Legion influence in black and white (and even Technicolor)

Legion influence in black and white (and even Technicolor)

In lieu of the Centennial Celebration preparation workshop held by Media & Communications staff from American Legion National Headquarters at the last several national conventions, the 100th convention in Minneapolis saw a Centennial Film Festival, held at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Monday, Aug. 27.

1938 was a banner year for American Legion representation in Hollywood releases. In that year, all the major studios released movies that incorporated the Legion Family somehow. At the time, Post 43 in Hollywood, Calif., had a significant local influence that the post is reapproaching today.

After opening with the Legion Preamble as sung (yes, sung) by entertainer Morton Downey, four of those movies were shown. "Sons of the Legion" is a youth-centric film detailing the formation of a Sons of The American Legion squadron, and how their World War I -veteran fathers' histories come into play. "Battle of Broadway" involves both friendly and romantic hijinks against the backdrop of a New York Legion convention; a recurring song is "We Are the Legionnaires." "Hollywood Stadium Mystery" is just that: a whodunit live at a boxing match, with a Legion band providing the soundtrack. And "Young Fugitives" plays on the local bonds that often sprang up between Legion and Grand Army of the Republic posts.

Also on the schedule was everything from national convention parade footage (the 1941 parade in Milwaukee was presented in Technicolor) to a preview of "To Strengthen America," an episodic documentary developed by National Headquarters to tell the story of The American Legion at 100 years.

Ben Headen of the Department of Arizona spoke as a few chapters played from the department's "Heroes of World War I" documentary, designed to both tell Arizona's war history and promote the Legion. And another documentary, "Hello Girls," tells the story of the female telephone operators who shipped out to France to help connect troops at the front, then spent decades getting recognition for themselves. National Commander Denise Rohan was interviewed for the film, where she stressed the need for veterans to tell their stories wherever they can, from their own families to local schools.

One enthusiastic viewer was G. Douglas Willey, a past commander of Post 70 in Easton, Md. He had nothing but praise for the selections, commenting among others, "The video clips of the convention parades are something that should make every Legionnaire proud." His final point was one perhaps at the heart of the festival project: "We all can learn from our history."