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Keep Your Powder Dry

Keep Your Powder Dry(1945)

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teaser Keep Your Powder Dry (1945)

A comedy-drama about the Women's Army Corps, Keep Your Powder Dry (1945) is a distaff version of the "buddy" movie about servicemen and was credited with a slight rise in WAC recruitment around the country during World War II. The movie focuses on three young women who have joined up for very different reasons. The debutante (Lana Turner) is trying to prove she's worthy of the family fortune and plans to leave the service once she has the money safely in hand. The "Army brat" (Laraine Day) is following family tradition. And the soldier's wife (Susan Peters) just wants to be near her husband.

The debutante and the Army professional cannot abide each other - a relationship reportedly not unlike that on the set between Turner and Day. In the movie, the conflict grows sharper after Day is promoted to cadet commander and abuses her rank to make Turner's life miserable. It takes tragedy to bring the women together and inspire their total commitment to the Corps.

Keep Your Powder Dry has been called "a fairly authentic look" at the WACs, although MGM's glossy style dictated that the women's off-duty clothing be unrealistically glamorous. In her autobiography, Lana (1982), Turner's memories of the movie center on costume designer Irene. Turner wrote that during pre-production she received a studio memo of reprimand about missing many of her wardrobe appointments - even though it was Irene who was not showing up. When the actress went to studio head Louis B. Mayer to defend herself, she was told that the memo was a face-saving device for Irene, who was an alcoholic but so valuable to MGM that the studio was willing to bear with her problems and delays. Turner wrote of Irene, "One day her sad life ended when she jumped from the window of a suite in the Knickerbocker Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard. She didn't hit the pavement but landed on the awning, dead, and they didn't find her for two days."

Co-star Susan Peters, who once commented that "Luck is the most frightening thing in the world," also had a tragic life. Shortly after filming Keep Your Powder Dry she suffered a severe spinal injury from a hunting accident caused by a shotgun that left her paralyzed from the waist down. After attempting a comeback in a wheelchair in The Sign of the Ram (1948), she died of starvation in 1952 at age 31. Peters, Oscar-nominated as Best Supporting Actress for Random Harvest (1942), became a character in a play by Richard Willett, also called Random Harvest, that was produced in New York in 2001.

Producer: George Haight
Director: Edward Buzzell
Screenplay: George Bruce, Mary C. McCall Jr.
Cinematography: Ray June
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Leonid Vasian
Original Music: David Snell
Editing: Frank E. Hull
Costume Design: Irene, Marion Herwood Keyes
Principal Cast: Lana Turner (Valerie Parks), Laraine Day (Leigh Rand), Susan Peters (Ann Darrison), Agnes Moorehead (Lt. Col. Spottiswoode), Bill Johnson (Captain Bill Barclay), Natalie Schafer (Harriet Corwin), Lee Patrick (Gladys Hopkins), Jess Barker (Junior Vanderheusen), June Lockhart (Sarah Swanson).
BW-94m. Closed captioning.

by Roger Fristoe

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