STAGE STRUCK isn't always precisely a good film -- though often it is -- but even when it veers into hokiness it's great fun to watch. This compact little thriller is bolstered by personable performances by Conrad Nagel and lovely Audrey Long, and at some points it's also got a delightful sense of humor.
In a crackerjack opening scene, young Helen Howard (Wanda McKay) is murdered by nightclub owner Benny Nordick (John Gallaudet). Nick Mantee (Kane Richmond) helps Benny dispose of the body, then blackmails Benny into giving him half ownership of the club. The men also run a talent agency scamming hopeful actresses from the sticks.
New York Police Lt. Williams (Nagel) and his partner Sgt. Ramey (Ralph Byrd, star of DICK TRACY serials) are on the case. They visit Helen's hometown and meet her sister Nancy (Long), who helps them interview Helen's friends for clues about who she knew in New York.
Some weeks pass and Nancy, impatient with the lack of progress solving the case, travels to New York, to the delight of Sgt. Ramey, whose unconcealed attraction to Nancy is one of the fun things about the film. There's an amusing moment where Nancy, who's gone to work "undercover" at the club to gather clues, pretends not to know the police, but Sgt. Ramey manages to hold hands with her under the table.
It's a quick-moving 71 minutes as the cops and Nancy each work their own ends hoping to solve the murder. There's a nice surprise or two, and Long is delightfully spunky as the girl who won't let her sister's murder go unsolved. Nagel has a nice wry sense of humor, when he's not preaching about the dangers of young women alone in the big, mean city, and the burly, protective Byrd is rather charming.
DESPERATE (1947) and Robert Wise's BORN TO KILL (1947).
STAGE STRUCK was the last film directed by William Nigh. It was filmed in black and white by Harry Neumann.
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.