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The Hollywood Canteen Wasn't Just A Movie

The Hollywood Canteen was not just a movie. It was based on a real club created by actor John Garfield, Jules Stein and actress Bette Davis in the 1940's. During the war, serviceman flooded the Hollywood area. John Garfield and Bette Davis saw a need for free entertainment and refreshments for the soldiers. With the help of the newly formed financial committee, work got started to find a location. A former horse stable and cabaret nightclub called The Red Barn was chosen, located just off Sunset Boulevard.

Painters paint the exterior just before the grand opening

Painters paint the exterior just before the grand opening.

Hollywood canteen entrance

The Hollywood Canteen opened its doors October 3,1942. The sign over the door read “Through these portals pass the most beautiful uniforms in the world.”

The Hollywood Canteen Opening

And beautiful they were. They were also well fed, free food was provided and even served up by Bette herself.

Bette Davis serving at Hollywood Canteen

Bette Davis

Bette Davis

Jules Steins wife Doris, organized hostesses and dancing partners for the servicemen

Vivien Leigh dancing at Hollywood Canteen

Vivien Leigh

Linda Darnell dancing at Hollywood Canteen

Linda Darnell

Decorations and materials were provided by the local guilds and unions. Neighboring artists and cartoonist painted murals on the walls of the club.

Local artists mural at Hollywood Canteen

Local artist paints mural inside the Canteen

It was truly a Hollywood collaboration for the War effort. Over 3,000 from the entertainment industry volunteered.

Volunteers Entrance Hollywood Canteen

Imagine the thrill and smiles on the servicemen and women's faces upon entering. A once in a lifetime chance to dance with that favorite movie star, or perhaps be waited on by someone famous.

Rita Hayworth serving at Hollywood Canteen

Rita Hayworth

Bombshells like Paulette Goddard, Veronica Lake, Hedy LaMarr, Jane Russell or Gene Tierney volunteered, just to name a few.

Paulette Goddard Hollywood Canteen

Paulette Goddard

Rita Hayworth front of Hollywood Canteen

Rita Hayworth

All patrons were provided with a postcard of the Hollywood Canteen at the reception desk. Postage was free and many sent word home of their experiences in the club.

Hollywood Canteen Postcard

Musical entertainment was superb at the Canteen. With co founder Jules Stein being president of the Music Corporation of America, it was a breeze to book talented artists to join the war effort and play their tunes for the soldiers. Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Lena Horne, Bob Hope, The Andrews Sisters and many more got the music flowing, feet dancing and the soldiers minds off the war.

Frank Sinatra Hollywood Canteen

Frank Sinatra singing with the Harry James band

The Andrews Sisters Hollywood Canteen

The Andrews Sisters

It was such a huge success that in less than a year the club celebrated its millionth guest. Sgt. Carl Bell walked through the door one September evening in 1943 and was given the surprise of his life. As the millionth customer, he was smooched by none other than Marlene Dietrich and escorted by Betty Grable.

Marlene Dietrich Hollywood Canteen

Marlene Dietrich lays one on Sgt Bell

Betty Grable Hollywood Canteen

Betty Grable with 1,000,000th guest Sgt. Carl Bell

Lana Turner, Deanna Durbin, Marlene Dietrich and the 1,000,000th guest Sgt. Carl Bell

Moments like this were inspiration for the movie "Hollywood Canteen" made in 1944. It starred Joan Leslie, Robert Hutton and Dane Clark, with many cameo appearances by the volunteer actors and actresses themselves.

Hollywood Canteen Movie Poster

Warner Brother donated forty percent of ticket sales back to the Canteen. The movie was the fourth highest grossing film for 1944. By the time the war ended the club had been host to almost three million serviceman.

Hollywood Canteen serves military men

The financial committee had over a half million dollars left in funds when they closed their doors on Thanksgiving 1945. They created a foundation that still exists today and proceeds go towards continuing helping our servicemen and women. Unfortunately, it was demolished in 1966 and the original site of the infamous Hollywood Canteen is now a parking garage for the CNN building on Sunset.

