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Hollywood Canteen Closes Its Doors

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Hollywood Canteen Closes Its Doors

Gay, laughing Hollywood closed its famed Hollywood Canteen for servicemen and women last night, on a note of sadness.

Yet, there was a gay sparkle afforded by the quips of such comedians as Bob Hope, Jack Benny and Jerry Colonna – servicemens’ favorites both at home and overseas.

It was the last day of the long tenure of the West Coast’s leading recreation center for those who fought their country’s battles on land, in the air and under the seas.

Since its opening on October 3, 1942, the Hollywood Canteen has entertained, with the highest paid talent of the land, more than 32 million servicemen and women.

During the Canteen’s three years of operation, thousands of photos were taken of all the activities that took place inside the famous place.  More that three hundred rare Canteen photos are on the hollywoodphotographs.com website.

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The Best Talent

They have danced, they have eaten, they have drunk and they have waited their turn for admittance, in order to get what constitutes a fleeting glimpse of the masculine and femining stars of film, radio and stage who cavorted before them on the Canteen’s tiny stage in order to let them know that Hollywood wanted to send them to war with a warm spot in their hearts for the cinema city.

It was though the efforts of such star of the screen as Bette Davis, John Garfield, Dr. Jules Stein, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Kay Kyser, Basil Rathbone and his wife, Ouida, that the center of stars and servicemen and women came into being.

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Bob Hope Voices Farwell

It was Kay Kyser’s band which opened the Canteen that night in 1942 and it was Kay Kyser’s band that closed it last night.  In the interim Hollywood’s greatest have gone all out to entertain the men and women who wore khaki, blue and olive drab.  And last night its colorful career ended.

“It’s like leaving old friends”, said Hope.  “I have always thrilled in the thought of entertaining our men and women.  It’s always been fun for us”.

Jack Benny did not play his violin. Instead Benny and Ingrid Bergman performed in a skit to the howls and laughter and the merriment of the Canteen jammed with those in uniform.

There were no reunions during the last night at the Canteen. Anne Cogan, who came here three weeks ago from Brooklyn, met a neighbor boy from across the street at her Brooklyn home whom she hadn’t seen in years.  They danced to the tunes of the 684th Army Air Force Band from Williams, Arizona.  He was a soldier – Arty Tuller – the boy from across the street.  He had just gotten in from Okinawa.

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Stage Manager

Harry Fitzgerald, who has managed every stage performance at the Canteen throughout the years, had a tear in in his eye.  “We have had some great performers her,” he said, “but we’ve had some greater sailors, soldiers and Marines.  The proved it – and now that the war is over and the boys and girs are coming home, the purpose of the Canteen has been fulfilled and we are closing our doors.”

Fitzgerald gave great credit for the success of the Canteen  to Sybil Brand, Harriet Parsons and Cobina Wright Sr. for many of the great shows that were staged. 

Back in the kitchen, Actor Jimmie Gleason donned his apron and carved the turkey.  Evelyn Balcon, a volunteer worker in the kitchen for three years, was “thrilled” when she had her picture taken with Ingrid Bergman, who also helped.

asdfkHollywood Canteen Foundation

Shortly after the Hollywood Canteen closed its doors, Dr. Jules Stein, Bette Davis and several other Canteen dignitaries established the Hollywood Canteen Foundation.  The Foundation was funded by the thousands of dollars that remained in the Canteen’s bank account, after the Canteen closed its doors.  The purpose of the Foundation is to support  this country’s veterans. 

All the photos on the hollywoodphotographs.com website are available for purchase. Other subject categories include Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood Sign photos and Movie Studios.

 

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