Hedy Lamarr- WiFi during WWII

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For most of the late 1930s and ’40s, Hedy Lamarr was just your average world-famous actress who appeared in countless films alongside the likes of Charles Boyer, Spencer Tracy, and Clark Gable — and also invented a critically important military technology in her spare time.

She had a room in her house that was dedicated to tinkering, inventing, and just figuring out whatever she wanted!

Unbeknownst to many who saw her on screen, Lamarr was a passionate inventor — and, as an Austrian immigrant, an ardent Nazi despiser. Working with composer George Antheil, Lamarr discovered an ingenious method of preventing enemy ships from jamming American torpedoes by making radio signals jump between frequencies, rather than stay on a single channel.

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As a foreigner, a non-member of the military, and a woman, Lamarr’s invention went largely ignored until the 1960s, when some dude scientists unearthed it and put it to use during the Cuban Missile Crisis (and probably took all the credit for it at parties). It’s also basically the reason we have things like GPS, Bluetooth, and advanced guided missile technology.

Before Hedy became a famous movie star, she was married to an Austrian military arms merchant. And while her arms-dealing husband was chatting about weapons . Hedy was listening. So when she got fed up with hearing about all the crappy news of the war, she called upon her own talents to make a difference.

So she teamed up with George Antheil, a pianist and composer, and they came up with a solution.

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If it looks a bit like piano music, you’d be on track. Using a player-piano mechanism, they created a radio system that could jump frequencies, making it essentially jam-proof.

Lamarr and Antheil got a patent for their idea in 1942, in the middle of Hedy’s career as a Hollywood star!

And even though the U.S. military didn’t use the technology until the ’60s, the work they did laid the foundation for the complex radio communications that are behind cellphones, Wi-Fi, satellite tech, and more.

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Marlene Dietrich was here…

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This guest book belonged to the parents of sixteen-year-old Carla Hustinx from the city of Maastricht. Their home was a regular place to stay for singers, movie stars, athletes and comedians that came to entertain American soldiers after the south of the Netherlands was liberated in September 1944.

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A relaxing evening helped the soldiers forget about the war for a moment. Big celebrities were happy to perform for the troops and swapped the glamour of Hollywood for a jeep and military rations.

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Also the famous actress and singer Marlene Dietrich spent a night at Hustinx’s home in January 1945: she left an autographed five franc bill behind. Carla Hustinx glued it into this guest book.

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The artists usually returned from an appearance around midnight, dove into bed, and continued on their way the next day around noon. The nuns at Carla’s Catholic School felt this environment was decadent and immoral, hardly suitable for a girl her age. But Carla saw it for what it was: ‘They behave like ordinary people and don’t put on stuck-up airs. They’re here for the troops.’

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Once upon a time in WWII

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Once upon a time in the West is not only one of my favourite westerns, it is also one of my favourite movies of all time. Many people don’t appreciate this fact but it is one of the few if not the only movie where Henry Fonda plays the bad guy.

But before I ramble on ,on how great the movie is and how the music in it is just magical, this piece isn’t called “Once upon a time in the West” but “Once upon a time in WWII”

There are 3 actors and one stunning looking actress on the poster. My focus is really on the 3 leading men of the movie Henry Fonda,Charles Bronson and Jason Robard, apart from the fact they starred together in this movie, they also served in WWII. The beautiful Claudia Cardinale was born in 1938 so she was just a child during the war.

Henry Fonda

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Fonda enlisted in the United States Navy to fight in World War II, saying, “I don’t want to be in a fake war in a studio.” . Fonda served for three years, initially as a Quartermaster 3rd Class on the destroyer USS Satterlee.

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He was later commissioned as a Lieutenant Junior Grade in Air Combat Intelligence in the Central Pacific and was awarded the Navy Presidential Unit Citation and the Bronze Star.

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Charles Bronson

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Charles Bronson (born Charles Dennis Buchinsky

Buchinsky enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces in 1943, serving as an aircraft gunner in the 760th Flexible Gunnery Training Squadron. In 1945 he became a Superfortress crewman with the 39th Bombardment Group, based on Guam, and was assigned to a B-29 bomber, flying on 25 missions.

