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Lady of Burlesque

Lady of Burlesque(1943)


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S. B. Foss, owner of the Old Opera House on Broadway in New York City, promotes his new recruit, burlesque dancer Dixie Daisy, hoping that she will draw a large audience. Dixie's performance draws cheers from the crowds and from comedian Biff Brannigan, who ardently admires Dixie even though she hates comics because of past experiences with them. When someone cuts the wire to the light backstage that signals the presence of the police, the performers are surprised by a raid, and pandemonium ensues. As Dixie flees through a coal chute, someone grabs her from behind and tries to strangle her, but her assailant escapes when a stagehand comes along. After Foss pays bail and releases his troupe from jail, he rallies them by giving them a share in the opera house stock. Everyone acknowledges, however, that it appears as if someone is trying to shut the show down, and Dixie is unable to identify her attacker. One night, ex-racketeer Louie Grindero, whose bar is next door to the theater, catches his girl friend, burlesque dancer Lolita La Verne, rehearsing lines for a new play with Russell Rogers, the "straight man" who is in love with Lolita, and Louie beats Lolita in a jealous rage. Their shouts and screams are heard onstage, and afterward Dixie finds Lolita dead in the bathroom with a G-string around her neck. Police inspector Harrigan gathers the performers and the crew together for questioning, and reveals that the G-string is missing. Everyone is a suspect: Louie, who is missing; Wong, a waiter from the Chinese restaurant across from the women's dressing room, who was hit on the head with a bottle thrown by Lolita because she believed he was watching her dress; Stachi, a stagehand who hates burlesque performers; Princess Nirvena, the former star of the opera house, who had an argument with Lolita; Dolly Baxter, another dancer who fought with Lolita over her relationship with Russell, who, it is now revealed, is Dolly's husband; and Dixie, who was the first person to find the body, and whose fingerprints are imprinted on sealing wax that was used to seal the door to the bathroom while the plumbing was being replaced. The coroner reports that Lolita had been poisoned and would have died several minutes later if someone had not strangled her. After the questioning, Biff reveals that he found Lolita's G-string in his pocket, and Dixie kisses Biff in appreciation for defending her to Harrigan. Biff is then arrested when a policeman sees him with the G-string. The next day, Dixie becomes angry when Foss lets Princess take her featured spot, but Foss explains that Princess is blackmailing him because they had an affair years earlier in Toledo, Ohio. Biff is released after Lolita's bankbook, which reflects a $10,000 withdrawal, and the picture frame from a photo of her mother are found by the police in Louie's car. When Biff and Dixie go onstage for a comedy skit, the Princess' dead body falls out of a prop. Louie suddenly appears and leads the police on a chase through the theater because he is terrified by the thought of returning to the penitentiary. Although Louie vows that he is innocent of the murders, he jumps from the flies to his death after he runs out of bullets in his gun. Harrigan questions everyone again and learns that the night Lolita was killed, Louie had come to the theater to store beer for a party, and may have gone into hiding in the prop room. After Foss publicly admits to his affair with Princess, stagehand Jake, who is devoted to Foss, and Dolly both admit that they followed Russell to Princess' apartment the night before her murder. Russell now confesses that before Lolita was killed, he overheard her conversation with Princess, in which she threatened to tell Foss's wife unless Princess paid her off. Princess gave her some money and offered her a drink, after which Russell heard Lolita gag and saw Princess leave the room. He speculates that someone else must have gone in and strangled Lolita, because when he got there, he found the G-string, but no money. Russell then met with Princess in her apartment and she paid him to keep quiet. Harrigan recommends that the show be closed for everyone's safety, but Dixie rallies the performers and, as stockholders with a stake in the success of the Opera House, they agree to go on as usual. Later, everyone leaves the theater to get dinner, and Dixie is left alone in the dressing room. Stachi emerges from behind a curtain, and while confessing to the murders, attempts to strangle her with her G-string. The police and Biff rush in from the rooftop to rescue Dixie, and Biff explains that he realized Stachi was the killer after seeing the photo of Lolita's mother, who was featured in an article of the Police Gazette and identified as "Stacciaro," which is Stachi's last name. Biff speculates that Stachi, a former opera singer who detests burlesque, lost his mind when he realized his own granddaughter, Lolita, was dancing, and first tried to kill Dixie during the raid. Biff now learns that Dixie and Gee Gee Graham, a fellow dancer, arranged for Dixie to be alone in order to snare the killer. Dixie had also pegged Stachi as the murderer because his hands reminded her of the hands that attempted to strangle her. With Stachi arrested, Biff proposes to Dixie, who, having gotten over her hangup about comics, accepts.