Monday, March 28, 2011

Silly Cinema: Lady of Burlesque

When one is faced with a particularly-problematic dilemma, it is wise for one to remain calm, think about the situation objectively and make a prudent decision based on  the facts and a proper evaluation of the associated pros and cons.  I am anything but wise or prudent - especially when it comes to old movies.  That is why, when standing in the check-out line of the local grocery store, I bought Lady of Burlesque, starring Barbara Stanwyck.  As a rule, aside from the occasional pack of gum or mints, I generally refrain from impulse purchases at the register.  Since when are DVD's an impulse buy at Stater Bros. Supermarket?  Even though the DVD cover art appeared to be a child's crude, first attempt at Photoshop, I couldn't help myself.  As an rabid avid fan of old Hollywood, I have amassed a collection of close to 800 films.  Just when I thought I had seen everything, I hadn't.  In fact, there are so many movies that I haven't seen that my love affair with movies is sure to continue for a long time to come.

Barbara Stanwyck has never been one of my favorite stars - a little too pointy or something.  I enjoy some of her films - Ball of Fire, Double Indemnity, The Lady Eve - but I have never developed a connection to her as I have with other stars of Hollywood's Golden Era.  Maybe that is why I get some sort of subversive pleasure at the end of Sorry, Wrong Number.  Really, she kind of had it coming.  Am I right?  My favorite actresses tend to be wholesome stars like Deanna Durbin and Doris Day.  As I write, I realize that maybe my affinity for those particular female leads may have something to do with chubby cheeks and alliterative, "D" names.

Lady of Burlesque is based on The G-String Murders: 
The Story of a Burlesque Girl by Gypsy Rose Lee.
(I just bought a used copy on etsy!!!)

Lady of Burlesque is part murder mystery and part girly show.  Don't worry prudes, all the other good parts remain covered throughout the duration of the film!  Stanwyck plays Dixie Daisy, the most popular performer at The Old Opera House run by S.B. Foss.  She is the peace keeper with the Chinese restaurant next door, a rival of a couple of the "peelers" and mother hen to the rest, and the love interest of Michael O'Shea, a baggy-pants, burlesque comic.  "Everything's coming up roses" in Gypsy's ode to backstage burlesque until someone starts murdering the performers.  Everyone is a suspect and Dixie must play novice sleuth in order to save her own neck!  The proceedings are enjoyable and my admiration for Stanwyck actually grew as it is apparent that she sings all of her own songs and dances like a wiz!  That is why I love old Hollywood; the actors had to do more than look good.  Even straight, dramatic stars kept singing and hoofing in their proverbial "back pockets."

This clip shows the reprise of "Take it off the E-String."  Stanwyck, engaged in a "scene," and her fellow performers break into song to cover the backstage screams of another girl getting smacked around by her street-tough boyfriend.

Stanwyck as Dixie Daisy

Overall, Lady of Burlesque (1943) is the perfect movie for a rainy afternoon.  It incorporates wacky tacky elements like slapstick, great clothing (Dixie's costumes were designed by Edith Head) and strippin'.  It is a great, broad comedy and is a great comedy with broads!!!  It is reminiscent of Lady on a Train, another (and superior) movie from the same era that includes murder, mystery, comedy, amazing costumes and music.  Lady on a Train, stars who else, Deanna Durbin, and is one of my favorite movies of all time.  Both films employ some of Hollywood's finest character actors too.  If you like Lady of Burlesque, you are sure to like Lady on a Train, but don't take my word for it! 


Mr. Tiny


  1. Aww... I love Stanwyck. She's one of my favorites. But Lady of Burlesque is an odd one, I admit. I'd love to see someone remaster it- my copy is so fuzzy I can barely make out anything!

    Funny how you relate it to Lady on a Train... heh. I never would have connected the two but it does kind of make sense. It's like the classy older sister to "Lady of Burlesque". Ha. Lady on a Train is a GREAT movie and one I'd gladly steal all the clothes from ;)

  2. Lauren, I pretty much relate EVERYTHING to "Lady on a Train." I could watch it over and over and over again. Barbara Stanwyck is growing on me especially after the Russian kicks and jitterbugging!!!

  3. I have to check this one out! I am too, not a huge fan of Barbara, but who can resist the cash register shelf of workout videos and an occasional gem like this! I would rather impulse purchase a $7 old film DVD than a pack of Wrigley's any day.