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Forty Naughty Girls

Forty Naughty Girls(1937)

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Forty Naughty Girls (1937)

Despite the promise of the title, fictional detective Hildegarde Withers is definitely not a naughty girl. - The fussy spinster detective created by mystery novelist Stuart Palmer had previously -- and, some would say, definitively -- been portrayed by horse-faced character actress Edna May Oliver in films such as Murder On A Honeymoon (1935). Purists who'd enjoyed Oliver's formidable incarnation of Withers were disappointed by the very different Zasu Pitts in this go-round, where she and suitor Inspector Oscar Piper (James Gleason) investigate the murder of a Broadway publicist. While Pitts had a great knack for slapstick -- and was more suited to this particular screenplay, which leaned less on the love-hate banter between Withers and Piper and more on broad sight gags (director Edward Cline earned his chops with the Keystone Kops under Mack Sennett) -- her screen persona was daffy and delicate compared to the more forceful and fearless Oliver, and the lightweight deduction required to solve this mystery disappointed fans of Palmer's original Withers books. Ratiocination junkies wont' be satisfied by this film, but those delighted by the often delightful Pitts will enjoy.

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