A Memorial Day Toast to Hollywood Stars that Helped Win World War II
Today is Memorial Day... I hope you are celebrating life with your loved ones. While you are eating BBQ, jumping into lakes, and splashing in the hot sun, I hope you will drink a toast to the men & women who fought to give us our freedoms...
And I can't think of a better drink to do so than one steeped in the history of the White Lady.
Like almost any cocktail worth it's liquor, the White Lady has several different origins, but the one that seems the most complelling to me is the story of Harry McElhone. I have written about him before as he was instrumental in the Negroni's timeline. In this case, lore has it that he concocted the White Lady in response to the most tragic war the world had known up 'til then, World War I. A military officer in the British Army, it is said that upon the conclusion of the war, McElhone created the White Lady in tribute to the fallen... thus its ghostly appearance.
To create one, you will need gin, cointreau (or triple sec), lemon juice, and oddly enough, an egg. (Don't let the egg scare you... it make the drink frothy, kind of like an eggnog and I have yet to hear any reasons why it is dangerous to eat as long as your eggs haven't been sitting out too long).
The White Lady is truly one of my favorite cocktails... but you have to make sure you shake the egg whites in enough, or you don't get quite the delicious frothiness that makes this such a stellar cocktail. Also, if you want to go with the truest origins of the cocktail, switch out the gin for some Creme de Menthe.
Now that you have your White Lady, let's drink a toast together to a few Hollywood greats who left the glitter of stardom to serve their countries when it was needed most...
James Stewart flew with the 703rd Bombardment Squadron. On at least a few of his missions into Nazi occupied Europe, Stewart requested his B-24 be in the lead position. Among his medals, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross twice for his service in World War II.
I have spoken about Carole Lombard many times before, as she is one of my heroes of Hollywood history. In 1942 she set off on a tour across America to sell war bonds. An immensely popular actress (and the highest paid actress in her day), Lombard was able to raise over $2 million ($34,993,987.92 in 2016) in defense bonds in a single evening. Tragically, she died when the plane taking her, her mother, a press agent, and a retinue of soldiers crashed just outside of Las Vegas on their way home.
After the death of his beloved wife, Carole Lombard, witnesses say he was never the same. Purportedly he carried a death wish, and after requesting a role in the war even though he was above the draft age, he enlisted in the Army Air Force. When Germany caught news that the "King of Hollywood" was fighting in Europe, Hitler's orders were to capture Gable alive. Gable was afraid that the Germans might capture him, and put him in a cage like a gorilla. Worried that he might draw unwanted and dangerous attention to his fellow soldiers, he un-enlisted.
In the film Gone with the Wind Howard played Ashley Wilkes, the refined gentleman Scarlett O' Hara thinks she is in-love with. He does a magnificent performance embuing the moody melancholy of a man that has come to seen everything he loved in this world lost. Fellow co-stars said the reason for this was his sadness over what was going on in Europe, his home. And as soon as filming was wrapped, he enlisted but in a different way, creating films to fight the Axis powers. In fact, he was known to the Nazis as "Britain's Greatest Propagandist". A civil aircraft carrying Howard and 16 others was shot down en route to the U.K. Some historians theorize that Nazis mistakenly believed Winston Churchill was on-board and thus targeted it. Howard's son believed that there was no mistake and that it was Howard the Nazis intended to kill all along, and that his death was meant to demoralize the British troops.