Sunset Murder Case (November 11, 1938)
Released on January 6, 1938: Fan Dancer Sally Rand's final motion picture - Kathy O'Connor becomes a stripper to find the killer of her father.
Directed by Louis J. Gasnier
Written by Paul Franklin, Arthur Hoerl and Lawrence Mease from a magazine story by Jarold Joyce.
The Actors: Sally Rand (Kathy O'Connor, Valerie), Esther Muir (Lora Wynne), Vince Barnett (Barney), Paul Sutton (Bapti Stephani), Lorna Andre (Nita Madera), Mary Brodel (Jane Baird), George Douglas (Carlo Rossmore), Reed Hadley (Oliver Helton), Kathryn Kane (Penny Nichols), Dennis Moore (Lou Fleming), Frank O'Connor (Detective Sergeant Tom O'Connor), Stanley Price (Eric Martin), Henry King (band leader), Bruce Mitchell (Everett), Lester Dorr (editor), Eddie Gordon (Rankin), Monte Carter (Staufer), Bill Duray (intern), Brooks Benedict (bit part), Jean Carmen (chorus girl).
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Ever hear the phrase, "Banned in Boston?" Many years ago it was the phrase that made books and movies very popular with many people, and kept others away. This motion picture was really banned in Boston, and much of the country when it was first released. The original title of the movie was, "Sunset Strip Case," and with the famous fan dancer Sally Rand as the star, it was banned first in Boston, then the subject of lawsuits and banishment all over the country. Censors felt that the public would think of 'Sunset Strip' not as the strip of highway going through Hollywood, but rather, because of the famous Sally Rand being in the movie, think of the word 'strip' as meaning 'to get naked.' After several years of negative publicity and lawsuits, the movie's name was changed to "Sunset Murder Case," and was finally seen by the public in 1941.
Helen Harriet Beck (Sally Rand / Billie Beck) was born in Elkton, Missouri on April 3, 1904, and attended the same school as famous science fiction author Robert Heinlein. She went ot Hollywood and Cecil B. De Mille changed her name to Sally Rand, named after the Rand McNally atlas. She acted in several silent films, and then in talkies, and between films danced at the Paramount in Hollywood, and became famous for her burlesque fan dance, and later for her 'bubble' dance. Her fame spread nationwide during the 1933 Chicago World's Fair where she was arrested a record four times in one day for perceived 'indecent exposure' while riding a white horse through the streets with the illusion of nudity, while actually wearing a skin colored outfit.
The movie starts in a night club in the Los Angeles area, and we meet Sally Rand, playing Kathy O'Connor, who is brunette and a showgirl at a small nightclub. Her father is a Detective Sergeant with the police department. Later that same evening, her father goes to the apartment of a showgirl in Hollywood that works at a mob owned nightclub on the Sunset Strip, but before he gets there a couple of goons from the mob kill her because they fear that she will tell the cops about the nightclub owners racket to blackmail wealthy men. Before the goons can leave, Sergeant O'Connor enters the apartment and discovers the dead girl, and also encounters the two goons, who shoot him. When Kathy hears about her father's death, she swears vengeance on the nightclub owner that had her father killed.
Kathy turns blonde, and becomes 'Valerie, a dancing sensation from England,' and gets a job dancing at the nightclub that is the center of the scandals. We next learn how the mob boss is blackmailing wealthy nightclub patrons. The boss points out the next 'victim' to one of his waiters, who puts drugs in the wealthy man's drinks, making him very drunk and barely able to function. Then he puts the man in his car and starts it and gets the guy going down the street. But he has arranged to have one of his girls in a car that runs into the wealthy man as he drives away, and after the resulting crash, he and his men take the girl and the wealthy man back to the club and into a private room. There they blackmail the man with the promise to keep the whole thing quiet, so the man doesn't get into any legal problems.
When Valerie finds this out, she tells the boss that she needs big money fast, and the boss decides to let her be the next girl that hits his next 'victim.' But before they can set her up with a pigeon, the boss discovers that Valerie is really the daughter of the cop he had killed, and the boss decides to kill Valerie before he puts her in the car that will hit the next pigeon. Will Valerie die in her attempt to get the man that had her father killed? Will the mob boss get caught somehow before he can kill Valerie? Will we see Sally Rand performing her famous 'bubble' dance on screen? Will we choke on our popcorn as the famous Sally Rand dances in the nightclub with her large Las Vegas style feather plumage?
Sally Rand continued to do burlesque stlye dancing until 1972, when she performed in a 'burlesque nostalgia' show in New York's Madison Square Garden. She died in 1979 at the age of 75.