Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veterans Day from the Hollywood Canteen

Since today is Veteran's Day I wanted to do a special blog and I thought it was appropriate to showcase the Hollywood Canteen as it was a place dedicated solely for servicemen during WWII and run by Hollywood celebrities who dedicated countless hours to provide entertainment before U.S. soldiers went off to war.

the front entrance

The Hollywood Canteen which was located at 1451 Cahuenga Blvd off of Sunset in Hollywood California opened its doors on October 3rd 1942. The building formerly housed and old nightclub called The Old Barn.  It opened as a club that offered free food, dancing and entertainment for service men and women during WWII usually on their way overseas.  Although the majority of the service men in attendance were U.S troops, all service men from allied countries were also welcome.

 Service men from all branches of the military lined up and waiting for the doors to open

The servicemen's ticket for admission was his uniform and everything was free of charge for the evening.  Actors Bette Davis and John Garfield along with musician, physician and business leader Jules Stein were behind the creation of the Hollywood Canteen and responsible for getting the doors open.  Once the location was purchased the various guilds and unions of the entertainment industry donated the funds for the renovations and labor to get it up and running.  

Founders John Garfield, Bette Davis and Jules Stein on opening night at the Hollywood Canteen

The canteen was operated and run solely by the entertainment community who volunteered their time during the war.  Whether their nightly duty was to greet service men at the door, serve food, cook, wash dishes, wait tables or dance with the guests who waited in long lines to meet and be entertained by their favorite stars.  

Rita Hayworth outside the Hollywood Canteen in costume

By the time the Hollywood Canteen opened it's doors for the first time there were over 3000 stars, players, directors, producers, grips, dancers, musicians, singers, writers, technicians, wardrobe attendants, hairstylists, agents, stand-ins, publicists, secretaries and allied craftsmen of radio and screen who had volunteered their time.  One wall was titled The Hollywood Hall of Honor and dedicated to the Hollywood Actors who served during WWII.  Unfortunately their fellow actor Leslie Howard lost his life during a flying mission when his aircraft was shot down. The British born actor is best known for playing the character Ashley Wilkes in "Gone with the Wind"

surrounding the stage for the evenings entertainment (the wall murals were painted by Hollywood cartoonists)

Bette Davis serving the eager servicemen

Deanna Durban signing autographs at the Hollywood Canteen

Bob Hope doing dishes

Marlene Dietrich planting a kiss on one lucky soldier

Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore before taking the stage to perform

Ann Sothern, Hedy LaMarr and Linda Darnell

a crowd of celebrities at the Hollywood Canteen

Cary Grant on stage at the Hollywood Canteen

The Canteen closed its doors on Thanksgiving Day in 1945 and during its run over 3 million servicemen walked through its doors.  After its success the movie "Hollywood Canteen" was filmed with a star studded cast.  Their was also a New York club called the Stage Door Canteen that served troops on the East coast and was run by celebrities. I will be doing a post on it a bit later along with Hollywood's contribution to the USO.

Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart doing a live broadcast from the Hollywood Canteen

Lucille Ball and Judy Garland doing a food drive to support the Hollywood Canteen

Deanna Durban dancing with a lucky soldier

Judy Garland singing for a full crowd

Marlene Dietrich, Bob Hope and Bette Davis admiring their fellow actors who served

Lana Turner and Marlene Dietrich

Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney with Allied Troops

standing room only during one of the many performances

New Years Eve

Marlene Dietrich and Rita Hayworth serving food

a special celebration at the Hollywood Canteen

signing autographs

Bette Davis cutting a cake 

Greer Garson and James Cagney rehearsing before their live performance at the Hollywood Canteen

Paulette Goddard signing autographs for the servicemen

Mary Pickford

Frank Sinatra and Harry James

Bette Davis on the serving line

remnants of the Hollywood Canteen

Dedicated to all of the Servicemen who shared a special evening at the Hollywood Canteen and all of those who served in the Armed Services to allow us the freedom that we enjoy.  Your service is appreciated and words can't express our gratitude for your sacrifices.  A special thank you to my father for his service and my brother in law who is on active duty now. 

God Bless our Veterans,


  1. I was a 17 year old signalman in the Navy. I went to the Hollywood canteen a couple of times and enjoyed every minute.

    Lou Benedict

  2. My Dad was a trombone player at 20th Century Fox, and many times he would get home from his day job at Fox, and head off the Canteen to play for the Troops.

  3. My Dad was fortunate to go to the Hollywood Canteen quite a few times, he saved some memorabilia which included playbills and some autographs. Mary Pickford's autograph was one of them so I loved seeing the picture of her in your tribute to the Hollywood Canteen! Thanks

  4. just saw the movie stage door canteen everyone was in it thanks for the article