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Lady of Burlesque

USA 1943
produced by
Hunt Stromberg for Hunt Stromberg Productions/United Artists
directed by William A. Wellman
starring Barbara Stanwyck, Michael O'Shea, Iris Adrian, Charles Dingle, J. Edward Bromberg, Frank Conroy, Victoria Faust, Gloria Dickson, Marion Martin, Frank Fenton, Stephanie Bachelor, Pinky Lee, Eddie Gordon, Janis Carter, Lou Lubin, Gerald Mohr, Bert Hanlon, Claire Carleton, George Chandler, Lee Trent, Don Lynn, Sidney Marion, Beal Wong, Kit Guard, Frank Moran, Oscar 'Dutch' Hendrian, Joe Devlin
screenplay by James Gunn, based on the novel The G-String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee, music by Arthur Lange, dance director: Daniel Dare

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Dixie (Barbara stanwyck) is the new star of a burlesque show staged in a former opera house, and the only things she has to worry about, it seems, are the advances of comic Biff Brannigan (Michael O'Shea), the plotting of Princess Nirvena (Stephanie Bachelor), former star fo the show who wants to reclaim her position, and the other girls in her dressing room, who constantly get into fights with each other and with the neighbouring Chinese restaurant ... than a murder occurs, Lolita La Verne (Victoria Faust) is found dead in her dressing room, right after a performance, strangled by her own G-string.

Police inspector Harrigan (Charles Dingle) is quick to suspect everybody in the cast and crew and reveals quite a few unpleasent facts about various castmembers, and at first, Biff is arrested for the murder due to evidence planted on him, but ultimately, the prime suspect turns out to be Big Louie (Gerald Mohr), a gangster-type who has some dealings with the theatre and who was in a relationship with Lolita - a relationship that consisted mainly of one loud rowe after another, the last only minutes before the murder. Thing is, Louie seems to have disappeared.

A few days later, a second murder occurs, and this time the body is found live on stage during a performance: It's Princess Nirvena, again strangled by her G-string. A short time later, the police track down Louie, who has been hiding in the theatre all along. It all leads to a chase at the end of which Louie is shot dead. Only now it is revealed that Louie couldn't have committed at least the second murder because he was locked up in the props room all that time.

Ultimately, the killer prepares to strike again, and this time he wants to kill Dixie - but in the very last moment she is saved by Biff, who has been doing a bit of detective work on his own, with the police in tow -  and now the killer is revealed to be Stacchi (Frank Conroy), the caretaker of the theatre, a former baritone who never did come over it that his opera house has been turned into a burlesque theatre - and when his granddaughter Lolita started working at the theatre, something inside him must have snapped ... and in the end, Biff gets Dixie.

 

A great if for some reason most often overlooked murder mystery that doesn't work so much as a whodunnit as such but excells as a backstage drama with a highly authentic feel to it, thanks mainly to the film's source novel by Gypsy Rose Lee, a former burlesque stripper herself. Add to that a fluid and fresh directing job, a good cast, snappy dialogue, great sets that have the necessary rundown feel to it you would associate with a burlesque backstage, and a few song-and-dance numbers perfectly integrated into the film, and you have one great movie.

Definitely recommended.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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