Barbara Stanwyck shines in her second portrayal of a showgirl in less than two years (the first was in Howard Hawks' Ball of Fire in 1941). In Lady of Burlesque -- which, at times, has a Hawksian edge to the dialogue -- she portrays Dixie Daisy, a striptease artist at a Broadway theater in New York at the end of the 1930s. In the course of fending off the unwanted advances of brash comic Biff Brannigan (Michael O'Shea), with whom she is teamed in several numbers, and staying clear of the dressing room feuds of her fellow dancers -- including a very nasty dispute between Dolly Baxter (Gloria Dickson) and Lolita La Verne (Victoria Faust) -- she finds herself up to her neck in trouble when one of the women is found strangled with her own G-string. The police don't know what to make of it, especially as the victim was already dying of a fatal dose of poison, which means that there are two murderers somewhere in the theater; and when a second woman turns up strangled inside a prop that Dixie was supposed to be hiding in onstage, she looks like a good suspect. Between the backstage comedy-drama, and the songs, dances, and on-stage comic routines, with the police breathing down both their necks at different times, Dixie and Biff manage to solve the mystery and find each other in this briskly paced, funny, yet amazingly gritty comedy-thriller. Lady of Burlesque was allowed to fall out of copyright in 1971, and since then it was seen in substandard editions until the May 2001 DVD release from Image Entertainment.
by Bruce Eder synopsis