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Eventually he was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received during his service and left the military in 1946.

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Jason Robards

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Following the completion of recruit training and radio school, Robards was assigned to the heavy cruiser USS Northampton in 1941 as a radioman 3rd class.

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On December 7, 1941, Northampton was at sea in the Pacific Ocean about 100 miles (160 km) off Hawaii. Contrary to some stories, he did not see the devastation of the Japanese attack on Hawaii until Northampton returned to Pearl Harbor two days later.Northampton was later directed into the Guadalcanal campaign in World War II’s Pacific theater, where she participated in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.

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During the Battle of Tassafaronga in the waters north of Guadalcanal on the night of November 30, 1942, Northampton was sunk by hits from two Japanese torpedoes. Robards found himself treading water until near daybreak, when he was rescued by an American destroyer. For her service in the war, Northampton was awarded six battle stars.

Two years later, in November 1944, Robards was radioman aboard the light cruiser USS Nashville, the flagship for the invasion of Mindoro in the northern Philippines.

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On December 13, she was struck by a kamikaze aircraft off Negros Island in the Philippines.

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The aircraft hit one of the port five-inch gun mounts, while the plane’s two bombs set the midsection of the ship ablaze. With this damage and 223 casualties, Nashville was forced to return to Pearl Harbor and then to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, for repairs.

Robards served honorably during the war, but was not a recipient of the U.S. Navy Cross for bravery, contrary to what has been reported in numerous sources.

Another cast member from “Once upon a time in the West”, Jack Elam, also served two years in the United States Navy during World War II.

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Cold cases of the WWII era

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Not all murders committed during 1939 and 1945 were war related. Just because there was a war going on didn’t mean that the ‘regular’ criminals’ stopped their efforts. In fact the war would often give them a cover, so much so that some of these cases were never solved.

The Ora Murray case

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Near dawn on the morning of July 27, 1943, the son of a caretaker at the Fox Hills Golf Course was startled by the loud barking of a dog, Pete, an Airedale belonging to one of the groundsmen.

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The boy went to investigate, thinking that Pete had cornered a gopher. When he found Pete, the dog was standing near the semi-nude  mutilated body of a woman. The boy called the Sheriff’s Department.

LASD(Los Angeles Sheriff’s department) Inspector Penprase arrived at the murder scene, which was about 100 yards from the clubhouse. Penprase told reporters that it was evident that the victim, soon identified as Mrs. Ora Murray, had been fierce in defense of her life despite the fact that she was recovering from three broken ribs.

Most of her undergarments had been ripped away, and her dress was in tatters. Under Murray’s body was a flattened gardenia corsage wrapped with tinsel. The press called the case The Gardenia Murder.

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According to Inspector Penprase, it appeared that Murray had been strangled to death. Ora had last been seen alive at 11 pm. the night before her slaying with a man named Paul.  While the search for Paul continued, Ora’s sister, Mrs. Latona Leinnan  was located. She told cops that she and Ora had gone to a public dance together. It was at the dance that Ora met a man who suggested the three of them go out for a drive. Leinnan asked the man if he’d stop by her house first so her husband could join them and make it a foursome.  When they reached Latona’s home her husband wasn’t in the mood to go out, so Ora left with the stranger.

The mystery man, Paul, was described by Latona as about 30, 135 pounds, and five feet eight inches tall. He had black hair and he was wearing a dark, double-breasted suit.  He was driving a 1942 Buick convertible coupe with a three inch silver stripe painted around the body.

About one week following the discovery of her body, LASD detectives received a phone call from a woman who said that she’d been jilted by a man named Grant Wyatt Terry — and he matched the description of the mystery man, Paul.

Terry’s spurned lover, Miss Jeannette J. Walser, told a tale of a whirlwind courtship by the possible slayer and his disappearance with a $300 diamond ring and $700 in cash. Jeanette had given Terry the cash and jewelry shortly before they were to be married.

