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Memorial Day salute to Hollywood heroes


Wayne
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I'd like to call attention to some individuals who left the luxurious trappings of Hollywood to either fight in World War II or support the war effort. They never came back.

 

 

 

 

*JOE McMICHAEL*

Joe McMichael, one of the Merry Macs, was killed in 1944 while fighting in World War II, according to the Los Angeles Times 2001 obituary for his brother Ted, the last surviving original Merry Mac (brother Judd, another founding member of the big band-era vocal group, passed in 1989). While with the Merry Macs, Joe McMichael appeared in the Hollywood comedies *Love Thy Neighbor* (1940) and *Ride 'Em, Cowboy* (1942).

 

 

 

 

 

*GLENN MILLER*

Glenn Miller, possibly the most famous of the big band-era bandleaders, went missing in action on Dec. 15, 1944, when his plane disappeared over the English Channel. The most prevalent theory regarding the disappearance alleges that Miller's plane was hit by incendiary bombs jettisoned by high-flying bomber planes over the Channel following an aborted bombing raid. Miller and his band appeared in the 20th Century Fox musicals *Sun Valley Serenade* (1941) and *Orchestra Wives* (1942). Miller was at the peak of his civilian career when, in 1942, he accepted a commission in the U. S. Army Air Force as a captain (he was later promoted to major). Miller's Army Air Force Band performed for Allied troops stateside and throughout England for two years before his ill-fated flight to Paris, which Miller took in preparation for a series of concerts in newly-conquered territory in Europe (Miller wanted to be closer to the fighting men). In summarizing Miller's military career, General Jimmy Doolittle said, “Next to a letter from home, (Miller's band) was the greatest morale builder in the European Theater of Operations."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*RICHARD FISKE*

Richard Fiske, famous for his performances in the Three Stooges two-reelers *You Nazty Spy!* (1940), *Boobs in Arms* (1940), *All the World's a Stooge* (1941), and *In the Sweet Pie and Pie* (1941), was killed in action on August 10, 1944, at La Croix-Avranchin, France, while serving within the 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. Fiske was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, and several other military honors. He is buried at Brittany American Cemetery in France. He was 28 at the time of his death. Before being drafted into the U. S. Army in 1942, Fiske was a Columbia contract player who also appeared in the Blondie, Lone Wolf, and Boston **** series, as well as in short subjects starring Andy Clyde and Charley Chase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*WILLARD BOWSKY*

Willard Bowsky, Fleischer Studios animator/director, was killed in action on November 27, 1944, in a nighttime firefight with German forces east of Paris. Bowsky was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart and was buried at the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial in Saint-Avold, France. In the 1930's, Willard Bowsky directed numerous classic Popeye cartoons, including the 1936 color two-reeler *Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor*. He also worked on the Betty Boop series and (in the 1940's) the color Superman cartoons. Although he was often credited as "head animator," Bowsky actually served the functions of director. (Dave Fleischer, the credited director of all of the Fleischer output, actually served as creative producer and head storyman -- author Shamus Culhane.) Bowsky also directed sequences for two Fleischer animated features -- *Gulliver's Travels* (1939) and *Mr. Bug Goes to Town* (1941). Shortly after Fleischer Studios was reorganized into Famous Studios in 1942, Bowsky enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served with the 14th Armored Division and was a platoon leader with 50 men under his command.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*LESLIE HOWARD*

Leslie Howard, best remembered today as the "long-suffering" Ashley Wilkes in *Gone With the Wind* (1939), was killed on June 1, 1943, when the civilian airliner in which he was flying (bound for Lisbon, Portugal) was shot down over the Bay of Biscay by Luftwaffe Junkers maritime fighter aircraft. Sixteen others onboard perished along with Howard. Today, conspiracy theories swirl around the downing of Flight 777, including one put forth by Howard's son Ronald which claims that the actor was specifically targeted by German intelligence agents because of his activities as an anti-Nazi propagandist. Ronald even has claimed that the attack on his father's plane was directly ordered by Joseph Goebbels. (Another hypothesis states that the Nazis believed that Winston Churchill himself was onboard the flight. And yet another theory from Estel Eforgan's biography Leslie Howard: The Lost Actor corroborates German claims that the shootdown of the commercial airliner was an accident.) Although technically a civilian travelling on a goodwill tour, Leslie Howard's intelligence-gathering activities for the Allies qualify him for inclusion here. Howard was 50 at the time of his death. He enlisted in the British Army at the start of World War I but resigned his commission in 1916 due to shell shock. His other Hollywood credits include *Of Human Bondage* (1934), *The Scarlet Pimpernel* (1934), *The Petrified Forest* (1936), and *Pygmalion* (1938).

