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News and entertainment

Discussion in 'Celebrities and Entertainment From WWII' started by Jim, Nov 17, 2006.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    "We Never Closed" was the proud boast of London's tiny Windmill Theatre a West End show place that stayed open through the worst of the Blitz. Music, dancing, radio and film all helped to make wartime hardships easier for Britons to bear.

    Bombing raids, petrol shortages and blacked out streets all meant that ordinary people spent a lot of evenings at home. The radio served as a lifeline, and just about everyone crowded round their set to listen to the nine o'clock News on the BBC Home Service.
    Standing on the cliffs of southern England during the Battle of Britain, for example, Charles Gardner gave vivid accounts of the dogfights overhead, with excited interjections: You've got him. Pump it into him. Pop-pap-pop - oh boy, oh boy, he's going down.
    It was over the radio that families heard Churchill's stirring broadcasts to the nation. On weekdays, at 8.15am, Kitchen Front broadcasts were made, giving information on food prices and availability.
    Children's Hour did much to reassure the young with the soothing voice of Uncle Mac (Derek McCulloch) and the humour of characters such as Larry the Lamb and Dennis the Dachshund. For adults, the great comedy hit was Tommy Handley's ITMA (Its That Man Again) - a true phenomenon of wartime broadcasting. The half-hour programme became such a feature of national life that, it was said, if Hitler chose to invade England between 8.30 and 9pm on a Thursday he would have an easy job of it, because the whole country would be tuned in to Tommy Handley. A host of outlandish characters peopled the show. There was Mrs Mopp, the cleaner, with her catchphrase; can I do yer now, sir? Funf, the bungling German spy, and the immortal Colonel Chinstrap who greeted every remark as if it were an offer of a drink with the words: I don't mind if I do Fast moving, packed with wisecracks and dottily British, the show proved more of a morale booster than any government propaganda.

    The valve Radio was a key item in millions of British homes.

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    Propaganda there certainly was, however, and many more or less dull talks on the Home Service. For continual music and variety, millions tuned in to the Forces Programme which started broadcasting in February 1940 with 12 hours of light entertainment a day, from 11am to 11pm. Created for troops crowding canteens and billets, the programme also attracted a huge civilian audience and one of its great successes was Sincerely Yours, presented by Vera Lynn, the Forces Sweetheart, billed as a sentimental half hour linking the men in the forces with their womenfolk at home. The singer's famous song of wartime separation, We'll Meet Again, was the signature tune.
    The Brains Trust was another invention of the Forces Programme, and proved an astonishing success. The original idea was to settle servicemen's barrack-room arguments by putting questions before a panel. It had three regulars: the philosopher C.E.M. Joad, scientist Julian Huxley and retired naval man Commander A.B. Campbell. Questions ranged from the most abstruse scientific problems to such posers as Why can you tickle other people but you can't tickle yourself?

    Tommy Handley, star of the ITMA Series, seen here broadcasting with Dorethy Summers, who was Mrs Mopp

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  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    At your local cinema

    To escape the claustrophobic atmosphere of home, people went to the movies. They were prepared to queue for hours to get in every week and in wartime Britain some 25-30 million cinema tickets were sold each week. The big picture houses with their grandiose names - Majestic, Palace, Alhambra created dream worlds where for a few pence the dark streets and the bombs could be forgotten.
    The most popular movies were the adventure films, comedies, Westerns and musicals from the United States. Most successful of all was “Gone with the Windâ€￾ (1939), which played in London's West End non-stop from the spring of 1940 to the spring of 1944.
    In contrast to Hollywood's offerings, many British films were dour and dutiful. The Gentle Sex (1943) was a case in point, documentary in treatment and dedicated to the part women were playing in embattled Britain. None the less, some outstanding British pictures came out of the war. One of them was In Which We Serve (1942), a superb patriotic piece starring and directed by Noel Coward and set around a torpedoed destroyer. Another was Laurence Olivier's Henry V (1944), filmed in Ireland. This inspiring, sometimes experimental production of Shakespeare's play made references to war which were as relevant to the 20th century as they were to the 15th.

    BBC reporters interview a Woman amid bombed out ruins..

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    In factory towns, cinemas sometimes screened messages to workers needed on the next shift. And during intervals, picture-goers were treated to recitals by the cinema organist. Requests were played, the most popular turning out to be The White Cliffs of Dover, Vera Lynn's hit song, which audiences seem never to have tired of hearing. In the home, people played songs on 78rpm records which scratchily reproduced the sound through steel needles and wind up gramophones. The war's biggest hit was the German Lili Marleen. It had been overheard by Eighth Army troops in North Africa and proved so popular that an English version, Lili Marlene - My Lili of the Lamplight was penned and recorded.

