12 user 3 critic

Forty Naughty Girls (1937)

While Oscar and Hildegarde are attending a Broadway show, a press agent is shot in an actress' dressing room and an actor is murdered onstage in full view of the audience. Oscar and Hildegarde are on the case.


Edward F. Cline (as Edward Cline)


John Grey (screen play), Stuart Palmer (story)




Complete credited cast:
James Gleason ... Inspector Oscar Piper
Zasu Pitts ... Hildegarde Withers
Marjorie Lord ... June Preston
George Shelley George Shelley ... Bert
Joan Woodbury ... Rita Marlowe
Frank M. Thomas ... Jeff Plummer
Tom Kennedy ... Detective Casey
Alan Edwards ... Ricky Rickman
Stephen Chase ... Tommy Washburn (as Alden Chase)
Eddie Marr ... Windy Bennett (as Edward Marr)
Ada Leonard Ada Leonard ... Lil
Barbara Pepper ... Alice


Police Inspector Oscar Piper and Hildegared Withers attend the opening night of a Broadway play in New York City, and the show's press agent is murdered before the curtain goes up. But the show must go on and while Piper is busily investigating the killing while the play goes on, the play's librettist is shot. Piper and Withers are in and out of dressing rooms, in audience cubicles belonging to the producer and press agent, and in the basement storeroom, and far stage left and right working on finding the killer before the curtain drops. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Sniff! Sniff! They're on the trail of another baffling crime! (original print ad) See more »


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


This was the sixth and last feature film based on the Hildegarde Withers and Oscar Piper characters released from 1932 to 1937. See more »


[All goofs for this title are spoilers.] See more »


Inspector Oscar Piper: [Annoyed] He would have to get himself bumped off just when I want to see a show!
See more »


Follows Murder on the Blackboard (1934) See more »


It's a Thrill
Composer unknown
Sung by George Shelley in the show
See more »

User Reviews

30 May 2007 | by tedgSee all my reviews

I watch these because the 30's was a period of experimentation with narrative form, from which we invented a few new things. What remains is a Burgess Shale deposit of narrative models that for some reason were left behind. One of the more interesting of these is this model. You've likely seen it a dozen times in detective stories from this era.

A homicide detective just happens to be at a play. A murder occurs, then another as the investigation is underway but the play goes on. Required elements include: a doofus; a prop gun apparently used in a real murder during the play; a space under the stage; love affairs, betrayal and blackmail.

Optional but highly desirable is some reference to authorship; here it is the disclosure that the play we see is purloined, as of course it is. At one point our woman detective looks at the audience and remarks on the play within the play, and the joke is that she does it in the play within the play within the play.

By this time the Hildegard Withers franchise was completely worn out. There's scant humor and what we have are recycled jokes. One example: while investigating in the space under the stage, Zasu hooks her dress on a coat of armor. These always must have been carefully placed on a wheeled platform because they always follow their hapless target around comically.

This would be the last of the Hildegard films. And viewers would soon say goodbye to the play-murder form, designed in part to give us a few songs to fill in for the usually thin plot. But this play, stage, murder business would stick as something to reference instead of use directly. "The Illusionist" used it in the story within the story within the story, (complete with stage basement) in order to fool the respective audiences about a murder.

Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.

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Release Date:

24 September 1937 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Riddle of the 40 Naughty Girls See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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