Learning About Hollywood and World War II in Hollywood Victory
In less than one month, on December 7, 2021, will be the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor – an event that brought our country into war and forever changed life in the United States. Though long before my time I nevertheless know much about the war years thanks to stories from my grandparents who lived through them. These stories led to an inevitable curiosity about the era and I often take the opportunity to learn about it through books, movies and museums and, as a classic film fan, I’ve long been interested in Hollywood’s connection to the war. Apparently, I’m not the only one because TCM recently released its latest title, Hollywood Victory: The Movies, Stars, and Stories of World War II and I was lucky enough to receive a copy.
Hollywood Victory by Christina Blauvelt tells the story of World War II through the lens of the entertainment industry. Starting with the rise of Hitler in the early 1930’s and continuing into the postwar era it details the industry’s contributions to the war effort whether it be the studios as a whole or the individual efforts of the stars themselves. No stone is left unturned and the book features such notable efforts as the Hollywood Canteen, the Good Neighbor Policy and, perhaps the most famous war film, Casablanca.
Lest you think the book only delves into well known subjects it does offer an equal amount of attention to lesser known aspects of Hollywood’s response to the war, including the service records of some of its leading stars. Prior to reading the book I knew that Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart actively saw combat but I assumed that most other stars saw little action. Little did I know that such leading men as Robert Montgomery, Henry Fonda and Tyrone Power not only saw action but were rewarded the Bronze Star.
And we can’t forget the USO entertainers. Everyone knows about Bob Hope’s devotion to the troops but there were several others who put their lives on the line to bring a smile to a soldier. Marlene Dietrich was so devoted that she regularly appeared near the front lines and Carole Landis traveled over 100,000 miles to entertain the troops, outpacing any other female star. Then there was Hattie McDaniel who devoted so much of herself to the war effort from entertaining black troops to donating her salary from Thank Your Luck Stars to the Hollywood Canteen to raising $175,000 in one single performance.
From the roles of individual stars to the efforts of the studio, Hollywood Victory is filled with so many stories of the industry’s response to the war effort. It’s filled with fascinating anecdotes and is sure to provide insight to even the most learned read. Prior to reading, I thought I knew quite a bit about Hollywood and World War II yet page after page I founding myself coming across inform ation brand new to me. Well researched and easy to read, Hollywood Victory is sure to please any classic film fan.