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William A. Wellman
Sassy Dixie Daisy is the hot new attraction at a former opera house that's been turned into a burlesque theater. She's popular with the customers, although not with Lolita La Verne, a stuck-up diva who was hoping she'd get the top spot. Also complicating matters is the return of the Princess Nirvena, the show's former star who once had a fling with the boss. When the Princess blackmails her way into the top spot, Dixie is none too pleased. When both Lolita and the Princess are murdered, Dixie becomes a prime suspect. She then sets up a trap to nail the real killer. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <email@example.com>
What's the matter with comics?
I went into show business when I was seven years old. Two days later the first comic I ever met stole my piggy bank in a railroad station in Portland. When I was 11 the comics were looking at my ankles. When I was 14 they were...just looking. When I was 20 I'd been stuck with enough lunch checks to pay for a three-story house. Naw, they're shiftless, dame-chasing, ambitionless...
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The most surprising thing about LADY OF BURLESQUE was that it got made at all. Burlesque was all but dead by 1942, shut out of most towns and cities by relentless moral crusaders, and Hollywood itself was mired in the infamous "production code," which put a heavy lid on what could and could not be shown on screen. But burlesque had spawned a number of stars who remained favorites with public, and in 1941 the legendary Gypsy Rose Lee penned a book called THE G-STRING MURDERS. It proved extremely popular, and a year later United Artists took a chance on the film project.
True enough, the movie couldn't show the strippers in action or play out the bawdy comic sketches so popular in burlesque, but writer James Gunn turned in a superior script, and director William Wellman and his cast gave the whole thing tremendous dash and style. The result was a movie that captured the seedy, underworld-edged world of burlesque without actually causing censors to yank it from distribution.
In theory, LADY OF BURLESQUE is a murder mystery, but mystery takes a back seat to the brawling backstage antics of crossed love affairs and star rivalry. Barbara Stanwyck endows star stripper "Dixie Daisy" with her own memorable brand of tough class--and although she can only be shown from the waist up when she bumps and grinds, she still manages to tear strips off her musical number "Play It On The G-String." The rest of the cast is equally memorable, many of them burlesque stars in their own right. Pinky Lee (Mandy) is memorably teamed with Marion Martin (Alice Angel) to delightful effect; Iris Adrian (Gee-Gee)is the gum smacking brash blonde to end all gum smacking brash blondes; and such memorable character actors as Michael O'Shea (Biff), Gloria Dickson (Dolly), and J. Edward Bromberg (Foss) round out the cast superbly.
Sad to say, LADY OF BURLESQUE has fallen into public domain, and it has not been well preserved. I have seen several releases of the film, and all of them are plagued with breaks in the film and the soundtrack. LADY OF BURLESQUE may never be regarded as a "great" film, but it is an extremely entertaining one, particularly for those who already know something about the now-lost world of burlesque. As one character says, "Makes me want to leave the wife!" Recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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