Sunday, April 30, 2006
Mystery, Murder and Music! What More Could You Want?
As rising burlesque star Dixie Daisy, Barbara Stanwyck sings the suggestive line "Take it off the E String, play it on the G String," in Lady of Burlesque, a curious mix of a film directed by William A. Wellman (best known for his work on Wings, the first film to win an Oscar for Best Picture) and based on the novel The G-String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee. Part mystery (although one that never rises above the quality of a lesser Charlie Chan caper), part musical (featuring little known songs by the great Sammy Cahn and Harry Akst), and part comedy, Lady of Burlesque, may not be very good, but it's fun and certainly never stops moving, just as its characters never stop talking (the scripty dialogue throughout is filled with innuendos, one liners and manufactured metaphors). The film concerns itself with a couple of nights in the life of a troupe of Burlesque performers -- tough talking and competitive gals, love sick comics, including Pink Lee (who pine for the women from a dressing room one floor above), and a back stage crew left over from the time when the theater, where they perform, was an opera house. The film front-ends the two featured songs and then morphs into a comedic murder mystery when some of the girls are found dead, with g-strings tied around their necks. Still, no genuine sense of danger is ever really created, and the actors go through their paces, and patter patter away, as the mystery resolves itself in an abrupt, and unsatisfying, ending. Regardless, the film is worth watching, if for no other reason than to experience genuine B-level production from 1943.