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Keep Your Powder Dry (1945)

Passed | | Drama, War | April 1945 (USA)
A disparate group of women try to adjust to their new lives after enlisting in the Womens Army Corps.



(original screenplay), (original screenplay)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Valerie Parks
Leigh Rand
Susan Peters ...
Ann Darrison
Lieut. Colonel Spottiswoode
Bill Johnson ...
Captain Bill Barclay
Harriet Corwin
Lee Patrick ...
Gladys Hopkins
Jess Barker ...
Junior Vanderheusen
Sarah Swanson
Marta Linden ...
Captain Sanders
Tim Murdock ...
Captain Joseph Mannering
Henry O'Neill ...
Major General Lee Rand
Mary Lord ...
Sondra Rodgers ...
WAC Hodgekins
Marjorie Davies ...
WAC Polhemus


A disparate group of women try to adjust to their new lives after enlisting in the Womens Army Corps.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Three Women in a Man's World See more »


Drama | War


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

April 1945 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

There Were Three of Us  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Turner wrote in her 1982 biography 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. See more »


Ann Darrison: I had no idea you had so much money!
Valerie Parks: Yep, I'm probably the wealthiest floor un-waxer in America.
See more »


I'll See You in My Dreams
(1924) (uncredited)
Music by Isham Jones
Lyrics by Gus Kahn
Played during the opening credits
Played and sung on radio by a baratone when Johmmy says goodbye to Ann
Played and sung again on the radio in the barracks
Played at the canteen as dance music
Played as background music when Ann gets a telegram
See more »

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User Reviews

Almost A Documentary on Social Change
8 December 2006 | by (Kentucky) – See all my reviews

"Keep your powder dry" is Major General Rand's advice to his daughter Leigh when he learns that she has just enlisted in the Women's Army Corps (or WAC's) toward the end of The Second World War. This 1945 release was the first "Private Benjamin" and you know that the events are contemporary with the year of production (1944) because prior to 1944 it was Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (or WAAC). The name change was quite an achievement because it conferred regular army status on the female soldiers and their officers; an acknowledgment that the women auxiliaries had demonstrated more than enough commitment and resourcefulness to earn the grudging admiration of most of their former detractors.

The actual Private Benjamin role went to Lana Turner who plays rich and immature party girl Valerie Parks. Valarie becomes a WAC to improve her playgirl image with the trustees of her inheritance.

But "Keep Your Powder Dry" is actually the story of three Private Benjamin, as it seeks to be as inclusive in its characters as the corps was in its enlistees.

Susan Peters plays Annie Darrison, a young wife in a traditional marriage to an Army officer on his way overseas. She enlists with his concurrence but is uncertain of her ability to function effectively in his absence. Finally there is Leigh Rand (Laraine Day), an Army brat and martinet, who enlists to please dear old dad and because she likes military order and discipline.

So you start with three women who each lack something. Valarie lacks focus, Annie lacks confidence, and Leigh lacks humanity. The three recruits meet at the start of their basic training at the 1st WAC Training Center in Des Moines, Iowa. Free spirit and fun loving Val clashes with mega-dedicated Leigh throughout basic; with Ann doing her best to defuse the conflicts. But the desire to show up her nemesis causes Val to take training seriously and she becomes a pretty good soldier.

Both secretly apply for motor transport school, in part to be with Annie but mostly to get as far away from each other as possible. There is a fun sequence when they get they assignments and realize the strategy has backfired. All three are sent to The Third WAC Training Center at Ft. Oglethorpe, GA for motor transport training.

Val and Leigh eventually become friends and work together to bolster Ann's self-confidence. They are successful and all three are accepted into Officers' Candidate School (OCS).

But some misunderstandings cause the old resentments to return and Leigh schemes to have Val dismissed from training.

"Keep Your Powder Dry" is a relatively low-keyed look at the social changes that resulted from wartime mobilization, as unprecedented opportunities suddenly became available to women. The early WAC's came from wide range of backgrounds and quickly became aware of both the uniqueness of their situation and the significance of the changes in which they were involved.

All three performances are excellent, the early characterizations are quite believable and it looks like Day in particular had a lot of fun with her character. The growth and transformation process is less convincing but it is easy enough to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the film on its historical merits.

The Ft. Oglethorpe parade ground and many of the surrounding buildings that were used for the location shots still exist and are worth a stop if you are in the area.

Susan Peters was probably Hollywood's most tragic figure, even more so than Elizabeth Hartman, Marilyn Monroe, or Pier Anglei. Peters looked a lot like Anne Shirley, who had just opted out of the movie business, Peters was her obvious successor. An especially promising young actress (with an Oscar Nomination for "Random Harvest"), Peters was paralyzed in a hunting accident shortly after filming "Keep Your Powder Dry". The film had not yet been released. Failing in several attempts to sustain her career and with chronic pain, she literally starved herself to death a few years later.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.

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