Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The 12 Days of Iris Adrian: Lady of Burlesque (1943)

An often-raided burlesque joint finds itself in a different kind of trouble when one of the dancers is found strangled to death, and it's up to a coworker and her journalist boyfriend to catch the culprit before the police shut everything down...

Ladies of Burlesque is a 1940s whodunnit, based on the salaciously titled The G-String Murders (by Gypsy Rose Lee). It's a satisfactory movie, but not as good as it could have been. There's a decent enough mystery to start with. Things get even more complicated with blackmail, other potential murderers, and so forth.

The characters were decent, but blended together a bit, namely the bitchy girls. When the 'Princess' shows up halfway through, I thought it was just the bitch putting on a new accent to try and reshape her career, but nope, different person. It's that bitch Laverne who's the first victim, but I didn't realise this for quite a while.

The last act is sadly boring. There is an extra murder thrown in, and while it does add some much needed spice to proceedings, it comes a little too late, and it leads to a climax that's mostly made up of people talking. The last few minutes have some mild excitement, but that's about it. I was disappointed with the reveal of the killer, as it was one of the only characters who was genuinely likeable and sympathetic.

Where the movie succeeds is in showing the life of these burlesque performers. The movie rarely leaves the walls of the dance club, and we get a good sense of the location and how everyone functions in it. Our rare glimpses of the outside world look pretty spectacular too!

Lady of Burlesque is surprising in its length, at a round 90 minutes. Most movies of this type were only an hour, often to their benefit. As for Lady, the longer runtime does not help flesh things out, instead it only serves to drag them out further. I don't think trimming 30 minutes would've improved the story much, but the pacing would be greatly improved!

The movie does live up to its title, showing us these ladies in various states of undress. There's also a line or two I'm surprised got past the censors! The fashion is suitably garish, with some items being particularly ludicrous. It's hard to take anyone seriously when they've got an awning on their head.

The music in Lady of Burlesque is pretty good, with the most prominent tune being the amusing Take it off the E-String, Play it on the G-String. Where the movie is at its most punishing however is in the comedy routines. Jeeez, they're bad! I found them to be painfully unfunny, and if this is the best example of this club's acts, they should be raided!

The acting is decent all round. Barbara Stanwyck is a nice lead, getting the meatiest role. Iris Adrian is great fun as her best friend. She's absent for some stretches of film, but when she does appear she gets plenty to do, and always makes such an impression I wished she was the lead. J. Edward Bromberg delivers an understated performance. The remainder of the cast do well, with one girl straddling the line between fun and cute, and annoying. Mostly annoying, but she managed to stay juuuust out by an inch.

Lady of Burlesque (or Ladies of Burlesque, a much more appropriate title that I had to stop myself from typing every single time here) is tolerable. It's not terrible, and you could do far worse, but as a showcase of this scene, and as a murder mystery it's no great shakes...

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