Monday, August 17, 2009

PreCode Meets Broadway

This week, we watched Murder at the Vanities (or, as the title card had it Earl Carroll's Murder at the Vanities). The jacket of the dvd said it broke every rule of the code. We agree. We had young ladies in costumes that barely covered anything (and what WAS covered was so sheer as to appear transparent) 

Vanities star Eric Lander (played by Danish actor Carl Brisson) announces his intention to marry his costar Ann Ware (Kitty Carlisle), much to the annoyance of wannabe lover Rita Ross (Gertrude Michael). We soon learn that Rita is a vindictive sneak; she has stolen papers and photos from Eric's flat that implicate his mother in a murder.  Soon afterwards, the private detective (Gail Patrick, finally getting to play a non-bitch) Eric has hired to recover the stolen papers is found murdered.

We were taken by the suggestiveness of the whole piece. The previously mentioned almost-nudity; the fact that we are being asked to sympathize with a murderer (I won't say more than that. You will have to watch the movie); the producer (Jack Oakie) who is obviously sleeping with one of the cast members; the police detective (Victor McLaglan) who so clearly is setting up a night TO sleep with another young lady. And then there is the number in which black and white dancers all dance and sing together to the music of the Duke Ellington orchestra. When we consider that Shirley Temple got flack for holding Bill Robinson's hand a few years later, we were stunned.  Oh, and then there is the musical number about marijuana:

Was this a great movie? Nope, but it was funny - and worth seeing. You'll be surprised!