Patriot Act

German-born Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) traveled the world during WWII to entertain the troops on the front line for the USO. She was devoted to the soldiers. When she died in Paris her coffin was draped with an American flag. For her work in the war, the U.S awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Here's a clip containing stills of her war work to the tune of the wartime song Lili Marlene.


Waterloo: A Bridge Beyond Abba

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.

John Wayne, War Hero or Not?

Contrary to the movie poster for 1942's drama Flying Tigers (left), John Wayne (1907-1979) never saw real military service in WWII. There are many explanations as to why, but the one that seems likeliest was pressure from his studio, Republic Pictures, to keep him home making movies to cash in on his rising celebrity. He toured South Pacific bases and hospitals in 1943-44. Age 34 at the time of Pearl Harbor, Wayne was not the superstar he would later become. By many accounts his failure to serve during WWII was embarrassing to him. In later years Wayne became increasingly patriotic.

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

"I am Joan Crawford"

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.


Propaganda or Entertainment?

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.


Whattup Doc?

Bugs Bunny urges 1942 movie-goers to buy war bonds. Sixty-seven years later, age has not lessened the wise-cracking Warner Bros rabbit's appeal, nor his patriotism.

Falcon's Lair

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.


The Great Lake

Broolyn-born blonde actress Veronica Lake (1922-1973) was known for her signature peek-a-boo hair cut (one tress over the eye). The much-imitated style created nightmares for safety officers at war plants where women could get their hair caught in machinery. In a gesture of patriotism Veronica cut her hair. The event created a sensation. Here it is on film:

Lake never saw the same fame she did in the war years. Find out what happened to her.