Wonders never cease. No sooner do I post the ‘Veterans’ Day photos that my father took of a World War II USO show, than correspondent Edward Sullivan comes through with a research coup that confirms what my father told me, with a great deal of new information.
The new input that Ed found comes from a web-reprinted “CBI Roundup” newsletter from August 10 of 1944. It’s the ‘Official Newspaper of the China * Burma * India Theater of World War II.
This particular edition of the CBI Roundup provides many answers for the earlier November 12 CineSavant Column. It begins with news about the Raiders that took Myitkyina, which became the subject of Samuel Fuller’s WB picture Merrill’s Marauders.
But the second article down is “Sheridan Describes Touring Trouble”, an account of the Ann Sheridan USO Tour. Among other things, the reporter says that the Texan Sheridan can roll her own cigarettes. Even better, it confirms some things my father told me, as well as some guesses made from his photos.
Besides Ben Blue, another USO fellow seen off to the side or hovering in the background appears to be emcee Jackie Miles. He was a standup entertainer and has a hefty IMDB credits list; he also did vocal imitations for the show.
The hula dancer, seen standing at the right in a peasant blouse for another photo, is Mary Landa. She also did a Mexican Hat Dance in the show. Ms. Landa is likely the same Mary Landa who has bit parts in a number of features, including the films noir The Mask of Dimitrios and Impact. At the Obscure Actresses page is a full article on Ms. Landa, with even more information about the tour. Everybody apparently got very sick.
The smiling performer with the accordion is identified as Ruthie Denas. The new articles say that she also sang.
And Captain Melvyn Douglas was indeed part of the show: the CBI article says that he will join the troupe later and ‘accompany them on most of the tour.’
Landa and Ruthie appear in these extra photos. The officer posing with the group is Major General Claire Lee Chennault — of Flying Tiger fame.
The article says that the troupe went on to ‘China and other Theater stations,’ which explains the Chinese flags . . . this forward base in my father’s photos may have been in China itself, not Burma.
The rest of the newspaper reads like a wartime time capsule — its full coverage explains the battle for Myitkyina directly, in blunt terms. Other articles take on a variety of topics for the troops stuck out there, far out on a limb.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson