Other actors, perhaps not at the height of their careers, also answered the call when the U.S. was attacked and entered the War in 1941.
Today we look at two men who served valiantly, Wayne Morris and Eddie Albert, two actors from the Warner Brothers’ stable. That’s Wayne on the far left, starring in Brother Rat and a Baby, with Priscilla Lane, Eddie Albert, Jane Bryan, a future President and his then wife, Jane Wyman. (The baby was uncredited).
All three men went into the service, but Ronald Reagan never left Hollywood. He made training films at “Fort Roach” — The Hal Roach studios. Morris and Albert, on the other hand, had extensive careers during the war.
Albert not only saw actual combat in WW2 but was awarded a Bronze Star for valor. A Midwesterner, he was born Eddie Albert Heimberger in Illinois in 1906. His early career was checkered — he once appeared as a trapeze flyer in a Mexican circus — but managed a lengthy screen and tv career often paying the genial, good-natured sidekick to the hero.
His prototypical role might have been that of the randy freelance photographer stationed in Rome with journalist Gregory Peck in 1953’s Roman Holiday, which not only earned Albert the first of his two best supporting actor Oscar nominations but provided a then largely unknown Audrey Hepburn with her Hollywood breakthrough. (It’s a delightful picture, and is as watchable today as it was back then.)
During the War years, Albert found himself in military service, first in the Coast Guard and then the Navy. In Nov. 1943, while serving in the Pacific Theater of operations, he found himself commanding a landing craft off the Tarawa Atoll, the site of heavy fighting. While under enemy fire, Albert’s craft rescued as many as 70 Marines stranded offshore and largely helpless.
In post-war Hollywood Albert continued his workmanlike career. He never exploited his wartime heroism, and rarely if ever mentioned it. A class act all the way.
Morris, whose open-faced handsomeness exuded American optimism, logged even more decorated wartime service. He interrupted a promising if not stellar career to serve a full four years as a Navy flier. He was aces at it — shooting down seven Japanese planes and sinking five enemy ships. He was awarded four Distinguished Flying Crosses and a pair of Air Medals.
Unlike in Albert’s case, Morris’ military service really did derail a once promising career. In all he logged some 90 movie and tv credits over 25-years. Although he makes a notable supporting performance as (ironically) a cowardly World War I soldier in Stanley Kubrick’s 1957 beauty, Paths of Glory, his best screen years were behind him.
Morris died of a heart attack in 1959 at the relatively young age of 45. Another genuine Hollywood World War II star.