Jeanette told Inspector Penprase that she had met Terry at a cocktail lounge on July 17, and he proposed marriage to her two days later! He told her he was an attorney for the Feds and was assigned to various Army camps, then he borrowed her car for “an important trip to San Diego”.  Walser’s car matched the description of the one driven by “Paul”. Ora’s sister Latona was shown a photo of Terry, and she identified him as Paul.

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Finally in March 1944 the man known as Paul, with whom Ora had gone on her last car ride, was seized in New York by the FBI. His name wasn’t Paul, and his name wasn’t Terry (as he had told Jeanette, his heartbroken fiancee), his real name was Roger Lewis Gardner.He was never tried for the murder for the jury did not think he was a killer, a con man yes, but not a killer.

The Georgette Bauerdorf case

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Georgette Bauerdorf was a young socialite with a grand future—until 1944, when her life was cut short in the dead of the night.

Born to an oil tycoon in New York City in 1924, Georgette lived a life of privilege. She and her older sister attended a convent school on Long Island, where they were trained in goodness and propriety. When the girls’ mother died in 1935, the Bauerdorf siblings and their father moved to California, where Georgette was once again enrolled in a school that befit her place in society—alumnus of the Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles included Shirley Temple and Myrna Loy.

 

Upon graduation in 1941, young Georgette moved to West Hollywood to pursue an acting career. By the age of 20, she found work at the Los Angeles Times in the Women’s Service Bureau and at the Hollywood Canteen—a dining and dancing club that catered to young men in uniform. Georgette called El Palacia her home, a grand Spanish-style house that played host to numerous celebrities. Her evenings were filled with nights out on the town; she was courted often and enjoyed the attention of her many suitors.

Exactly what happened on the night of October 11, 1944 remains a mystery. It was a Wednesday; Georgette was at the Canteen, where her role as a Junior Hostess meant she danced with and entertained the servicemen on layover in Los Angeles. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary that night. At the end of her shift, she climbed into her sister’s Pontiac coupe and drove home.

At 11:00 a.m. that following morning, Georgette’s maid and a janitor arrived to clean her apartment. They were met with an unlocked front door. The cleaners entered and found Georgette’s lifeless body face down in her bathtub, the water still running.

In the days following the murder, police received a leter  from a Sergeant Gordon Aadland. Aadland claimed that a woman matching Georgette’s description gave him a lift through Hollywood on the night of October 11.

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In the letter, he described the woman as appearing quite nervous, though he would downplay this claim in later years.

The killer, meanwhile, vanished into the night after the slaying, driving off in Georgette’s car. The vehicle was found some distance away, abandoned and out of gas. It was the last trace of the killer in a case that quickly went cold.

The case of Josslyn Hay, Lord Errol

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Josslyn Hay, Lord Erroll – he was found shot dead in his car on 21 January 1941, after a night with his mistress, Lady Delves Broughton. He was known as the king of the Happy Valley set: white socialites who had drunken orgies in Kenya. Ex-lover Alice de Janzé was suspected, but had an alibi. Jealous husband Sir Jock Delves Broughton was tried and acquitted. He killed himself in 1942. The mentally ill de Janzé had committed suicide in September, 1941, three months after the trial.

The case of Harry Oakes

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Sir Harry Oakes, 1st Baronet of Nassau (23 December 1874 – 7 July 1943) was an American-born British Canadian gold mine owner, entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist. He earned his fortune in Canada and in the 1930s moved to the Bahamas for tax purposes, where he was murdered in 1943 in notorious circumstances. The cause of death and the details surrounding it have never been entirely determined, and have been the subject of several books and four films. He was found in his mansion in Nassau, Bahamas on 8 July 1943. His son-in-law, Count Alfred de Marigny, was arrested shortly afterwards based on evidence allegedly uncovered by two Miami police detectives brought in to work the case, who had upset their Bahamanian counterparts by completely taking over the investigation. However, weaknesses in the case led to de Marigny’s acquittal; no one else has ever been tried.

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The case of David Bacon

sr19-davidbacon-liveActor David Bacon, best known for playing Bob Barton in the Masked Marvel serials of the 1930s, died shortly after crashing his car in Santa Monica, California on 12 September 1943. Afterwards he was found to have been suffering from a stab wound to the chest; no suspect has ever been identified.

