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Murder at the Vanities
IMDB Rating: 6.7/10 from 418 votes
Release: 18 May 1934 (USA) /

Murder at the Vanities

Genre: Music, Musical, Mystery, Romance
Director: Mitchell Leisen,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Shortly before the curtain goes up the first time at the latest performance of Earl Carroll's Vanities, someone is attempting to injure the leading lady Ann Ware, who wants to marry leading man Eric Lander. Stage manager in charge Jack Ellery calls in his friend, policeman Bill Murdock, to help him investigate. Bill thinks Jack if offering to let him see the show from an unusual view point, after he forgot to get him tickets for the performance, but then they find the corpse of a murdered women. Bill suspects Eric of the crime, especially, after the second female lead Rita Ross told him she saw the women leaving from Eric's room. Then Rita is shot onstage with Eric's gun. Jack and Bill decide not to stop the show, but Bill preparing to arrest Eric. Is he on the right track ? Written by Stephan Eichenberg <eichenbe@fak-cbg.tu-muenchen.de>

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Critic Reviews


A Murder investigation goes on back stage while The Vanities, on its opening night, plays on to an unknowing audience. Odd combination of musical and murder mystery is worth a look for its cast, its terrific production numbers, and the sheer novelty of the film.

Gertrude Michael has the showy role of a bitchy actress intent on stopping the marriage between the show's stars, Kitty Carlisle and Carl Brisson, as well as starring in the infamous "Sweet Marijuana" number (which was also on a 70s Bette Midler album). So while the chorus girls shuffle around backstage, bumbling detective Victor McLaglen ogles the girls while he tries to solve the backstage murder of an unknown woman whose body is found on a catwalk above the stage.

We quickly learn that the maid (Dorothy Stickney) loves Brisson from afar, that the wardrobe lady (Jessie Ralph) is Brisson's mother, and that the stage manager (Jack Oakie) butts into everything. Lots of plots twists among the musical numbers. The show's best-known song is "Cocktails for Two" sung by Brisson and Carlisle. They also sing "Live and Love Tonight" on a tropical isle surrounded by showgirls waving feather fans to simulate the ocean. Carlisle also sings the haunting "Where Do They Come From?" Gertrude Michael sings the infamous "Sweet Marijuana." And there's a weird rhapsody that erupts into a Harlem specialty number featuring Duke Ellington!

Some terrific acting here, especially Gertrude Michael and Dorothy Stickney. Kitty Carlisle is quite good as well. Brisson, Oakie, and McLaglen are all solid.

Charles Middleton plays Homer, Toby Wing plays Nancy, Donald Meek plays the doctor, Gail Patrick plays the unknown woman, and see if you can spot Ann Sheridan, Alan Ladd and Lucille Ball among the chorus members.

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