –Musical #139

Sierra Exif JPEG

Warner Brothers

Delmar Davies

Joan Leslie, Robert Hutton, Dane Clark
Bette Davis, John Garfield ,The Andrews Sisters, Jack Benny, Joe E. Brown, Eddie Cantor, Kitty Carlisle, Jack Carson, Joan Crawford, Helmut Dantine, Faye Emerson, Sydney Greenstreet, Alan Hale, Sr., Paul Henreid, Joan Leslie, Peter Lorre, Ida Lupino, Dorothy Malone, Dennis Morgan, Janis Paige, Eleanor Parker, Roy Rogers (with Trigger), S.Z. Sakall, Zachary Scott, Alexis Smith, Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Wyman, Jimmy Dorsey, Donald Woods, Andrea King, Joyce Reynolds and The Golden Gate Quartet.

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Veteran’s Day Musical Monday: “Stage Door Canteen” (1943)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

Stage Door Canteen (1943)

Stage Door Canteen (1943) –Musical #138

United Artists

Frank Borzage

Lon McCallister, Marjorie Riordan, Cheryl Walker, William Terry, Sunset Carson, Margaret Early
Judith Anderson, Kenny Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Ralph Bellamy, Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen, Ray Bolger, Helen Broderick, Ina Claire, Katharine Cornell, Lloyd Corrigan, Jane Darwell, William Demarest, Gracie Fields, Arlene Francis, Virginia Grey, Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn, Hugh Herbert, Jean Hersholt, Sam Jaffe, Allen Jenkins, George Jessel,Otto Kruger, Gertrude Lawrence, Gypsy Rose Lee, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, Aline MacMahon, Ralph Morgan, Harpo Marx, Elsa Maxwell, Helen Menken, Ethel Merman, Peggy Moran, Alan Mowbray, Paul Muni, Merle Oberon, Franklin Pangborn, George Raft, Selena Royle, Martha Scott, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Ned Sparks, Ethel Waters, Johnny Weissmuller, Dame May Whitty, Ed Wynn, Count Basie, Xavier Cugat, Lina Romay, Benny Goodman, Peggy Lee, Kay Kyser, Guy Lombardo

Gypse Rose Lee performs for the soldiers at the Stage Door Canteen

Gypse Rose Lee performs for the soldiers at the Stage Door Canteen

The film follows young women (Riordan, Walker, Early) who volunteer at the Stage Door Canteen in New York. Volunteering involves dancing with soldiers, talking to them and serving food. However, the canteen has strict rules-no dating servicemen. Eileen (Walker) admits to only volunteering, because she is hoping to be discovered as an actress by one of the celebrities. But her selfish ways are shaken when she meets soldier Dakota (Terry). Innocent soldier, California (McCallister) doesn’t have a girl back home, writes letters to his father and has never been kissed. He meets Jean (Riordan) at the canteen and tells her she has given him his happiest moments since he has joined the service.
The majority of the film is made up of cameos by famous Broadway and Hollywood stars including Gypsy Rose Lee, George Raft, Johnny Weismuller and Katharine Cornell. The romances are a backdrop for the performances, stringing the film together.

Eileen (Walker) and Dakota (Terry) realize they are in love at the Stage Door Canteen

Eileen (Walker) and Dakota (Terry) realize they are in love at the Stage Door Canteen

-The real Stage Door Canteen was on 44th Street in New York, but the movie was filmed in Hollywood.
-Stage actress Katharine Cornell’s only film appearance.
-The story line was inspired by the Irving Berlin song “I Left My Heart at the Stage Door Canteen.”
-A portion of the money that the film made was donated to the Stage Door Canteen. “Stage Door Canteen” was the top grossing film of the year, making $4,339,500, according to George Raft: The Films by Everett Aaker
-Katharine Hepburn’s only musical film, though she is never in a musical number.
-Peggy Lee’s second film appearance
-Ruth Roman’s first film appearance.

