Hollywood's new love that dare not speak its name

No, this isn't a discussion of homosexuality. It is about Hollywood today not wanting to talk about 1940s Hollywood stars who served in the military and who both entertained the troops and went on War Bonds fund raising tours. Such a discussion would get people to think about the decided lack of open patriotic expression in Hollywood today.

Clint Eastwood's movie Flags of Our Fathers makes no mention or portrayal of any celebrity being involved in the Iwo Jima flag raisers' national US War Bonds tour. But if you read the James Bradley book on which the movie is based, you will find these remarks:

P. 283. "They boarded a train bound for New York. As they traveled, Treasury Secretary Morgenthau and (Marine) Commandant Vandegrift commented on their journey in a national broadcast from a Washington studio with Bob Hope as host. Hope then sang a duet with Bing Crosby via a remote hookup with Hollywood. The song was one that disc jockeys all over the country would play for months afterward: Crosby's recording of "Buy, Buy Bonds."

Imagine something comparable to that on MTV today.

P. 286. "The Massachusetts goal was $700 million, and Hollywood stars — including Joan Fontaine and Jane Wyman, then the wife of Ronald Reagan — had been trickling into town to add glamour to the festivities."

 P. 289. "Massive throngs, a "million—dollar cast" of Hollywood stars, and three days of patriotic fervor awaited them in Chicago, where several hundred thousand public and parochial schoolchildren had become volunteer bond salespeople. The local sales goal was $327 million. Humphrey Bogart was in town, and Lauren Bacall and Ida Lupino."

P. 289 again. "Fifty thousand people would pour into the great stadium near the shores of Lake Michigan to watch a parade and glimpse such stars as Pat O'Brian, Forrest Tucker, and Henny Youngman."

And then there were Hollywood people who actually went off to fight in World War II:

"Off the screen, leading actors and actresses led recruitment and bond drives and entertained the troops. Leading directors like Frank Capra, John Ford, and John Huston enlisted and made documentaries to explain, "why we fight" and to offer civilians an idea of what actual combat looked like. In less than a year, 12 percent of all film industry employees entered the armed forces, including Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, and Jimmy Stewart. By the war's end, one—quarter of Hollywood's male employees were in uniform."

A few years ago, while taking a bus trip to Hoover Dam from Las Vegas, I was shown the mountain range where Clark Gable's wife, Carole Lombard, died in a small plane crash while returning home from a war bond rally.

If you ever read the autobiography of lifelong Democrat Kirk Douglas, The Ragman's Son, you will find that he was just beginning his acting career and volunteered for the Navy, serving as a junior officer on a small war ship patrolling the Gulf of Mexico. He played down the significance of this in the book, but Nazi submarines wanted to get to the Galveston coast area where US refined oil was shipped to the military.

In July of 1942, a Nazi submarine sank a US freighter around 50 miles south of New Orleans. Douglas enlisted in the Navy in the early part of the war, 1942, and had no idea or guarantee at that time that his duty in the Gulf of Mexico would become progressively safer and easier. He was a stage actor but not a famous one, and he also was a past NCAA middleweight wrestling champion of the US at St. Lawrence College. I don't believe the Navy considered him physically unfit for difficult duty.

And how many of you have ever lived near a movie house called Victory Theater or Midway Theater? There are a number of them around the country. Do you think Hollywood chains are going to name any new multiplexes today after recent battles in Afghanistan or Iraq? I don't expect to be buying a ticket at the Desert Storm Multiplex 8.

So why didn't Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers show Hollywood stars supporting the war effort? I don't know but I have some obvious guesses. Maybe he would never get financing for his next picture — or any other, if he pointed this out. Maybe Jane Fonda still has a lot of friends in Hollywood. But I believe that Flags of Our Fathers has opened a Pandora's Box, just as James Brady opened his father's tucked away box of wartime momentos. And the story is being rediscovered because we now need to learn (or relearn) this lesson from  our Fathers' world. It is part of our legacy. 

