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Hollywood Legion Post #43 Photos & History

Hollywood Legion Photos & History

Founding of the Hollywood Legion Post #43

The history of the Hollywood Legion Post # 43 is one that is keeping with Hollywood’s great and illustrious history. The Hollywood Legion in Hollywood started withthe men who had gone off to fight what they believed was ‘the war to end all wars’. The returning men rallied behind the idea of establishing an organization of, for and by veterans. In 1919, Army captain Taylor Duncan returned from WW I to work as an actor and stagehand in Hollywood’s film industry. He was one of the actors at Jesse Lasky Studios and by all accounts, was an engaging and persuasive fellow. He tirelessly campaigned for a post established in Hollywood that could serve returning doughboys who had come to Hollywood to make their mark on the silver screen.

Photo of Hollywood Legion Stadium

The Hollywood Legion Stadium

Working under that charter, plans were quickly underway to find a permanent home for the American Legion. In a touch of providence, screen star and singer Al Jolsen helped make the building that sits regally on Highland Avenue a reality. “Jolsen, it turns out, was a big fan of boxing. He claimed he was tired of driving all the way to Vernon to watch the fights, and suggested to Taylor and a few of his veteran buddies that they should build and operate a boxing arena in Hollywood, called the Hollywood Legion Stadium, Boxing in Hollywood was an immediate success and the money poured in. Fights were regularly attended by a who’s-who of Hollywood’s A-listers – Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Ida Lupino and Clark Gable had ringside seats. The likes of Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow, and Mary Pickford cheered their favorites along side blue-collar patrons. “The Marx Brothers used to have a craps game on the floor until they were booted out.  Some of the finest  Hollywood Legion Stadium photos can be viewed on the hollywoodphotographs.com website.

Using money generated from the boxing matches, the American Legion purchased land near the Hollywood Bowl, and groundbreaking for the building of a permanent home began in 1928. The architects were themselves Legionnaires. Gene and Joe Weston, together with construction expert Paul Jefferson, designed and created the massive concrete bunker. The original capacity of the stadium was 6000. Both Gene and Joe had served as Vice Commanders of the post.  The building, with its ornate entrance of colored terracotta tiles, wide steps, terraces and pyramid give an indelible impression of strength and solidity. On July 4, 1929 the permanent home of American Legion Post 43 was opened at a cost of $168,000.

Hollywood Legion photo

The Legion’s Clubhouse

In 1989 the clubhouse was designated as an historic location by the City of Los Angeles. The museum holds a treasure trove of military memorabilia. It is a testament to the close relationship of Hollywood glamour and the United States military forces, with signed photographs of Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth and Shirley Temple nestled between military medals and ribbons. The four-room museum boasts donations from veterans and families of veterans, and includes a wealth of personal documents and artifacts.  Duddy has had conversations with one of the ghostly residents, Marshall Wyatt, who was the bar manager for 31 years.  “The Canteen” or bar at the post was open during Prohibition.

Dances and live performances were a mainstay throughout the war years and beyond. The Legion was in its heyday during World War Two when the post was crowded by legion members who filled a neon-lit Art Deco bar and swelled into a nightclub-like dining area called the "Cabaret Room." Singers and top acts of the day performed from a stage above a small dance floor. Larger performances showcasing top-name artists drew crowds of more than 1,000 upstairs in the main auditorium. Hollywood stars and studio moguls regularly lent their efforts to help when war bond drives were held there.

Audience at Hollywood Legion Stadium

The Legion’s Membership.

Past and current membership include Charlton Heston, Mickey Rooney, Aldo Ray, Ernest Borgnine, Morgan Woodward, Clark Gable, Red Buttons, Gene Autry, Adolph Menjou, Hugh O’Brien, Rudy Vallee, and Ronald Reagan. But he also wants people to understand the importance of the American Legion in the lives of veterans. “We are a family. Being shot at or in a war zone, or combat situation changes a person. There is no other way to explain it.”.  Every war and conflict is represented,” stated Duddy. He believes that given the complexity of conflicts in which the United States is currently involved makes the American Legion more relevant than most realize. “Soldiers need to be nurtured by families of soldiers.

Tamara

The post was the venue of “Tamara”, a groundbreaking interactive theatre experience that ran for nine years. Legionnaires realized the building held untapped potential for other, shorter-term shows and events. Legion leaders turned their Egyptian-Moroccan Deco showpiece into a backdrop for movies and commercials and a venue for musical artists and entertainment events.  The Hollywood Legion continues to nurture talented veterans, and several of the newer Legionnaires work in the theatre and film industry.

Exterior of Hollywood Legion Stadium

Hollywood Legion Photos on hollywoodphotos.com website

The largest collection of Hollywood Legion Post #43 photos is on the hollywoodphotos.com website. All the photos are available for purchase.

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