Thursday, July 2, 2009

Hollywood Canteen - Where Servicemen and Stars Meet

Hollywood Canteen - 1451 Cahuenga Blvd. Hollywood, CA
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.

Looking Northwest at Cahuenga Blvd & Sunset Blvd
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.

Looking Southwest at Cahuenga Blvd. & Sunset Blvd.

Cary Grant entertains the troops at Hollywood Canteen
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...
Your thoughts?


Keith said...

Great photos. I really like the one with Cary Grant.

A said...

I love the idea of the Hollywood Canteen. It must have been fantastic to be in the presence of all those fabulous stars.

Miss Matilda said...

I found the fact that Gene Tierney caught german measles whilst pregnant, whilst attending the Hollywood canteen really moving.

Yet I am certain there are much happier outcomes from the canteen days.

Robby Cress said...


Thanks for sharing that tidbit. Yes, although devastating that Gene Tierney caught German measles while attending the Hollywood Canteen, it's an interesting part of history.

I think A&E did a biography a while back that includes some images of Tierney while she volunteered at the Canteen.

Some Like it said...

I've heard of the Hollywood Canteen. What a great thing to do for service folks - can't do enough for them really.

Must have been alot of fun and a way to just forget the war for a bit....great photos!

DKoren said...

That's too bad it's completely gone. It's a landmark I wish they'd preserved. Neat entry!

Kevin Deany said...

My dad served in the Navy in World War II and visited the Hollywood Cantee one night on leave. He didn't remember the band that was performing there - odd, as his memory for such details was remarkable - and that night there were no stars there. He did remember getting served coffee and donuts by an exceptionally pretty girl.

After the war he went to the movie s to see "Holiday in Mexico", an M-G-M musical, and took notice of one of the cast members. He remembered her as the girl who waited on him at the Canteen.

She tourned out to be Linda Christian, probably best known today as the second Mrs. Tyrone Power. She had a short-lived acting career.

Robby Cress said...


What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing. How exciting that must have been for your father to be watching "Holiday in Mexico" and suddenly realizing he was served by one of the starlets.

Unknown said...

Why haven't there been any books written about the Hollywood Canteen?
There are ton's of pictures out there...

Happy Mom Aim said...

Do you know what year it was demolished? That info is elusive. I've seen the movie and I love it! Thanks for this article. I was hoping that by some miracle it was still there, but sadly, I've learned that LA does not like to keep historic buildings standing.


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