Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Real Life Hollywood Canteen

The Hollywood Canteen was not just a movie. It was based on a real club created by actor John Garfield, Jules Stein and actress Bette Davis in the 1940s.

During the war, serviceman flooded the Hollywood area. John Garfield and Bette Davis saw a need for free entertainment and refreshments for the soldiers.
With the help of the newly formed financial committee, work got started to find a location. A former horse stable and cabaret nightclub called The Red Barn was chosen, located just off Sunset Boulevard.

Painters paint the exterior just before the grand opening.

The Hollywood Canteen opened its doors October 3,1942. The sign over the door  read “Through these portals pass the most beautiful uniforms in the world.”

And beautiful they were. They were also well fed, free food was provided and even served up by Bette herself.

Bette Davis 

Bette Davis

Jules Steins wife Doris, organized hostesses and dancing partners for the servicemen.

Vivien Leigh

Linda Darnell

Decorations and materials were provided by the local guilds and unions. Neighboring artists and cartoonist painted murals on the walls of the club.

Local artist paints mural inside the Canteen

It was truly a Hollywood collaboration for the War effort. Over 3,000 from the entertainment industry volunteered.

Imagine the thrill and smiles on the servicemen and women's faces upon entering. A once in a lifetime chance to dance with that favorite movie star, or perhaps be waited on by someone famous.

Rita Hayworth

Bombshells like Paulette Goddard, Veronica Lake, Hedy LaMarr, Jane Russell or Gene Tierney volunteered, just to name a few.

Paulette Goddard

Rita Hayworth

All patrons were provided with a postcard of the Hollywood Canteen at the reception desk. Postage was free and many sent word home of their experiences in the club.

Musical entertainment was superb at the Canteen. With co founder Jules Stein being president of the Music Corporation of America, it was a breeze to book talented artists to join the war effort and play their tunes for the soldiers. Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Lena Horne, Bob Hope, The Andrews Sisters and many more got the music flowing, feet dancing and the soldiers minds off the war.

     Frank Sinatra singing with the Harry James band

The Andrews Sisters

It was such a huge success that in less than a year the club celebrated its millionth guest. Sgt. Carl Bell walked through the door one September evening in 1943 and was given the surprise of his life. As the millionth customer, he was smooched by none other than Marlene Dietrich and escorted by Betty Grable.

Marlene Dietrich lays one on the 1,000,000th guest


Betty Grable with 1,000,000th guest Sgt. Carl Bell

Lana Turner, Deanna Durbin, Marlene Dietrich and the 1,000,000th guest Sgt. Carl Bell


Moments like this were inspiration for the movie "Hollywood Canteen" made in 1944. It starred Joan Leslie, Robert Hutton and Dane Clark, with many cameo appearances by the volunteer actors and actresses themselves.

Warner Brother donated forty percent of ticket sales back to the Canteen. The movie was the fourth highest grossing film for 1944.

By the time the war ended the club had been host to almost three million serviceman.

The financial committee had over a half million dollars left in funds when they closed their doors on Thanksgiving 1945.

They created a foundation that still exists today and proceeds go towards continuing helping our servicemen and women.

Unfortunately, it was demolished in 1966 and the original site of the infamous Hollywood Canteen is now a parking garage for the CNN building on Sunset.

John Garfield, Bette Davis 

    Founders of the Hollywood Canteen John Garfield, Bette Davis and Jules Stein

Footage of the Hollywood Canteen

Celebrities who donated their time at the Hollywood Canteen were:

