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Vintage Photos of the Hollywood Canteen

Vintage Photos of the Hollywood Canteen

The largest collection of vintage photographs of the Hollywood Canteen is on the website.  There are more than 300 vintage and historical photographs of all the activities that took place at the Hollywood Canteen.

The history of the Hollywood Canteen is one of Hollywood's greatest stories and one that should be remembered by everyone interested in Hollywood's illustrious history.


Founding The Hollywood Canteen

The Hollywood Canteen was founded by Bette Davis and John Garfield. In early 1942 John Garfield visited the Stage Door Canteen in New York City. The Stage Door Canteen was a place where servicemen could go, when in New York, to eat, dance, and be entertained by some of New York's finest actors and actresses. Upon his return to Hollywood, John Garfield met with Bette Davis at the Warner Bros. commissary. They both agreed that Hollywood needed to have its own canteen and after further discussion Betty agreed to be the canteen’s chairman.

They immediately began to solicit the assistance of all of the motion picture unions, guilds, and trades. Everyone they spoke to was eager to join ranks with them to build the Hollywood canteen. Shortly thereafter, they rented a former nightclub that had been vacant for about five years. They leased the building for $100 per year, for the duration of the war.

Bette Davis met with Dr. Jules Stein, who was the founder and president of the Music Corporation of America.  She asked Dr. Stein if he would get involved with the Hollywood Canteen. Initially, he turned her down because he did not like to be in the limelight. When she told him that she needed him for his business acumen and that he could stay in the background, he agreed to her request.


Hollywood Canteen Volunteers

All of the motion picture unions, guilds, and trade associations volunteered their time to refurbish the former nightclub, which was in terrible condition.  The website has many photographs of the workmen refurbishing the old building. At the same time word got out that the Canteen needed hundreds of volunteers to operate the canteen on a daily basis. It wasn't long before hundreds and hundreds of volunteers signed up at the Canteen.

The only people allowed to volunteer at the Hollywood Canteen were those who were employed in the entertainment industry, whether it be radio, movie studios, or the legitimate stage. It wasn't long before actors, actresses, studio secretaries, props men, studio executives, etc. were signing up as volunteers.  One of the most interesting photos of people signing up is of Loretta Young having her photograph taken for her identification card. All volunteers had to have their photographs taken, and had to be fingerprinted, which appeared on their ID cards.

The Hollywood Canteen opened its doors on October 3, 1942 to an enthusiastic audience of celebrities, civic leaders and visiting servicemen.


Hollywood Canteen Activities

The activities that took place at the Hollywood Canteen consisted of eating, dancing and being entertained by some of Hollywood's finest entertainers. All of the food was free to the visiting serviceman. It was not uncommon to see servicemen dancing with some of Hollywood's prettiest and most successful actresses. Autograph signing was also a popular activity at the Canteen. However, the most popular activity was the entertainment that was provided by the finest entertainers in the world. Many of the photographs in the collection show servicemen dancing with such stars as Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, and Joan Leslie. There are photographs of autographs being signed by such celebrities as Joan Crawford and Jane Powell.


The collection also has scores of vintage photographs of popular celebrities, such as Bob Hope, Cary Grant, and Dinah Shore standing on the stage and entertaining the servicemen and other volunteers.

Visit the website to view more than 300 vintage and historical photographs of the famous Hollywood Canteen. All of the photos in this popular collection are available for purchase.

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