Monday, December 7, 2015

Hollywood Went to War

Our thirty third installment of Hollywood Went to War will feature not just one, but five individuals in two World Wars, each who served in his own way.

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Jack Benny

Benny left show business briefly in 1917 to join the United States Navy during World War I, and often entertained the troops with his violin playing. One evening, his violin performance was booed by the troops, so with prompting from fellow sailor and actor Pat O'Brien, he ad-libbed his way out of the jam and left them laughing.

Claude Rains

Rains served in the First World War in the London Scottish Regiment, alongside fellow actors Basil Rathbone, Ronald Colman and Herbert Marshall. At one time, he was involved in a gas attack that left him nearly blind in one eye for the rest of his life.By the end of the war, he had risen from the rank of Private to that of Captain.

Bela Lugosi

During World War I, he served as an infantryman in the Austro-Hungarian Army from 1914-16. There he rose to the rank of captain in the ski patrol and was awarded the Wound Medal for wounds he suffered while serving on the Russian front.

Ronald Colman

While working as a clerk at the British Steamship Company in the City of London, he joined the London Scottish Regiment in 1909 as a Territorial Army soldier, and on being mobilised on the outbreak of the First World War, crossed the English Channel to France in September 1914 to take part in the fighting on the Western Front. On 31 October 1914, at the Battle of Messines, Colman was seriously wounded by shrapnel in his ankle, which gave him a limp that he would attempt to hide throughout the rest of his acting career. As a consequence, he was invalided out of the British Army in 1915.

Walt Disney

Disney dropped out of high school at the age of sixteen with a hope to join the army, but he was rejected for being under-age. Afterwards, Disney and a friend joined the Red Cross. He was soon sent to France for a year where he drove an ambulance, but only after the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918...

...1941, the US entered World War II. The US Army and Navy Bureau of Aeronautics contracted most of the Disney studio's facilities where the staff created training and instruction films for the military like Aircraft Carrier Landing Signals, home-front morale-boosting shorts such as Der Fuehrer's Face, which won an Academy Award, and the 1943 feature film Victory Through Air Power. Military films did not generate income, and the feature film Bambi underperformed on its release in April 1942...

Disney took up the work of making insignia for the soldiers as well. They were used to not only bring humor to military units but also be a way to boost morale. The first insignia was created as early as 1933 for a Naval Reserve Squadron stationed at Floyd Bennett Field in New York. Disney created his own insignia design unit... Together, these men created over 1200 unique insignia throughout the duration of World War II. All of the designs were created free-of-charge. "The insignia meant a lot to the men who were fighting ... I had to do it ... I owed it to them." said Disney

Gentlemen, we thank you for your service to your respective countries. Rest in Peace.

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