Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 1, 2021


MURDER AT THE VANITIES (1934). Director: Mitchell Leisen.

On opening night at Earl Carroll's Broadway revue, the Vanities, a dead body is found far up above the stage dripping blood on chorus girls. Lt. Murdock (Victor McLaglen) investigates while producer Jack Oakie throws a panic. Kitty Carlisle is the star of the show, Ann Ware, who's engaged to the European import -- and her co-star -- Eric Lander (Carl Brisson). Jessie Ralph is the wardrobe mistress-with-a-secret, and Gertrude Michael is the supremely bitchy performer, Rita Ross (she does a lively number on "Marijuana!") Even Charles Middleton -- Ming the Merciless of the Flash Gordon serials -- shows up as another member of the cast. At one point his orchestra playing Liszt is hijacked by a swing/jazz band and he gets even by firing a (prop) machine gun at everyone on stage. Dorothy Stickney, who years later would play the Queen in the Julie Andrews version of Cinderella, steals the show as Norma, Rita's long-suffering maid and punching bag. Danish Brisson was a former boxer who should have stayed with that profession -- his singing voice is grating on the ears (especially in duet with Carlisle's beautiful tones) and he only made a half dozen or so movies. He had a pleasant enough personality and some little acting ability, but major star material he was not.

Verdict: Not exactly murder to sit through but no world-beater, either. **.


angelman66 said...

I think I’ve seen this one, or at least Kitty Carlisle’s musical interludes. I met her once in NYC in the 1980s, she was quite the grande dame by then as she breezed through Chez Josephine one night, replace with feather boa and dripping with diamonds!
- Chris

angelman66 said...

Replete (darned autocorrect is NEVER correct)

William said...

Yes, in the 80's she always seemed to be out and about, socializing and being interviewed. I think I saw her but never had a conversation with her and would have loved to meet the star of "Night at the Opera" (after the Marx Brothers, of course.) I'm sure I went to Chez Josephine at least once but don't ask me to remember exactly where it was!

Yes, I find autocorrect replete with replacements, LOL!

Have a great week, Chris, and thanks for your comments!