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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

5 - Bogie, Bob, and the Boys at War

Summary

At the beginning of 1943, as the second long year of World War II began, Rita Hayworth’s handlers released a publicity photo that was intended to demonstrate her understanding of the new Hollywood etiquette. In the picture, glamour girl Rita, dressed in sensible slacks and sandals with the sleeves of her blouse rolled up, hunched down in front of a stove. She wanted everyone to see her, so she looked back toward the camera rather than down at the stove, and apparently found it necessary to wear makeup while cooking. The caption explained that Rita had decided to get along without a servant and cook her own meals. That would allow her to save money and to invest the savings in war bonds. The idea of Rita Hayworth’s needing to save money was preposterous, but the instinct among publicists was to emphasize that Miss Hayworth wanted to do her part for the war effort.

As the publicists understood, the war had changed the nature of economic citizenship in America. During the 1930s, it had been patriotic to spend and consume in an effort to jumpstart the stalled economy. During the 1940s, it became patriotic to save and invest, in an effort to conserve suddenly precious resources and mobilize the American economy for the war. In the 1930s, policy makers looked for ways to spread work around among as many people as possible. Putting in overtime was officially discouraged through laws that required employers to pay higher wages to workers after they had put in forty hours a week. In the 1940s, policy makers exhorted employees to work as long and hard as possible, so as to maximize production for the war effort. As a result, even movie star Rita Hayworth could show her solidarity by cutting down on her luxury lifestyle and pitching in on the housework so that her servants were free to take jobs in wartime industries.