Posts Tagged ‘World War II’

Movie Legend Bette Davis Came to Columbus During World War Two

September 19, 2008



Bette Davis Memorial Stamp (Courtesy: USPS)

  The United States Postal Service’s stamp commemorating the 100th aniversary of the birth of the late movie actress Bette Davis, which went on sale yesterday, triggered my memory of when I saw her in person. It was just a glimpse. She was being escorted into Memorial Stadium in Columbus, Georgia to attend the Georgia-Auburn game. She came to Columbus to be near a friend who was training at Fort Benning during World War Two. The Sunday Ledger-Enquirer, my memory tells me and I hope it’s right, ran a front page picture of her and her soldier friend sitting with some Columbus big-wigs watching the game. I didn’t see the game because the tickets cost too much. After my family and I saw her going into the stadium, we left and listened to the game on the radio at home.  

  The famous star, who was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won two, performed for a local audience once during her stay in Columbus. She drew a huge crowd to Memorial Stadium where she sold War Bonds. My memory says that the Commanding General of Fort Benning also spoke and the Fort Benning Band played for the event. Not only did she raise money for the war effort by selling bonds, but also from ticket sales to the event. My mom and dad thought the tickets were a little too expensive so we didn’t go, but we did ride by the stadium, and, if I remember correctly, heard her speech on the radio, though I couldn’t swear to that.

  She performed at a number of war bond rallies around the country and was the founder of the famous Hollywood Canteen, a night club for soldiers in Los Angeles in World War Two. She persuaded other stars to join her in that effort and many of them made personal appearances at the Canteen to entertain and show their support for the soldiers.  The female stars would thrill the soldiers by dancing with some of them. Davis also starred in movie musical made about the Canteen.

  There have been a number of stories told about her brief Columbus stay, but they could be apocryphal. One was that the late Charlie Frank Williams, a successful contractor, built a night club in the basement of his Greek Revival home on Hilton Avenue in order to entertain her in his home. Another was that the soldier she came to be near would visit with her at a cabin on a lake provided by another prominent Columbus businessman.  I don’t know how true are either of these stories. She was married four times, but I don’t know if the soldier ended up being one of the four.

  I do know that, even though I was a little boy at the time, probably 12 or 13 years old, I was very impressed that she was in Columbus. She was at the peak of her stardom during the 1940’s, said to be the highest paid woman in the world at the time.

  I am going to have to talk with some people a little older than I about that visit to see if they can remember more details.