account of the tragedy from Time Magazine
of a Hollywood royal
The film world and moviegoers around the world are stunned Jan. 16 by
the sudden death in an airplane crash of Carole Lombard, one
the screen's greatest stars and wife of film idol Clark Gable. Lombard's
plane crashes into a peak near Las Vegas, Nev., which will become known
locally as Carole Lombard Mountain. Other victims include Lombard's
mother, her press agent, and 15 servicemen, plus crew. Lombard and Gable
held royalty status in the film colony, and sound stages in every Hollywood
studio are shut down for a day in a gesture of mourning. President Franklin
D. Roosevelt salutes the blond, 33-year-old specialist in "screwball"
comedy as a national heroine; she was returning to California after
the first successful sale of U.S. war bonds in her native Indiana, six
weeks after Pearl Harbor. An investigation determines that pilot error
caused the fatal crash.
It is almost midnight on Saturday, Nov. 28, and Boston's Cocoanut Grove
nightclub is filled beyond capacity with weekend revelers. A fire breaks
out in the kitchen and spreads into the ballroom. Diners and dancers
trying to escape are trapped in the inferno because a mob of humanity
is pressed against the doors. Only a few dozen escape alive, and the
death toll is put at 491. One of the victims is 53-year-old Buck Jones,
a stalwart of western movies for two decades. History's worst nightclub
fire directly influences legislation that requires doors in public buildings
to open outwardly, rather than inwardly, as they did at the Grove.
Radio's golden age
"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of
men? The Shadow knows!" - From the introduction to the
radio serial The Shadow
"Gooood eeeevening, friends of the Inner Sanctum.
This is your host to welcome you in through the squeaking door for another
half-hour of hooorrooor." - The introduction -- accompanied
by the sound of a squeaking door -- to the NBC radio serial Inner Sanctum
Because of the war, and as a distraction from it, Americans are gathered
around their Zeniths, Sylvanias and Philcos as never before in the early
1940s, a time that will later be recognized as a golden age of radio.
Spirits laid low by news of the war are lifted by such perennial comic
stars as George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jack Benny, Fred Allen and
Bob Hope, all on the air since the 1930s. A newcomer in 1942 is
Red Skelton, who soars to popularity with his characterizations
of Deadeye, Clem Kadiddlehopper and Junior, the Mean Widdle Kid.
Benny's show is enlivened by the antics of Rochester, his manservent,
and Allen brings into American living rooms such characters as Titus
Moody, Mrs. Nussbaum, Senator Claghorn and Falstaff Openshaw. Hope,
credited with making Pepsodent the nation's favored toothpaste, has
a top-rated patter party with second banana Jerry Colonna and
pop vocalist Frances Langford. And coffee works its way into
the titles of two top-rated shows -- The Chase and Sanborn Hour with
Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, and Maxwell House Coffee Time
with Frank Morgan and Fannie Brice (as Baby Snooks).
Sitcoms thrive. There's The Aldrich Family, with its signature
exchange, "Henryyyyyy! Henry Aldrich!!" "Coming,
Mother"; Blondie, with Penny Singleton and Arthur
Lake, who also enact the Bumsteads on the screen; and Amos 'n'
Andy, enormously popular since 1928 with white actors Freeman Gosden
and Charles Correll in blackface before a studio audience. This program's
white hillbilly counterpart is Lum and Abner, set in the Arkansas
town of Pine Ridge, which is fictional until the real Arkansas town
of Waters changes its name to Pine Ridge in honor of the program.
A proving ground for young performers is the weekly talent show Major
Bowes and the Original Amateur Hour, with its catch phrase, "The
wheel of fortune goes 'round and 'round, and where she stops nobody
knows." There are nonsense shows, exemplified by It Pays
to Be Ignorant, and audience participation shows, the most popular
being the gimmicky Truth or Consequences, hosted by Ralph
Edwards. But more sophisticated listeners are regaled by Information
Please, with regular experts John Kieran, Oscar Levant and Franklin
P. Adams (plus famous guests) and master of ceremonies Clifton
And there's ample melodrama, mystery, adventure: Inner Sanctum, The
Shadow, and Gang Busters -- with its famous opening sound effects
of marching feet, machine-gun fire, the wail of a siren. Also, Big
Town, with screen stars Edward G. Robinson and Claire Trevor,
and The Green Hornet, wherein faithful Japanese houseboy Kato
miraculously becomes Filipino overnight after the Pearl Harbor attack.
Moviegoers stay home on Monday nights for Lux Radio Theater,
which presents front-rank screen stars in hour-long dramatizations of
popular movies. But most radio dramas are daytime serials, addressed
to homemakers. Indeed, many are sponsored by soap products, and "soap
opera" becomes the distinctive description of the genre.
Newscasters bring news of the world into our homes; and, particularly
in wartime, radio makes a major contribution toward keeping Americans
informed. Gabriel Heatter's "Ah, there's
good news tonight" is more reassuring than the often ominous
tidings of Fulton Lewis Jr., Drew Pearson and H.V. Kaltenborn of the
incomparably clipped speech. Gossip overlaps news in the commentary
by Walter Winchell, whose Jergens Journal begins with "Good
evening, Mr. and Mrs. North and South America and all the ships at sea
. . . let's go to press!"
The more memorable soap operas:
Young Widder Brown, Our Gal Sunday, Just Plain Bill, Mary Noble, Backstage
Wife, Young Doctor Malone, Front Page Farrell, When a Girl Marries,
Stella Dallas, The Romance of Helen Trent, The Guiding Light, Ma Perkins,
Vic and Sade
Dispatches from the front
The first full year of America's participation in the war is decisive,
as hindsight will show. In the early months of 1942, Japan appears invincible
and Germany retains its stranglehold on Europe. But the tide is destined
to turn in both theaters.
January: Japanese forces occupy Manila, capital of the Philippines,
and lay siege to the Bataan Peninsula. Japan conquers Dutch Borneo and
launches invasions of Burma and New Guinea. In Libya, British troops
are routed by the German forces of Gen. Erwin Rommel, the "Desert
Fox." In Germany, the "Final Solution to the Jewish Problem" is
revealed by Reinhard Heydrich at the infamous Wannsee Conference,
making genocide the order of the day.
February: Overcoming stiff British resistance, the Japanese conquer
Singapore. In their first air attack of the war, U.S. ships and planes
inflict damage on Japanese naval bases in the Gilbert and Marshall islands.
As German invaders make gains in Russia, Soviet leaders press the United
States and Britain to open a "second front" against the Third Reich.
March: Ordered by President Roosevelt to leave the Philippines,
Gen. Douglas MacArthur arrives in Australia to take up duties
as supreme commander of Allied forces in the South Pacific. Japan completes
its conquest of Burma.
April: Valiant defense of Bataan ends with surrender to Japan. Almost
immediately, about 35,000 American and Filipino captives begin the forced
"Bataan Death March" from Balanga to San Fernando. For Americans,
the war news is mostly grim; but in mid-April, 16 B-25 bombers led by
Lt. Col. James Doolittle take off from the carrier Hornet for
a bombing raid on Tokyo. The raid does little damage, but it is a boost
for American morale.
May: German troops capture the Kerch Peninsula in the Crimea and take
aim on the oilfields of the Caucasus. RAF bombers launch a devastating
night raid on the German cathedral city of Cologne. In reprisal, German
bombers attack the English cathedral city of Canterbury.
June: The decisive Battle of Midway June 4-6 marks a turning point in
Pacific war. Four Japanese carriers and a heavy cruiser are sunk. The
U.S. carrier Yorktown and destroyer Hammann are casualties, but the
Japanese lose 332 aircraft, compared to 147 planes lost by the United
States. Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet,
learned in advance of the Japanese plan to invade Midway and was ready
to deal out Japan's first major defeat.
July: German forces advance along a broad front in southern Russia.
The Crimea is occupied totally. Rostov falls to the Germans after bitter
fighting. The Germans then split their forces, for what eventually will
bring disaster: One group heads for Stalingrad, the other for the Caucasus.
August: U.S. forces in the Pacific take the offensive for the first
time with the invasion of Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands. A commando
raid by Canadians and Britons at Dieppe on the coast of France is repulsed,
with the Allies suffering 50 percent casualties.
September: Brutal door-to-door fighting begins in Stalingrad between
German invaders and the defending soldiers and civilians. While British
and German troops do battle at Tobruk and U.S. Marines contest the Japanese
in the Solomons, Allied military leaders plan the invasion of North
Africa (Operation Torch). The commander is a previously obscure American
general named Dwight D. Eisenhower.
October: The prolonged desert war reaches a turnaround with the 12-day
Battle of El Alamein. With Rommel's forces finally in full retreat,
Gen. Bernard Montgomery declares that the British have won a
full and absolute victory in Egypt. Japan pours reinforcements into
Guadalcanal, but U.S. Marines trap a large Japanese force at Lunga Point.
November: Operation Torch gets under way. Allied forces led by Eisenhower
land on the Algerian and Moroccan coasts. The aim is to deny Germany
control of the west coast of Africa and to give the Allies a base for
operations against southern Europe. In a major naval engagement off
Guadalcanal, Japanese and American ships inflict severe losses on each
other. When the U.S. cruiser Juneau is sunk, five Sullivan brothers
go down with the ship. They had enlisted together in Iowa immediately
after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (Next year, a new destroyer
will be named The Sullivans in their honor.)
December: The year ends with resounding triumphs for the Allies. As
Stalingrad remains stalemated, it becomes clear that Germany is losing
by attrition what will often be cited as the most critical battle of
World War II. Allied forces make gains in north Africa until heavy rains
curtail action in Tunisia. Australian troops defeat a larger Japanese
force in hand-to-hand fighting in New Guinea. On the last day of 1942,
the Japanese begin to abandon Guadalcanal. The Allies are wearily jubilant
and optimistic on the eve of 1943.
Jan. 6: The ballet Gayane by Soviet composer Aram Khatchaturian, featuring
the sensational Sabre Dance, premieres in Moscow.
