As Luck Would Have It: Adventures with the Canadian Army Show, 1943–1946


224 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 1-55125-051-9
DDC 940.53'088'7927





Reviewed by Pauline Carey

Pauline Carey is an actor, playwright, and fiction writer. She is the
author of Magic and What’s in a Name?


In 1943, after dancing and teaching in the United States, the
Vancouver-born author turned down the chance to dance with ballerina
Alicia Markova and chose instead to join the Canadian Army as lead
dancer and assistant to the choreographer in the Canadian Army Show.
This memoir continues the story started in her first book, The Luckiest
Girl in the World (1998), giving us a detailed description of an
entertainer’s life as a soldier in the 1940s.

Purdy’s army training was arduous and sometimes frightening, but it
was followed by the excitement of her first performance in Toronto
alongside such artists as comedians Wayne and Shuster; musical director
Bob Farnon; singer Roger Doucet; her dancing partner, Ev Staples; and
Captain Rai Purdy, the radio celebrity who would later become her
husband. In England a riding accident forced her to forgo any further
performing or travel, so she became permanent choreographer at
headquarters and later was made an officer. Her memoir ends with an
elaborate description of “Rhythm Rodeo,” a Christmas extravaganza
that her husband conceived and she choreographed. The spectacular show
featured 200 performers and 75 horses in production numbers played out
in the largest tent England had ever seen.

Theatre buffs will enjoy Purdy’s detailed descriptions of rehearsals
and performances and her references to well-known artists, while history
buffs will appreciate her sometimes funny account of army training and
life in England during World War II. The story is plainly and clearly
told. An index would have been helpful.


Purdy, Verity Sweeny., “As Luck Would Have It: Adventures with the Canadian Army Show, 1943–1946,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 17, 2024,