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This Day in WWII 24 July 1940 - 1944


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HamiltonWatchAd-July1943.jpgHamilton Watch Ad - July 1943

 

1940: Reports of Lancastria disaster released in London after Churchill's ban on the news lifted.

 

1940: Neutral French liner Meknes, taking 1,100 French sailors back to France, sunk by German E-boat 572: 400 killed.

 

Betty%20Field1.jpg *Betty Field

 

1940: Red Cross estimates 5.5 million refugees in Vichy France.

 

1941: The U.S. government denounces Japanese actions in Indochina. US imposes a crude oil embargo on Japan.

 

Betty%20Field2.jpg Betty Field

 

1942: Roosevelt agrees with Churchill that operation 'Gymnast' should proceed, whilst operation 'Sledgehammer' should be canceled.

 

1942: Rostov-on-Don is captured by the 1st Panzer Army, thus clearing the way for the advance of Army Group A toward the Caucasus and Kuban region. Large numbers of Russian troops are liquidated in and around Rostov after German troops have secured the city.

 

Betty%20Field3.jpg Betty Field

 

1942: Finland approaches the United States, seeking its protection from the Soviets should Finland switch sides and join the allies.

 

1943: Operation 'Gomorrah' takes place when 746 RAF bombers drop 2,300 tons of bombs on Hamburg in 48 minutes, during which only 12 aircraft are lost. This tonnage is as much as Germans dropped in the five heaviest raids on London. Fires are visible for 200 miles. This is the first operational use of 'Window', (radar-jamming foil strips dropped by aircraft).

 

Betty%20Field4.jpg Betty Field

 

1943: A battle-damaged USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress crash-lands in Sweden. Its ten-man crew becomes the first of nearly 1,000 American and other Allied airmen to be granted refuge in neutral Sweden during World War 2.

 

1943: A 10-hour meeting of fascist grand council passes a motion, 19 votes to 7, asking that the King of Italy takes over command of all Italian forces from Mussolini.

 

1943: The U.S. submarine Tinosa fires 15 torpedoes at a lone Japanese merchant ship, none detonate.

 

BondBatteries-July1945.jpg Bond Batteries Ad - July 1945

 

1944: The River San is crossed by the Soviets to the northwest of Lvov. The Germans start evacuating Lvov.

 

1944: The Russians liberate Maidanek Concentration Camp near Lublin, where 360,000 people perished.

 

1944: The U.S. 4th Marine Division (15,000 men) lands on Tinian.

 

Betty%20Field5.jpg Betty Field

*Boston-born thespian Betty Field was born on February 8, 1913, the daughter of a salesman and his wife. Descendants on her father's side were Mayflower colonists Priscilla and John Alden. Her parents divorced while she was still young and Betty eventually learned to speak Spanish while traveling with her mother to various Spanish-speaking countries during her childhood. The pair settled in Newton, Massachusetts, after her mother remarried. Betty's passion for the theatre was sparked during her early teens and by 1932 she was enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Art. She made her professional debut in a 1933 summer stock production of "The First Mrs. Fraser" and soon was cast in stage roles elsewhere. She even found work in a London theater production of "She Loves Me" in early 1934.

Rather plaintive in appearance with flat but highly distinctive tones, Betty's Broadway debut came about as an understudy in the comedy "Page Miss Glory" in November of 1934, courtesy of George Abbott, in which Betty also had a minor role. Therafter she performed frequently in the comedy mold, and in the service of Abbott, with such delightful plays as "Three Men on a Horse (1935), "Boy Meets Girl" (1936) "Room Service" (1937) and "The Primrose Path (1939), and earning fine reviews for the last two.

After seeing her performance on stage as Henry Aldrich's girlfriend Barbara in "What a Life" (1938), Paramount executives utilized her services when they transferred "What a Life" (1939) to film. The studio not only liked what they saw but signed her to a seven-year contract. Throughout the 1940s Betty appeared in a variety of leading ingénue and co-star roles. The important part of Mae, the farm girl, in John Steinbeck's classic "Of Mice and Men" (1939) starring Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney was an early highlight, although it didn't provide her the necessary springboard for stardom. Part of the problem was that the rather reserved actress tended to shun the Hollywood scene (she still lived quietly with her mother).