Jan. 16: Jawaharla Nehru succeeds Mohandas Gandhi as head of the Indian
Feb. 20: President Roosevelt authorizes internment of Japanese Americans
on the West Coast.
April 13: Fort Worth's own Byron Nelson edges Fort Worth's own Ben Hogan
to win the Masters golf title for the second time.
June 13: President Roosevelt creates two major agencies: the Office
of War Information, naming Elmer Davis as head, and the Office of Strategic
Services (OSS), forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Aug. 26: Wendell Willkie begins a trip around the world to boost Allied
solidarity. He is the personal envoy for FDR, who defeated Willkie in
the 1940 presidential election.
Sept. 16: Jacqueline Cochran is named director of Women's Flying Training
in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Oct. 2: The British cruiser Curacao sinks after colliding with the liner
Queen Mary; 338 die.
Oct. 5: The National League champion St. Louis Cardinals defeat the
New York Yankees in five games to win the World Series.
Oct. 15-16: Recorded history's most devastating hurricane kills 40,000
people in and around Bengal, India.
Oct. 16: Aaron Copland's ballet Rodeo has its world premiere at New
York's Metropolitan Opera.
Nov. 28: The Army-Navy football game is won by the Midshipmen, 14-0,
at Annapolis, Md.
Dec. 12: A hotel fire in St. John's, Newfoundland, kills 118.
Dec. 13: The Washington Redskins, led by the passing of Sammy Baugh,
down the Chicago Bears, 14-6, to rule the National Football League.
* Boxing champion Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay), Jan. 18 in Louisville,
* Dallas Cowboys great Roger Staubach, Feb. 5 in Cincinnati
* Hockey star Phil Esposito, Feb. 20 in Sault Saint Marie, Canada
* Novelist John Irving, March 2 in Exeter, N.H.
* Poet/novelist Erica Jong, March 26 in New York
* Film actress Sandra Dee, April 23 in Bayonne, N.J.
* Singer/actress Barbra Streisand, April 24 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
* Country singer Tammy Wynette, May 5 in Red Bay, Ala.
* Beatle Paul McCartney, June 18 in Walton Park, England
* Actor Harrison Ford, Aug. 22 in Chicago
* Actress Raquel Welch, Sept. 5 in Chicago
* Singer Art Garfunkel, Oct. 14 in New York
* Sexologist Shere Hite, Nov. 2 in St. Joseph, Mo.
* Football star Dick Butkus, Dec. 9 in Chicago
* Painter Grant Wood, Feb. 13 in Iowa City, Iowa, age 50
* Actor John Barrymore, May 29 in Hollywood, age 60
* England's Duke of Kent, Aug. 25, shot down over the North Sea,
* Broadway great George M. Cohan, Nov. 4 in New York, age 64
* The Last Time I Saw Paris, by Elliot Paul
* The Moon Is Down, by John Steinbeck
* The Stranger, by Albert Camus
* The Company She Keeps, by Mary McCarthy
* Go Down, Moses, seven William Faulkner stories about the McCaslin
family, including "The Bear"
* The Keys of the Kingdom, by A.J. Cronin
* The Robe, by Lutheran clergyman Lloyd C. Douglas
* The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis
* The Skin of Our Teeth, by Thornton Wilder
Influence of the war is evident in the success of such sentimental and
patriotic tunes as:
* When the Lights Go on Again (All Over the World)
* Johnny Doughboy (Found a Rose in Ireland)
* He Wears a Pair of Silver Wings
* There's a Star-Spangled Banner Waving
* Praise the Lord, and Pass the Ammunition
* White Christmas, words and music by Irving Berlin.
* Blues in the Night, by Harold
Arlen, lyrics by Johnny Mercer
* Dearly Beloved, by Jerome Kern, lyrics
by Johnny Mercer
* Casablanca, the immortal Bogart-Bergman film, is Warner's Thanksgiving
release in 1942 but somehow will take the Oscar for Best Picture in
* Kings Row, Ronald Reagan's best movie, is a cleaned-up treatment
of a scandalous novel.
* Mrs. Miniver, the second teaming of Greer Garson and Walter
Pidgeon, praises British heroism during the blitz and cops six Oscars.
* The Pride of the Yankees stars Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig.
* The Talk of the Town, a serio-comic gem, offers a glittering
star trio in Jean Arthur, Cary Grant and Ronald Colman.
* Woman of the Year teams Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy
for the first time.
* Yankee Doodle Dandy features James Cagney's celebrated turn
as songwriter George M. Cohan.
Compiled by LARRY SWINDELL
SOURCES: 1941: Texas Goes to War, edited by
James Ward Lee, Carolyn N. Barnes, Kent A. Bowman and Laura Crow; The
Big Broadcast, 1920-1950, by Frank Buxton and Bill Owen; The Book of
Who; Chronicle of the 20th Century; Day by Day: The Forties; Encyclopedia
Americana; The Filmgoers' Companion, by Leslie Halliwell; I've Heard
Those Songs Before, by Elston Brooks; Timetables of History; World Almanac
and Book of Facts.