This week on Riverwalk Jazz we'll visit the USO Club, The Hollywood Canteen, for a concert of dance tunes and love songs that helped a generation of Americans get through the war years of the 1940s.
On October 3rd, 1942, The Hollywood Canteen opened its doors. It was an old roadhouse off Sunset Boulevard that had been turned into a nightclub for soldiers. It was the brainchild of movie stars Betty Davis and John Garfield.
Both stars wanted to support the war effort, and what better way to do that than to provide free meals and entertainment to off-duty servicemen, along with a generous helping of Hollywood glamour. Movie star hostesses volunteered to wait tables and dance with enlisted men, and Bob Hope broadcast a series of radio shows from the site.
The Canteen was a "make-believe world come true" for wartime off-duty servicemen. It was a private club where they could dance with movie stars to famous big bands, or fall in love with a home-town girl.
The 1940s was an era of blackouts and food rationing; of separation and tremendous loss. It was the proving ground for what became known as "the Greatest Generation" of the 20th century. And yet the war years gave rise to some of our most enduring popular music: beautiful love songs such as "You'll Never Know" and "I Had the Craziest Dream," and swinging dance hits like "Opus One" for Tommy Dorsey and "Jersey Bounce" for Benny Goodman.
Photo credit for home page teaser image: The Hollywood Canteen, Hollywood, CA. Photo courtesy The Hollywood Canteen Chat.
Based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick ©2002