Both Dancer and Detective – Lady of Burlesque (1943)

Despite being a film about burlesque, there is not a lot of it shown due to the production codes of the time, but that does not stop Lady of Burlesque from being a good time with Barbara Stanwyck not only showing a bit of leg as the show’s main attraction but giving a great performance as the star of the feature.

Billed as a musical comedy, it does indeed include a bit of both, more so from the banter to be had between Stanwyck and Michael O’Shea who make a good pairing on the big screen and from the police investigator as portrayed by Charles Dingle and the various starlets who are more prone to fight amongst each other than anything else. Some of it is genuinely funny, but there is a little that seems a bit dated, specifically the comedy numbers that the troop end up doing when on the stage. That being said, the dialogue is smart and snappy and due to the nature of the film and the situations that arise, there is a lot of it and it tends to move everything along at a good pace. All of this takes place at an old burlesque theatre, staging quite a few shows and as such, there are more than a few women present, not all of whom get along with each other and when a murder is thrown into the mix, that is when things get even more interesting. Accusations are thrown and rivalries now take on a different meaning and while the police do seem intent on solving the murder, it is Stanwyck and O’Shea who try to sort it all out and get to the bottom of things. As for any of the musical numbers including Stanwyck’s solo spot, not everything can be as good as one hopes.

Like many of her pictures, Stanwyck carries this one from beginning to end, her ability to take on any role be it western or noir or comedy on full display, in glorious black and white. The rest of the cast while still quite good hardly touches her in terms of what she brings to the table, but the movie would definitely not be the same without them. As for the burlesque elements, they almost take a backseat to everything else, but there is just enough present to fill those gaps where comedy and murder take a little break. In the end, Lady of Burlesque ends up being both a good film and a curiosity as it gives Stanwyck a little something different to do and is worth seeing for that fact alone.

3.5 out of 5

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