For Reel

Hollywood Canteen (1944)
May 25, 2016, 6:01 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Delmer Daves
4 Stars
Hollywood CanteenAlthough it plays as a typical revue spectacle, Hollywood Canteen is among the most compelling propaganda films of the 1940s. The gist is that the film captures the famed venue that saw Hollywood actors “giving back” to soldiers, and therefore the picture involves a number of the top stars of Warner Brothers appearing as themselves and humbly showing their gratitude to everyone around them. It is at once both a hugely charitable endeavor and entirely self-serving—because the film is about Hollywood’s support of the soldiers and ignores the rest of the general public, it has a slightly tacky self-congratulatory feel. And yet, the film shows a great intelligence about what movie stardom is and it knows how to capitalize on the fantasies that the viewing audience revels in. As the audience’s cipher, Robert Hutton plays a soldier who becomes a celebrity amongst the ruling class, earning respect from legends like Bette Davis and even having Joan Leslie fall in love with him. There’s a great sense of magic in the combination of the everyday and the glamorous—director Delmer Daves knows the power of Barbara Stawyck’s image, and he presents her rather matter-of-factly, engaging in a menial task and occupying only a short amount of screen time. With this strategy, Daves gives audiences the understanding that surprises are around every corner, and they’re not going to be telegraphed. That an “ordinary man” experiences a world in which Hollywood stars treat him as a peer and pine for him gets at a primacy in film escapism—rather than asking a viewer to get lost in a narrative, Hollywood Canteen nakedly invites one to imagine themselves participating in it.

Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: