Although many of the movies made during World War II were combat films, the war affected the production of many other genres including documentaries, musicals, comedies, and dramas. These films supported the war by boosting morale, creating propaganda against Germany, or by simply encouraging Americans to sign up for combat.
Featured here is French General Charles de Gaulle working in Colonial
The March of Time was a short subject series newsreel produced by Time Inc. It began in March 1931 as a CBS radio news series. In the radio show the news of the day was dramatized by professional New York actors, such as Art Carney (1918–2003) and Orson Welles (1915–1985). In 1935, the radio show was converted into twenty-minute, monthly newsreel episodes shown in theaters around the world. The series lasted until 1951. In total, 166 documentary film episodes were released.
The March of Time was no stranger to controversy. In a time when movies were primarily escapist in nature, the series shocked American audiences by tackling serious topics seldom explored in films, such as venereal disease, the horrors of Nazi Germany, and poverty in America. The documentary series was also criticized for staging or recreating many of its scenes. Fictitious scenes were often mixed in with authentic footage, as amateur and professional actors were hired to impersonate popular newsworthy figures.
Stage Door Canteen is a musical romance based on a recreational center in New York where servicemen were entertained by celebrities during World War Two. In the film, a young hostess defies the rule forbidding staff to fraternize with soldiers and begins a romance with a young G.I. The movie features a star-studded cast that includes appearances by Harpo Marx (1893–1964), Katharine Hepburn (1907–2003), and legendary bands such as the Benny Goodman (1909?–1986) and Count Basie (1904–1984) Orchestras.
Watch a song and dance from the film.
Known as the “Brown Bomber,” Joe Louis (1914–1981) was the reigning heavyweight champ from 1937 to 1949 and is considered by many to be the greatest heavyweight fighter who ever lived. When Louis was drafted during WWII, he staged over 95 boxing exhibitions under the Army’s Special Services Division to elevate troop morale and to encourage both African Americans and whites to join the war effort. Louis’s popularity crossed racial boundaries and defied prevailing discriminatory practices in America and the American military. When asked about his decision to enter the racially segregated U.S. Army, Louis’s explanation was simple: “Lots of things are wrong with America, but Hitler ain't going to fix them.”
In this documentary produced by the military, Louis is pictured with fellow boxer Sugar Ray Robinson (1921–1989), who, like Louis, was drafted into the army and performed exhibition bouts to improve troop morale. Robinson is known to have refused to fight in exhibitions that African American soldiers were not allowed to watch.
The TV documentary Joe Louis: America's Hero... Betrayed (2008)
Learn more about American boxer and World Heavyweight Champion (1937 - 1949) in this biography.