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Hollywood Canteen History and Photos

Hollywood Canteen History & Rare Photos

The most complete and accurate history of the Hollywood Canteen is in the book titled, “THE HOLLYWOOD CANTEEN”, by authors Lisa Mitchell and Bruce Torrrence. The book tells the real story about the most popular place for servicemen to go when in Hollywood. The book has over 150 rare and historic photographs of the Hollywood Canteen.

Hollywood Canteen photo

Paulette Goddard at the hollywood Canteen

Hollywoodphotographs.com website

The largest collection of Hollywood Canteen photos is on the hollywoodphotograohs.com website. They include photos of Spencer Tracy chatting with servicemen, Bob Hope on stage, Marlene Dietrich dancing with soldiers, Rita Hayworth serving food and many, many more.

As the book states,the United States did not enter the WWII until after the Japanese bombed the American fleet in Pearl Harbor, on December 7th, 1941.

When the country finally went to war, Hollywood went to war too, meaning that between 1941 and 1944, over 6000 people who worked in Hollywood joined the service, including 1500 actors. Those who were unable to fight at the battlefield joined the war figuratively or supported causes such as the Hollywood Canteen

Located at 1451 Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood,the canteen operated between October 3rd, 1942, and November 22nd, 1935, as a club offering food, dancing, and entertainment for WWII recruits. The place was not solely reserved for servicemen who belonged to the Allies as well. The ticket for admission was the uniform, and inside the canteen, everything was free of charge. Actress Bette Davis devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy to run this initiative and served as its president.

Photo of Ken Murray & Marie Wilson

Ken Murray and Marie Wilson entertain at the Hollywood Canteen

Hollywood Canteen Founded

“The Canteen was the brainchild of actor John Garfield and Bette Davis, the so-called “Fourth Warner Brother” and reigning queen of the studio.

Garfield attempted to enlist when America joined the war, but was turned down due to a preexisting heart condition. But Garfield found other ways to help, including using his celebrity status to entertain troops overseas, sell war bonds and star in patriotic war movies. Actress Bette Davis was also very successful at getting people to buy war bonds, selling $2 million worth in two days. She and Garfield teamed up to open a club where servicemen and women could go when in Hollywood.

Rita Hayworth Photo

Rita Hayworth dances with a serviceman at the Hollywood Canteen

Hollywood Canteen Volunteers

Even before it had opened, over 3,000 stars and other entertainment industry employees had signed up to volunteer, and Davis ensured that at least a few major celebrities were at the club every single night to meet the soldiers so they would forget about their troubles and eat, drink, be entertained, and rub elbows with a star Hollywood Canteen or two for a night. They wanted a place where the troops would have fun before embarking on tour—and for the stars to facilitate that fun. Garfield suggested the idea, but Davis ran it, finding an abandoned nightclub in a block of Sunset Boulevard and calling upon her agent, Jules Stein, to head the financial committee.

The venue was operated and staffed entirely by volunteers from Hollywood. By the time it was opened, over 3,000 actors, actresses, directors, producers, dancers, musicians, writers, etc., had registered for service. They waited on tables, cooked in the kitchen or cleaned.

Each night of the week, except on Sundays, the Canteen was visited by servicemen who were often just hours away from being deployed. They were offered some coffee or some tea and other refreshments, except alcohol. One of the highlights of the Canteen experience was that these servicemen were able to dance with some of the stars and other volunteers. Marlene Dietrich when she decided to wash dishes and was joined by the Austrian-born Hedy Lamarr

Jane Powell Photo

Jane Powell sining aotographs at the Hollywood Canteen

Hollywood Canteen’s One Millionth Visitor.

On September 15th, 1943, when the one millionth guest walked through the entrance door of the Hollywood Canteen, he received a kiss from Betty Grable and was escorted in by Dietrich. The lucky soldier was Sgt. Carl Bell, from Rising Star, Texas.

Hollywood Canteen Hall of Honor

A Hall of Honor also stood at the Hollywood Canteen, and it had photos of honored film actors who served in the military. By 1944, the Hollywood Canteen was so popular that Warner Bros. produced a film which was named after it. Directed and written by Delmer Daves, “Hollywood Canteen” starred with Joan Leslie and Robert Hutton, and many of the stars acted themselves in the film.

The men and women running the canteen were maybe not witnessing first-hand the horrors of the war, and their job seemed pretty easy. At the same time, the Canteen nurtured an ideological public service, too. That service nearly had the effects similar to propaganda, possibly to encourage new recruits, and it was done completely free.

As history recalls, the armed services were segregated during WWII.  However, even when segregation reared its ugly head inside her establishment, Bette Davis famously took the microphone to defend African-American soldiers. “The blacks got the same bullets as the whites did, and should have the same treatment.”

It is estimated that during its service, the Hollywood Canteen hosted nearly three million servicemen.

Vintage Hollywood Canteen Photos

To see vintage Hollywood Canteen photos, simply visit Hollywoodphotographs.com and view these rare photos.

 

 

 

 

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