 

 

 

 

 

*CAROLE LOMBARD*

Carole Lombard, famous for her screwball comedies *Twentieth Century* (1934), *My Man Godfrey* (1936), *Nothing Sacred* (1937), and the wartime farce *To Be or Not to Be* (1942), was killed on January 16, 1942, when the commercial airliner in which she was flying crashed into a mountain near Las Vegas. Although she was a civilian flying far from a war zone on a civilian flight, Lombard was returning to Hollywood after a successful war bond rally in her home state of Indiana (she helped raise $2 million in defense bonds). The Liberty Ship SS Carole Lombard was launched in 1944, two years after her death. Lombard's mother, her press agent, 15 servicemen, and four others also perished in the crash.

 

 

 

*BOBBY "WHEEZER" HUTCHINS*

Bobby Hutchins, best known as "Wheezer" in the Our Gang series of one-reel comedies in the late '20s/early '30s, was killed on May 17, 1945, in a mid-air collision at Merced Army Air Field in Merced, California. Air Cadet Hutchins was attempting to land his "Texan" aircraft during a training exercise when he struck another "Texan" from the same unit (the other pilot survived). Hutchins' mother was to have travelled to Merced for Bobby's graduation from flying school the week after his death. Bobby joined the U.S. Army in 1943 after graduating high school, served in World War II, and in 1945 enrolled to become an air cadet. He was 20 years old at the time of his death. As "Wheezer," Bobby appeared in 58 Our Gang films between 1927 and 1933, including *Pups Is Pups* (1930), the only Our Gang/Little Rascals film (so far) to be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Other notable "Wheezer" appearances include *Bouncing Babies* (1929), *Teacher's Pet* (1930), *Fly My Kite* (1931), and *Readin' and Writin'* (1932).

 

 

 

 

 

*DONALD HAINES*

Donald Haines, another alumnus of the Our Gang series, was killed in action on February 20, 1943 (location unknown). Haines appeared in Our Gang comedies from 1930 to 1933, the early sound era, alongside Jackie Cooper, Norman "Chubby" Chaney, Matthew "Stymie" Beard, and Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins. Haines' more notable appearances in the series include *Shivering Shakespeare* (1930), *The First Seven Years* (1930), *Teacher's Pet* (1930), *Helping Grandma* (1931), *Love Business* (1931), *Helping Grandma* (1931), and *Readin' and Writin'* (1932). Away from Hal Roach Studios, Haines again appeared alongside Jackie Cooper in his Oscar-nominated performance in *Skippy* (1931) at Paramount. As a young adult actor, Haines found work at Monogram as "Pee Wee" (then as "Skinny") in the East Side Kids series from 1940-1941. His East Side Kids credits include *Boys of the City* (1940), *Pride of the Bowery* (1941), *Bowery Blitzkrieg* (1941), and *Spooks Run Wild* (1941). Haines enlisted as an aviation cadet in the U. S. Army Air Force on December 10, 1941, immediately after Pearl Harbor. At the time of his death, he was 23 years old, with the rank of First Lieutenant.

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Here are short bios for Phillips Holmes (suggested by TopBilled) and Jimmy Butler (suggested by ginnyfan) --- two excellent additions to this honor roll.

 

*PHILLIPS HOLMES*

Phillips Holmes got his start in Hollywood as a juvenile lead in silent films in the late '20s. Later, he was promoted to leading man status and stayed busy throughout the early '30s in films such as *The Return of Sherlock Holmes* (1929) --- the first Sherlock Holmes sound film, *The Criminal Code* (1931), Theodore Dreiser's *An American Tragedy* (1931) --- later remade as *A Place in the Sun* (1951) with Montgomery Clift famously recreating Holmes's role, *Dinner at Eight* (1933), *Great Expectations* (1934), and *General Spanky* (1936). When his film career went into decline in the late '30s, Holmes headed east to Broadway. He and his brother Ralph joined the Royal Canadian Air Force toward the end of 1941. Phillips attended the Air Ground School at Winnipeg. Following graduation, he and six of his aircraftsmen classmates were transferred....but on August 12, 1942, the plane carrying the men en route to their new destination (Ottawa) collided with another in Ontario killing all aboard.