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According to an autopsy report, a person could live for 20 minutes with such a wound. The interior of Bacon’s car was soaked with blood. It was never clear whether Bacon was stabbed inside or outside the car. The knife was never found, even though the field was thoroughly searched. So many questions unanswered.

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He was born Gaspar Griswold Bacon, Jr. in Barnstable, Massachusetts, and his family was one of the prominent, politically active Boston Brahmin families. His father, Gaspar G. Bacon, was on the board of Harvard University, and later, in the 1930s, served as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.

Bacon married Austrian opera singer Greta Keller in ‘42 and began to obtain several small film roles, the biggest being Republic’s “Masked Marvel” serial filmed from July 14 to August 18, 1943. About this time Hughes signed Bacon to an exclusive contract, intending to use him as Billy the Kid in “The Outlaw”. However, Hughes later deemed Bacon unsuitable, probably due to his non-western New England upbringing. He was replaced by Jack Beutel.

This is where innuendo comes into play. In interviews after Bacon’s murder, his widow alleged there was a homosecual relationship between Hughes and Bacon and blames her husband’s cancellation from “The Outlaw” on a “lover’s quarrel.” However, Hughes biographies have found no validity to this claim.

Witnesses to the September car crash claimed to have seen a passenger in the car. Two others claimed to have seen a man and a woman.

Bacon’s wife returned to Europe after the war then returned to the U.S. in the ‘50s where she became a popular cabaret singer.

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A few years before her death in 1977 her voice was used in the Oscar winning movie “Cabaret” (‘72) singing the song “Heirat”.Bacon’s killer was never caught, The Masked Marvel Murder Mystery remains unsolved. Today, all files pertaining to the case have been destroyed.

The Ernst Dehmel case

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For the last one I don’t really care if this case get solved .Ernst Dehmel, 30, a decorated officer in the German Waffen-SS, was allegedly beaten to death by French soldiers who had him in their custody at Remscheid-Lüttringhausen on 7 August 1945. No charges have ever been brought.

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Marlene Dietrich kisses a soldier returning home from war, 1945

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Dietrich was noted for her humanitarian efforts during the war, housing German and French exiles, providing financial support and even advocating their US citizenship. For her work on improving morale on the front lines during the war, she received several honors from the United States.

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This photo shows Marlene Dietrich passionately kissing an American soldier as he arrives home from World War II. It seems that the guy on the left holding her up is enjoying the view. It was first published in Life Magazine with the caption: “While soldiers hold her up by her famous legs, Marlene Dietrich is kissed by a home-coming GI”.

Actress Marlene Dietrich kisses a soldier returning home from war, 1945

The ship was the Monticello, a converted cruise liner. Her original name was SS Conte Grande and was built in 1927 in Trieste, Italy. During World War II, she was acquired by the United States and was used as an American troopship—renamed USS Monticello (AP-61) in 1942.1928-conte

At the time the photo was taken it was transporting parts of the 2nd infantry division home.The 2nd division soldiers had entered the war in Normandy on D-Day. They fought across Europe into Czechoslovakia. They arrived in New York (when this photo was taken) on July 20, 1945. The war was not over for them. They were on their way to Camp Swift in Texas for training. They were supposed to be a part of the invasion of Japan.

Marlene Dietrich has a curious story. She was a German actress and singer. Her cinematography life started in Germany and later in Hollywood where she became very famous.

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Dietrich was known to have strong political convictions and the mind to speak them. In interviews, Dietrich stated that she had been approached by representatives of the Nazi Party to return to Germany but had turned them down flat. Dietrich, a staunch anti-Nazi, became an American citizen in 1939. In December 1941, the U.S. entered World War II, and Dietrich became one of the first celebrities to raise war bonds. She toured the US from January 1942 to September 1943 (appearing before 250,000 troops on the Pacific Coast leg of her tour alone) and was reported to have sold more war bonds than any other star. At the end of the war she was awarded the highest American civil medal: The Medal of Freedom.