Jean (Riordan) gives California (McCallister) his first kiss

Jean (Riordan) gives California (McCallister) his first kiss

-Katharine Cornell plays a scene from Romeo and Juliet with Lon McCallister.
-Cornell gives a young British soldier cake and an orange. He is overcome with joy because of the orange and says “I haven’t seen one of these in two years. It’s like Christmas!” Tear worthy.
-Katharine Hepburn gives Eileen (Walker) a talking to of why she needs to continue serving in the canteen even though her fiance is fighting overseas. Probably the most dramatic scene of the film.
-Ventriloquist Edgar Bergan with his puppets Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd.

Notable Songs:
-“The Girl I Love to Leave Behind” sung by Roy Bolger
-“She’s a Bombshell from Brooklyn” performed by Xavier Cugat and Lina Romay
-“We Mustn’t Say Goodnight” sung by Lanny Ross
-“Sleep, Baby, Sleep in Your Jeep” performed by the Guy Lombardo Orchestra
-“Quick Sands” performed by Count Bassie and Ethel Waters
-“Goodnight Sweetheart” performed by Benny Goodman, Guy Lombardo and sung by Kenny Baker
-“Ave Maria” performed by violinist Yehudi Menuhin

My Review:
I love this movie. Before seeing this movie for the first time several years ago, I wasn’t familiar with stage stars such as Helen Menken or Katharine Cornell. But the film opened shows the other side of entertainment, showing the past celebrities of the east coast. Though the main story line is brief and thin, I still enjoy it. A boy and girl becoming attached after dancing and talking all night and the boy not knowing if he will return from the war? I think that’s believable.
The movie also has several scenes that are very touching and make me tear up: the British boy having an orange for the first time in two years, Lon McCallister getting his first kiss. Yep, the waterworks are running.
If you are looking for a film with a strong plot line and character development, “Stage Door Canteen” probably isn’t for you. But if you are hoping to get a glimpse into the past-to see how soldiers may have spent their leave and what songs and stars were popular-this movie is 2 hours and 10 minutes of your day well spent.

Musical Mondays: “Thank Your Lucky Stars” (1943)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500.
To celebrate and share this musical love, I’m starting a weekly feature about musicals.

Poster - Thank Your Lucky Stars_01

This week’s musical:
Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) –Musical Number 470

All top Warner Brothers stars: Eddie Cantor, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Olivia De Havilland, Ida Lupino, Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan, John Garfield, George Tobias, Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson, Dinah Shore, Alexis Smith, Joan Leslie, Alan Hale, S.Z. Sakall, Edward Everett Horton,

David Butler

Warner Brothers Studios

Thank Your Lucky Stars” is a movie with less of a plot and more musical numbers from the top stars of the 1940s.
The plot that runs between the musical numbers is about producers (played by S.Z Sakall and Edward Everett Horton) who want to put on a wartime charity event for soldiers. Egotistical Eddie Cantor, playing himself, takes over the production. Singer Tommy Randolph, played by Dennis Morgan, and his girlfriend Pat, played by Joan Leslie, try to get into the show and replace the real Cantor with a bus driver who looks just like Cantor (also played by Eddie Cantor). Zany comedic moments and confusion ensue as Eddie Cantor has to prove he is the real Eddie Cantor.
Stars who usually don’t appear in musicals perform in the film such as Bette Davis, Ida Lupino and Errol Flynn.

Dennis Morgan and Joan Leslie are one of the few stars in "Thank Your Lucky Stars" who don't play themselves.

Dennis Morgan and Joan Leslie are one of the few stars in “Thank Your Lucky Stars” who don’t play themselves.

-This is one of the few movies where Bette Davis sings- another film where she sings is “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.” She performs the musical number “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old.”

-During Bette Davis’s musical number, she jitterbugs with champion jitterbugger Conrad Wiedell. Davis never rehearsed the dance with Wiedell, because she was afraid she could only get through the dance once, according to the book “The Girl Who Walked Home Alone” by Charlotte Chandler.
 “Look, I’m not a movie star. I’m just some dame you picked up at the dance hall,” she told him.
She hurt her leg during the dance, and you can see she is limping at the end of the dance and rubs her leg but completes the number. Davis didn’t want to spoil the take, because she didn’t think she could do the dance again, according to Chandler’s book.
-This is the last of nine movies Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland star in together.
-Though not dubbed in every movie, Joan Leslie is dubbed by Sally Sweetland.
-Olivia De Havilland is dubbed by Lynn Martin.
-All of the stars were paid $50,000 for the film which was donated to the Hollywood Canteen, according to “Errol Flynn: The Life and Career” by Thomas McNulty.
-Errol Flynn proposed singing as the cockney bar patron, because he wanted to do something different, according to McNulty’s book.

Notable Songs and Highlights:
Almost every song in the movie is worth noting because so many unique performances from stars you usually don’t get to hear singing:
-Errol Flynn sings “That’s What You Jolly Well Get” as a braggart Cockney. Flynn does an EXCELLENT job. He dances and sings with ease and sells the song well, while being humorous at the same time.
-John Garfield sings “Blues in the Night.” Garfield is no crooner and the song is a bit rough. However, he gives it his all-while telling a story between the lyrics-and is very entertaining.
-Ida Lupino, George Tobias and Olivia de Havilland sing “The Dreamer.” Lupino and De Havilland sings as gum chomping, jitterbugging dames and make a hilarious trio with Tobias.
My only disappointment is that de Havilland is dubbed and it’s obvious. Tobias and Lupino sing well but their unpolished voices don’t mix well with the de Havilland’s dubbed voice.

-Hattie McDaniel belts out sings “Ice Cold Katie
-Bette Davis sings “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old” and jitterbugs. The song was nominated for an Academy Award and became a hit because of Davis.
-Ann Sheridan sings “Love Isn’t Born” with a group of Warner Brothers starlets, including Joyce Reynolds. Her song is one of the best in the movie. Sheridan is a great singer was in a few musicals, though that isn’t what she’s known for.
My Review:
This movie is a delight!
If you are expecting a movie with a firm plot and a moral, this may not be for you. But if you want to laugh and smile, “Thank Your Lucky Stars” will do the trick. Every single musical performance brings a smile to my face, especially those performed by Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan and John Garfield.
Movies that were basically musical reviews were not rare in the 1940s. Several World War II films took on a canteen-style approach with thin plots and dominate musical numbers such as Hollywood Canteen (1944), Stage Door Canteen (1943), Two Girls and A Sailor (1944) and Thousands Cheer (1943). Warner Brothers made a similar, but less appealing, musical review in the 1950s for the Korean War called “Starlift.”
Thank Your Lucky Stars ” also gives you an education of who the top actors and actresses were at Warner Brothers Studios during the 1940s.
I own this movie via the Warner Brothers Homefront Collection which includes “This is the Army” and “Hollywood Canteen” released in 2008. If you don’t own it, I highly suggest it.

Eddie Cantor in the "Thank Your Lucky Stars" finale

Eddie Cantor in the “Thank Your Lucky Stars” finale

Check back next week for Musical Monday.

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Hooray for the red, white and blue

I’ve always been under the firm belief that World War II era America is one of the most patriotic times this country has ever had. Women saved cooking grease, nylon hose and tubes of toothpaste to donate for war materials.  Film stars enlisted and performed for the soldiers. Female actresses danced with soldiers and talked to them about their mother’s and girlfriends. Here are some photos I found of actors entertaining service men. Enjoy 🙂

Betty Hutton dancing with a soldier

Olivia de Havilland with Navy officers

Ginger Rogers, Gloria DeHaven and other actresses shower a young soldier with attention. (LIFE)

Loretta Young visiting a Naval hospital

Carole Landis visiting soldiers in the South Pacific

Hedy Lamarr playing cards with soldiers

Ann Sheridan preparing to visit men overseas. Notice that she is also painted on the side of the plane.

USO king, Bob Hope, with soldiers

Marlene Dietrich playing the saw between her knees for a military audience. (My grandfather saw her do this)

Carole Lombard selling war bonds.

Robert Benchley and Charles Butterworth serving coffee at the Hollywood Canteen

Rita Hayworth showing some cheesecake as she dishes up food at the Hollywood Canteen

Veronica Lake mingling with a solider

This may be my favorite: Marlene Dietrich, Bob Hope, Joan Leslie, Jane Wyman (I think), and Bette Davis looking at Hollywood actors who enlisted. I think Bette is crying

Hope you enjoyed all of the photos. HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY! 🙂


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