Watch Murder at the Vanities
- 1 hr 29 min
Murder at the Vanities is a 1934 musical film directed by Mitchell Leisen and starring Carl Brisson, Victor McLaglen, and Jack Oakie. This film is well known for its lavish production and the inclusion of several musical numbers. It was released during the early days of the Hays Code in Hollywood, which sought to regulate the content of films to shield audiences from "immoral" content, but Murder at the Vanities managed to slip through without much controversy. The film is set in the fictional Paradise Club where the titular Vanities are staged. This is a revue show designed by Eric Lander (Brisson) and Jack Ellery (Oakie), featuring a wide variety of musical and dance performances with performers dressed in lavish costumes. Despite the glitz and glamour of the show, the backstage area is a hotbed of tensions and rivalries, and the murder of one of the performers threatens to disrupt the entire production. The victim is Gloria (Kitty Carlisle), a dancer and the girlfriend of the club's bandleader, Bill "Blue" Monday (McLaglen). Gloria is found dead in her dressing room, strangled with a G-string from her costume. The detective assigned to the case, Lt. Bill Murdock (Toby Wing), begins investigating the crime scene and questioning the suspects, which include the other performers, club staff, and Ellery and Lander. As the investigation wears on, each suspect reveals their possible motive for wanting Gloria dead. Gypsy Rose Lee (playing herself) was jealous of Gloria's romantic involvement with Blue Monday. Publicity man Phil Kane (Alan Mowbray) wanted to use the murder as a way to generate attention for the show. Lander's former mistress, Ann Ware (Gertrude Michael), was jealous of his current girlfriend, and Ellery blames Lander for stealing the ideas that got them both fired from another show. As the investigation continues, the tension between the suspects increases, and more murders occur. The detectives are stumped, but eventually, they begin to piece together a clear picture of the killer's identity and their motive. The film's climax is a dramatic and intense sequence that brings all the suspects together on stage during a performance of the Vanities. It is here that the murderer is finally unmasked, and their motives are revealed. The killer is brought to justice, and the performers are finally able to complete their show in peace. Murder at the Vanities is an interesting film for several reasons. The lavish production design and musical sequences make it a treat for the eyes and ears, and the various subplots and characters make it an engaging murder mystery. It was one of the first films to have a hard rock musical score and feature an onscreen striptease with the famous striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. Moreover, as previously mentioned, it was released during the early days of the Hays Code when similar films faced trouble due to stricter moral codes. The movie also depicts the cultural impact of the Great Depression on the lives of Americans. Overall, Murder at the Vanities is an entertaining film for fans of murder mysteries and musical numbers alike. It is a rare treat that manages to blend together various genres and tropes in a compelling way.