The Hollywood actress and wife of Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, dies at the age of 34 in an airplane crash.
Because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor just two months before, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decides to label its annual awards ceremony a “dinner” rather than a “banquet”, and to ban formal attire and the traditional outside searchlights.
Darryl F. Zanuck resigns as head of production at 20th Century–Fox to join the Armed Forces. Altogether, 2,700 workers leave Hollywood for active military duty.
Walt Disney abandons commercial operations to concentrate exclusively on war–related films.
The Office of War Information (OWI) is created to coordinate government information activities, and to serve as a liaison with press, radio, and motion pictures.
The director, Frank Capra, supervising the 834th Photo Signal Detachment, begins producing the seven–part “Why We Fight” series. It becomes the most influential and widely seen of all wartime documentaries, and every American in uniform is required to see the film series as part of their training.
RKO takes advantage of Orson Welles absence in South America to edit down his film “The Magnificent Ambersons” from 131 minutes to 88. RKO is attempting to make certain that the box–office failure of “Citizen Kane” will not be repeated.
The Hollywood Canteen opens allowing members of the armed services to enjoy free refreshments, the music of top bands, and the company of their favorite movie stars. The one–millionth serviceman to enter the Canteen receives kisses from Marlene Dietrich, Deanna Durbin, and Lana Turner.
RKO’s Val Lewton releases “Cat People”. Directed by Jacques Tourneur , this classic “B” movie is the first monster film to refrain from showing its monster.
Warner Bros. releases “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. Directed by Michael Curtiz, it stars James Cagney who becomes the first actor to win an Academy Award for a musical performance.
Universal releases “There’s One Born Every Minute”. It is the screen debut of the 10–year–old actress, Elizabeth Taylor.
MGM releases “Mrs. Miniver”. Starring Walter Pidgeon and Greer Garson, this depiction of Britain at war wins six Academy Awards, including the Oscar for “Outstanding Motion Picture”. The movie runs for a record ten weeks at Radio City Music Hall generating gross receipts of over $1 million in that single venue. Greer Garson is nominated for the “Best Actress” Academy Award every year between 1941 and 1945.