Thursday, September 5, 2013

Not everyone loves Lucy--someone wants to strangle the poor girl!

Before Lucille Ball had a chance to really demonstrate her brilliance as a comedic actress on the small screen, she did land a few dramatic roles on the big screen.

One of her finest parts is in a nifty and slightly-noirish whodunit called Lured (1947). Lucy plays an American girl working as a taxi dancer in London. When a friend disappears--apparently the victim of a serial killer--she agrees to help Scotland Yard lay a trap for the killer. She begins to answer personal ads (that's how the killer has met his victims), hoping to smoke out the bad guy.

Lucy plays a tough, smart gal who's quick with wisecracks and who can think on her feet. And she does an admirable job.  And 66 years later, when she's now cemented in the public consciousness as a screwball comedienne, it's a tribute to her performance that we can set that aside for the length of the movie and accept her in as an ad hoc police woman.

The film works as a whodunit, with no real clues pointing to the killer for most of the film. In fact, the premise is designed to allow any number of red herrings to be tossed to us. As Sandra (Lucy's character) meets various people through the personals, we can't know at first which of them might be a psychotic murderer. Boris Karloff has a wonderful cameo as a somewhat daft dress designer and there's a whole subplot built around Sandra stumbling across a criminal enterprise completely separate from the serial killer.

A host of great character actors give backbone to the story. George Sanders, Cedric Hardwicke, Alan Napier (Alfred from the old Batman TV series, ironically playing a cop named Gordon) and others all bring life to their roles. George Zucco is particularly notable as the cop assigned to watch over Sandra while she's meeting people. Zucco and Lucy build up a really nice rapport in their scenes together.

And it's actually interesting that there's someone out there plotting to kill Lucy and it turns out NOT to be Desi because of one of her whacky schemes to get a part in his show.

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