WW2 – The Stars & their stories – PT4.


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BANNER, John:                                                                                                              

He forever endeared himself to TV audiences with his portrayal of Sergeant Schultz in the 1965 comedy series Hogan’s Heroes, in spite of the show’s ludicrous portrayal of WW2 Nazis as both funny and stupid individuals. They were neither. Banner was an Austrian-born Jew who happened to be away in Switzerland with an acting touring company when the Nazis marched into his homeland in 1938. Unable to return home, he immigrated to the United States as a political refugee. He rapidly picked up English and, throughout the forties, made several movies, more often than not playing the same villains who were murdering every member of his family back in Austria. Tragically, John was the only survivor of his biological parents and siblings! Remarking on the irony of his being cast as a German, he commented: ‘Well, who better to play Nazis than we Jews? Schultz is not a Nazi. I see Schultz as the representative of some kind of goodness in every generation.’ Hogan’s Heroes ended its run in 1971 and within two years the loveable actor was dead, having succumbed on his 63rd birthday.

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BARKER, Lex                                                                                                              

The future tenth official Tarzan of the movies, Barker volunteered for the US Army nearly a year before Pearl Harbor brought the USA into the war. He rose to the rank of major by war’s end and was wounded in the head and leg whilst fighting the Germans in Sicily. He recuperated at an Arkansas military hospital back in the states before renewing his interest in acting. When American acting jobs dried up in the fifties, he moved to Europe and appeared in over fifty films there and became a cinema heartthrob in, of all places, Germany. He was walking down a New York City street in 1973, three days after his 54th birthday, when he suffered a fatal heart attack. Fifteen years after his death, Cheryl Crane, the daughter of his third wife, actress Lana Turner, published her biography in which she detailed how Barker had sexually assaulted her for three years when she was 10 to 13 years of age. Little wonder her mother’s response to a reporter informing her of Barker’s death. ‘What took him so long?’ she snapped.

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BENNY, Jack:   

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Benny performing with the USO in WW2                                                        

Jack was born Benjamin Kubelsky in Chicago to Jewish immigrant parents. His father was Polish, his mother Lithuanian. When he arrived in Berlin for a big USO show in July 1945, he ran into another Jewish movie personality, director Billy Wilder. The two men decided it was important to them to visit Nuremberg and see the platform from which Hitler delivered his first speech about Nazism. They put on a show, after which both Billy and Jack needed to urinate and agreed that Hitler’s platform at the top of the stadium would make the ideal urinal. Evidently, hundreds of GIs must have had the same idea, for when they stepped onto the historic spot they found themselves ankle deep in urine! Jack was profoundly aware that, ‘but for the grace of God and my father’s emigration, I could have been one of the victims of Dachau or Buchenwald or Auschwitz.’ Born in 1894, Jack was far too old for the services, being 47 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Pancreatic cancer killed him in 1974 at the age of 80.

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BERGMAN, Ingrid:                                              

Ingrid was married to Dr. Peter Lindstrom when she took his advice and joined a USO tour to Alaska around Christmas Eve 1943, and spent four hours dancing with the enlisted men who taught her to jitterbug. It was in Alaska that she first met Lt-General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr and embarked upon a torrid affair with him. They would continue to correspond until he was killed on Okinawa in June 1945.

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Lt-General Simon Bolivar Buckland Jr

After returning from Alaska, Ingrid found that her husband thoroughly bored her and she yearned for the thrill of another USO tour. It took until June ’45, after Germany had surrendered, before she could join another tour; to Europe this time. There she met Marlene Dietrich who wasted no time in chastising her. ‘Ah, now you’re coming when the war is over’, was the lady’s frigid greeting.

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Larry Adler WW2

Ingrid wasted little time in landing a new bedmate. This time it was fellow USO tour member Larry Adler, the harmonica player. ‘Ingrid wasn’t fascinating’, he recalled, ‘but you were just dazzled by her beauty. You felt she’d never read a book. She had no interest in world affairs.’ When further pressed, he added, ‘I think she needed to show her power over men. Ingrid wasn’t interested in sex all that much. She did it like a polite girl.’

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Robert Capa – D-Day June ’44

She told Adler that, almost without exception, her leading men fell in love with her. Indeed, almost everyone she met fell in love with her. In Paris, she accepted an invitation to dine with Life photographer Robert Capa. Before long, she, Adler and Capa were a threesome about town, until she made it clear to Larry that she wanted to be alone with Capa. Soon afterwards, he disappeared and she moved back in with Adler. Upon returning to Hollywood, she continued sleeping with both of them from time to time. Larry and Ingrid remained friends for the rest of her life. Capa died when he stepped on a mine in Vietnam in 1954.

Ingrid was riding in a jeep in Paris with Capa when they heard the news of Japan’s surrender. ‘I’m going to throw myself at someone and kiss him’, she exclaimed. She ran into the Champs-Elysees, picked out a GI, and gave him a long, passionate kiss which he returned with considerable eagerness! It was soon time to return to Hollywood. Ingrid did not want to leave Europe and return home to a loveless marriage. All in all, Ingrid had a good war, as far as taking lovers was concerned anyway. She would live on until 1982 when lymphoma complications following a breast cancer operation took her on her 67th birthday.

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BOGARDE, Dirk:   

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Bogarde during the war                                                       

Bogarde was nineteen when he joined the Royal Corps of Signals in 1940. In 1943, at twenty-two, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey), ultimately serving in the Air Photographic Intelligence Unit where he attained the rank of major. He later wrote about the necessity to put badly wounded comrades out of their misery, a practice that was commonplace when his unit was in action, far from any first-aid camps after the Normandy landings on D-Day. He also took part in the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in April 1945 and the sights he saw there affected him deeply. ‘At 24, the age I was then, deep shock stays registered forever’, he wrote in one of his autobiographical volumes. ‘An internal tattooing which is removable only by surgery, it cannot be sponged away by time’. Although awarded seven medals for his five years on active duty, his most lasting contribution to the conflict may well be his paintings of the war which are now part of the Imperial War Museum’s collection. In September 1996, he suffered a stroke after undergoing heart surgery and spent the final three years of his life confined to a wheelchair.

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