Wednesday, June 29, 2016

World War Wednesdays: Going to the Movies During WWII

Japanese farm labourers in front of the Fox Theater, Glencoe, ca. 1942
Southwestern Ontario Digital Archive
     All the talk last week about seeing My Friend Flicka at the Fox in Glencoe inspired me to look into what things were like in the movie theatres during the Second World War. With some more help from Maridon Duncanson's Heaps of Love, Mum: Stories of the Second World War Years in Dutton, Ontario From the Letters of Elona Bambridge, I was able to find some fascinating information on what it would have been like to go and see a movie during the war, especially around this area.

Dutton Advance, July 4, 1940:
Special Announcement
     On Monday, July 15, the Fox Theatre, Glencoe, like all other theatres in Canada, is turning over all proceeds to the Dominion Government.
     The price of admission is fifty cents- the patrons in return receiving two war savings stamps. When four dollars worth of these are collected they can be turned in to the Government and the sender will receive a five dollar war bond which is redeemable in 7 1/2 years. 
     If you have not yet obtained any war savings stamps to help our country, come to the Fox Theatre on July 15 and let us give you a start- if you are already saving these come and increase your collection.

    The National Film Board began to produce war-related films in 1940. Its series called "Canada Carries On" was made for the education of the public and was distributed to movie theatres across Canada to be shown as "Shorts." Another series it produced had a wider scope. The "World in Action" short films were shown in United States theatres as well.

The National Film Board may have produced some of the other films shown in theatres in Summerside, PEI during the war. Two films presented during Reconsecration Week in September 1941 were titled "The Fight for Victory" and "Over All The World." "Britain on Guard" was shown at the High School in November 1941. In February 1942 three films were shown at the School - "Wings of Youth," Churchill Island" and "Blue Horizons." "Women are Warriors" and "Make It Over" were offered to all interested women in October 1943.

Capitol Theatre, St. Thomas, ca. 1931 courtesy of Elgin County Archives
Wartime Blockbusters

     Featuring popular stars Ingrid Bergman and Fay Wray, the film had mixed reviews but included a hearty dose of wartime drama and romance to help take viewers' minds off their own struggles.

     The well-received drama starring the lovely Maureen O'Hara was eventually nominated for ten Academy Awards and won five, including Best Picture for 1941. 

     An instant commercial success, the First World War drama was nominated for seven Academy Awards and was held over in London movie theatres for a week. 

     Another drama, which dealt with themes of Nazism and underground German resistance, the film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and included popular star Bette Davis in a secondary role because she felt the story was so important.

     Hopefully I've added to your classic movie watch list, and that you have a new appreciation for what it was like to see a movie during the war. Good or bad, all of these films were a major source of both entertainment and conversation during those years. I'm curious to hear what movies readers remember seeing at the Fox and Capitol Theatres themselves!

     Information courtesy of Maridon Duncanson and IMDB, and

Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

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