Lady of Burlesque Reviews
Here's a fun game I invite you to play along at home. Suppose it's 1943, and you're working in Hollywood. It is the days of the Code, of course, so your hands are, in some pretty important ways, tied. We clear so far? So okay. One of the most notorious celebrities in your world is a woman for whom no less than H. L. Mencken coined a new word to describe her job. She is everywhere. She is hugely stylish, and her name is on everyone's lips. She's written a mystery novel, a cute little potboiler (the evidence that she did not herself write it is uncertain), and you'd like to make a movie out of it. The new word, however, is "ecdysiast," and what it basically means is a high-class, highbrow stripper. The woman, you see, is Miss Gypsy Rose Lee. The book is actually called [i]The G-String Murders[/i], and you know that, for starters, there's no way Breen's going to let you use that title on movie posters across the country, even assuming any local governments or theatre owners would. As it happens, Breen wouldn't even let them mention who the author was. The title and main character's name (in the book, she's Gypsy herself) are now different, and any reference to the original is forbidden.
Here, Our Heroine is the lovely Miss Dixie Daisy (Barbara Stanwyck!), aka Deborah Hoople. She works at the Old Opera House burlesque theatre, doing what, well, a woman who works in a burlesque theatre does. Except of course that they don't show much of that onscreen. (You know, because of the Code?) Anyway, she and the other girls are fighting with Lolita La Verne (Victoria Faust) quite a lot, and one day, or night, Lolita shows up dead in a bathroom, strangled by her own g-string. Dixie discovers the body, in fact. The police call the whole group together and basically throw guilt all over everyone. This is not helped by the fact that someone has sneaked the "weapon" into the pocket of comic Biff Brannigan (Michael O'Shea), who is then caught trying to dispose of it. And, to make matters worse, "the Princess Nirvena" (Stephanie Bachelor) is murdered next.
Okay, so we know that there was no chance for a striptease, a real one. We know that there wasn't going to be much skin, even though quite a lot of the movie is set in the dressing room of a burlesque house. We see a couple of dance numbers and a couple of the comedy bits that were mostly just a sop to the morality codes--after all, it's a broad range of comedy, right? Just like vaudeville, right? (Well, Gypsy ought to have known, right?) We see a person or two dressed and ready to go onstage for a "bit," but I am not, in retrospect, sure we even see a midriff through the whole of the picture. However, this was not the part that amused me most. No, what amused me most of the obvious censorship of the original story (yes, I've read it) was that the plumbing fixture being unveiled with great ceremony is a sink in the movie. Now, I knew Breen had a thing about toilets; it's one of the reasons they were so determined to get one into [i]Psycho[/i]. It's still awfully silly.
It's not a bad little movie. Stanwyck is always worth watching, and she does some really impressive dancing, if not much acting, here. The supporting cast isn't bad, either, though it's not much of a trying role for anyone. It's true that the plot is not exactly the most subtle in the world, but the movie makes it work as best anyone can. The costumes are a little sub-par, frankly, which is disappointing in a movie set in a world so dominated by clothes. I'm not surprised that we don't spend much time looking at the titular (ha!) object from the book, but few of the costumes in the movie show the exhausting work Lee describes in the book. Indeed, one of the book's most suspenseful scenes (not that it's a terribly suspenseful book overall) involves Gyppy sitting up in the dressing room, a place where she can be sure she isn't disturbing anyone once the theatre's closed, sewing costumes. There's a lot of talk in any work by or about her about the costumes, and the same care is not shown here--though Edith Head did design Stanwyck's.
Much of the story gets trimmed down, both for time and for censorship. However, perhaps unnoticed by the censors is the idea that burlesque comics were hitting on her before she was of age. I think the implication is that she was hit on pretty much as soon as she started developing. Oh, they weren't all burlesque comics--she did, after all, start in vaudeville. But oh, yes, "Gyppy," as she is referred to in the book, knew some things about the sordid nature of backstage. There are fights among the women, stagehands who don't like them or what they do, the waiters in the Chinese restaurant next door who seem to be trying to just get a break from the staggering heat of their restaurant's kitchen--and who Lolita assumes are trying to spy on the women as they change, a thing I think silly in a burlesque theatre, but I guess privacy is where you find it. At any rate, in all of that, it's not surprising that the word "gunsel" has slipped through again. The mob ties of Louie Grindero (Gerald Mohr) did get brushed over, though.
As far as the story line goes.. Barbara Stanwyck really helped this one along.
One of her most noted songs she sings is from this movie as well.And Iris Adrian as her side kick is a hoot.
I truly don't think any other Hollywood starlet could have pulled this one off.
Based on a book "the G-string murders" this is straight from the pulp fiction aisle to the silver screen.
I recommend seeing this to any one. Barbara and other costars held this one together and made it work.. so it's worth the watch!