HISTORY – The Hollywood Canteen

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aDrPsbLwuY[/youtube] The Hollywood Canteen existed at 1451 Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood between October 3, 1942 and Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 1945

With Steven Colbert’s recent adoption as USO mascot, I thought it might be timely to revisit one of Hollywood’s biggest efforts to bond with our nation’s soldiers.

Throughout World War II, Americans were very much in the habit of making hospital visits, putting on shows at military bases, and serving doughnuts and hot coffee in canteens in an effort to boost the spirits of enlisted men. As many of them were enlisted themselves, the biggest stars of stage and screen were very much involved in the morale building as well. On American soil, the goal was set to give the servicemen an option to come to the celebrities instead of vice versa… and that was how The Stage Door Canteen Nightclub (located at the 44th Street Theater in Times Square) was born. The driving forces behind the creation of the USO‘s West Coast location, The Hollywood Canteen, were Bette Davis and John Garfield, along with legendary songwriter Jule Styne (FYI, he wrote more than a few tunes you’ve heard before). The Canteen was operated and staffed completely by volunteers from various aspects of the local entertainment industry. By the time the doors opened in 1942, over 3000 stars, players, directors, producers, grips, dancers, musicians, singers, writers, technicians, wardrobe attendants, hair stylists, agents, stand-ins, publicists, secretaries, and allied craftsmen of radio and screen had registered as volunteers. On any given day or night, actresses such as Ann Sothern, Hedy Lamarr and Linda Darnell could be found pouring coffee.

The club offered food, dancing and entertainment for servicemen, usually on their way overseas. Even though the majority of visitors were U.S servicemen, the Canteen was open to servicemen of allied countries as well as women in all branches of service. The serviceman’s ticket for admission was his uniform and everything at the Canteen was free of charge. (And yes, there were civilians who did try to “borrow” uniforms to sneak in… but it was *very* frowned upon.) At the time the Canteen closed its doors, it had been host to almost three million servicemen. Ann Sheridan was originally slated to star in the film of the same name, but rejected the script, calling it too “unrealistic.”

[dailymotion]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7j921_hollywood-canine-canteen_shortfilms[/dailymotion] CARTOON BONUS!!! Hollywood Canine Canteen, 1946 – “In this spoof of the 1944 Warner Bros. film Hollywood Canteen, a group of dogs owned by famous movie stars decide to organize a USO nightclub to entertain the members of the Army K-9 Corps. These mutts bear a remarkable resemblance to their celebrity owners, who include Edward G. Robinson, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Colonna, Carmen Miranda Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Abbott & Costello and Laurel & Hardy. The music for the Hollywood Canine Canteen is provided by eminent symphony conductor “Bowowski”, and those Kings of Swing “Hairy” James, “Boney” Goodman, Tommy “Dorgy”, Lionel “Hambone” and “Kaynine” Kyser.” (SOURCE)

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply