Lady of Burlesque (1943)

Lady of Burlesque (1943)

“Three people get crowded at a table for two.”

When ambitious burlesque dancer Lolita La Verne (Victoria Faust) is murdered, her gangster lover (Gerald Mohr) as well as all her fellow performers — including new arrival Dixie Daisy (Barbara Stanwyck), a comic romantically pursuing Dixie (Michael O’Shea), and a snooty rival known as the Princess Nirvena (Stephanie Bachelor) — are under suspicion.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Amateur Sleuths
  • Barbara Stanwyck Films
  • Murder Mystery
  • Vaudeville and Burlesque
  • William Wellman Films

Barbara Stanwyck is a class act the entire way in this censor-tamed adaptation of Gypsy Rose Lee‘s best-selling mystery thriller The G-String Murders (whose title, naturally, was changed for the big screen). The storyline itself is little more than a standard whodunit, with nearly all the film’s motley characters under suspicion at one point or another (and a second murder thrown in for good measure). What really counts here is the setting in which the entire affair takes place — a relatively faithful if highly sanitized recreation of the behind-the-scenes mayhem, camaraderie, romance, and rivalry that constituted the rapidly fading world of burlesque. Directed by William Wellman (who helmed the much more serious literary adaptation The Ox-Bow Incident the same year), the film holds interest throughout, thanks to a sincere performance by Stanwyck and game turns by the supporting cast. You may be surprised by the identity of the murderer — though I’ll admit I guessed correctly for once (albeit without an accurate assessment of motive).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Barbara Stanwyck as Dixie Daisy
  • A fine tribute to the quickly-fading world of burlesque

Must See?
No, though it’s recommended. As a public domain title, it’s available for free viewing at


2 thoughts on “Lady of Burlesque (1943)

  1. Not must-see, but fun in a classy/trashy way.

    The assessment pretty much states my case as well. Stanwyck delivers as usual and is the film’s driving force – although she gets very able assistance from those surrounding her, and Wellman packs the film with lots of energy. I also happen to like much of the crackle of the dialogue, especially among the ladies (“…And the next time you girls pull a free-for-all, don’t pull it during my act. Y’know, it’s tough enough doing something artistic for those lugs out there without you and Dolly calling each other by your right names!” …Sweet.)

    This would be something else to catch for those who were taken with ‘The Night They Raided Minsky’s’.

  2. Definitely a must-see for me. Just love it.
    In 1943, the National League of Decency condemned the film, saying “ The film contains double meaning lines, salacious dances and situations and indecent costumes, presented against a background of indecent entertainment!”
    The movie was banned on a Sunday by the Massachussetts dept of public safety.
    William Wellman directed The Ox-Bow Incident” in 1942, and in complete contrast, his very next film was “Lady of Burlesque”. By coincidence, both films were released in May 1943.
    Barbara seems to be having a great time, bumping and grinding and jitterbugging with Pinky Lee.
    She talk/ sings Sammy Kahn’s lyrics:
    “Brother, I’m making my eggs and bacon , earning my pay, just by shaking this way – four shows a day.”
    As Dixie says, “It isnt my beautiful diction that gets me by in burlesque.”
    Barbara had played a similar character two years earlier in “Ball of Fire”. I may be the only fan who prefers “Lady of Burlesque”!
    Such a pity the film hasn’t been restored.

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