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And nothing in the film indicates otherwise. But it is overrun with
ice-skaters and hacked-off former ice-skaters. Dang, you'd think there
was only one Music Hall in the world.
This one has Lila Leighton (Vera Hruba Ralston), the lovely ice ballerina, meeting Carl Lang (Edward Norris), former ice-show producer, at his New York City penthouse apartment, from which one might have been able to see Radio City Music Hall if the film had been shot on location in New York rather then Republic Studios in the San Fernando Valley, but it wasn't. Lia refuses Lang's offer to star in his new Music Hall Ice Show---no this isn't the Ice Capades, either---and takes her leave.
Back at "this" Music Hall, Lila discovers she has left her purse at Lang's apartment and returns there, and is followed by orchestra-leader Don Jordan (William Marshall.) There, they discover that Carl has been stabbed to death, probably by somebody using a knife. Gracie (Ann Rutherford), Lila's pert-and-pretty understudy, has also followed them there (don't read too much in that), and helps them remove traces of Lila's visit, an indication that she may have left more than her purse.
They also find a pair of kid-gloves (made from a goat kid and not belonging to a human kid), and the laundry mark leads Don to Rita Morgan (Nancy Kelly), wealthy socialite, wife of George Morgan (not the singer for those who jump to assumptions), and Rita turns out to be a former ice-skating star for Carl Lang's Music Hall shows. Rita 'fesses right up about being in Lang's apartment but says he was in excellent health when she left, and says she passed no one except a blind man.
By some means or another Don and Lila discover that the 'blind man' was really Rita's husband, George Morgan (Jerome Cowan), who claims he used the disguise in order to trail and protect his wife. He may or may not be guilty but in most films Jerome Cowan shows up in, he either did it or he will solve it, other than in "The Maltese Falcon," in which he did neither. By this time, the NYC police are on the case, and with the help of Don and Lila, succeed in solving the murder.
Director John English didn't pay any attention to the urging of Associate Producer Herman Millakowsky and co-screenplay writer Laszlo Gorog to give this one a "European Touch," and, consequently, came away with 84 minutes (unless one has the TV-edited short version) of a good straight-ahead mystery meller.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Along with virtually every Republic Picture ever made, "Murder in the Music Hall" seems to have undeservably faded into oblivion. A shame, because this lusciously produced, expertly directed and written, and crafty mystery-suspense item spins an enticing whodunnit thriller against the setting of Radio City Music Hall. A murder in one of the building's posh penthouse apartments casts suspicion on the luscious Rockettes--among them, Vera Ralston (who besides giving an appealing performance of subtlety and vulnerablity, provides a few dazzling ice-skating production numbers), Helen Walker, Ann Rutherford, Julie Bishop, and several other delectable B-movie starlets of the '40s. Tall, blond and handsome William Marshall (usually cast in musicals) hunts down the killer as the complex and increasingly creepy plot unfolds, against the swankiest settings you'll ever see in a film noir. The ending is as much of a surprise as is this sadly forgotten, classy murder mystery. Well-worth restoring and reviving on cable-TV, VHS or DVD. Republic sank a hefty budget in this Grade-A production, and "Murder in the Music Hall" is as slick, unnerving, and immensely enjoyable as any of the major studios' films of its era. POSSIBLE SPOILER: Pay attention to the rhapsodic song composed by the victim just before his death. Then, amidst the showgirls' incessant chattering in their dressing rooms, try to pinpoint the one humming that fatal melody. You'll discover who the killer is just as William Marshall does. Grand fun, the kind of movie they truly don't make anymore, and what a loss--both to movie-goers and actors alike.
Murder In The Music Hall (AKA Midnight Melody) comes out of that
bastion of the B movie special, Republic Pictures. It's directed by
John English (many Gene Autry Oaters) and the screenplay is adapted
from an original story written by Arnold Phillips & Maria Matray. It's
stars Vera Hrubá Ralston (Hoodlum Empire/The Fighting Kentuckian),
William Marshall (Belle of the Yukon/Adventures of Captain Fabian),
Helen Walker (Nightmare Alley/Brewster's Millions) and Nancy Kelly
(Jesse James/Stanley and Livingstone).