    Lili Marlene was the War's most popular melody.

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    Topical songs promised an end to the blackout: I'm Going to Get Lit Up (When the Lights Go On in Landon) was an example. Any Gum, Chum? celebrated the GI’s presence in Britain with a catchphrase often heard on children's lips as they pestered American servicemen. But these were never quite as affecting as the dreamier songs of longing and romance that captured the hopes of countless men and women. For many, the great song of the Blitz was A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.
    It was also the age of the big bands. The dance halls were the chief meeting places for men and women in wartime, where people of very different social classes came together as they never would have done before. With the great influx of Commonwealth and American troops, different nationalities mixed too. In earlier times, no respectable wife would have gone to a dance without her husband, but as the war dragged on, more and more went along for the fun and comradeship. The agony columns of women's magazines were full of letters from married women who had “met a man at a danceâ€￾ and drifted into infidelity.
     
  3. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    A Tonic for the Troops...

    At troop concerts, two stars from the industrial North of England were much in demand: ukulele playing George Formby and Gracie Fields ('Our Gracie' to her fans). To help the war effort an organisation called ENSA was formed. The initials stood for Entertainments National Services Association, though wags preferred “Every Night Something Awful” for this hastily organised army of professional artistes. People also made their own entertainment.

    Lancashire lass Gracie Fields, entertains Scottish shipyard workers. She was much in demand despite temporary disapproval when she married her Italian producer, Monty Banks, just as Italy declared war.

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    Community singing accompanied by accordions helped to keep spirits up during the darkest days of the Blitz. Yes, We Have No Bananas and Roll Out the Barrel were two of the favourites of East Enders, while the nonsense song Mairzy Doats and Dozy Doats caught on like wildfire in 1944. In playgrounds, children adapted current melodies for their own purposes. Disney's Snow White, the first feature length cartoon film, made in 1938, was hugely popular and the famous work song of the dwarfs became:

    Whistle while you work
    Hitler is a twerp
    Goering's barmy
    So's his army
    Whistle while you work.

    Cinema programmes included two full-length films, with “shorts” at least one of which was often a documentary from the Ministry of Information. The leaflet describes how to hire the documentaries as well as projector and operator if needed. Film shows were even given to tube-dwellers in the London Underground.

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  4. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    People took increasingly to reading poetry and going to art exhibitions, however, and the biggest highbrow boom was in concert going. The famous Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, or Proms where a large part of the audience would traditionally stand or “promenadeâ€￾ continued through periods of nightly bombing at the Queen's Hall in London. When that building was destroyed by fire they carried on at the Albert Hall. From October 1939 concert pianist Myra Hess was organising lunchtime recitals in the now empty National Gallery. The concerts continued throughout the war and were enormously popular, so much so that people lined up outside every day to get tickets.

    British made Classic British films which came out of the war included Noel Coward's Brief Encounter (1945). Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard starred as the suburban housewife and local doctor whose quiet love affair is set against the background of a dingy railway station.

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    Cheek to cheek London's 'Stage Door Canteen' was inspired by the original American club, which opened in Broadway, New York in March 1942.

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  5. Jeannie

    Jeannie New Member

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    Not only in this time of need, but in the past as well. You can see that it is was important to have something people could listen to that would put their mind at ease about what was going on. I think that how this relates to today is that their are more ways to not think about what is going on in the world.

    War is never something anyone really wants or at least as far as I can tell. I would think that back when this happened it affected everyones lives and not just of those who had family going to war. It is great to see that people came together to find a way to make it easier on everyone. There were a lot of songs that came out during that time that spoke about the war. You will find this at any stage in life.
     
  6. jjaelovesenglish

    jjaelovesenglish New Member

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    We Never Closed" was the proud boast of London's tiny Windmill Theatre a West End show place that stayed open through the worst of the Blitz. Music, dancing, radio and film all helped to make wartime hardships easier for Britons to bear.



    I just can't imagine any of the theaters being opened during the blitz. Ihave seen many pictures of the blitz but can't imagine anyone going to the theater.
     
  7. mikedyse

    mikedyse New Member

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    Hello Jim,

    Great photo! I stumbled upon this post searching the internet for information and photos of the Stage Door Canteen in London and am happily surprised to see this one - the band is the Tony Wayne Band with singer Madge Welch, pianist Al Chinnery and saxophone player Bob Burdett. Can I ask where you found the image?

    Kind regards,
    Mike

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