John Garfield Bete Davis Hollywood Canteen

John Garfield, Bette Davis

Hollywood Canteen John Garfield, Bette Davis and Jules Stein

Founders of the Hollywood Canteen John Garfield, Bette Davis and Jules Stein

Footage of the Real Hollywood Canteen Celebrities who donated their time at the Hollywood Canteen were: Bud Abbott and Lou Costello June Allyson Don Ameche Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson The Andrews Sisters Dana Andrews Eve Arden Louis Armstrong Jean Arthur Fred Astaire Mary Astor Lauren Bacall Lucille Ball Tallulah Bankhead Theda Bara Lynn Bari Diana Barrymore Ethel Barrymore Lionel Barrymore Count Basie Anne Baxter Louise Beavers Wallace Beery William Bendix Constance Bennett Joan Bennett Jack Benny Edgar Bergen Ingrid Bergman Milton Berle Mel Blanc Ann Blyth Humphrey Bogart Ray Bolger Beulah Bondi William Boyd Charles Boyer Clara Bow El Brendel Walter Brennan Fanny Brice Joe E. Brown Les Brown Billie Burke George Burns & Gracie Allen Spring Byington James Cagney Cab Calloway Rod Cameron Eddie Cantor Judy Canova Kitty Carlisle Jack Carson Adriana Caselotti Charlie Chaplin Marguerite Chapman Cyd Charisse Charles Coburn Claudette Colbert Jerry Colonna Ronald Colman Perry Como Chester Conklin Gary Cooper Joseph Cotten Noël Coward James Craig Bing Crosby Joan Crawford George Cukor Xavier Cugat Cass Daley Dorothy Dandridge Linda Darnell Bette Davis Doris Day Yvonne De Carlo Gloria DeHaven Dolores Del Rio William Demarest Olivia de Havilland Cecil B. DeMille Marlene Dietrich Walt Disney Jimmy Dorsey Tommy Dorsey Irene Dunne Jimmy Durante Deanna Durbin Nelson Eddy Duke Ellington Faye Emerson Dale Evans Jinx Falkenburg Alice Faye Louise Fazenda Gracie Fields Barry Fitzgerald Errol Flynn Kay Francis Jane Frazee Joan Fontaine Susanna Foster Eva Gabor Ava Gardner Judy Garland Greer Garson Lillian Gish James Gleason Betty Grable Cary Grant Kathryn Grayson Sydney Greenstreet Paulette Goddard Samuel Goldwyn Benny Goodman Jack Haley Margaret Hamilton Phil Harris Moss Hart Helen Hayes Dick Haymes Susan Hayward Rita Hayworth Sonja Henie Paul Henreid Katharine Hepburn Darla Hood Bob Hope Hedda Hopper Lena Horne Edward Everett Horton Ruth Hussey Betty Hutton Harry James Gloria Jean Anne Jeffreys Allen Jenkins Van Johnson Al Jolson Jennifer Jones Marcia Mae Jones Boris Karloff Danny Kaye Buster Keaton Ruby Keeler Evelyn Keyes Andrea King Gene Krupa Kay Kyser Alan Ladd Bert Lahr Elsa Lanchester Angela Lansbury Veronica Lake Hedy Lamarr Dorothy Lamour Carole Landis Frances Langford Charles Laughton Peter Lawford Gertrude Lawrence Peggy Lee Pinky Lee Mervyn LeRoy Vivien Leigh Joan Leslie Ted Lewis Beatrice Lillie Mary Livingston June Lockhart Anita Loos Peter Lorre Myrna Loy Keye Luke Bela Lugosi Ida Lupino Diana Lynn Marie McDonald Jeanette MacDonald Fred MacMurray Irene Manning The Marx Brothers Herbert Marshall Victor Mature Elsa Maxwell Louis B. Mayer Hattie McDaniel Roddy McDowall Frank McHugh Victor McLaglen Butterfly McQueen Lauritz Melchior Adolphe Menjou Una Merkel Ray Milland Ann Miller Glenn Miller Carmen Miranda Robert Mitchum Maria Montez Jackie Moran Dennis Morgan Ken Murray The Nicholas Brothers Ramon Novarro Jack Oakie Margaret O'Brien Virginia O'Brien Donald O'Connor Maureen O'Hara Oona O'Neill Maureen O'Sullivan Merle Oberon Eugene Pallette Eleanor Parker Louella Parsons John Payne Gregory Peck Mary Pickford Walter Pidgeon Zasu Pitts Cole Porter Dick Powell Eleanor Powell Jane Powell William Powell Anthony Quinn George Raft Claude Rains Basil Rathbone Martha Raye Donna Reed Bill "Bojangles" Robinson Edward G. Robinson Ginger Rogers Roy Rogers Cesar Romero Mickey Rooney Jane Russell Rosalind Russell Ann Rutherford Peggy Ryan S.Z. Sakall Olga San Juan Ann Savage Hazel Scott Lizabeth Scott Randolph Scott Toni Seven Norma Shearer Ann Sheridan Dinah Shore Sylvia Sidney Phil Silvers Ginny Simms Frank Sinatra Red Skelton Alexis Smith Kate Smith Ann Sothern Jo Stafford Barbara Stanwyck Craig Stevens Leopold Stokowski Lewis Stone Gloria Swanson Elizabeth Taylor Shirley Temple Danny Thomas Gene Tierney Lawrence Tibbett Martha Tilton Claire Trevor Sophie Tucker Lana Turner Spencer Tracy Gloria Vanderbilt Beryl Wallace Nancy Walker Ethel Waters John Wayne Clifton Webb Virginia Weidler Johnny Weissmuller Orson Welles Mae West Alice White Paul Whiteman Margaret Whiting Esther Williams Chill Wills Marie Wilson Jane Withers Teresa Wright Anna May Wong Constance Worth Jane Wyman Keenan Wynn Rudy Vallee Lupe Vélez Loretta Young Robert Young Darryl F. Zanuck Vera Zorina Sources: Wikipedia, Martin Turnbull, The Hollywood Canteen Chat and the New York Public Library Digital Archives.

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Unknown member
Mar 12, 2021

Love learning more about the Canteen. Great post. I was surprised to see the founder, John Garfield omitted from the volunteer list. shouldn't he be on there?

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