The A to Z Challenge asks bloggers to post 26 posts, one for each letter of the English alphabet, in April. Most of us choose to make these posts on a particular theme. My theme for 2023 is 1943 Washington D.C., the setting of the novel that I’m writing. Visit daily in April for a new post on my topic.
B is for Irving Berlin
Irving Berlin successfully staged a show during his service in World War I to raise money for the Army. Yip Yip Yaphank was performed by active soldiers. The initial shows were at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York. Later, there was a limited run of the show on Broadway, raising $80,000.By World War II, Berlin was considered way too old for active service, but he still wanted to repeat his success with a revue performed by soldiers at Camp Upton and on Broadway. This is the Army was the result of this effort. It played all summer on Broadway in 1942 and first arrived in Washington D.C. as a stage show in the fall of 1942.
By the time that my characters arrive in Washington D.C. in 1943, This is the Army had moved onto Hollywood.
The film version of This is the Army, starring a very young Ronald Reagan and featuring the boxer Joe Louis, premiered in Washington D.C. at the Earle Theatre on August 12, 1943.
I probably won’t send my characters to the premiere, but they could go during the second week. Besides the movie, my characters would see a Gala Stage Show and enjoy air-conditioning on a hot summer day.
The Earle Theatre, renamed the Warner Theatre in 1947, remains a venue in downtown Washington D.C. Instead of movies, these days residents go to the Warner Theatre for plays, comedy shows, and music performances.
This is the Army is available on Amazon, either as part of Prime or free with ads. You can see for yourself the film that residents of Washington D.C and the rest of the country enjoyed in 1943.
Don’t expect much plot. Do expect to miss some jokes, especially a sequence that spoofs major stars of the day. I watched it while attempting to put my mindset in that of my characters, hoping and working toward victory, but without the hindsight of knowing that it would be achieved.
Irving Berlin: This Is the Army is a terrific article on the National Archives website about both the stage show and the film. The stage show went on a national and then international tour. This is the Army entertained troops around the world for the duration of the war. Interesting fact: the show troupe was the only racially integrated company in the U.S. armed forces during World War II.