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  Lady of Burlesque Murder On A G-String
Year: 1943
Director: William A. Wellman
Stars: 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
Genre: Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dixie Daisy (Barbara Stanwyck) may be new at this burlesque theatre, but her reputation as a top performer ensures she is a big draw for the male clientele, and she entertains them every night with such tunes as "Take It Off the E-String, Put It On the G-String". But g-strings will become more significant after tonight, as there is somebody with some evil intentions towards the dancers, who may be subject to in-fighting, yet would surely not go as far as murder to gain the upper hand. Or would they? After someone calls the cops to a raid on the theatre, Dixie is nearly strangled in the darkness and confusion...

Hard-boiled dialogue abounded in this adaptation of a cash-in thriller novel supposedly penned by actual burlesque performer Gyspy Rose Lee, and in spite of all those dames dressed up in all their finery, director William A. Wellman made clear that this was not a glamorous life for a young woman, never mind the comics who provided the entertainment between dances. Stanwyck may have been getting into her late thirties by the time this was produced, but you'd never think she was getting on a bit by the way she enthusiastically throws herself (literally, in one routine) into the role.

It is her star wattage that keeps what is really a pretty mundane whodunnit afloat, that and those lines she and her co-stars are given to fire off at each other. On fact, so in love with the idea of these women verbally sparring that the business with the murders hardly gets going until the last half of the film, as before that we're more concerned with the bitching of the performers and Dixie's man troubles. These are to do with her pursuit by comedian Biff Brannigan (Michael O'Shea), who won't take no for an answer, but is he so persistent to the extent that he's gone round the bend?

Lady of Burlesque has historical value as it portrays its subject from around the time it was popular: I know it's very fashionable to go and see Dita Von Teese and her cohorts these days, but this film hails from a time when this occupation was equivalent to working in a modern strip club, and far from glittery. The esteem this is held in is summed up by the attitude of two stagehands from when the theatre used to be an opera house, and they're not impressed by what passes for entertainment there now, as it looks like a precipitous slide downmarket to them.

Wellman doesn't exactly make this seedy, but neither does he make it appear an attractive proposition for a lifestyle even if the film does revel in the company of these plain-speaking women. But there comes a time for the plot to kick in, and it happens when one of the ladies is found in a cupboard strangled with her own g-string. Everyone is a suspect, it seems, from the girl who had a catfight with her to the louse of a boyfriend who slapped her about minutes before she died. Of course the real killer is better concealed, but we do have the chance to wonder about each of them, including Daisy and Biff, who discovers the gone missing g-string in the pocket of his costume. It's the atmosphere that makes this worthwhile and a good choice for those musing over the origins of today's burlesque. Music by Arthur Lange.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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