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Herbert Brenon-Forgotten Irish Oscar nominated Movie Director

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I pride myself to be a bit of a movie buff, but to my amazement I had never heard of this Oscar nominated and ‘Photo Play-Medal of Honor’ winner.

Today marks his 140th birthday. He has been credited for directing at least 124 movies and shorts, which is an amazing feat by any measure.

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Herbert Brenon (13 January 1880 – 21 June 1958) born Alexander Herbert Reginald St. John Brenon was an Irish film director, actor and screenwriter during the era of silent movies through the 1930s.

He was born at 25 Crosthwaite Park, in Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, to journalist, poet and politician Edward St John Brenon and Francis Harries.

In 1882, the family moved to London, where Herbert was educated at St Paul’s School and at King’s College London.

 

 

Before becoming a director, he performed in vaudeville acts with his wife, Helen Oberg. Started as a stagehand in New York. By 1909 he operated a small picture theatre in Pennsylvania. Two years later he was hired as a writer by Carl Laemmle, directing his first short the next year. Signed by William Fox in 1915, graduating to feature films.

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Some of his more noteworthy films were the first movie adaptations of Peter Pan (1924) and Beau Geste (1926),and Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928) with Lon Chaney.

 

For the 1927 movie “Sorrell and Son” about a a decorated war hero, who raises his son Kit alone after Kit’s mother deserts husband and child in the boy’s infancy, he was nominated for the Academy Award for best director ,dramatic pictures, at the First ever Oscars(Academy Awards) in 1929.

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Unfortunately he lost out to Frank Borzage for his picture “7th Heaven”

 

Regarded sound pictures with a measure of apprehension. Returned to Britain in 1934, but his career was well on the decline and he retired in 1940.His last movie “The Flying Squad”  he shot in London in 1940. It was based on a novel by Edgar Wallace in which the officers of the Flying Squad attempt to tackle a drug-smuggling organisation. The novel had previously been filmed in 1929 and 1932.

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He died in Los Angeles, California and was interred in a private mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY. Survived by a son, Dr. Herbert Cyril Brenon.

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Kirk Douglas-More than just an Actor

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On the sad news of his death, it is a good time to look back at the life of one of my all time favourite actors. But rather then looking at all the marvelous movies he did I’ll be looking at one change he made that changed the lives for many in Hollywood,at the risk of ending his own career.

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Douglas was born 9 December 1916,Issur Danielovitch in Amsterdam, New York, the son of Bryna “Bertha” (née Sanglel; 1884–1958) and Herschel “Harry” Danielovitch (c. 1884–1950). His parents were Jewish immigrants from Chavusy, Mogilev Region, in the Russian Empire (present-day Belarus), and the family spoke Yiddish at home.

His father’s brother, who emigrated earlier, used the surname Demsky, which Douglas’ family adopted in the United States. Douglas grew up as Izzy Demsky and legally changed his name to Kirk Douglas before entering the United States Navy during World War II.

Douglas first wanted to be an actor after he recited the poem The Red Robin of Spring while in kindergarten and received applause.He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1941, shortly after the United States entered World War II, where he served as a communications officer in anti-submarine warfare. He was medically discharged for war injuries in 1944.

After the war, Douglas returned to New York City and found work in radio, theater and commercials. In his radio work, he acted in a number of network soap operas, and sees those experiences as being especially valuable, as skill in using one’s voice is important for aspiring actors, and regrets that the same avenues are no longer open to them. His stage break occurred when he took over the role played by Richard Widmark in Kiss and Tell  which then led to other offers.

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Douglas had planned to remain a stage actor, until his friend, Lauren Bacall, helped him get his first film role by recommending him to director Hal Wallis, who was looking for a new male talent. Wallis’s film, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), with Barbara Stanwyck, became Douglas’s debut screen appearance.

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He played a young, insecure man, stung with jealousy, whose life was dominated by a ruthless older woman, and he hid his feelings with alcohol. It would be the last time that Douglas portrayed a weakling in a film role.

In 1955 Douglas launched his own production company, Bryna Productions, the company behind two pivotal film roles in his career. The first was as French army officer Col. Dax in director Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant anti-war epic Paths of Glory (1957).

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The Hollywood Black list

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In October 1947, 10 members of the Hollywood film industry publicly denounced the tactics employed by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), an investigative committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, during its probe of alleged communist influence in the American motion picture business.

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The committee’s anti-Communist investigations are often associated with those of Joseph McCarthy who, as a U.S. Senator, had no direct involvement with this House committee.McCarthy was the Chairman of the Government Operations Committee and its Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S. Senate, not the House.

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These prominent screenwriters and directors, who became known as the Hollywood Ten, received jail sentences and were banned from working for the major Hollywood studios.

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Their defiant stands also placed them at center stage in a national debate over the controversial anti-communist crackdown that swept through the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Besides the Hollywood Ten, other members of the film industry with alleged communist ties were later banned from working for the big movie studios. The Hollywood blacklist came to an end in the 1960s.

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The Hollywood Ten in November 1947 waiting to be fingerprinted in the U.S. Marshal’s office after being cited for contempt of Congress. Front row (from left): Herbert Biberman, attorneys Martin Popper and Robert W. Kenny, Albert Maltz, Lester Cole. Middle row: Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Alvah Bessie, Samuel Ornitz. Back row: Ring Lardner Jr., Edward Dmytryk, Adrian Scott.

Kirk Douglas was instrumental in getting this black list lifted.Douglas reunited with Kubrick for yet another epic, the magnificent Spartacus (1960).

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The film also marked a key turning point in the life of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who had been blacklisted during the McCarthy “Red Scare” hysteria in the 1950s.

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At Douglas’ insistence Trumbo was given on-screen credit for his contributions, which began the dissolution of the infamous blacklisting policies begun almost a decade previously that had destroyed so many careers and lives.

About that event, Douglas said, “I’ve made over 85 pictures, but the thing I’m most proud of is breaking the blacklist.”At the time, his career was at risk, with Hollywood people claiming Douglas would never get work again. “I was scared to death, but I insisted on doing it,”

On a side note I have to mention one movie which is forgotten by most and did not receive good reviews by critics or at the box office.I think it’s still one of best comedies I have ever seen, what makes it even funnier is that none of the actors are comedic actors.It had different titles ,in the US it was called “the Villain” and in the UK and Australia it was known as “Cactus Jack”

 

Along Kirk Douglas, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a character called Handsome Stranger.

 

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Celebrities who contributed their services in WWII.

Without trying to sound too much like an old fogy but most of the “Celebrities” nowadays don’t really contribute anything to society as a whole. Sure, some entertain us with their sporting skills or talents(some don’t even have that) but as far as actually contributing some worth while or substantial there are very few who do so.

Below is a summary of celebrities who offered their services during WWII some even risked their own lives to fight for the freedom of others.

Yul Brynner

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During World War II, Brynner worked as a French-speaking radio announcer and commentator for the US Office of War Information, broadcasting to occupied France.

Marcel Marceau

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Long before he donned his famous face paint and toured the world as “Bip the Clown,” beloved mime Marcel Marceau was serving as a member of the French Resistance during World War II. Along with his brother Alain, Marceau forged documents and doctored identity cards to help prevent French children from being conscripted into German labor camps. He also smuggled some 70 Jewish children out of the country by posing as a Boy Scout leader and leading them through the wilderness to safety in neutral Switzerland. The silent performer later joined the Free French Forces under Charles De Gaulle, and served as a liaison offer to General George Patton’s army while entertaining Allied troops with his miming.

Sir Alec Guinness

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Some 35 years before he counseled Luke Skywalker to “use the Force” as Obi Wan Kenobi, Sir Alec Guinness was piloting infantry landing craft in the Mediterranean. A trained thespian, Guinness put his theater career on hold in 1939 to join the Royal Navy. He landed some 200 British soldiers on the beaches of Sicily during the July 1943 invasion of Italy, and went on to ferry arms to partisan fighters in Yugoslavia. During one such voyage in 1944, Guinness’s boat was caught in a violent hurricane off the coast of Italy, and he only narrowly managed to guide the ship into a harbor before it was thrown onto a rocky shoreline and damaged beyond repair. Guinness would later put his wartime experience to use portraying military officers in such films as “The Bridge on the River Kwai” and “Tunes of Glory,” and even played Adolf Hitler in 1973’s “Hitler: The Last Ten Days.

