Thursday, December 7, 2023

Strictly Personal - 1945

Today, we mark Pearl Harbor Day, the 82nd anniversary of the catastrophe that brought the United States into the worldwide fight against fascism.  It's a shame it often seems to take a catastrophe to take a stand against the evils of fascism, but to our credit, once we get going, we can do a good job of it.

Hollywood, as we've noted many times on this blog, helped enormously to get out the message on the evils of fascism and did much to support the Allied war effort.  This previous post on FMPU - the First Motion Picture Unit of the U.S. Army discussed the production of war information and training films, and this previous post on Resisting Enemy Interrogation (1944) highlighted one of those films, featuring many actors early in their careers who have since become well known to us.

Sara Haden, quite familiar to us old movie buffs and certainly familiar to movie audiences in her day, starred in another training film, this one meant for the Women's Army Corps (WAC).  Strictly Personal (1945), about 35 minutes long, is an interesting film for its frank and rather easygoing discussion of health and hygiene.  In similar films meant for male recruits, the message of health and hygiene was sometimes delivered with humor and cartoons, as if the subject was too uncomfortable for the boys to receive it in any other way.  Films discussing sex and venereal disease were perhaps delivered with more seriousness and certainly, more warning.  

Strictly Personal seems to take for granted its audience would be interested in the subject, and perhaps they were; it contains actually sound advice even for today on nutrition, exercise, musculature, sleep, health and dental concerns, as well as instruction in the use of cosmetics and hair care within the restrictions of military regulations.  Discussion of constipation and menstruation is particularly refreshing for the no-nonsense and friendly advice.  We may imagine that some young women back in the day got scant scientific information on these subjects at home.  The subject of menopause is also introduced, with the reassuring promise that it would not mean the end of enjoyment of sex.  No warnings about venereal disease, though.   At the time, the WAC was open to women volunteers between 21 and 45 years of age.  As the narrator tells us, the women can aspire to be "in perfect shape -- that's what it takes for the man-sized job you've picked for yourselves when you volunteered."

Sara Haden, with her mid-Atlantic stage diction, presents these topics breezily and banishes the very idea that her audience should be at all embarrassed.  The daughter of actress Charlotte Walker, Miss Haden began on stage in the 1920s and made her film debut in 1934.  We know her from many films where she portrayed spinster-type supporting roles, usually somebody's aunt -- most famously, Andy Hardy's Aunt Milly.  It's interesting to think that her contribution to the war effort was probably the most screen time she got in her long career.  However, like many from Hollywood who appeared in these military training films, she was uncredited.

You can watch Strictly Personal shared from YouTube below:


Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Movies in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century and Hollywood Fights Fascism and Christmas in Classic Films. TO JOIN HER READERS' GROUP - follow this link for a free book as a thank-you for joining.

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