The Hollywood Victory Caravan arrived in the Twin Cities on May 8, 1942. More than two dozen entertainment luminaries — including Cary Grant, Claudette Colbert and Desi Arnaz — were touring the country, putting on a variety show at each stop to raise money for Army and Navy relief funds.

From the moment of their arrival at the Milwaukee Road depot, the entertainers were mobbed by star-struck Minnesotans at every turn. Extra police and “Minnesota defense force soldiers” patrolled the lobby and corridors of the stars’ hotel, the Nicollet, to enforce a “no-autographs” rule and keep hundreds of fans in check.

Fans lined University Avenue the next day as a motorcade carried the stars east for a matinee at the St. Paul Auditorium and then west for an 8:30 p.m. show at the Minneapolis Auditorium. Despite a top ticket price of $11, both auditoriums were packed, and the shows generated about $65,000 in gross receipts and plenty of BREATHLESS ALL-CAP OBSERVATIONS in the local press. 

Reporter Robert E. Murphy covered the Minneapolis show for the Sunday Tribune and Star Journal.

  

Some of Hollywood's brightest stars climbed aboard this baggage cart for a photo op at the Milwaukee Road depot in Minneapolis on May 8, 1942. Can you identify all of them? I'll give you three: That's Cary Grant, of course, in the first row, second from right, and Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are at top right. See the end of this entry for a complete caption. (Click here to see a larger version of the photo, or hit Ctrl + or Cmd + to enlarge this image.)

 
FILM STARS’ GREAT BIG ‘BIT’ FOR ARMY-NAVY RELIEF

BENEFIT SHOW SETS BOXOFFICE RECORD

Receipts in
Twin Cities
Hit $65,000

Hollywood’s Greats
Give Admirers
A Field Day
 
By Robert F. Murphy
 
Hollywood’s troupe of touring benefit stars in two shows set up boxoffice records for indoor events in the Twin Cities yesterday, playing before packed houses at St. Paul auditorium in the afternoon and in Minneapolis auditorium at night.
 
St. Paul’s announced gross receipts were $28,329, and those in Minneapolis are expected to be about $36,000, a Twin City total of about $65,000. Receipts, after deduction of expense, will be split between army and navy relief.
 
AND, JUDGING BY COMMENT AFTER THE SHOW, IT WAS WORTH IT.

* * *

Stars paraded for more than three hours before delighted spectators, displaying a wealth of beauty, talent and special abilities. The whole thing was kept on an informal basis, with Bob Hope, Cary Grant, Bing Crosby and others tossing in frequent ad-libs.

 
  Joan Bennett at the Nicollet Hotel: Doesn't she look adorable in this dress?
The show took the curse off a lot of previous celebrity personal appearances. Each of the stars showing did something, and Bob Hope’s dexterity as master of ceremonies was taxed to keep things from being tied up by encores.

The show was smoothly staged and ably directed, and constituted a field day for admirers of film talent.

THE PROGRAM WENT SOMETHING LIKE THIS: The chorus of eight starlets opened with a number introducing Hope. DESI ARNAZ GOT A HEAVY HAND WITH TWO SONGS ON THE LATIN ORDER. Groucho Marx and Olivia De Havilland kicked some nonsense around in a domestic skit. Cary Grant appeared in a skit and thereafter spelled Hope at mastering ceremonies.

* * *

JOAN BLONDELL DID A THREATENED STRIP-TEASE NUMBER. Laurel and Hardy went through a skit having to do with Laurel’s driver’s license. Charlotte Greenwood sang a ditty called “SHALL I BE AN OLD MAN’S DARLING OR A YOUNG MAN’S SLAVE,” and did one of her famed eccentric dance numbers. Claudette Colbert appeared in a kidding match with Hope.

Frances Langford sang a brace of numbers. Arnaz, De Havilland, Frances Gifford and Charles Boyer appeared in a dramatic sketch, and BOYER, who became an American citizen in February, INJECTED A HEFTY PATRIOTIC PUNCH WITH A BRIEF TALK. Ray Middleton sang two numbers, one written especially for the show. Frank McHugh and Fay McKenzie acted in a bedroom farce, with Stan Laurel coming in for the blackout.

* * *

Pat O’Brien did a bit from his “Knute Rockne” role.

Joan Bennett appeared for her kidding match with Hope. Bert Lahr and Cary Grant appeared in a hilarious income tax sketch, which had Grant laughing so hard he missed lines.

O'Brien spelled Hope and Grant at MC'ing, to introduced Rise Stevens, the Metropolitan singer.

Blondell, De Havilland and Bennett went through a sketch having to do with ladies' war work. Jerry Colonna gagged with Hope, sang and played the trombone. MERLE OBERON READ A CHOICE BIT OF VERSE. Marx appeared with the chorus in a loony "Dr. Hackenbush" song.

* * *

O'Brien and McHugh appeared in a brief and effective war sketch. O'Brien did his version of the "America" lyrics. Eleanor Powell dished out plenty of rhythm in a tap number. Lahr convulsed the audience with a song about a woodman.

Crosby kicked some conversation around with Hope and did his spell of caroling. James Cagney did an impression of Cohan's "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

Finale, with everybody on stage again.

* * *

Superlatives are weak things in describing a show of this kind. On the score of names alone, it's THE BIGGEST THING OF ITS KIND EVER DONE, and for entertainment, while there's naturally nothing heavy, IT'S SURE FIRE. Hope, Grant, O'Brien, et al, kept the thing on an intimate basis despite the fact the audiences were among the largest ever gathered here under a single roof.

* * *

Audience response was what the public relations gentlemen describe delicately as "terrific." Had the players yielded to the demand for encores, another three hours might have been spent.

There was plenty of comment after the shows concerning the POSSIBILITY OF FILMING THE WHOLE THING JUST THE WAY IT IS. Were that done, army-navy relief might get a gold mine. Certainly no picture with its array of talent ever has been made, nor is it likely to be, unless under such auspices.

* * *

Leaving the Twin Cities, the Caravan will wind up its schedule with performances in Des Moines today, Dallas Monday and Houston Tuesday.

 

My best guess at all the IDs: Bottom row, from left: Charlotte Greenwood, Joan Bennett, Joan Blondell, Claudette Colbert, Charles Boyer, Cary Grant, Pat O’Brien. Top row, from left: Eleanor Powell (or maybe Merle Oberon or Frances Gifford?), Bert Lahr, Frank McHugh, Groucho Marx, Rise Stevens, Desi Arnaz, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy. (Click here to see a larger version of the photo, or hit Ctrl + or Cmd + to enlarge this image.)

 

Fans young and old flocked to the Milwaukee Road depot to catch a glimpse of the stars.

 

Oliver Hardy and  Stan Laurel were among the stars arriving at the Nicollet Hotel. My best guess on the two women (the original photo has no caption): Minneapolis native Katharine Booth, left, and Marie McDonald. I can't place the fellow with the pipe. Maybe you can do better?

 

The Minneapolis Auditorium was packed for the Saturday night extravaganza.

 

Bob Hope and Cary Grant shared the spotlight at the Minneapolis Auditorium.

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