Trixie’s Note: Yeah. Keep Hopin’ There, Fella

In 1942, with the United States’ entry into WWII, Joan Blondell embarked on an exhausting 6 month USO tour, singing, doing skits, and dancing with as many soldiers as she possibly could. Married to Dick Powell at the time, the marriage was on the rocks, and perhaps she needed the escape, but she also felt passionately about the job. She had said later about her roles in 1930s cinema:

I was part of the ’30s, the Depression years. People needed to laugh, to be released from despair. They needed to forget fear even for a few hours. They needed to sway, to hum – I contributed to that. Isn’t that terrific?

And she felt the same way about her USO tour, despite the grueling schedule, her disintegrating marriage, and her separation from her two young children. She had to travel by plane, something that terrified her, and was ill much of the time. She said, showing the same spirit that embodies her entire career:

Being a truck horse, I was built to take whatever came along. There is no time for being tired, or for complaints. You keep going, because you can’t let the boys down. You laugh when you want to cry, and act happy and gay when you’re so sad inside it hurts.

She was beloved by the troops she met, and made honorary staff sergeant and also had two tanks and a bulldozer named after her. In one trip alone, to Camp Polk, Louisiana, she danced with “150 men”, and visited with 1200 men at the various mess halls. The US Army Commanding Major General sent a note to the War Department following her visit, breaking down the numbers:

number of men who saw Joan Blondell 30,000
number of theater appearances 6
number of men before whom she performed 7,000
dances she attended 3


The General wrote in his report:

Miss Blondell is deserving of high praise for her tireless and unselfish way in which she accomplished the ambitious schedule which we had laid out for her.

Blondell told a very funny story about a young soldier she met at “some godforsaken place up in Canada”:

After the show we were all huddled around a stove in a Quonset hut, and I noticed a tall, thin boy staring at me, and I could tell he was just too shy and nervous to approach me. He was standing by the door, shivering. So before he froze to death, I went over to him and said hello. He was from the South, and he said he had a terrible problem and could I help him. He was engaged to this marvelous girl, but all the guys in his platoon were saying that with him being away and her being in show business, she was probably seeing other fellas. “Now, Miss Blondell,” he said, “you’re in show business. Just ’cause I’m away doesn’t mean she isn’t gonna wait for me, does it?” I told him to pay no attention to his friends and said that it was just an old-fashioned notion that people in show business were fast. He was terribly relieved and practically in tears thanking me. When we were ready to go and I was walking out to the plane, he ran up and said, “Miss Blondell, you’ve made me so happy. I just want you to see a picture of my girl.” He handed me an eight-by-ten glossy. There she was in black lace underwear with her things bursting out of her brassiere, and she had a black boa that she was holding between her legs, trailing behind her. Her name, Trixie Dixon, was etched in white in the corner, and her manager’s name and phone number was printed at the bottom. At the other corner, in ink, was the inscription:

Honey — I really love you No Shit

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