Romance in the 1940s
There’s romance and there’s romantic. The era surrounding WWII is highly romanticized – the Golden Age of Hollywood, the Greatest Generation; the war to end all wars led us out of the great depression while leading women out of the kitchen and men off the farm.
Honey On White Bread is set in 1945 and was inspired by listening to stories my mom told me of growing up in the 1940s and by the old black and white movies from that era that I watched as a child. Nowhere were the war years more romanticized than on the silver screen. Think of Casablanca, The Third Man, Sergeant York, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo or Mrs. Minerva. The handsome young man dashing off to war, the rugged American living a life of mystery in Europe, a lovely young woman keeping a light burning in the window – the bravery and sacrifice came off beautiful in the movies.
Many films were created to help Americans escape the sacrifices of war. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced across the screen (although separately in the 40s), Gene Kelly and Judy Garland sang, Bing Crosby crooned, Betty Grable showed off her legs and Tyrone Power had women swooning. Hollywood movies dripped romance. By today’s standards, romance seemed naïve and sweet. Men were brave and strong; women were oh so feminine. My heroine in Honey On White Bread, Claire Flanagan, is captivated by the movie icons and stories of the silver screen. She knows if she falls in love her hero will be her leading man and she’ll see stars when he kisses her.
But was there really any difference between romance in the 40s and the twenty-first century? We ache, we swoon, we yearn, we tremble and our hearts patter in our chests. Romance is romance, regardless of the era. What differs is the culture of the times. In the 40s, Women had their mystique and men were…men – strong, silent, domineering. Or at least our romanticized images would have us believe.
Flirting, an important part of getting the romance started in any era, was more of an art. A woman of the 40s had to be careful of being too brazen. Coy flirting could get a man’s heart pumping so he’d make the first move. It wasn’t that women were any less sexual than they are now, it just wasn’t proper for a lady to express it so openly seventy years ago. I wonder how many romances died on the vine because of a clueless male. If he didn’t take the bait, her efforts were sunk. Could she be the first one to call him (if they even had phones)? Oh no. She certainly couldn’t ask him on a date. And so she waited. Or ramped up the flirting.
Holding hands was a huge first step, and oh that first kiss! Maybe that’s not so different. That first touch is significant today or then. Mmm…the first kiss. The difference now may come in how soon that happens. We move in a fast age in the twenty-first century. In the 40s, men courted their romantic interests. Courting could be a lengthy process leading up to the heart stopping moment of the first kiss.
The war changed the romantic climate of America. Women got a taste of life outside the home as many of them had to fill the gaps left by their men at war. During WWII, romance sometimes moved on a faster track. A guy and gal met, and he suddenly had to go off to war not knowing when or if he’d return – well, protocol be damned. Maybe there’s a reason for the huge population of baby-boomers!
Convinced she was born to be an artist, Brenda never took her love of writing seriously. And then one day, sometime after college, after marrying a man doing a stint in the army and the birth of her son, she found more satisfaction filling a blank page with words than an empty canvas with color. She left her paints behind. After publishing several short stories, she turned to writing novels. Regardless of the length of her story, the characters drive her forward, taking her on their journey of discovery and love.
Brenda and her husband are gypsies at heart having lived in six states and two countries. Recently, they moved to prairie country in Arizona and are enjoying the wide-open spaces while tending fruit trees and veggie gardens. They share their home with their dog, Rusty. When Brenda isn’t at her laptop writing, she enjoys hiking, motorcycle riding and the company of good friends.
Visit Brenda at www.brendawhiteside.com.
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She blogs on the 9th and 24th of every month at http://rosesofprose.blogspot.com
She blogs occasionally on her personal blog http://brendawhiteside.blogspot.com/
When seventeen-year-old Claire Flanagan is wrenched from her father and deposited at the Good Shepherd’s Home for Wayward Girls, all dreams for Hollywood stardom are lost. But when twenty-year-old Benjamin Russell helps secure her release, she starts to believe in a happy future with him…until she discovers his ex-girlfriend is pregnant.
In this post WWII coming of age novel, Claire discovers the silver screen can’t compare with the fight she takes on for the leading role in her own life.
We let the screen door slam behind us and turned into the kitchen in time to see Benjamin lift his mother from the floor and spin around twice.
“You stop that, Benjamin Willis. Man or no, I can take a hand to your hide, if I need to.” Her hands flailed gently at his chest.
He laughed as he set her down, steadying her before letting go. Taut muscles on the back of his arms flexed with the effort; his deep laugh filled the kitchen. I couldn’t help being drawn into this entirely pleasant scene, comical and radiating warmth, inviting me to take part in their joy. His mother snatched a dishtowel from the counter and swiped at his legs.
“Hold off now. I give, I give.” He withdrew what appeared to be a check from his back pocket.
Mrs. Russell accepted the paper without comment and stuffed it into the frayed pocket of her red checked apron. He kissed her on the forehead, took the bottle of beer she offered him and leaving the kitchen, nodded in my direction.
I sniffed the sweat of hard work and the yeasty smell of beer as he passed by. My head reeled for a moment with the warmth of the kitchen and the people within, combined with the essence of what I labeled man.
Brenda is giving awaya 1940's double feature night at the movies which will consist of two DVD movies from the era starring the movie idols the heroine mentions often in the book - one Betty Grable movie and one Tyrone Power movie - plus popcorn and a box of candy to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour (US/Canada only please).
Be sure to follow the tour here.