Second looks: Lady of Burlesque (1943)

This film was viewed for the Barbara Stanwyck Filmography Project. For the rest of the Stanwyck reviews, visit my Listography page!
This film was viewed for the Barbara Stanwyck Filmography Project. For the rest of the Stanwyck reviews, visit my Listography page!

Dixie Daisy (Barbara Stanwyck) is a burlesque dancer performing at the Old Opera House. One night, during a performance, the place is raided. Amidst the chaos of the raid, Dixie is nearly strangled by an unknown attacker.

(Image via Cinematic Thoughts)
(Image via Cinematic Thoughts)

Soon, another dancer is attacked… and with more success than the attempted-choking of Dixie. The woman is found dead, strangled by — again — an unknown culprit.

There are plenty of suspects in this murder case, and Dixie herself falls under suspicion, having been the one to discover the body. Determined to clear her name, she goes on the hunt for the real killer.

William Wellman directs 1943’s Lady of Burlesque, based on Gypsy Rose Lee’s “The G-String Murders.”

Lady of Burlesque is a very special film to me, because it was my very first Stanwyck film. I distinctly remember sitting on the couch with my pup, flipping through the channels to TCM and watching it for the first time.

I loved it then, and I love it now. I’ve been long overdue for a re-watch, so I decided to finally give it a second look in preparation for the upcoming William Wellman Blogathon.

One of the film’s strongest assets is its amazing dialogue, which is full of sass. Favorite quip:

“When I dress for a date with you, it’ll be a suit of armor and brass knuckles!”

Moving along at a frantic pace, Lady of Burlesque is full of excitement, building on an already-engaging mystery plot. This “whodunit” truly leaves the viewer guessing, and a little bit of sauce is injected to accompany the suspense. (These are burlesque dancers, after all, and the victims are found strangled with G-strings!)

(Image via Pinterest)
(Image via Pinterest)

Along with the sauce comes quite a dose of quirk. One of Dixie’s fellow dancers, just returned from a supposed medical leave, speaks in a put-on European accent and says that she is a princess who deserves to perform for royalty rather than the crowds that populate the Old Opera House. In another subplot, a comedian from the Old Opera House relentlessly pursues Dixie and buys her a stuffed puppy to keep her company when he’s not around (even though she doesn’t seem to miss him much when they’re separated).

Lady of Burlesque is one of the most fun films in Stanwyck’s filmography, worthy of re-watching many times over.

3 thoughts on “Second looks: Lady of Burlesque (1943)

  1. I’ve always loved the movie, too. Fortunately, it’s now easier to find decent, uncut copies of the film. I used to hat seeing grainy copies on TV with big hunks of the film chopped out. For me, the best parts of Lady Of Burlesque is Barbara performing as Dixie. Those scenes are closest we can come to seeing what Missy was like as a chorus girl. When I watch the movie, I always have to watch those scenes several times.


    1. Yes, it’s such a treat to watch those scenes! I love the little dance routine she shares with Buddy Ebsen in ‘Banjo On My Knee’ as well. Glad to hear that you enjoy this lovely film!


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