Flashback: July 4th, When Hollywood Was Patriotic

A long time ago, in a universe far, far away, in a place called Hollywood, the movie studios and the actors who flourished in the dream factories, celebrated their love of America and enthusiastically indulged in overt displays of patriotism.

I like this photo of Ava Garden framed against the American flag. At the dawn of her career she did scores of bathing suit, July 4th photos. But this pic, probably from the early 50's, shows a more mature and confident actress as an American icon.

I like this photo of Ava Garden framed against the American flag. At the dawn of her career Gardner posed for scores of July 4th cheesecake photos. But this pic shows a more mature and confident actress as an American icon.

I haver no idea what's going on this photo of Bette Davis and the flag. But the very mystery of her expression give the pose a terrific theatricality.

Is Bette Davis examining the stitching in the flag? The very mystery of her expression give the pose a terrific theatricality.

L.B. Mayer (b. Lazar Meir) of MGM, a pioneer of the motion-picture industry, and the man who invented the star system, adopted July 4th as his birthday. Scores of Hollywood historians get all snarky about Mayer’s birthday, claiming that he conveniently changed his birthday in order to cash in on a public identification with America.

What these historians fail to recognize is that Mayer probably did not know the date of his birth.

Mayer was from Minsk, in the Pale of Settlement, where the exact birth dates of most Jews were rarely recorded. My paternal grandfather, Rabbi Shmuel Avrech, also came from the Pale. If anyone asked his birthdate he would shrug and tell us in Yiddish—he barely spoke English—that it was sometime around Chanukah. Naturally, Reb Shmuel had no idea when his parents were born, nor did he care. But he knew their yahrtzeit , the anniversary of their deaths. He had to. For on that day an observant Jew is obligated to recite kaddish .

Anyhoo… back to Hollywood and patriotism.

These days, the Hollywood elite lecture us—tediously and endlessly—that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. Unless the dissent is directed at Barack Obama, in which case, dissent is labeled racism.

Rita Hayworth as a human flag celebrates July 4.

Rita Hayworth celebrates July 4 with some fireworks wrapped in, I assume, war bonds.

But during Hollywood’s golden age, dissent was considered the province of seditious malcontents.

Thus, studio photographers shot thousands of publicity stills featuring contract players celebrating American values with creative displays of good, old-fashioned patriotism.

 

Madge Evans posing as Maxine Bennett from the film Age of Indiscretion. She is holding one of the earliest American flags with the stars in a circular pattern. And, of course, bearing a weapon. In those days, the right to bear arms was a common sense norm in America and Hollywood.

Madge Evans (1914-1971) posing as a revolutionary heroine, 1935. She is holding one of the earliest American flags with the stars in a circular pattern. Of course, Madge is carrying a rifle. In those days, the right to bear arms was a common-sense norm in America and Hollywood. Evans started acting in silent films as a child. Under contract to MGM, she was featured in Dinner at Eight (1933), Hell Below (1933), and David Copperfield (1935). In 1939, she married playwright Sidney Kingsley, retired from films, and moved to an estate in New Jersey.

 

Leilah Hyams waves two flags on July 4.

Leila Hyams (1905-1977) waves two flags in honor of July 4th. Hyams is best known for her roles in two early horror films: as a sweet, wise-cracking circus performer in the cult classic Freaks (1932) and the heroine in Island of Lost Souls (1932). Hymas retired in 1936 to marry and raise a family with legendary agent Phil Berg.

 

Before she was a star, Joan Crawford, (1904-1977) born Lucille Fay LeSueur, was an ambitious starlet at MGM clawing her way to the top. Unlike most actors, Crawford enjoyed the long sessions with still photographers. Here, in a rather elaborate photo from the early 30's, young Joan appears to ignite July 4 fireworks with, um, star power.

Before she was a star, Joan Crawford, (born Lucille Fay LeSueur, 1904-1977) was an ambitious starlet at MGM clawing her way to the top. Unlike most actors, Crawford relished the long sessions with studio photographers. Here, in a rather elaborate photo from the early 1930’s, young Joan appears to ignite July 4 fireworks with… um… star power.

 

Lana Turner is about to ignite July 4 fireworks wearing a slinky gown. Do not try this at home.

Lana Turner is about to ignite July 4 fireworks wearing a slinky gown, 1938. Do not try this at home.

 

Norma Jean Baker, better known as Marilyn Monroe, probably loved the camera as much as the camera loved her. I don't think there was a Hollywood star who posed for more photos than MM. Monroe was an authentic American patriot who claimed Abraham Lincoln as her father figure. Her tragic private life too often overshadows the brilliance of her best performances. As Sugar Kane in Some Like it Hot (1959), Monroe gives one of the greatest comic performances in movie history.

Norma Jeane Baker, better known as Marilyn Monroe (1925-1962), probably loved the camera as much as the camera loved her. I don’t think there was a Hollywood star who posed for more photos than MM. Monroe was an authentic American patriot who claimed Abraham Lincoln as a father figure. Her tragic private life too often overshadows the brilliance of her best performances. As Sugar Kane in Some Like it Hot (1959), Monroe gives one of the greatest comic performances in movie history.

 

This July 4th photo seems to be referencing Taylor's classic role in National Velvet ('44). Unfortunately, the stuffed horse comes across as deeply strange.

This July 4th photo seems to be referencing Taylor’s classic role in National Velvet (’44). Unfortunately, the stuffed horse comes across as deeply strange.

 

In 1953 Debbie Reynolds was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. My daughters and now my granddaughters adore her in Hollywood's greatest musical, “Singin' in the Rain,” ('52).