 

 

*JIMMY BUTLER*

Child actor Jimmy Butler was killed in action somewhere in France at the tender age of 23 during the final months of WWII (February 18, 1945). Jimmy was an in-demand juvenile actor during the '30s and '40s, receiving critical acclaim for his performances in *Only Yesterday* (1933), *No Greater Glory* (1934), and *Manhattan Melodrama* (1934). He went on to appear in several Hollywood classics, such as *Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch* (1934), *Stella Dallas* (1937), *Wells Fargo* (1937), *The Shopworn Angel* (1938), *Boys Town* (1938), *Nurse Edith Cavell* (1939), *The Hard Way* (1943), *This Is the Army* (1943), *Corvette K-225* (1943), and *Girl Crazy* (1943).

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Related to Memorial Day and classic films; On Monday the L.A. Times ran it's weekly Classic Hollywood column, written by Susan King.

It first features actresses that entertained troops; Carole Landis, Martha Raye and Marlene Dietrich.

The main article is titled "Stars Go to War" and mentions James Steward, Clark Gable and Tyrone Power. It also has a box that list 'They also Served' with names like Glenn Ford, Holden etc...

BUT what I found interesting is the first two sentences of the article; Bob Hope led the pack of popular performers who entertained the troops during WWII. John Wayne and other actors fought the war in feature films, and other Hollywood favorites tirelessly toured the country on war bond drives.

NOW: Why did Ms. King mention John Wayne specifically? The topic of Wayne and his lack of service has been discussed often in this forum and I don't bring this up to re-start the discussion, but I have to think Ms. King mentions him as a way to embarrass him. Not really cool especially in an article about Memorial Day.

They show pictures of Steward and Power doing everyday 'war stuff' and Gable being sworn in. I'm surprised they didn't show a picture of Wayne lounging on Malibu!
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jamesjazz,

 

I think you may be derailing the conversation. I see a lot of people pro and con about the John Wayne military service issue, and I do not think the original poster intended for the discussion to go there. As you said, this has been expounded upon in countless other threads.

 

Just quickly: I would say that the author is mentioning the Duke because a lot of people think he went to war and do not know the real story. So this is a way to include him in the article by mentioning his films about the subject. And in an ironic sort of way, some of these actors did not really make many war films though they actually saw combat. James Stewart was busy making comedies and westerns in the 1960s, while the Duke was gearing up to make THE GREEN BERETS.

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And in an ironic sort of way, some of these actors did not really make many war films though they actually saw combat.

 

Clark Gable went to war and starred in a War movie COMMAND DECISION (1948) which aired on TCM last night.

 

Twink

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Please see that I clearly mention I do NOT want this thread to become a discussion on Wayne and his lack of WWII service. My post was about the LA Times tribute to Hollywood stars that did serve. I posted it to see what other think NOT to start a debate about Wayne, but about the LA Times and their tribute. (again, part of their weekly classic movie section, which I assume they are the only paper in the world that does this).

 

I just don't understand why Ms. King would write an article and title it "Stars Go Off To War" and then mention Wayne, who clearly did NOT 'go off to war' with the line 'fought the war in feature films'.

 

TB, what you speculate about the article does make sense but calling it ironic is an understatement (if that was her intent). I mean 'fought the war in feature films' compared to actually going to combat zones? I think his fans would NOT want him mentioned in that context on memorial day. Even I (NOT a Wayne fan), viewed the comment as an insult. So it all comes down to intent.

 

 

 

 

 

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Yes, Gable did. So did Tyrone Power-- he made a great war film called AN AMERICAN GUERRILLA IN THE PHILIPPINES around 1950, when the problems in Korea were coming to a head. But others really did not make many war films after they returned home and went back to work in Hollywood. Robert Taylor focused on film noir and westerns and costume dramas.

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Just about every Viet Nam vet I know dislikes *The Green berets* because they say it's SO unlike what was really going on over there that it disgusted them. They claim it was more propaganda than representation.

 

 

But enough about that.

 

 

I think this thread was a good idea, too. In fact, TCM, next Memorial Day, might consider showing movies made by the individuals mentioned in this thread, of course, stating before the viewing of the actor's service and their dying giving that service. Makes more sense to me instead of showing movies filled with fake fighting on fake battlegrounds with actors fake dying on the backlots of major movie studios. Show instead, movies made by real actors who really died on real battlefields in service to our country! So WHAT if the movie isn't a "war picture"?

