Above is a vintage postcard of the famous Hollywood Canteen. The Canteen, created by film actors Bette Davis and John Garfield , along with MCA president Jules Stein, was a place where the Hollywood stars fed and entertained United States servicemen, as well as servicemen from allied countries, during World War II. From 1942 until Thanksgiving 1945, servicemen who ventured into Hollywood for a night out could gain access to the Canteen if they were in uniform. Everything was free of charge.
Below are pictures of where the Hollywood Canteen used to stand.
On the left of the above photo is where the Hollywood Canteen used to stand. Today there is a tower for CNN and a parking garage. Across the street is Amoeba Records, one of the best record shops in the country. And just a block and half north on Cahuenga Blvd are a few film locations from the Buster Keaton film, The Cameraman. Check out my past post on that here.
The Andrew Sisters, Jimmy Durante, James Cagney, Betty Hutton, Danny Kaye, Shirley Temple, Ruby Keeler, Ronald Reagan, Dorothy Lamour, Dana Andrews, you name it - if you were a big Hollywood star you volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen. Some served food, others sang and dance, the comedians cracked jokes - the actresses even danced with the servicemen. The one millionth guest to visit the Hollywood Canteen was lucky enough to receive a kiss from Betty Grable! On one night, at the nearby corner of Sunset and Wilcox, a tent was set up where Orson Welles performed magic tricks. One of the tricks was sawing his wife Rita Hayworth in half!
But it wasn't just the stars that volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen. Producers, writers, technicians, costumers, agents, assistants, publicists and many others who worked in Hollywood volunteered as well. Even the murals painted inside the Canteen were the volunteered work of some of Hollywood's cartoonists.
In 1944, Warner Brothers made a film titled Hollywood Canteen. The film was a celebrity circus. Many of the hundreds of stars that volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen appear in the film. Here is a trailer for the movie:
I would love to hear the stories the GIs who attended the Hollywood Canteen must have to share? What it was like chatting with so and so, or dancing with whatever actress, or if the partied continued afterwards at such a place...