Bob Hope Entertaining the Troops: American Entertainers in World War Two
directed by Robert Mugge
starring Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamoure, George Raft, Timmy Rogers, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Mel Blanc
World War Two was one of the best documented conflicts ever; and that includes the entertainment sent around to encourage the troops. While the Russians froze in Stalingrad and the Japanese swatted mosquitos in Guam our boys saw the brightest stars of Hollywood, or at least heard them over Armed Forces Radio. For the modern world these films are one of our few links to the entertainment our parents and grand parents enjoyed. In this very thorough collection (90 minutes) there’s little editorial, just films with a brief introductions from a narrator. Dorothy Lamour is the only star interviewed, she has these amazing panda bear eyes that were parodied back in her heyday. Here she seems tired yet remains a trouper willing to work thought whatever obstacles are thrown at her.
Many of the filmed artists are long departed: Abbott and Costello do their famous “Who’s On First?” routine, which to this day may be the funniest comedy bit ever written. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby appear in their prime and just as they are about to commence their On The Road” movies. Lesser know actors are the real treat here: Jerry Colonna, Kay Kaiser, and Dinah Shore are all but forgotten today but filled movie houses and battlefield stages in the day. The Andrews Sisters appear, looking very real and very human, and black actors including Eddie “Rochester” Anderson and Timmy Rogers appear in what are clearly segregated performances. This is what Hollywood want to look like in the war era: Patriotic, enthusiastic, fun and sexy. Did these guys win the war? They may not have taken many bullets but they help unite folks, make the war real at home, and raise money for bonds. This is a sweet time capsule and worth the time to watch.