Ask about Waterloo and most young audiences will identify the Swedish pop group's disco toe-tapper and not the 1940 MGM film. Waterloo Bridge was a big hit - one of the first films to portray the darkness enveloping Europe (the US would not fight for almost another two years). The tale of lost love and missed chances opens in London with the start of WWII the year before, yet most of the action takes place in WWI, and is told as flashbacks. Leigh campaigned hard to get her husband Laurence Olivier to star opposite her. She lost that battle but said the role was one of her favorites. Today the film is a cult hit among young Chinese. No one knows why.
Here's the Duke jitterbugging - yes, dancing - in 1944's The Fighting Seabees (Republic Pictures). "Seabee" (CB) was short for Construction Battalions, work crews that built landing strips and pontoon bridges
Almost 3 million servicemen and women visited the Hollywood Canteen where the stars mingled with the soldiers passing through Los Angeles. Sometimes the celebrities went unrecognized, until it dawned on the GI who asked for a dance that yes, that really was Joan Crawford. Their surprise was dramatized here in the wartime hit Hollywood Canteen.
Destination Tokyo starred a couple of square-jaws, Cary Grant (above) and John Garfield, as submariners piloting their ship right into Tokyo Bay with all the Yankee moxie Warner Bros could muster. Filmed in cooperation with the US Navy, the 1943 picture is more authentic than most. Even when watched through the a six-decade-long filter, the action still enthralls, despite the era's cruder special effects. It's the propaganda that's over-the-top. Jim McDevitt has a comprehensive review.
On October 19, 1941, less than two months before Pearl Harbor, Warner Brothers released Dashiell Hammett's the Maltese Falcon. The dark detective tale starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, and Peter Lorre dripped with foreboding. By then most of America feared getting involved in the growing conflict overseas. A.O. Scott of the New York Times offers a recent critique on the classic.
Lake never saw the same fame she did in the war years. Find out what happened to her.