Stage Door Canteen

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Connie Haines, Maxie Rosenbloom, Ben Lyon, Morton Downey and Joan Blondell waiting to begin a radio broadcast from the Stage Door Canteen (1943)

The Stage Door Canteen was an entertainment venue for American and Allied servicemen that operated in the Broadway theatre district of New York City throughout World War II.

With actress Nedda Harrigan leading the effort,[1] the canteen opened March 2, 1942, by the American Theatre Wing, and operated seven nights a week in the previously unoccupied Little Club under the 44th Street Theatre[2] at 216 West 44th Street in Manhattan.

The official estimate of attendance on the canteen's opening night was 1,250, with 200 "actresses of varying importance" as hostesses and 75 "'name' actors" as busboys.[3]

The canteen's popularity led to the establishment of other canteens throughout the United States as well as London and Paris.[4][5][6]


In addition to shows, the canteen offered off-duty military personnel opportunities to unwind in various ways, including dancing with hostesses and female entertainers, eating, and writing letters home. Food was provided free. Between 5 p.m. and midnight daily, the canteen served 200 gallons of coffee, and 5,000 cigarettes were smoked.

In media[edit]

The original Stage Door Canteen inspired a CBS Radio series (1942–45) and a 1943 film. The film was made by RKO Pathe Studios, using a replica of the New York venue on the studio's Culver City, California, site.[7]

The film This Is the Army (1943) and the Broadway play from which it was adapted include a scene set at the Stage Door Canteen. During that scene, Earl Oxford sang the song "I Left My Heart at the Stage Door Canteen" in both versions. The song "speaks of the fleeting love that many of the men felt when they had to leave the canteen, never to see these beautiful women again." The most popular recorded version of the song was made by Sammy Kaye and his orchestra, with Don Cornell singing. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard chart. [8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Malnic, Eric (April 4, 1989). "Nedda Harrigan Logan; Actress Co-Founded Stage Door Canteen". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. p. 28. Retrieved September 4, 2018 – via open access
  2. ^ "Theatre Canteen For Service Men". Daily News. New York, New York City. February 7, 1942. p. 19.
  3. ^ "Stage Door Canteen Jammed for Debut, Duplicate Planned". Daily News. New York, New York City. March 4, 1942. p. 49. Retrieved September 6, 2018 – via open access
  4. ^ Urwin, Cathy K. (August 2006). "No Liquor, But Damned Good Anyway". America in WWII. 310 Publishing, LLC. Retrieved 2018-08-09.
  5. ^ "A Question About Broadway's Historic Stage Door Canteen". June 22, 2012. Retrieved 2018-08-09.
  6. ^ Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 633. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3.
  7. ^ Tucker, Sherrie (2014). Dance Floor Democracy: The Social Geography of Memory at the Hollywood Canteen. Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822376200. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  8. ^ Tyler, Don (2007). Hit Songs, 1900-1955: American Popular Music of the Pre-Rock Era. McFarland. p. 265. ISBN 9780786429462. Retrieved 7 September 2018.

External links[edit]