Cast & Crew
In Plainville, Arkansas, Esmeralda is a cook at her fiancé Elmer's wayside diner, the Bon Ton Lunch Room. When Esmeralda goes to the bank to deposit two dollars and to secure a new mortgage for the Bon Ton, she emerges from the file room and interrupts an armed holdup. Swooning, she inadvertently hits a button and releases tear gas, which forces the thieves to flee. The gangsters report to their boss, Flash, that they were forced out by a big, red-haired "tiger" woman. In Chicago, meanwhile, free-lance press agent Richard Wiley, called "Windy," is down on his luck and is badly in need of a client. When he reads of Esmeralda's exploits in the paper, he and his depressed wife Francine travel to Plainville to capitalize on Esmeralda's local notoriety and make her a celebrity anti-crime spokeswoman called "The Tiger Woman." In the now-crowded Bon Ton, Windy and Francine convince Esmeralda that under Windy's tutelage, she will be able to pay off Elmer's mortgage, and she agrees to go to Chicago. There, Esmeralda memorizes Windy's speech for a lecture circuit and leads women in forming anti-crime groups. Eventually, Esmeralda and her league of women begin to put a dent in the racketeering efforts of Flash's gang, who then resolve to wreak vengeance on her. Esmeralda tires of life without Elmer, however, and when she fails to appear at her Washington, D.C. lecture, Windy tells the press that Esmeralda has been kidnapped by gangsters. Then, at Francine's suggestion, Windy flies to Plainville and finds Esmeralda with Elmer. Esmeralda agrees to go into hiding until the press runs the kidnapping story. Flash then calls a meeting of every gangster in town at a warehouse and offers $30,000 to Esmeralda's kidnapper on condition he give her to him. Two of his own men then enter and whisper to Flash that they have kidnapped Esmeralda themselves. A fight ensues as gangsters accuse each other of the kidnapping. Meanwhile, Elmer, Windy and Francine bring a reporter and photographer to Esmeralda's hideout in an attempt to stage a rescue for publicity purposes, but when she is discovered missing, the press and the police deem the kidnapping a hoax. The gangsters take Esmeralda to Flash's apartment, where, in admiration of her bravery, Flash makes love to her, proposing that she take the place of his gun moll Mamie, who was recently hanged. Esmeralda, paralyzed with fear, is taken to the warehouse to organize the gangsters as she organized her crime fighters. The only speech she knows is Windy's, and when she delivers it to the men, they are brought to tears in remorse and disarm themselves. Esmeralda then leads the men to the police station, where Windy and Francine are trying in vain to get the police to search for Esmeralda, and the men turn themselves in. Esmeralda and Elmer then return happily to the Bon Ton.
Mike Pat Donovan
Al St. John
George De Normand
Bernard W. Burton
John P. Fulton
M. F. Murphy
Virginia Grey (1917-2004)
She was was born in Los Angeles on March 22, 1917, and was exposed to the film industry at a very young age. Her father, Ray Grey, was a Keystone Cop and acted in several other of Mack Sennett's comedies with the likes of Mabel Normand, Dorothy Gish and Ben Turpin. When her father died when she was still a child, Virginia's mother encouraged her to join the acting game and audition for the role of Eva for Uncle Tom's Cabin, a big budget picture for Universal Studios in the day. She won the role, and acted in a few more pictures at the studio: The Michigan Kid and Heart to Heart (both 1928), before she decided to temporarily leave acting to finish her schooling.
She returned to films after graduating from high school, and after bouncing around Hollywood doing bits for various studios, she hooked up with MGM in 1938. Her roles in her first few films were fairly non-descript: In Test Pilot and Ladies in Distress (both 1938), she did little more than look pretty, but in the following year she had scene-stealing parts in The Women (upstaging Joan Crawford in a delicious scene as a wisecracking perfume counter girl) and as the suffering heroine in Another Thin Man (both 1939).
Despite her versatility (she could handle comedy or drama with equal effectiveness), MGM would cast her in some above-average, but hardly starmaking movies: Whistling in the Dark, The Big Store (both 1941), and Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942). She left MGM in 1943 and became a freelance actress for several studios, but her material as a leading lady throughout the '40s were mediocre: Swamp Fire, House of Horrors (both 1946), and Mexican Hayride (1948) were sadly the more interesting films in her post-MGM period. But by the '50s she was a well-established character actress, appearing in fairly big-budget pictures: All That Heaven Allows, The Rose Tattoo (both 1955), Jeanne Eagels (1957).
In the '60s, Grey turned to television and found work on a variety of hit shows: Wagon Train, Peter Gunn, Bonanza, My Three Sons, I Spy, and several others; plus she also captured a a couple of notable supporting parts in these films: Madame X (1966), and Airport (1970), before retiring completely from acting in the early '70s. She is survived by her sister, Lorraine Grey Heindorf, two nieces and two nephews.
by Michael T. Toole