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Hollywood Canteen History & Photos - Part 2

Hollywood Canteen History & Photos – Part 2  

Hundreds of Hollywood Canteen photos and history is on the website. All photos are available for purchase.

Bette Davis and John Garfield flung themselves into the rigorous process of turning their dream into a reality.  They spent weekends and eighteen-hour work days, as well as Sundays -- their one day off from the studio -- attacking the mountain of details involved in opening the Hollywood Canteen.

One of their first tasks was to enlist the support of every guild, union, and craft organization affiliated with Hollywood’s entertainment industry. They were met with a grand show of confidence as forty-two guilds and unions unanimously agreed to sponsor the endeavor; later the number would increase to forty-six.

More vintage photos of the Hollywood Canteen

Hollywood Canteen Board of Directors   

In early June, Bette and John called for a meeting of several people who were committed to getting the Canteen off and running. They began by appointing a Board of Directors and electing a slate of officers. The Board members would be selected from representatives of the forty-two guilds and unions. The first roll of officers included Bette Davis, President; John Garfield, Carroll Hollister, and J.K. Spike Wallace, Vice Presidents; Alfred Ybarra, Treasurer; and Jean Lewin, Secretary. Over the years of the Canteen’s existence, other people would be elected and appointed to the Board of Directors; various officers would include Mervin LeRoy, Mary Ford, Cay Baldwin, and Carey Wilson.

Dr. Jules Stein Joins The Hollywood Canteen

Shortly after being elected president, Bette Davis decided to ask Jules Stein to get involved with the Canteen. Stein, a former opthalmologist, was the founder and head of the Music Corporation of America (MCA), which represented Bette as her theatrical agency. Her personal agent at MCA was Lew Wasserman, who had been groomed by Stein as a booking agent. Even though she had been with MCA for three years, she had never actually met Jules Stein. In fact, not many people in Hollywood knew Stein; few even knew what he looked like, as this mystery man preferred to remain in the background. Bette, however, was well aware of Stein’s keen business acumen and deal-making genius.

Photo of Bunny Waters at the Hollywood Canteen

When her meeting with Stein was granted, she pleaded with him to join her and the  others in creating a successful, well-functioning Canteen. At first he was reluctant, as

participation could mean that, for the first time since forming MCA in 1924, he could be cast in the limelight. Bette assured him that it would not be necessary for him to make any public appearances. She needed him as an organizer and financial advisor, not as a front man. Bette could be enormously persuasive when she argued, and Jules Stein finally agreed to become the Canteen’s business manager. Years later, Davis said, “Without Jules Stein, there would never have been a Hollywood Canteen.”  

With Stein on board, the Canteen’s newly-elected officers and directors set up an agenda of what needed to be done – from acquiring a building to establishing the basic structure of an organization. Bette Davis and John Garfield agreed to find the right property to house their new Canteen.

Photo of Mickey Rooney at Hollywood Canteen

Hollywood Canteen Volunteers      

Everyone felt that the Canteen should be operated by and staffed with volunteers solely from the entertainment industry. Anyone affiliated with the studios and related guilds and unions would be welcomed – and fingerprinted and photographed, as required by the F.B.I.

The Canteen was to be used exclusively by enlisted servicemen of the United States and Allied Nations. No military officers would be permitted on the floor at any time; civilians who were not connected with the entertainment business would also be prohibited.

Admission To the Hollywood Canteen     

The Canteen’s officers and directors believed that a serviceman’s uniform was his ticket to admission. Everything at the Canteen should be free to him, including food, beverages (no alcohol allowed), and cigarettes. There would never be a charge for entertainment, either – such as the music of top name bands and singers – nor for celebrity autographs, or dancing with movie

stars and hostesses. To provide all the free food, drink, and cigarettes, donations were to be sought from Southern California food distributors, which would be the responsibility of whoever became chairman of the Food Committee.

Hollywood Canteen Hours

Because the Canteen would be run by people with nine-to-five jobs, its hours would be from 7:00 pm till midnight, in two shifts, Monday through Saturday, and on Sunday, from 2:00 in the afternoon to 8:00 pm.

It was figured that approximately three hundred volunteers would be needed nightly. These would include junior and senior hostesses, busboys, kitchen help, doormen, cloakroom clerks, stage staff, band members, and celebrities who would hand out sandwiches and coffee, as well as provide entertainment.

The first two nightly shifts would work from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm; the second from 9:30 to midnight. There would be two Officers of the Day, one for each shift, to greet the servicemen and see that the evening’s activities ran smoothly.

Rare photo of Marlene Dietrich at Hollywood Canteen

Hollywood Canteen Committees    

Numerous committees were established – some comprised of several members; others having only one or two – each headed by a Chairman. One of the first to be formed was the Building Committee, under the guidance of Al Ybarra, associate art director for producer David O. Selznick. It would face the Herculean task of remodeling the building that Bette and John were to find. Other committees included those for Hosts and Hostesses, Entertainment, Music, Food, Publicity, and Maintenance.

Hollywood Canteen Photos

The largest collection of Hollywood Canteen history and Photos is on the website. All the photos ae available for purchase.

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