While I will sometimes base a post in this space on a particular book, I rarely post a book review per se. This post regarding Christian Blauvelt’s Hollywood Victory is an exception, because many readers of this blog not only enjoy old movies, they also enjoy the history of World War II as well.
Liberally illustrated, Hollywood Victory traces Hollywood’s reaction to and involvement in World War II. Studios such as Walt Disney’s produced propaganda films, while others produced documentaries. Production people and screen writers and technicians contributed their talents. Some stars criss-crossed the country selling war bonds. Carol Lombard, a.k.a. Mrs. Clark Gable, was an early casualty of the war when the plane in which she was flying after making an appearance at a bond rally in Indianapolis crashed, killing all passengers on board on January 16, 1942 just 40 days after Pearl Harbor. The grief stricken Gable joined the Army Air Forces in August of that year. Jimmy Stewart was already a member of the Army Air Force, having enlisted as a private in March, 1941. By the time the war was over, he was a colonel and had flown 20 bombing missions over Germany. Bob Hope was paid $10 a day for his work with the USO. Bette Davis and John Garfield established the Hollywood Canteen, a club that was free to enlisted men and in which one might find Hedy Lamarrr waiting tables.
Blauvelt discusses the relevant movies and why Hollywood suddenly became interested in an African-American audience.
Full of interesting tidbits, perhaps the most interesting is that only one movie dealt with what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder: Courage of Lassie, in which it is Lassie herself who suffers the after-effects of having experienced war.
The book also contains interesting tidbits about the war. Something I had never read anywhere else was that the United States government had struck 500,000 Purple Hearts in anticipation of the tremendous number of casualties expected as a result of the impending invasion of Japan. They were never used, but every Purple Heart issued since 1945 has come from that stockpile.
There is no point in my relating any more facts from this book, because if you’ve read this far, you will want to read Hollywood Victory for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.