Cast & Crew
On the night that the Hollywood police are confronted with another in a series of mysterious automobile accidents, police sergeant Tom O'Connor orders his men to bring in suspect Nita Madera. Tom is positive that Nita knows who is orchestrating the auto accidents, which always involve a powerful man hitting the car of a woman, and are subsequently covered up. Nita refuses to divulge the name of the racketeer responsible, however, and soon is released by sleazy lawyer Staufer. Also investigating the case is reporter Lou Fleming, who is dating Tom's daughter Kathy. Later that night, Lou is at the nightclub at which Kathy dances when Tom and Oliver Halton, a district attorney assigned to a special crime taskforce, arrive. When Oliver professes a dislike for nightclub entertainers, Lou and Tom gently rib him and do not reveal that Kathy is Tom's daughter until Oliver has made several embarrassing statements. After Tom and Lou leave to pursue the case, Oliver apologizes to Kathy and watches her perform an acrobatic dance using a large balloon. Meanwhile, Eddy Martin and Barney, the henchmen of nightclub owner and racket leader Bapti Stephani arrive at Nita's apartment. Convinced that Nita was about to reveal Bapti's involvement, Eddy kills her. Tom then arrives and is also killed by Eddy. The two gunmen leave just before the arrival of Lou, who finds Tom's body. Oliver and Lou break the news of Tom's death to Kathy, who vows to find his murderers. Kathy persuades Lou to make up and print a series of articles about the supposed European successes of an American nightclub dancer named Valerie, and then, using the name Valerie, obtains a job at Bapti's club. On opening night, Oliver and Lou watch Kathy perform a daring fan dance at Bapti's Club Harmony. Kathy also catches Bapti's eye, much to the chagrin of his wife Lora. After her number, Kathy is visited backstage by Lou, although she warns him that in order to preserve her fake identity, they cannot be seen together. Lou, determined to watch over Kathy, decides to find an excuse to stay, and so asks singer Penny Nickels for a date. That same night, Bapti arranges for famed actor Carlo Rossmore to be slipped a spiked drink and then escorts the drunken Carlo to his car. Bapti and his men then engineer an accident in which Carlo runs into a car driven by Jane Baird, who is injured during the crash. Bapti whisks Carlo back into the club, while Kathy, who witnessed the accident from her dressing room, tends to Jane. Bapti promises to protect Carlo from any scandal in exchange for sixty thousand dollars, and a grateful Carlo accepts. Kathy remains calm during the hectic proceedings, which earns Bapti's respect. As six weeks pass, Lou continues to date the dimwitted Penny, who believes that they are engaged, while Kathy and Oliver spend more time together as they investigate Bapti. Oliver attempts to persuade Kathy to give up her dangerous undercover work, as they have yet to obtain any hard evidence, but Kathy insists on proceeding. Kathy then goes to Bapti, telling him that she desperately needs a large sum of money, and Bapti decides to include her in a scheme to blackmail producer Alan Blake in an arranged car accident. Bapti intends for Kathy to be the other driver and, assuring her that she will not be hurt badly, offers her ten thousand dollars. Kathy agrees and later notifies Lou and Oliver, but their plan to catch Bapti in the act is disrupted when Penny overhears Lou discussing a blackmailing ring with his editor. Penny inadvertently alerts Bapti, who has Kathy kidnapped by Eddy and Barney. Bapti intends to kill Kathy and plant her body at the scene of Blake's accident, and so has Lora and Barney guard her until later that evening. The wily Kathy gets Lora and Barney so drunk that when Lou persuades Penny to call Lora's house, she admits that Kathy is there. Lou and Oliver race to the Stephani home, but arrive after Eddy has left with Kathy, intending to take her to the club. Eddy, who has admitted to murdering Nita and Tom, takes Kathy to Bapti and reveals that she is Tom's daughter. Just as Kathy is about to be killed, Lou, Oliver and the police burst into Bapti's office and shoot Eddy. Lou is bemused to see Oliver and Kathy rush into each other's arms, and soon after, calls his editor with news that the lawyer and dancer will be married within the hour. When Penny threatens him with a vase, Lou adds that it will be a double wedding ceremony, but the thrilled Penny accidentally drops the vase, knocking out her would-be groom.
Martin G. Cohn
George A. Hirliman
[Information on this film has been revised from the entry forThe Sunset Strip Case, originally printed in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.4406.] A working title of the film was Murder on Sunset Boulevard, and it was copyrighted under the title The Sunset Strip Case. Although Stanley Price's character is listed as "Luigi" in the onscreen credits, he is called "Barney" in the film. According to a pre-production news item in Hollywood Reporter, the film was originally to have starred Conrad Nagel and Eleanor Hunt and the script was to have been written by Scott Darling and Erna Lazarus. Nagel and Hunt did not appear in the film and the extent of Darling and Lazarus' contributions to the filmed screenplay has not been determined. A Hollywood Reporter production chart includes actress Jean Carmen in the cast, but she did not appear in the viewed print. Modern sources add Brooks Benedict to the cast, but he also did not appear in the viewed print.
Although copyright materials for this film mention an November 11, 1938 release date, a Hollywood Reporter news item on November 1, 1938 noted that a court injunction was obtained by F. C. Scott against Grand National, restraining the release of the picture. According to the news item, Scott put up $1,500 toward the picture's production and was attempting to hold up its release until his share of the profits had been determined. A November 5, 1938 Hollywood Reporter news item indicated that the case had been settled out of court and that the picture would be released nationally on November 18, 1938. A Hollywood Reporter news item on March 4, 1939 noted that Hirliman had withdrawn from his arrangement with Grand National and that Grand National had subsequently canceled its distribution of the film. Hirliman's actions May have been due in part to the financial problems which plagued Grand National from 1938 to 1940, when the company was dissolved.
Information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection in the AMPAS Library notes that the film was issued a certificate by the Hays Office in early 1939 under the title The Sunset Murder Case. Aside from requesting that the word "strip", which the Hays Office found offensive, be removed from the title, the PCA's initial reaction, in 1938, included a warning to producers to alter the film's dance so as not to "expose offensively" Sally Rand's breasts. Only one 1938 review has been located for the film, a November 15, 1938 The Exhibitor review, based on a preview showing. That review notes that Rand wore a bathing suit during her dance. [Rand performs two dances in the film; in both she appears to be wearing a flesh-colored bathing suit under skimpy costumes.]
The PCA file includes a letter from the New York State Censor Board indicating that the picture was approved without eliminations in New York on July 31, 1941. The September 3, 1941 Variety review confirms that the picture was released in New York City, but indicates that there was no dance performed by Rand in the picture. The running time listed in Variety, 59 minutes, is three minutes shorter than the running time listed in The Exhibitor, indicating that some material May have been cut from the picture. According to information in the copyright files, a new dance was created for the film by Rand and Japanese choreographer Michio Ito, called "The Dance of the Peacock," that featured Rand dancing with her signature large feathered fans.
Although the delay May have been due to the dance number, it is also possible that the delayed release was a result of the dispute between producer George A. Hirliman and Grand National. The Variety review names Hirliman as both the producer and distributor of the film. Sally Rand was a fan dancer who gained national fame when she appeared at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair performing bubble and fan dances. Biographies often refer to her as the greatest fan dancer of all time. Many biographies of Rand incorrectly note that her last film appearance was in the 1934 Paramount feature Bolero.