Preshow Robert Osborne moments:
I love Barbara Stanwyck and I love vintage noir/crime novels. I’ve actually read the book this one was based on- it’s
Swanns Way by Proust. The G-string Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee. A neglected classic. If any of you are big with your local PTA, why not suggest it for the 2017/2018 school year required reading?
Ready? Of course you are! Today at Cinema Grievous we proudly review:
Lady of Burlesque!!
Today we will explore the seedy underbelly of Burlesque in a converted opera house down on it’s luck- but a new face has appeared to save the day! Dixie Daisy (her real name of course. Parents- please think about the road you set your kiddies on with these names- Lolita is never going to be the name of an environmental lawyer. My 2 cents)
Seedy times people, seedy times. But they give the people their best!
Edith Head does the principal costuming for Stanwyck- but lets show some love for the fabulous salute to the ceiling fans that Flossie is wearing:
At last! Dixie is busting thru this paper womb of propriety and bringing her sassy strip work to the stage. She’s our headliner, so of course the old guard resents her ‘easy’ path to sleazy stardom! But she’s no flooz! She’s clawed her way to the …umm….top with grit, hard work and double jointed knees! Note the appearance of the fox pelt- we still maintain the working girl illusion that pelt=CLASS!
Dixie will now perform her signature song by the Oscar winner composer Sammy Kahn.
Let it Snow Come Fly with me The Tender Trap When Somebody Loves you It’s been a Long , long time
Right….it’s one of his lesser known classics, tho equally memorable:
Take it off the e string, play it on the g-string! A song that I feel is sadly underused in kiddie dance recitals. Lets retire Itsy Bitsy and see those kids twerk dispassionately to a classic!
Ah- here comes the action! Biff Brannigan- vaudeville comic has his eye on Dixie- but she has no interest in him. Comics are trouble! No good louses that leave you with the check and a one way ticket to Tulsa. She’s not biting his hook!
Gypsy Rose Lee perfected the art of the intellectual strip- more provocative that skin baring, me thinks.
Here Barbara does more singing and strutting than baring, BUT she does actually start pulling her stole apart so by the 3rd minute, dare I say it- you will see her bare muff. Yes, I am an equal mix of shame and snorty laughter at my own ribaldry…..
Let’s pause a moment to make a timely reminder. Men, a muff tossed at your head is still not a consent. Thank you. Back to our story.
The audience fails to notice she’s still wearing more than the average person wears to grocery shop.
Now, let’s talk about what we all know about stripping.
It’s degrading to women and It’s a place where women form lasting, satisfying relationships and mentor each other and form complex and unbreakable bonds. Stay in school kids.
Our plot is also carried along by the ventilation system- something so important is a flesh den, err- legitimate theatre. The men’s dressingroom is directly below. Male strippers you ask? Um, yeah, no. The men are all comics. Only women entertain with their bodies, dummies. Gees!? Today the girls are very upset about their plumbing and it’s upsetting the boys too. Seriously. Their only sink in the girls dressing room is broken. Damn, did you think I meant….?
This little man-trap is our tension source in the plot. She thinks she’s a great talent too good for this place! She’s got a mobster boytoy and one of the comics is writing the perfect play for her ascent to the big time! Hmmm….I hope nothing bad happens to her.
Dotty is really not much more than fluff to our plot, but how could I not show this???
For me, the entire movie could have been just watching these girls wander around in the official Busby Berkley fetish strip club. But enough about my needs. Lets get back to Lola- the burr in everyone’s pasties.
Well, Angel has had enough! She comes after Lola- the other girls intervene but only because they are bored. Not because they like Lola. Nobody really likes Lola. For the record, I’ve never been in a fight, but I’m assuming I would climb out-of-the-way too.
You know who doesn’t like strippers? These two. Lets pause here so I can share how much I love these two actors- they are amazing character actors that just are so underutilized in this- I’ve labelled them so you can track them down and enjoy. I’ll be checking back to quiz you later.