While performing for Abbott again on Broadway in "Ring Two" (1939), Betty met the show's playwright Elmer Rice and the couple married in 1942. Their three children, John Alden, Judith and Paul, would appear on occasion with their mother on the summer stock stage. Betty also enhanced husband Rice's plays "Flight to the West" (1940) and "A New Life" (1943), which were designed especially for her.

Betty offered consistent, quality work even when the movies she appeared in met with less-than-stellar reviews. She was afforded the opportunity to work with some of Hollywood's finest leading men, including Fredric March in "Victory" (1940) and "Tomorrow, the World!" (1944), John Wayne in "The Shepherd of the Hills" (1941), Robert Cummings in "Flesh and Fantasy" (1943) and Joel McCrea in "The Great Moment" (1944). Tops on the list was her heart-tugging performance as the anguished daughter victimized by father Claude Rains in the classic soaper "Kings Row" (1942).

Betty%20Field6.jpg Betty Field

She purposely did not renew her Paramount contract at this point and, following another sterling performance in "The Southerner" (1945), took a long break from camera work. Back on Broadway, she appeared in such distinguished plays as "The Voice of the Turtle" and her husband's "Dream Girl" (Rice also directed) for career sustenance. She won the New York Drama Critics Circle award for the latter in 1946. Her Hedvig in Ibsen's "The Wild Duck" was also critically lauded.

An isolated return to Paramount to play what should have been a career highlight ended up a major disappointment,. While her Daisy Buchanan in F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" (1949) had mixed reviews (some felt she was miscast and not glamorous enough for the part), the movie itself (which was extensively trimmed) and her underwhelming co-star Alan Ladd were also cited as problems. Still a marquee value on Broadway, however, she displayed great range in such fare as "Twelfth Night", "The Rat Race", "Peter Pan" (taking over for Jean Arthur), "The Fourposter" (she and Burgess Meredith replaced Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn) and "Ladies of the Corridor"

Betty's soulful features took on a hardened, careworn veneer by the time she returned to Hollywood in the mid-1950's. Nevertheless, she had a "Field" day as a character player appearing in a number of drab, dressed-down roles. She lent credence to a number of fascinatingly flawed small-town moms and matrons in films, among them cream-of-the-crop hits "Picnic" (1955), starring Kim Novak, "Bus Stop" (1956) with Marilyn Monroe and "Peyton Place" (1957) headlining Lana Turner and Hope Lange. The stage plays "The Seagull", "Waltz of the Toreadors", "Touch of the Poet" and "Separate Tables" also accentuated this newly mature phase of her career.

TV took up a large percentage of Betty's time in the 1950s and 1960s with a number of showcase roles. She continued at a fairly steady pace but without much fanfare (as she preferred). Divorced from Rice in 1956, she married and split from lawyer and criminologist Edwin J. Lukas before settling down permanently with husband/artist Raymond Olivere in 1968. Betty's swan song in films was a small, featured part in Clint Eastwood's "Coogan's Bluff" (1968) as a floozie type, looking noticeably older than she was. Mixing in such stalwart, brittle roles on stage as Amanda in "The Glass Menagerie" and Birdie in "The Little Foxes", she made one of her last theater appearances in the difficult role of the mother in "The Effect of Gamma Rays on "Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds" in 1971.

Betty suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage in Hyannis, Massachusetts in 1973, just as she was about to leave and film "The Day of the Locust" (1975). Cast in the flashy role of "Big Sister", an evangelist, her part was taken over by Geraldine Page. At age 60, Hollywood lost a somewhat undervalued talent who enjoyed the work more than the stardom that often accompanied it.

EthylCorporation-July1945.jpg Ethyl Corporation Ad - July 1945

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