17 June 2016 | csteidler
Strong cast carries lightweight murder mystery
A shady character named Bartell (John Miljan) is shot dead in a locked room. Several suspects have good motives. His business associate (Lee Bowman) was closest to the crime but we know he didn't do it. Can a pair of rare book dealers on vacation track down the murderer?
Ann Sothern and Franchot Tone make a pretty good team as Garda and Joel Sloane, amateur sleuths who take a summer break from the book business to visit Seaside City. A beauty contest happens to be in town—and Joel finds himself signed up as a judge while hoping that somehow Garda won't find out.
The plot is nothing special but it keeps us guessing and moves fast. The cast is quite good, especially Ruth Hussey as a girlfriend who's no fool. Allyn Joslyn is also fine as a newspaperman covering the beauty pageant and talking up the contestants. ("Why, the last girl I took an interest in has already married two millionaire husbands, and she's only 22. You can do the same.")
Sothern and Tone excel at delivering the kind of light banter that adds nothing to the plot but is the real appeal of this kind of picture. For example, Sothern's complaint that Tone's investigation includes too many beauty contestants:
Sothern: Don't you ever find a middle-aged, unattractive suspect?
Tone: They're just facts in the case, I don't see them as girls....A detective's first thought must be of his case.
Sothern: It's that second thought that worries me.
Busby Berkeley directed this modest production. It's a far cry from his big musical extravaganzas, but there is one scene that looks like his style—it's the hectic pageant rehearsal featuring a flamboyant director ordering around contestants, telling them how to walk, and barking instructions like "You mothers get out of the way." I had to wonder—does this pageant director bear any resemblance to BB directing a musical?
An entertaining B movie spruced up with some MGM gloss.