The girls don’t like them much either. Not for the judgemental ogling. That’s their meat and potatoes. It’s Stacchi and his crappy pipe smoking. Stacchi is not his real name- no one bothered to ask him if he had a real name. So sad.
After kicking Lolas butt, Angel hydrates as she should. Just as Hollywood taught us that hookers are strong advocates of flossing, strippers can’t stop raving about hydration!
We as an audience already sense the blooming chemistry of Dixie and Biff. Or Diffie, or Bixie or whatever. Here they are headed to the stage for the big number!
Were you thinking they changed the title because ‘g-string’ was not a code approved title? Well, I’m starting to think it’s because ‘murder’ didn’t actually happen?! Come on people, get the violence going, wills ya?
Oh dearie dear! The cops have raided our fine establishment! Now according to Burlesque by-law 500B, all theatre employees must be warned of Bacon scented in the building with a red light that is triggered by a backstage member who sees them. Hence, places of ill-repute are called ‘Red Light’ districts. Ok, I made that last sentence up. It sounded great, tho and I was on a roll. Red lights are used in prostitute districts because the tint gives the TB suffering hookers a rosy glow. Ok, thats not true either, I think. just get back to the movie, m’kay? Biff and Dixie display teamwork as they try to discretely finish their set and leave the stage without shackles.
Dixie hot-foots it back to the dressing room to get her chapstick and lucky troll doll before the police spot her.
Oh, crap! A phantom creepo has grabbed our heroine and is trying to kill her! He tries to strangle her, but all the noise and commotion- while making a good diversion, is too distracting for him. She escapes!
Well, the cops round everybody up and try to haul them off- their boss being a very good guy, rents limos to take them to the pokey in style. So class. Afterword he treats them to a steak and egg breakfast and gives them each a share in the Opera House! Merriment and job loyalty secured! Dixie would like to talk about whom might have tried to give her the 10 digit necktie and I’d like to discuss how she can wear lower bodiced dresses to breakfast than as a professional chaunteuse.
Dark cloud! Lola’s mobster boyfriend doesn’t show up until the party. He ignored her 1 phone call from the hoo-scow! Jerk! Look at his tiny weasel stache! OOOO- he’s trouble! But Lola is in trouble with him- he knows about her playwright guy on the side and takes a poke at him! Lola is unamused, but her accessories are on point. 5 minute break while I see if I can make any of Grannies pearls into a bowtie. Oh, crap! I have a jeweled turtle I can wear climbing out of my blouse bunny area! Score!
So, lets recap-
no one likes Lola
Angel significantly dislikes Lola
Lolas boyfriend is mad at her and her side piece
Lola has great jewelry
Someone tried to kill Dixie in the dark
Bifff persuades Dixie to go out for a beverage with him. She dons her best Warden of the North Wookie fur and goes. He doesn’t pay and she doesn’t smile.
Well, back to the grind, as they say! Now it took me a bit to figure this out, because these are burlesque gals not the club strippers we see now who only need a shoe box to store their costumes. I think these gals are climbing the walls to get to their fancy bits. Huh. I should have used that line for an audience shot.
Lola is very upset today about the Asian sterotypes who work nextdoor and peep at her. Now I’m no expert on these things, but you still can’t throw bottles at people who watch you undress in front of a window can you? I mean, they never make the girls pay for their moo-goo, so maybe the guys thought it was a little quid-pro-chow action. Well, something to tell Judge Judy about.
Dixie does not like this one bit! She snaps at Lola and establishes herself as a suspect…..if anything should ever happen.
Dixie trots across the alley to check on the restaurant telling even more people how much Lola harshest her mellow. Oh-and is suddenly alone in the dressingroom/hostel upon her return.
Ah, here comes more tension! Apparently Dixie has only been there a few weeks and this little saucy Sputnik’r was HER spot on the marque prior!
