Hollywood’s greatest generation

Published 11:04 am Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Two things over the weekend had me thinking of how the world has changed since my grandparents’ generation. And neither was my com-

puter booting me from the server and, in its passive- aggressive silence, want- ing me to magically figure out a solution.

One was the death Sunday in Los Angeles of legendary actor/entertainer Mickey Rooney at 93. I love my old movies just like the next fuddy-duddy, but I had honestly for- gotten he was still amongst the living. In 1944, at the same age as Justin Tim- berlake when the latter helped put term “wardrobe malfunction” in the lexicon for a little while, Rooney joined the Army and entertained the troops state- side and in Europe. He got a Bronze Star and several other honors for being there for the uniformed soldiers.

The second thing was when I watched the special features of the 1942 Hum- phrey Bogart vehicle “Across the Pacific.” It has nearly the same cast as “The Maltese Falcon” and almost as good, but it’s the other part of DVD that struck me. A film short titled “Hol- lywood Helps the Cause” chronicled the efforts of the entertainment com- munity to support the war effort at the height of World War II.

Clips included the story behind that year’s premiere of “Yankee Doodle Dandy”— quite telling of the times.

The biopic/musical starred James Cagney as George M. Cohan, the early 20th century playwright credited with being the father of American musical comedy. Tickets to its first showing on June 6, 1942 — two years before D-Day, like they knew, right? — weren’t had from Warner Bros. studio by looks on the red carpet or some special invitation, but by those who bought war bonds. Yes, folks had to pony up some dough for the war effort to see the movie. To have the best seats for the Broadway premiere, you had to purchase about $2,000 in war bonds. Reports said about $5 million was raised.

Usually, I like to end these little col- umns by tying aspects together in some clever way to send some kind of mes- sage. But, this week, I’d like to have those nuggets of information percolate in your head like seeds of knowledge. Perhaps it points out the blatantly obvious.

The next Hollywood bad boy or wild-child, hot-mess actress will be like the one before them in that cate- gory — deeply in debt for their careers to people who sacrificed a heck of a lot more than what we see in cinema today.

Danny Barrett Jr. is assistant managing editor and can be reached by email at danny.barrett@vicksburgpost.com or by phone at 601-636-4545