Friday, April 9, 2010

1934 - EARL CARROLL'S MURDER AT THE VANITIES, asks the question, who the hell is Earl Carroll?

OK, Earl Carroll was a Broadway songwriter and producer who staged musical revues in New York and Los Angeles.  Apparently he was known for hiring lots of pretty chorus girls and dressing than in costumes that showed as much skin as possible.  Carroll was known for forcing women to audition for parts in his revues in the nude. Apparently a real classy guy.

Since having near naked women wasn't going to be enough to sell the film to the public,  Paramount decided to make a film of Earl Carroll's Vanities but must have realized that they needed to actually have a plot in the film.    Exactly why Paramount decided on a musical murder mystery will in itself probably always remain a mystery.

The director who had to deal with this mess was a studio guy names Mitchell Leisen.  He does a good job orchestrating the rather ridiculous musical numbers with the murder mystery.  Leisen also had to cope with some strange casting choices.  Jackie Oakie is the stage manager who is in a friendly rivalry with Victor McLaglen as the cop trying to solve the murders.  McLaglen usually played dumb Irish soldiers for John Ford, but in this picture he looks rather dapper in his tux and bowler hat.  Oakie was always an actor who didn't know how to keep himself under control, but he's not to bad in this film.

The main lead in the film is some Danish crooner named Carl Brisson who struggles to act about as much as he struggles to sing.  Brisson actually worked with Hitchcock on a couple of his silent films.

Probably what the film is known for today if it's known at all are a couple of the musical numbers.

The first "Sweet Marijuana" is kind of a ridiculous song with stereotypical dancers in flamenco costumes singing about how marijuana puts them to sleep!

The other number is some bizarre version of the Hungarian Rhapsody.  The number starts out with Liszt singing about how he would someday like to see his composition performed properly.

It then turns into an orchestral performance of the rhapsody, which then turns into Duke Ellington and his orchestra performing a swing version of it.

All of this foolishness ends with a Liszt lookalike coming out with a machine gun killing everyone.


When all is said and done and the murder mystery is solved and the chorus girls have put their clothes on.   Murder At The Vanities is pretty stupid stuff even for 1934.

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