Whatevs.The other girls smell Arkansas on her.
But she has her good points, I’m sure.
Biff and Dixie continue their fine vaudeville work.
Meanwhile, Lolas playwright sidepiece is skulking around the ladies dressingroom in a robe he stole from Jeremy Irons.
Dixie is still breaking it down on stage-
Dixie heads back to the suspiciously empty dressingroom with a message for Lola- who is late for her curtain. Oh, no!Who could have forseen such?
Lola has been strangled by her own g-string! How appropriate. Dang, tho, she looks lovely. Inspector Straitlace arrives and after he fingerprints Dixie, they all gather to trample any evidence left laying around. Lola we can only assume is also still lying around. She’s past tense now. So she can’t lay now. I think.
Stanwyck comes very close to calling the cop a ‘big mug’ in this scene. I’d have supported her choice. Everyone has announced that they heard, saw, enjoyed Dixie and Lola scrapping. Neglecting to mention that it was their only hobby as a group.
Biff realizes during the questioning that the g-string that the cops say they didn’t see is in his pocket! He’s got to ditch that thong!! But Dixie catches him with it and assumes the worst! No, not that he is a cross dresser! That he killed Lola! Side note- have the producers ever seen a g-string? Did they just tell the prop guy to wad up some uphostery fringe and go with it?
Finally they get to go back to work, but things have changed! Nikita the Unpure has stolen the main spot on the bill! How did she do it? Hard work and dedication or is she really seeing the mobster on the side and blackmailing their union friendly boss? I’m thinking it’s this really cool whip/strip she does!
Its not too fetishy, is it?
Oh come now Ladies- that was pretty stinkin’ cool.
Dixie confronts the boss and finds out that yes, Nikita has something on him.
Dixie hits the watercooler and ends up bonding with the backstage lech. He’s been at the theatre since it was a real opera house and even sang. But that was years ago. Bitter, angry years ago. I’m sure that means nothing to the plot and is just a character development moment. Stripper with VPL- isn’t that an oxymoron?
Ah, here comes Biff and he has news- like a really old newspapoer kind of news, but Dixie gets distracted by practically anything that isn’t Biff.
Oh if only they worked as well offstage as on-
Oh this looks bad! Nikita has been strangled inside the prop coffin that Dixie uses! Who has access to the prop closet? Who has access to Nikita? Who’s going to do the DEVO tribute now?
Well, here comes the inspector- lets see if Biff can keep it in his pockets this time?!
Grumpy prop guy has found a clue! A torn up picture in the supposedly locked prop cage! Our suspect is shortwaisted! What does it mean? It means she can’t wear crop tops without some sort of pendant necklace to give the illusion of a longer torso! No, to the plot! What does it mean to our plot! No ideas.
The police wants to close them down since there’s a killer on the loose. But like Andy Hardy- who also likes to wear a thong- they are going to put on the show!
Just a thought. They were all headed home when Dixie rallied the troops. All headed home half dressed.
Well, its time for everyone to leave the theatre for the evening and turn out all the lights and make it extra dark and creepy and you know. But first, some bonding.
Hey, who turned off the lights? Dixie is all alone in the dressingroom! Oh my! Honey that is not the great and powerful OZ!
He’s trying to strangle her and muttering something about legitimate theatre is about Pain and Russian writers! This is jazzy smut! In rush Biff and the coppers- it was a fancy trap!
How did Biff know?It was the newspaper and the photo! The newspaper talked about Lady Stacchi the golden throated opera singer with a tragic end. The picture was the same as the one of Lolas Mama! Stacchi couldn’t stand the idea of his granddaughter being a skanky burlesque flooz! He killed every flooz he could lay 2 hands on! Dixie was next!
Well kids, of course they end up together and the Opera House goes on. Lovely.
One more thing. I just want to say that I don’t think Burlesque or Vaudevillians are floozies. I was just being my snarky self.
photo credits: little me with an assist from Amazon prime…..