In 1953 Debbie Reynolds was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. My daughters and now my granddaughters adore her in Hollywood’s greatest musical, “Singin’ in the Rain,” (’52).

 

Silent film star Colleen Moore as Uncle Sam, 1923. F. Scott Fitzgerald commented that Colleen Moore represented the Flapper of the Roaring 20s..

Silent film star Colleen Moore as Uncle Sam, 1923. F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said that Colleen Moore represented the Flapper of the Roaring 20s..

 

Here's Helen Twelvetrees on a July 4th firecracker. This photo, circa 1930s, is, let's face it, more tasteless than most Hollywood cheesecake. The picture also serves as an apt metaphor for Helen's career which took off like a rocket and plunged to earth just as quickly.

Here’s Helen Twelvetrees on a July 4th firecracker. This photo, circa 1930s, let’s face it, lacks the polish of most Hollywood cheesecake. The picture also serves as an apt metaphor for Helen’s career which took off like a rocket and plunged to earth just as quickly.

 

Jean Harlow exploded onscreen as the blond the first bombshell. This is one of the few July 4th photos I've come across that utilizes a double exposure.

Jean Harlow exploded onscreen as the first blond bombshell. This is one of the few July 4th photos I’ve come across that utilizes a double exposure.

 

Yesterday, Karen and I came across this comforter designed by Timothy Oulton. “I want that,” I said. Karen looked at the price tag and went pale. “How about just a photo?”

A few years ago, Karen and I came across this comforter designed by Timothy Oulton. “I want it,” I said. Karen looked at the price tag and said, “We’ll just have to settle for a photo.”

Seraphic Secret wishes all our friends and relatives a wonderful and patriotic July4, Independence/Declaration Day, celebration.

This entry was posted in Actors, America, Ava Gardner, Colleen Moore, Helen Twelvetrees, Hollywood, Hollywood Stars, Hollywood Still Photography, July 4th and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

Comment Rules


Seraphic Secret is private property, that's right, it's an extension of our home, and as such, Karen and I have instituted two Seraphic Rules and we ask commentors to act respectfully.

  1. No profanity.
  2. No Israel bashing. We debate, we discuss, we are respectful. You know what Israel bashing is. The world is full of it. Seraphic Secret is one of the few places in the world that will not tolerate this form of anti-Semitism.

That's it. Break either of these rules and you will be banned.


6 Comments

  1. LBD
    Posted July 7, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    If Karen likes the Timothy Oulton quilt, I must tell you it’s remarkably easy to recreate. Quilting is one of my hobbies, and a flag quilt doesn’t require a great deal of skill. If no one in the household sews, any seamstress or quilter can produce a similar quilt for a modest amount of cash. Idea for a birthday or anniversary gift?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted July 7, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      LBD:

      Amazingly, one of our generous readers just wrote to let us know that his sister, an accomplished quilter, is going to produce an American flag quilt for us as a gift. Yay!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. Bill Brandt
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    Bette Davis in the role of Betsy Ross?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. Barry
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    A disproportionate number of tops stars not only served, but distinguished themselves under fire. Not at all like the spaced out, tattooed numbskulls who are front and center today, but each does indeed reflect his own time and culture.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. GetThereJustAsSoon
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    These women lead the way then. Perhaps, we need such women to lead the way today. After all, America is our earthly home. Why would one be ashamed and not proud of their “home.”

    Your folio and comments reminded of another who was an icon during her time:
    “Kate Smith introduces God Bless America”

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

    • GetThereJustAsSoon
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      “led” not “lead” – sorry

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

  • How I Married Karen

    The new book
    by Robert J. Avrech


    Available in All Major Book Stores

    Buy this e-book for your Kindle from Amazon!
    Buy this e-book in the iBookStore!
    Buy this e-book in the iBookStore!

    Adobe Digital Edition's version is available through the Lulu store!

    Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

  • Follow Me on Pinterest
  • Subscribe to Seraphic Press via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.




  • Annual Ariel Avrech
    Memorial Lectures

    Young Israel of Century City
    Thirteenth: May 22, 2016
    Ben Shapiro: "How You Can Save Israel"

    Blog Post
    MP3 Audio Stereo (70 MB)
    Twelfth: June 7, 2015
    Larry Elder: "The New Black Anti-Semitism"

    Blog Post
    MP3 Audio Mono (50 MB) | Stereo (100 MB)
    Eleventh: June 8, 2014
    Michael Medved: "Shifting Alliances: Why Liberals No Longer Reliably Support Israel — And Conservatives Do." Blog Post | Audio (mp3 97MB)
    Tenth: June 9, 2013
    David Horowitz: "The War Against Judaism on the University Campus." Blog Post | Audio (mp3 16MB)
    Ninth: June 3, 2012
    Joel B. Pollak: "The Mainstream Media's Betrayal of Israel." Blog Post | Audio (mp3 15MB)
    Eighth: June 5, 2011
    Yossi Klein Halevi: "What is Expected of a Survivor People: Lessons My Father Taught Me." Blog Post | Audio (mp3 18MB)
    Seventh: June 13, 2010
    Dennis Prager: "Happiness is a Mitzvah, Not an Emotion." Blog Post | Audio (mp3 80MB)
    Sixth: June 21, 2009
    Rabbi Steven Pruzansky: "Conformity in Jewish Life: Vice, Virtue or Affectation?" Blog Post | Audio (mp3 64MB)
    Fifth: June 15, 2008
    Rabbi Dr. Gil S. Perl: "What Was the Rosh Yeshiva Reading: Intellectual Openness in 19th Century Lithuania." Blog Post | Audio (mp3 70MB)
  • Tags

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Friends

    Hollywood

    Politics, Bloggers & News

  • Hitmap