Tamara Toumanova and Danny Kaye, 1945 (Peter Stackpole)
Actresses Diana Lynn and Gail Russell, 1943
The Hollywood Canteen operated at 1451 Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood, California between October 3, 1942, and November 22, 1945 (Thanksgiving Day), as a club offering food, dancing and entertainment for servicemen, usually on their way overseas. Even though the majority of visitors were U.S servicemen, the canteen was open to servicemen of allied countries as well as women in all branches of service. A serviceman’s ticket for admission was his uniform and everything at the canteen was free of charge. (x)
Among the many celebrities who donated their services at the Hollywood Canteen were: Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, Barbara Stanwyck, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, Humphrey Bogart, Elanor Parker, Constance Bennett, Cyd Charisse, June Allyson, The Andrews Sisters, Louis Armstrong, Jean Arthur, Fred Astaire, Mary Astor, Lauren Bacall, Lucille Ball, Tallulah Bankhead, Ethel Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Count Basie, Katharine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Loretta Young, Robert Taylor, Olivia de Havilland, Rosalind Russell, Jane Russell, Peggy Lee, Joan Fontaine, Olivia de Havilland, Ingrid Bergman, Ida Lupino, Betty Grable, Greer Garson, Hedy Lamarr, Veronica Lake, Dolores del Rio, Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Linda Darnell, Claudette Colbert, Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Cary Grant, Judy Garland, Carol Landis, Charles Boyer, Clara Bow, Angela Lasbury, among others.
From time to time I would persuade her to escape from the confined world of Hollywood; during these carefully planned getaways I took her to visit the old Spanish missions dating from the arrival of Christianity in California. Their white walls, silent chapels and paved cloisters echoing to our footsteps, the gardens with box hedges and crosses standing out against the blue sky, evoked a response in her.
I took her to Valentino’s monument where she picked one of the roses blooming there and noticed that he had died in 1926, the year she was born. She protested when I told her that those ‘whom the Gods love die young’ and declared that she wanted a long life even if she never became famous, but she had a feeling hers would be short.
As I broadened her horizons I brought up more serious subjects, introducing her to poetry through selected quotations. A line would often strike a chord within her, she would repeat it, and I knew she was committing it to memory; I noticed she remembered the saddest ones: ‘Life is a fragile shell’ or ‘Fame is the bright mourning of happiness.’
She was twenty and had never experienced the intoxication of success, yet already there was a shadow over her radiance, in her laughter.
One day when we were relaxing on the beach between photo sessions, I decided to capture some new expressions I had glimpsed on Marilyn’s face. Getting her in close-up, I asked her to react instinctively, without giving herself time to think, to the words happiness, surprise, reflection, doubt, peace of mind, sadness, self-torment…and death.
When I said ‘death’ she took hold of the folded dark-cloth and covered her head with it. Death to her was blackness, nothingness. I tried to coax another reaction from her. Death might be a beginning, the hope of an everlasting light. She shook her head: ‘That’s what death is for me.’
She turned towards me, her face set and despairing, eyes dulled, her mouth suddenly bereft of colour. To her, death was ‘the end of everything.’
- André de Dienes, Marilyn Mon Amour
Balboa Beach, California, 1947
Photo by Peter Stackpole
The Self Divided, 1941 (Clarence John Laughlin)