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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hollywood and the Day that Lived in Infamy

Today is the seventieth anniversary of the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which therefore drew the United States into World War II. (It's also happens to be parents' wedding anniversary - but we're talking about Pearl Harbor today. ;D)

There is a reason that this era we are speaking of is often referred to as "The Greatest Generation." It makes me proud to see the way these people scrimped and pinched and put all of their heart into the war effort. This included Hollywood, too. I got into a discussion with one of my teachers a few weeks back, and I insisted to her that Hollywood was so much different than it was today and they really did make a difference in World War Two. Movie stars were much more accessible and caring (not to mention there wasn't a single one of them that wasn't awesome and don't touch my heart in someway), and they were effected by the War as much as anyone.

Here's just a few things that Classic Hollywood contributed to the war:

  • Huge stars like Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable went off to fight.
  • Cary Grant donated much of the salary he made to the war effort.
  • Others, from Desi Arnaz to Ingrid Bergman, entertained troops.
  • Pretty much every star you can think of sold war bonds. One tour of MGM stars alone included Lucy, Greer, Judy Garland, and Mickey Rooney. Here is footage of a war bond rally. Just by watching it, you can tell the impact the stars had. 
  • Carole Lombard was the first female causality of the war, when she was killed in a plane crash on her way back from selling war bonds - she'd sold an outstanding amount. 
  • Many, like Bette Davis, served the troops as a member of the Hollywood Canteen.
  • Patriotic or wartime films hit an all time high - "Mrs. Miniver" itself was made to encourage Americans to help out the Brits in the war, though by the time it was released in 1942 the States were already immersed in the war.
And this is just a small selection of Hollywood's contributions - really, you could just go on forever. (I think I will do a separate series of posts about that in the near future. Sooo many photos and stories.) And this is all in addition to the fact that going to the the cinema helped Americans get their minds off the war, even for just an hour or two. The movies were an escape for many, just as it had been throughout the Great Depression. 

On this 70th anniversary, I'd like to reflect on Hollywood and the actual bombing of Pearl Harbor itself. This generation of Americans often have a common bond of "where were you when the towers fell?", in reference to the 9/11 bombings. For the past generation, it was very much "where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor?" So here are passages from classic stars autobiographies or biographies, discussing the day that lived in infamy, accompanied by wartime Classic Hollywood photos (war bond rallies, pinups, wartime movie stills etc.)

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz:

"December 7th,  1941. Lucy and I were in New York City staying a lovely penthouse apartment which a friend of mine had loaned us. It was there that we heard the word about the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor.  We made arrangments to fly to Los Angeles immediately and be with our famalies."

Ginger Rogers
Ginger Rogers:
" I was working on Roxie Hart when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, and the United States entered World War II. With our country now at war, whether we wanted to be or not, the sound stages were filled with radios giving out fresh information. The sound booth had to block out the squeaking from midget radios in the middle of a take, and much film was wasted during the time because we were so eager to hear the news... I remember what a shock it was, and my heart went out to anyone who had to be involved in any way, anywhere, in a war, and in particular to our American troops."
- "Ginger: My Story,"
by Ginger Rogers

Robert Mitchum:
"On December 7th the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and America found itself at war. Many of the young men at the plant went into the service. 'Bob didn't get in,' said Jim Dougherty. ' He said they wouldn't take him in the military because he had false teeth. That's what he told me'."
- "Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don't Care"
by Lee Server

Myrna Loy:
"On December 7th, 1941, Japan invaded Pearl Harbor, and FDR subsequently declared war. Myrna happened to be in New York with her close friend Natalie Visart... She learned about the Japanese invasion via a phone conversation with Arthur's [her husband] first wife, Juliette. Juliette, who was living on the East Coast, told Myrna, "We've been attacked!" 
-"Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood,"
by Emily W. Lieder 
Clark Gable:
"Clark Gable heard on the radio. Japanese planes had attacked and bombed the U.S Navy Base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii. The Gables returned to the house and stuck close to the radio to follow the breaking story. For reasons of security and public morale, the broadcasts were censored and the details were sketchy, but it became plain that the death toll and loss of American ships and planes were catastrophic."
-"Clark Gable: a Biography"

That's all for today. Try and take a moment and remember the brave souls of World War II.


Carmen said...

You are sooo right when you say Hollywood was different back then. Stars were more caring and, if you ask me, more human. They sure had a very different disposition than the stars today.

Dani said...

I agree that the stars of today are very different from the ones that experienced WWII (directly or indirectly). But, what also changed is that today the US doesn't really have what to fight for. I mean, these wars in the Middle East are so pointless, that it doesn't make sense for a Hollywood star to go and fight there. In 1941, when the Americans joined the war, until the end of the it, they at least had a real threat to fight against (Nazism). But if you look at today's stars, a lot of them still go out and support the troops and even entertain them.
Also, on a side note, my parent's anniversary was on the 6th. Quite a coincidence, huh?

Rianna said...

Carmen: Totally agree. Stars were certainly more caring and human. This is random, but I find it a good example - since Betty Grable and Lana Turner kind of look alike, they used to have fans approach them asking for each other's autographs. And instead of correcting and embarrassing them, they would actually pretend to be the other person. Whereas a star of today would have brushed the fans off completely.

Dani: Yes, there is not a major cause to fight for, and thank goodness for that. There probably are stars today that support the troops, just not the overwhelming support and dedication that the stars of the 40's gave, where nearly everyone had a contribution - however, as you said, WW2 was a much bigger deal then the fighting going on in the Middle East. Anyhow, what a coincidence about our parents' anniversaries being a day apart! lol. :D

Tom said...

Thanks for sharing the excerpts; it's so interesting to read about what all the celebrities were doing on Dec 7 1941.

Rianna said...

Thanks, I'm glad you liked this post!

Dani said...

Since we're on the subject - sort of - are there any stars of today that you admire? Someone under 45? Do you ever listen to current music or watch current movies?

Rianna said...

Well, honestly, it's hard for me to "admire" stars of today. Not because ALL stars of today are not admirable (though quite a few certainly aren't), simply because I don't know much about them. Lol :) But anyway, I do watch current movies on occasion, if I do it's usually historical (surprise, surprise) or a romantic comedy, I don't go for any of that Twilight or Transformers nonsense. (No offense to anyone who likes it). As for any modern stars I like, I do kind of like Meg Ryan, Kate Winslet, Sandra Bullock... (I can't think of any actors really), but they definitely don't have the big influence on me that classic actors do. I also listen to current music and probably do have a great deal of it on my iPod, I'm not as prejudice with music (lol), but I still like old music better.

That was an essay of an answer! -;) How about you? What moderns do you like?

Dani said...

From movies I like Emily Mortimer, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman, Rachel McAdams, James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Ryan Gosling. Kate Winslet is also amazing. I like a lot of people.
As for music, I think I'm more into modern artists than old ones. I like Damien Rice, The Swell Season, Adele, Jessie J, Kelly Clarkson. My favourite musicians come from the UK. I think they make the best music and Old Hollywood made the best movies.

Dani said...

Almost forgot: I love Rose Byrne. One of my favourite actresses.

Rianna said...

Haha, this proves I honestly am so oblivious to new Hollywood, I only know a few of the names you mention! But I like Natalie Portman too.

I like new music, I'm not really INTO it though so I'm the stuff I listen to is probably kind of mainstream. I think it's so unique you like British music though.

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