Franksgiving: A tale of two Thanksgivings

The year 1939 is filled with notable dates in history.

World War II was declared in Europe on Sept. 3, 1939. Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians recorded “Auld Lang Syne” for the first time on March 7, 1939. Lou Gehrig retired from the Yankees on June 21, 1939. Considered Hollywood’s greatest year, films like “Gone with the Wind” and “Wizard of Oz” were released.

And there were two Thanksgivings that November.

On Aug. 15, 1939, newspapers announced that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was going to move Thanksgiving up a week to the third week of November, rather than the fourth. In 1939, that made Thanksgiving Day Nov. 23 rather than Nov. 30.

The move was to help boost holiday sales after the president received complaints that the last Thursday in November was too late for Thanksgiving. The date was too close to Christmas and cut down on Christmas shopping, according to an Aug. 15, 1939, Associated Press (AP) article, “Thanksgiving Moved Up A Week.”

President Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt at Thanksgiving dinner in 1939 in Warm Springs, GA.

The change met some praise but mostly criticism.

Not only did the change affect when families gathered for a large meal, it also threw a wrench into calendars like academic schedules and the football industry.

“The precedent-shattering change … promised to upset the nation’s multi-million dollar Turkey day football industry,” according to the AP article. “Some of the season’s biggest and oldest grid games are scheduled for Nov. 30, which the schedule makers thought would be Thanksgiving Day. Moving the games back to Dec. 2 or up to Nov. 23 will be impossible in some cases.”

Continue reading

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!

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at

“Is that Pedro?” -Happy Thanksgiving from Comet Over Hollywood

Sometimes holiday family gatherings can be awkward, if not disastrous.

One cinematic example of an unhappy Thanksgiving is in “Giant” (1956) starring Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson.

The film follows Bick (Hudson) and Leslie (Taylor) and their life as cattle ranchers in Texas. Leslie, originally from Maryland, marries Bick after knowing him for a short time, and their marriage is tumultuous.

At one part of the film, Leslie travels back to Maryland with her children to evaluate her marriage, participate in her sister’s wedding and spend Thanksgiving with her family.

During the visit, Leslie’s three children become attached to the turkey named Pedro…


(Comet Over Hollywood/Screen Cap by Jessica P)

Here is to hoping your Thanksgiving is less dramatic.

Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for everyone of you who reads Comet Over Hollywood and shares the love of classic film.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at

Happy Thanksgiving from Comet

Here we are, celebrating our third Comet Over Hollywood Thanksgiving together. And as the Bing Crosby song from “Holiday Inn” (1940) says…I have plenty to be thankful for.

Along with being thankful for my new job in Shelby, N.C., my family and friends, I am also thankful for classic films.

Cast of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” (1938) David Holt, Ann Gillis, Georgie Billings, Jackie Moran, Tommy Kelly, Byron Armstrong, Cora Sue Collins and Mickey Rentschler

Since 2002 when classic films actively became part of my life, they have consistently brought joy into my life. But classic films haven’t just given my entertainment, its taught shown me snapshots of pop culture in the past and given me history lessons.

I am also thankful for all of the wonderful classic film fans who I’ve met through my blog and on Twitter. It’s wonderful to know there are other like-minded fans out there who cry during “Since You Went Away” or swoon over Joel McCrea.

So dear reader, in my 200th blog post, I am thankful for YOU.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Shirley Temple cooking the Thanksgiving turkey

Margaret O’Brien serving up dinner in 1947

Frank Sinatra carving the turkey

And Comet brought the pumpkin pie. Happy Thanksgiving, love Jessica

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page

Who’s that turkey?

Happy Thanksgiving from Gordon and Doris.

Several holiday themed TV shows and films have the theme of having a pet turkey that is destined to be Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  Through the months, the turkey has become a friend to the main character so they are reluctant to cover it with cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving day.

Here are two films that show this:

Wesley (Billy Gray) getting nervous at Thanksgiving dinner.

By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953): This is the sequel of the Doris Day-Gordon MacRea romance “Moonlight Bay” (1951). These films are also based off of Booth Tarkington’s “Penrod” series, which is where Wesley Winfield’s (played by Billy Gray) shenanigans come from.
The Winfield’s have been raising a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner and naturally Wesley has gotten attached to the turkey named Gregory. He sets the turkey free and steals another. The family invites Mr. Winfield’s (Leon Ames) boss to Thanksgiving dinner and wants to impress.  Gregory somehow finds his way into the dining room during the meal. You can see what happens in the video below

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page .