A smashing little murder mystery musical picture that positively oozes old fashioned values. Tho made in the mid 1940s, this very much feels like a 1930s production, which in all honesty is no bad thing at all. With the dramatic moments involving crime and clues accompanied by loud bursts of music (Walter Scharf), and dialogue such as "what the blue blazes is going on," it has all the necessary ingredients to cater for the classic movie fan. The story is a solid one too. A dastardly stab in the back murder of an ice show producer sees the Rockette type ice dancers of a popular Music Hall show become suspects. As the police start to sniff around, Lila & Don (Ralston & Marshall respectively) do their own amateur sleuthing. With only a glove clue to go on, the need to find a blind man seen in the vicinity of the crime becomes critical.
It's here where the film then ups its drama. With one darkened room meeting between our intrepid sleuths and a blind man being memorably noirish. Up till then it had blended snazzy musical ice dance routines with bubbling under the surface intrigue. At first it's an odd mix, one where after the first blast of jauntiness one wonders if it will be possible to accept the upcoming dramatics, but it does work, in a sort of lulling us into a false sense of security type manoeuvre. Besides which, the numbers and choreography are pleasing on the eye, particularly when involving Ralston, a real life figure skater for her home country of Czechoslovakia. And to cap it all off we got some decent red herrings and the final reveal is not at all insulting. The cast are safe and without histrionic ham, with the beautiful Kelly the standout performer. While English knits it all together in a professional manner.
An enjoyable multi genre splicer breaking free from its budget restrictions with much success. 7/10
This movie is up there with "Silver City Kid", "The Phantom Speaks" and "The Blazing Sun" as John English's (I) best features. A classic mystery movie with some brilliant performances, especially from Vera Ralston and Ann Rutherford. It's pretty much your standard mystery story all about being in the wrong place at the right time. Vera Ralston plays the unlucky heroine, accused of a murder she didn't commit or did she......
Please be aware that this film has nothing to do with the Radio City Music Hall! As an archivist re: the Music Hall..I know what is and what is not associated with the New York venue. The film's Theodore is just the "Music Hall." No Rockettes are in the film. Only wonderful ice skaters plus superb actors and fun. Just thought you would like to know. Truly a wonderful film. You will never guess who the 'murderer' is while watching this film....till the very end. What a superb plot and beautiful ice skating. One never sees that kind of performances any more. The Roxy Theater and the Center Theatres, in New York city, had ice skating performances on stage!
This is one of my favourite classics, i wasnt alive wen this film was made, but as i am into classic pre-war films it has grown on me and i loved every minute of this mystery movie, great suspense.. the acting may not be the best but the plot is great
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
That Czechlosovakian skating bombshell known as Vera Hruba Ralston is
headlined in this murder mystery with a skating background, but other
than having been in the victim's apartment some hours before and
supposedly blackmailed, she really doesn't do much. Along with four
other women (Helen Walker, Nancy Kelly, Ann Rutherford and Julie
Bishop), she's trying to dig up clues to clear herself, but is
definitely guilty of being one of the biggest non-actresses of the
1940's and 1950's, a title that the expanded to of the 20th century as
time passed. Husband and Republic studio chief Herbert Yates was the
Irving Thalberg to her Norma Shearer, as well as the William Randolph
Hearst to her Marian Davies. Unlike Norma and Marian, however, Ralston
was never a box office star; In fact, she was rather unpopular, and few
of her films are available commercially.
Still, no expense was sparred in trying to make her a star, and the budgets of her films are pretty impressive for coming from a second rate studio. This isn't a challenging role for her to play, and when husband Yates insisted on serious roles for his wife, the results are rather laughable. A skating number with her in Roman/Greek costumes is lavish looking but staid. William Marshall is handsome but bland as the beau helping Ralston. The women in the supporting roles come off better, although in these circumstances isn't tough to do.
Ice-skating headliner Vera Ralston (Lila) is being blackmailed to quit
her show and team up with ex-partner Edward Norris (Carl). Norris is
stabbed and dies after a meeting with her and Ralston is in a sticky
situation. Her current boyfriend William Marshall (Don) sets about
solving the mystery.
We are introduced to a cast of characters and one of them is a murderer. The cast are fine in this story set in a music-hall environment. We get to watch some ice-skating performances which is pleasant enough - nothing too special - while the story develops between performances. I must give credit to these girls who run around and chase after clues within their own appearances within the same show! Wow. Anyway, the film is a murder mystery that starts to go off the rails a bit when we focus on the 'blind man' character. At this point, the audience just wants to wrap up the proceedings - just tell us who did it. Unfortunately, the sound quality of the film is poor.
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