The truth about Hollywood draft deferments during WW2 (1942)

Original publication: Photoplay Date: December 1942
Categories: 1940s, Entertainment, Magazines, Notable people, War
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The truth about Hollywood deferments

by “Fearless”

Yes, a lot of the stars have been deferred — and they haven’t been able to tell the public why! Here’s the inside information. 

WW2 Hollywood deferments actors 1942

Celebrities and military service

While it is true that publicity often overemphasizes Hollywood happenings, and that the smallest mistakes of stars are exaggerated, draft deferments in the film industir will take explaining. The personalities of the fabulous films are on the spot in the matter of serving their country.

It is useless to deny that motion-picture stars have been getting the best of it (as to immunity from draft). Some have been given special deferments and choice assignments and, even when taken, often have been allowed extra months to finish pictures before having to report for active duty.

Husky film heroes without dependents or physical disabilities have frequented sporting events, night clubs and social gatherings, apparently without fear of the draft board — while their country cousins and city pals were being called from their jobs and their homes by the Army, or were cleaning up their affairs to enlist in the Marines or the Navy.

Nor were other members of the film industry so immune. Pictures were held up because technical men, crew hands and laboratory workers were drafted or had volunteered for service –while the ranks of the stars seemingly thinned not at all.

As late as August of this year, few important players were to be seen in uniform. Jimmy Stewart, Robert Montgomery, Doug Fairbanks, Wayne Morris, Ronald Reagan, Bill Holden, Jeffrey Lynn, Gene Raymond, Burgess Meredith, Tim Holt and one or two others were notable exceptions — an amazingly low percentage in view of the statements regarding those supposed to be on the verge of going.

Months passed with the stars still among those present and the public began to ask why. Wives, sisters, parents and sweethearts of drafted men who had little worldly goods to fight for wondered why their loved ones should face danger and death while the men to whom America had given so very much remained behind.

The stars have sensed this growing resentment, rubbed to a rawer edge by the actions of those few who pulled strings to get commissions in behind the lines jobs as Army, Navy and Marine press agents, intelligence officers and “specialists,” this latter covering a multitude of assignments such as Tony Martin’s job of running a theater. Yet, when a star would have responded to this spur of public opinion and joined the fighting forces, he ran head on into an unyielding wall of pressure.

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For that is the paradox of Hollywood deferments. The stars are, in the main, deferred — not by request, but because of circumstances. No more than in Milwaukee or Spokane have Hollywood’s draft boards put into 1-A men who are married, who have children, or who live under other special circumstances allowed for by the Selective Service Act. There is, of course, no law against a man with a family volunteering.

But there has been, in a surprising number of cases, the ceaseless, urgent plea of the studios, of fellow workers, of friends and well-meaning advisers to “stay on the job.”

Then Clark Gable kicked the flood gates open by joining up as a private in the officers training school for the Air Corps. Tyrone Power, who had been none too happy over the failure of his attempt to enlist as a non-commissioned officer in the Navy and the publicity that followed his move, threw off the shackles and enlisted in the Marines. At the same time, Henry Fonda signed up as a seaman with the Navy and the movement of star enlistments began in earnest.

But not all stars who would willingly have followed the example of the Three Musketeers were free to do so. Yet in no case has a star been able to speak and say why. Even those whose physical disabilities placed them out of the draft have had to keep their mouths shut. Some who might better have gone into service but who took advantage of technicalities to stay out have welcomed the cloak of censorship Hollywood flung over itself.

So “Fearless,” who feels it is only fair to tell the whole truth about Hollywood deferments, has compiled as complete, as authentic and honest a list of Hollywood men who have not yet gone into service, together with their draft status, as it has been possible to make.

Not every Hollywood personality is covered, due to lack of space, but you’ll find most of the significant ones represented here. Also, our chief concern is with Americans, not those of other nationalities. “Fearless” now asks, in return for this information, obtained from a hundred different confidential sources, that with the evidence before you, you bring in an unprejudiced verdict.

Actors/celebrities who have not gone into military service

Including information about Bud Abbott, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby, Cary Grant, Bob Hope, Robert Preston, Mickey Rooney, Spencer Tracy, John Wayne and Orson Welles.

Hollywood deferments - actors WWII - 1942

WW2 Hollywood deferments actors 1942 B


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Source publication: Photoplay

Publication date: December 1942


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