The Columbia Pictures programmer WHO KILLED GAIL PRESTON? (1938) starts strong but ultimately fizzles after the murder of the title character.
The movie opens with an apparent prison breakout -- until we realize it's actually part of a nightclub dance number. It's pretty clever, the more so when the camera pulls back to reveal that the nightclub is designed to look like a prison, with the private booths in jail cells around the edge of the dance floor. This set design is one of the highlights of a movie which is more sluggish than it should be.
Gail Preston (19-year-old Rita Hayworth, dubbed by Gloria Franklin) is the star singer at the nightclub. One evening Gail phones Detective Kellogg (Don Terry) and asks him to come to the nightclub. Just after Kellogg arrives, Gail is murdered in front of the nightclub audience right after finishing a song, but no one can figure out how she was shot without the killer being seen.
There are plenty of suspects, as Gail was beautiful but not very nice. Ultimately Detective Kellogg figures out the clever way Gail was killed and re-enacts the night of the murder to nab the killer.
Hayworth is fun to watch but the second part of this 61-minute film is quite slow, with a collection of characters who simply aren't very interesting. It's half of an entertaining "B" movie, worthwhile for those interested in taking a look at Hayworth's work before she became a superstar.
The cast includes Robert Paige, John Gallaudet, Wyn Cahoon, Marc Lawrence, Gene Morgan, and James Millican. Look for Nell Craig (Nurse Nosey Parker from the Dr. Kildare series) as a nightclub patron in the opening and closing sequences.
The movie was directed by Leon Barsha and filmed by Henry Freulich.
I saw WHO KILLED GAIL PRESTON? thanks to getTV. It hasn't been released on DVD or VHS.