Murder at the Vanities

Murder at the Vanities is a 1934 American Pre-Code musical film based on the 1933 Broadway show with music by Victor Young. It was released by Paramount Pictures. It was directed by Mitchell Leisen, stars Victor McLaglen, Carl Brisson, Jack Oakie, Kitty Carlisle, Gertrude Michael, Toby Wing, and Jessie Ralph. Duke Ellington and His Orchestra are featured in the elaborate "Ebony Rhapsody" number.

Murder at the Vanities
Poster from 1934's Murder at the Vanities.jpg
Directed byMitchell Leisen
Written by
Based onEarl Carroll's Vanities
by Earl Carroll and Rufus King
Produced byE. Lloyd Sheldon (uncredited)
CinematographyLeo Tover
Edited byWilliam Shea (uncredited)
Music byHoward Jackson (uncredited)
William E. Lynch (uncredited)
Milan Roder (uncredited)
Release date
  • May 21, 1934 (1934-05-21)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film is primarily a musical, based on Earl Carroll's long-running Broadway revue Earl Carroll's Vanities, combined with a murder mystery. Songs featured in the film by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow include "Cocktails for Two" sung by Brisson, "Sweet Marijuana" sung by Michael, "Where Do They Come From (and Where Do They Go)" sung by Carlisle, and "Ebony Rhapsody" performed by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra and sung by Michael. In the film, Lucille Ball, Ann Sheridan, and Virginia Davis had small roles as chorines. It was released on DVD (as part of a six-disc set entitled "Pre-Code Hollywood Collection") on April 7, 2009.[1]


Jack Ellery is staging a lavish musical revue, starring Eric Lander, Ann Ware, and Rita Ross, supported by a cast of a hundred background singers/dancers (almost all women, and many scantily clad) and two full orchestras. On opening night, just before the show, somebody tries to kill Ware several times. Ellery calls in police lieutenant Murdock of the homicide squad to investigate. During the show a private detective and then Rita are murdered. Ellery hides this from the rest of the performers, claiming the victims are just sick, and talks Murdock into investigating while the revue continues on, otherwise Ellery will go broke.

Several twists and turns follow, but finally the murders are solved just after the show ends. In the last scene, Nancy, a squeaky pretty blonde showgirl, finally gets to tell Ellery and Murdock what she has attempted to tell Ellery several times throughout the show. However, he kept putting her off, she was just trying to gain his attention, and he was too busy staging the show. She actually had a vital piece of information that would have solved the first murder much sooner, and might have prevented the second murder. Now that the show is over and a success, Ellery's attention is finally on her, and they go out for the night to celebrate. She giggles once again and moves off stage left in front of him, and then Oakie breaks the fourth wall just momentarily, looking into the camera with a devilish grin, before he follows her.



The film was a box office disappointment for Paramount.[2]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 75% based on 8 critics, with an average rating of 7.1/10.[3]

Craig Butler of AllMovie called the it "not a great film by any means, but it's a great deal of fun".[4]

Variety wrote "Herein they mix up the elements of a musical show and a murder mystery, with effective comedy to flavor, and come out with 95 minutes of entertainment that should genuinely satisfy".[5]


  1. ^ Film profile,; accessed June 28, 2015.
  2. ^ D. W. (November 25, 1934). "Taking a Look at the Record". The New York Times. ProQuest 101193306.
  3. ^ "Murder at the Vanitiesy (1937)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 14, 2021.
  4. ^ Butler, Craig. "Murder at the Vanities". AllMovie. Retrieved October 14, 2021.
  5. ^ "Murder at the Vanities". Variety. December 31, 1933.

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