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello
June Allyson
Don Ameche
Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson
The Andrews Sisters
Dana Andrews
Eve Arden
Louis Armstrong
Jean Arthur
Fred Astaire
Mary Astor
Lauren Bacall
Lucille Ball
Tallulah Bankhead
Theda Bara
Lynn Bari
Diana Barrymore
Ethel Barrymore
Lionel Barrymore
Count Basie
Anne Baxter
Louise Beavers
Wallace Beery
William Bendix
Constance Bennett
Joan Bennett
Jack Benny
Edgar Bergen
Ingrid Bergman
Milton Berle
Mel Blanc
Ann Blyth
Humphrey Bogart
Ray Bolger
Beulah Bondi
William Boyd
Charles Boyer
Clara Bow
El Brendel
Walter Brennan
Fanny Brice
Joe E. Brown
Les Brown
Billie Burke
George Burns & Gracie Allen
Spring Byington
James Cagney
Cab Calloway
Rod Cameron
Eddie Cantor
Judy Canova
Kitty Carlisle
Jack Carson
Adriana Caselotti
Charlie Chaplin
Marguerite Chapman
Cyd Charisse
Charles Coburn
Claudette Colbert
Jerry Colonna
Ronald Colman
Perry Como
Chester Conklin
Gary Cooper
Joseph Cotten
Noël Coward
James Craig
Bing Crosby
Joan Crawford
George Cukor
Xavier Cugat
Cass Daley
Dorothy Dandridge
Linda Darnell
Bette Davis
Doris Day
Yvonne De Carlo
Gloria DeHaven
Dolores Del Rio
William Demarest
Olivia de Havilland
Cecil B. DeMille
Marlene Dietrich
Walt Disney
Jimmy Dorsey
Tommy Dorsey
Irene Dunne
Jimmy Durante
Deanna Durbin
Nelson Eddy
Duke Ellington
Faye Emerson
Dale Evans
Jinx Falkenburg
Alice Faye
Louise Fazenda
Gracie Fields
Barry Fitzgerald
Errol Flynn
Kay Francis
Jane Frazee
Joan Fontaine
Susanna Foster
Eva Gabor
Ava Gardner
Judy Garland
Greer Garson
Lillian Gish
James Gleason
Betty Grable
Cary Grant
Kathryn Grayson
Sydney Greenstreet
Paulette Goddard
Samuel Goldwyn
Benny Goodman
Jack Haley
Margaret Hamilton
Phil Harris
Moss Hart
Helen Hayes
Dick Haymes
Susan Hayward
Rita Hayworth
Sonja Henie
Paul Henreid
Katharine Hepburn
Darla Hood
Bob Hope
Hedda Hopper
Lena Horne
Edward Everett Horton
Ruth Hussey
Betty Hutton
Harry James
Gloria Jean
Anne Jeffreys
Allen Jenkins
Van Johnson
Al Jolson
Jennifer Jones
Marcia Mae Jones
Boris Karloff
Danny Kaye
Buster Keaton
Ruby Keeler
Evelyn Keyes
Andrea King
Gene Krupa
Kay Kyser
Alan Ladd
Bert Lahr
Elsa Lanchester
Angela Lansbury
Veronica Lake
Hedy Lamarr
Dorothy Lamour
Carole Landis
Frances Langford
Charles Laughton
Peter Lawford
Gertrude Lawrence
Peggy Lee
Pinky Lee
Mervyn LeRoy
Vivien Leigh
Joan Leslie
Ted Lewis
Beatrice Lillie
Mary Livingston
June Lockhart
Anita Loos
Peter Lorre
Myrna Loy
Keye Luke
Bela Lugosi
Ida Lupino
Diana Lynn
Marie McDonald
Jeanette MacDonald
Fred MacMurray
Irene Manning
The Marx Brothers
Herbert Marshall
Victor Mature
Elsa Maxwell
Louis B. Mayer
Hattie McDaniel
Roddy McDowall
Frank McHugh
Victor McLaglen
Butterfly McQueen
Lauritz Melchior
Adolphe Menjou
Una Merkel
Ray Milland
Ann Miller
Glenn Miller
Carmen Miranda
Robert Mitchum
Maria Montez
Jackie Moran
Dennis Morgan
Ken Murray
The Nicholas Brothers
Ramon Novarro
Jack Oakie
Margaret O'Brien
Virginia O'Brien
Donald O'Connor
Maureen O'Hara
Oona O'Neill
Maureen O'Sullivan
Merle Oberon
Eugene Pallette
Eleanor Parker
Louella Parsons
John Payne
Gregory Peck
Mary Pickford
Walter Pidgeon
Zasu Pitts
Cole Porter
Dick Powell
Eleanor Powell
Jane Powell
William Powell
Anthony Quinn
George Raft
Claude Rains
Basil Rathbone
Martha Raye
Donna Reed
Bill "Bojangles" Robinson
Edward G. Robinson
Ginger Rogers
Roy Rogers
Cesar Romero
Mickey Rooney
Jane Russell
Rosalind Russell
Ann Rutherford
Peggy Ryan
S.Z. Sakall
Olga San Juan
Ann Savage
Hazel Scott
Lizabeth Scott
Randolph Scott
Toni Seven
Norma Shearer
Ann Sheridan
Dinah Shore
Sylvia Sidney
Phil Silvers
Ginny Simms
Frank Sinatra
Red Skelton
Alexis Smith
Kate Smith
Ann Sothern
Jo Stafford
Barbara Stanwyck
Craig Stevens
Leopold Stokowski
Lewis Stone
Gloria Swanson
Elizabeth Taylor
Shirley Temple
Danny Thomas
Gene Tierney
Lawrence Tibbett
Martha Tilton
Claire Trevor
Sophie Tucker
Lana Turner
Spencer Tracy
Gloria Vanderbilt
Beryl Wallace
Nancy Walker
Ethel Waters
John Wayne
Clifton Webb
Virginia Weidler
Johnny Weissmuller
Orson Welles
Mae West
Alice White
Paul Whiteman
Margaret Whiting
Esther Williams
Chill Wills
Marie Wilson
Jane Withers
Teresa Wright
Anna May Wong
Constance Worth
Jane Wyman
Keenan Wynn
Rudy Vallee
Lupe Vélez
Loretta Young
Robert Young
Darryl F. Zanuck
Vera Zorina

Sources: Wikipedia, Martin Turnbull, The Hollywood Canteen Chat and the New York Public Library Digital Archives.

