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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Hollywood Preparing Women for WWII

Hollywood helped Americans prepare psychologically for WWII even before the U.S. was bombed by Pearl Harbor.  By that time, Europe had already been convulsed in war for over two years.  The film, “Come Live With Me,” starring the gorgeous Hedy Lamarr and Jimmy Stewart, is a charming comedy recently aired on TCM.  Released early in 1941, it has some somber moments that would have particular resonance with women at the time.

Hedy Lamarr

Lamarr plays a Viennese refugee whose father was “liquidated” in what used to be Austria.  She has fled Europe for the U.S. and is dating a married publisher who enjoys a “modern marriage” with his wife.  Lamarr is threatened with deportation due to her lapsed passport.  But the immigration officer gives her a week to find an American citizen to marry so she can stay (would that happen today?).

Stewart is a writer who has no money.  So Lamarr suggests he marry her:  she’ll give him a weekly allowance so he can write and she’ll have the security of a marriage license.  They do not live together and she visits him once a week to pay him off.

But Stewart is starting to fall in love with her and writes a book based on this strange situation.  He sends it off to none other than the publisher Lamarr is involved with (of course!), saying he doesn’t know how the story will end.  But we can hope!

Jimmy Stewart

In order to have her fall in love with him, Stewart practically kidnaps Lamarr (who is also starting to be interested in him), taking  her to the countryside where he grew up on a farm with Grandma, played by Adeline de Walt Reynolds, who dispenses wisdom as featured on her home-embroidered samples.

When Lamarr sees the proverb “Time Heals All Wounds,” she — thinking of her dead father — expresses doubt that that is true.  But Grandma says that if a woman can birth a dead child, and lose a young husband to a falling tree, and go hungry for a year due to flooded fields, she can rise above anything.

Adeline de Walt Reynolds who plays “Grandma”

Then Grandma says, “There isn’t a woman in the world who hasn’t had reason to doubt sometimes….Part of living is meeting tragedy and rising above it.  A woman doesn’t amount to anything unless she can do it.  It takes a long time to learn that that is true.”

Grandma’s wisdom heals Lamarr, but it also is meant as a lesson to women on what would soon become the home front in the United States who would be facing their own tragedies soon enough.

This charming ad features a caricature of Jimmy Stewart and Hedy Lamarr in the 1941 comedy “Come Live With Me.”  At the end of the film there is an even cuter one with them as lightning bugs (hard to explain if you haven’t seen it!).

Author’s Books

One of the most exciting moments in a writer’s life is when the book you’ve been devoting your life to — not only physically, but emotionally and, in this case, even spiritually — arrives in the mail as an actual physical object.

The other night, my family gathered ’round: Jim (my husband), Sarah (age 16), and John (age 11).  Jim placed the box before me that had arrived in the mail from Chicago Review Press.  We all stared at it like it was some strange and ancient talisman.

I recall my parents’ reminiscence of their first grandchild.  My niece, Lizzie, was 6 months old and proudly displayed to the family.  My brother, Jim, and his wife, Ruth, placed Lizzie on a blanket before the fireplace on a bleak, midwinter day in New Jersey.  We all sat on sofas and recliners and just….gazed at the baby.  In wonderment.  Here was this lovely creature, otherworldly almost, now gracing our lives.

Well, it seemed like that to us other other night.  This strange and magnificent gift, a bounty from my mother after her death–the diaries squirreled away in the file cabinet not opened in decades–permitting us to get to know her in her teenage years.

Jim handed me the scissors and I tear at the tape holding the box together.  I lift the lid —

And the lovely face of my mom gazes out at me.  The red background pops.  The raised fonts tactically beckon.

And we all, in a hush, are grateful.

Home Front Girl Diary

Susie and Sarah with Home Front Girl, just arrived from the publishers.

Susie holding the physical copy of Home Front Girl by her mother Joan Wehlen Morrison and edited by Susie–here at last!


You know who the “doughboys” were, don’t you?  It was the nickname of young men who went to fight in Europe in World War I.

Well, in 1944 Hollywood produced a crazy film based on a stage play called “The Doughgirls.”  My son, John, and I saw it the other evening on TCM.  It might not have been the most “politically correct” film ever, but it was very funny.  All about overcrowding in Washington, D.C. during the WWII.  A lot of films were based on the premise that housing was hard to find.

Here are the three hapless stars: Jane Wyman, Ann Sheridan, and Alexis Smith.

Here are Jane Wyman — at that time the wife of Ronald Reagan — Ann Sheridan — also known as the “Oomph Girl” — and Alexis Smith.

Especially wonderful is Eve Arden, who plays a Soviet officer.

Here is Eve Arden shooting off her rifle in honor of her little sister, just born in the Soviet Union. Don’t ask–it’s too crazy to explain in this screwball comedy!

You can see the trailer for the film here.

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