Jack Kemp (not the politician)  10 30 06
 

No, this isn't a discussion of homosexuality. It is about Hollywood today not wanting to talk about 1940s Hollywood stars who served in the military and who both entertained the troops and went on War Bonds fund raising tours. Such a discussion would get people to think about the decided lack of open patriotic expression in Hollywood today.

Clint Eastwood's movie Flags of Our Fathers makes no mention or portrayal of any celebrity being involved in the Iwo Jima flag raisers' national US War Bonds tour. But if you read the James Bradley book on which the movie is based, you will find these remarks:

P. 283. "They boarded a train bound for New York. As they traveled, Treasury Secretary Morgenthau and (Marine) Commandant Vandegrift commented on their journey in a national broadcast from a Washington studio with Bob Hope as host. Hope then sang a duet with Bing Crosby via a remote hookup with Hollywood. The song was one that disc jockeys all over the country would play for months afterward: Crosby's recording of "Buy, Buy Bonds."

Imagine something comparable to that on MTV today.

P. 286. "The Massachusetts goal was $700 million, and Hollywood stars — including Joan Fontaine and Jane Wyman, then the wife of Ronald Reagan — had been trickling into town to add glamour to the festivities."

 P. 289. "Massive throngs, a "million—dollar cast" of Hollywood stars, and three days of patriotic fervor awaited them in Chicago, where several hundred thousand public and parochial schoolchildren had become volunteer bond salespeople. The local sales goal was $327 million. Humphrey Bogart was in town, and Lauren Bacall and Ida Lupino."

P. 289 again. "Fifty thousand people would pour into the great stadium near the shores of Lake Michigan to watch a parade and glimpse such stars as Pat O'Brian, Forrest Tucker, and Henny Youngman."

And then there were Hollywood people who actually went off to fight in World War II:

"Off the screen, leading actors and actresses led recruitment and bond drives and entertained the troops. Leading directors like Frank Capra, John Ford, and John Huston enlisted and made documentaries to explain, "why we fight" and to offer civilians an idea of what actual combat looked like. In less than a year, 12 percent of all film industry employees entered the armed forces, including Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, and Jimmy Stewart. By the war's end, one—quarter of Hollywood's male employees were in uniform."

A few years ago, while taking a bus trip to Hoover Dam from Las Vegas, I was shown the mountain range where Clark Gable's wife, Carole Lombard, died in a small plane crash while returning home from a war bond rally.

If you ever read the autobiography of lifelong Democrat Kirk Douglas, The Ragman's Son, you will find that he was just beginning his acting career and volunteered for the Navy, serving as a junior officer on a small war ship patrolling the Gulf of Mexico. He played down the significance of this in the book, but Nazi submarines wanted to get to the Galveston coast area where US refined oil was shipped to the military.

In July of 1942, a Nazi submarine sank a US freighter around 50 miles south of New Orleans. Douglas enlisted in the Navy in the early part of the war, 1942, and had no idea or guarantee at that time that his duty in the Gulf of Mexico would become progressively safer and easier. He was a stage actor but not a famous one, and he also was a past NCAA middleweight wrestling champion of the US at St. Lawrence College. I don't believe the Navy considered him physically unfit for difficult duty.

And how many of you have ever lived near a movie house called Victory Theater or Midway Theater? There are a number of them around the country. Do you think Hollywood chains are going to name any new multiplexes today after recent battles in Afghanistan or Iraq? I don't expect to be buying a ticket at the Desert Storm Multiplex 8.

So why didn't Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers show Hollywood stars supporting the war effort? I don't know but I have some obvious guesses. Maybe he would never get financing for his next picture — or any other, if he pointed this out. Maybe Jane Fonda still has a lot of friends in Hollywood. But I believe that Flags of Our Fathers has opened a Pandora's Box, just as James Brady opened his father's tucked away box of wartime momentos. And the story is being rediscovered because we now need to learn (or relearn) this lesson from  our Fathers' world. It is part of our legacy. 

Jack Kemp (not the politician)  10 30 06