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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>TCM, next Memorial Day, might consider showing movies made by the individuals mentioned in this thread, of course, stating before the viewing of the actor's service and their dying giving that service. Makes more sense to me instead of showing movies filled with fake fighting on fake battlegrounds with actors fake dying on the backlots of major movie studios. Show instead, movies made by real actors who really died on real battlefields in service to our country! So WHAT if the movie isn't a "war picture"?

 

Completely agree. It would make a fabulous month-long series next May. Hint, hint. Programmers, are you reading this...?

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TCM could create some more interesting Memorial day themes. One would be the suggestion here of showing movies from actors that died in combat. Another would be the showing of movies from actors that were on active duty but didn't die. Another could be on actresses that really went out of their way to assist the war effort.

 

This would be very different programming from what TCM normally does for Memorial day. THUS I have to believe TCM is aware they could alter the programming but they don't because a core fan base wouldn't like it.

 

 

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*"...THUS I have to believe TCM is aware they could alter the programming but they don't because a core fan base wouldn't like it."* - JJG

 

Yep. TCM suffered the slings, the arrows and the brickbats of an angry viewership when it reduced the Memorial Day Weekend Tribute by a single day in the not-too-distant past. Like "31 Days Of Oscar", it is a tradition that TCM doesn't mess with lightly.

 

But it does take measures to bring different perspectives and different films to the event. "Themes" that have been explored recently include "Returning Wounded" and "Women In Uniform",

 

There was a day (or maybe it was the whole weekend) set aside to salute World War One and included the director of the U.S. WWI War Museum as co-host.

 

And while Combat Movies seem to take up the majority of the schedule, TCM does not hesitate to also show Military Comedies, Documentaries or Foreign Films over the holiday weekend.

 

TCM likes to get suggestions with programming ideas so continue to post them. I am sure they are being read.

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*This would be very different programming from what TCM normally does for Memorial day. THUS I have to believe TCM is aware they could alter the programming but they don't because a core fan base wouldn't like it.*

 

Contrary to what some might think, I believe TCM knows there are many of its

viewers who may not come here to this site and post but lurk.

 

As one who visits other sites, I can assure you there are many positive remarks

made by, ahem, many who are right of center regarding TCM's Memorial Day

showcase of great war movies. Some of them columnists.

 

 

 

Jake in the Heartland

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As discussed at TCM's festival TCM conducts surveys to get a better understanding of what their audience favors or not.

 

 

 

I agree with what you are saying here which is why I assume TCM isn't going to mess with their Memorial day tribute. i.e. Too many fans like it the way it is.

 

I have no issues with the tribute other than the simple fact that I have seen most of the movies shown. But this is common with many of TCM's tributes specials e.g. Their tribute to the Oscars.

 

I do question why the LA Times decided to mention John Wayne in their Memorial Day article in their weekly classic movie article. I still don't understand their motive.

 

 

 

 

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> jamesjazzguitar wrote: I do question why the LA Times decided to mention John Wayne in their Memorial Day article in their weekly classic movie article. I still don't understand their motive.

*Maybe they did it to just yank someone's chain.*

 

 

 

> someone else mentioned: As one who visits other sites, I can assure you there are many positive remarks made by, ahem, many who are right of center regarding TCM's Memorial Day showcase of great war movies. Some of them columnists.

*Fifth columnists?*

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Well the logical motive for the Times would be to upset Wayne fans. Really they printed ' 'Wayne and others fought the war in feature films'.

 

Fought the war by acting in war movies while others were facing actual combat. I don't see how that cannot be perceived as a knock on Wayne. (yea, they could say they were just pointing out his contribution, but I'm not buying it).

 

Anyhow, I'll see if the Times' Letter to the Editor section has someone complaining about the article. This did happen once when their weekly classic movie section was about Jean Arthur. They mention that she wasn't beautiful, but rather average looking. The next week in the Letters section someone wrote that if Jean was just average looking, they loved average looking!

 

 

 

 

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*As one who visits other sites, I can assure you there are many positive remarks*

*made by, ahem, many who are right of center regarding TCM's Memorial Day*

*showcase of great war movies. Some of them columnists.*

 

Ann Coulter, for one, watches TCM very often.

 

Jake in the Heartland

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