Mel Brooks

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Mel Brooks is best known as the writer-director behind the laugh-a-minute comedies “Young Frankenstein,” “Blazing Saddles” and “Spaceballs.” But along with writing killer one-liners, he is also an old hand at defusing German mines. Born Melvin Kaminsky in Brooklyn, New York, Brooks enlisted in the army in 1944 at the age of 17. He later served in 1104th Engineer Combat Battalion, a unit that braved sniper fire and shelling to build bridges, clear blocked roads and deactivate landmines ahead of advancing Allied forces. Ever the comedian, Brooks once used a bullhorn to serenade nearby enemy troops along the German-French border with the Al Jolson song “Toot, Toot, Tootsie”—and received a round of applause in return.

Jackie Coogan

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The “Addams Family” actor was a star by the age of 5, appearing alongside Charlie Chaplin in the silent film sensation “The Kid.” Coogan put acting on hold during WWII to deliver troops behind enemy lines in the Burma campaign.

James Stewart

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In August 1943, Stewart was assigned to the 445th Bomb Group as operations officer of the 703d Bombardment Squadron, but after three weeks became its commander. On October 12, 1943, judged ready to go overseas, the 445th Bomb Group staged to Lincoln Army Airfield, Nebraska. Flying individually, the aircraft first flew to Morrison Army Airfield, Florida, and then on the circuitous Southern Route along the coasts of South America and Africa to RAF Tibenham, Norfolk, England. After several weeks of training missions, in which Stewart flew with most of his combat crews, the group flew its first combat mission on December 13, 1943, to bomb the U-boat facilities at Kiel, Germany, followed three days later by a mission to Bremen. Stewart led the high squadron of the group formation on the first mission, and the entire group on the second. Following a mission to Ludwigshafen, Germany, on January 7, 1944, Stewart was promoted to major.Stewart was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions as deputy commander of the 2nd Combat Bombardment Wing on the first day of “Big Week” operations in February and flew two other missions that week.

On March 22, 1944, Stewart flew his 12th combat mission, leading the 2nd Bomb Wing in an attack on Berlin. On March 30, 1944, he was sent to RAF Old Buckenham to become group operations officer of the 453rd Bombardment Group, a new B-24 unit that had just lost both its commander and operations officer on missions.To inspire the unit, Stewart flew as command pilot in the lead B-24 on several missions deep into Nazi-occupied Europe. As a staff officer, Stewart was assigned to the 453rd “for the duration” and thus not subject to a quota of missions of a combat tour. He nevertheless assigned himself as a combat crewman on the group’s missions until his promotion to lieutenant colonel on June 3 and reassignment on July 1, 1944, to the 2nd Bomb Wing, assigned as executive officer to Brigadier General Edward J. Timberlake. His official tally of mission credits while assigned to the 445th and 453rd Bomb Groups was 20 sorties.

Hugh Hefner

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Years before founding what would become the Playboy empire, Hefner served as a writer for a military newspaper in the U.S. Army at the end of WWII.

Tony Bennett

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The crooner responsible for “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and “Rags to Riches” is also a battle-tested World War II vet. Tony Bennett was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1944, and spent the later stages of the war in the 63rd Infantry Division in France and Germany. Bennett’s unit was responsible for mopping up after the Battle of the Bulge, and he participated in intense urban combat while searching for Nazi stragglers in bombed-out German towns. The singer also witnessed the horror of the Holocaust firsthand when he helped liberate the Nazi concentration camp at Landsberg, Germany. Bennett would later write that his army service transformed him into an lifelong pacifist, but it also whetted his appetite for show business by giving him his first ever chance to perform as part of a military band.

Joe Louis

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One of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time, Louis was a major driver of anti-Nazi sentiment in America during WWII. In January 1942, Louis held a charity boxing match that raised $47,000 for the Navy Relief Society. The next day he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

I will be doing more articles in the future about celebrities who contributed to the WWII efforts since there were so many of them.