Rachel Davies Google+ July 1st, 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The History of Saddle Shoes

The saddle shoe originated in 1906 by Spalding company. The classic style was soft white leather with a black mid saddle (panel). The original design was used as a gym shoe and for sports. 

The black saddle feature was engineered to support the arch and instep. The red rubber sole was added on later for better traction. It was a staple gym, tennis and golf shoe.
I myself remember wearing my saddle shoes as part of my cheer leading uniform back in the day.

During the Lindy Hop/Jitterbug dance craze, the shoe became the choice footwear for dancers. 
Its comfortable, roomy fit and ease of movement made them not only functional but fashionable.


Women and teenagers especially loved how versatile they were and mixed and matched them with poodle skirts, pencil skirts, denim and shorts.

Today, saddle shoes are hard to find in your local shoe store or online for that matter. But with diligence, one can acquire their own piece of shoe history and make a statement when they step out. 
So get yourself a pair and stir up some good memories. They'll make you feel like you're walking back in time.

Photos courtesy of Flickr and Pinterest

Rachel Davies Google+ January 23rd, 2014

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Drive In Movies In Danger Of Closing

A beloved drive in near you, may soon be closing. The movie industry's switch to digital projection may find your local drive in' or community theater struggling to come up with the funds necessary to cover the conversion. Costs can run anywhere from $60,000 and up per screen.
And time is running out. Hollywood is set to send out the last of 35mm prints this year.
Soon to be just a faded memory, are the days of film burn and horn honking as the projectionist slices and dices the film. The whole switch to digital is really a sad day in film history. Since 1834 until now every motion picture has been made on 35 mm film. The prospect of this ceasing is worrying. What happens to the old 35mm projectors after the switch is made? If the devices necessary to view 35mm suddenly disappear so does our film history.
And what about the 35mm projectionists? My great uncle was one of them. All his years of experience slicing film and threading it into the platter projection, how will that translate into working with hard drives or dealing with computer issues?
Is this what we have come to? So eager to be out with the old and in with the new, that we will risk losing our heritage? All the grass root efforts to save drive in theaters only to be hit by a new crisis. Forced to conform, pay up, or close.
Its not only impacting drive in's but all theaters. In particular the privately owned small ones. Another case of corporate bullying.
If we don't all get together and do something, all that we will see are the big multiplex corporate movie theaters left. And how much nostalgia do they have? How do they reflect movie history?
Fortunately there is one company that is trying to make a difference. Honda has launched a campaign called www.projectdrivein.com. Its goal is to raise funds for 5 theaters to get the digital projectors for free. They are doing this by a voting system. The voting began in early August and closes September 9.
Please follow the link to support this campaign and also get involved with your local drive in or historic theater to help fund raise.
We must do all we can to preserve our heritage.
I believe there should be more outrage against Hollywood for not embracing both 35mm and digital films. Forcing out 35mm is a drastic measure for the estimated 700 historic movie theaters across the USA.
I also would like to note this is a worldwide problem, as drive ins and theaters in other countries are faced with the same dilemma.
The videos below are one of many pleas from theaters needing your support.


Rachel Davies Google+ August 25th, 2013

Saturday, March 30, 2013

This Is Cinerama

During my childhood in Western New York I remember visiting a  "movie attraction" at a local amusement park. It boasted a "realistic experience" of riding a roller coaster and flying.
Curious, we decided to check it out. I recall a circular theater that was standing room only. In front of each row were bars that you could hold onto in case you lost your balance.
As the movie started, I was amazed at just how real it felt. So realistic in fact, that I succumbed to motion sickness and left rather pale and queasy. 
The movie I watched so many years ago was the 1950's sensation, "This Is Cinerama".

The technology was revolutionary in its day.
You see, during the late 1940's and early 1950's television was gaining popularity and movie theaters were suffering.Cinemas were losing as much as 40% of their audiences and many were closing down all across the United States.
To try and win back movie goers, the film industry strived to make the big screen, bigger than ever.
The first of the widescreen experiments was Cinerama.
Three 35mm cameras would shoot the scene. Then three projectors would beam the final films side by side on a huge 90 foot curved screen.
The curved shape gave a 3D effect by using the movie goers peripheral vision.
Lastly, stereophonic speakers were placed behind the screen and around the cinema. It gave an amazing realistic effect.

The movie "This Is Cinerama" was the launching film for this new and exciting process.

It was released in 1952, grossed over 20 million dollars and ran for over three years.

Today, there are still a few Cinerama theaters that survived. There is one in Hollywood  Seattle, Dayton, Ohio and Bradford, England. 

                                                 Pacific Cinerama Hollywood

Rachel Davies Google+ March 31st, 2013

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