Pole Positions: Stripper Detectives!

Jerry Wheeler
Created by Cornell Woolrich

Live! Naked! Detecting!

Call it a weakness, but the idea of a stripper sleuth gets me going in all sorts of ways. And this no doubt unhealthy and definitely adolescent obsession started with a short story read at a tender young age, that I still can't seem to shake. Yeah, stripper sleuths -- they're not usually private eyes, but they take their clothes off!

Cornell Woolrich's JERRY WHEELER is a stripper who turns gumshoe to save her kid brother Chick from a frame-up in "Face Work," a frequently-anthologized short story that first appeared in the October 1937 issue of Black Mask, and was filmed the next year as Convicted, starring an up-and-coming actress named Rita Hayworth.

The film itself sounds interesting, although it does seem to have diverged from the original story. It was filmed in less than two weeks in British Columbia, Canada, to fulfill her contract at Columbia. It was a "quota quickie," an American reaction to Britain's attempt to protect its fledgling film industry from foreign (ie: American) domination. Hollywood got around the quota system by quickly setting up a studio in Victoria, B.C. and cranking out a series of mostly appalling B films, AKA "quota quickies". Britain soon got wise and excluded Commonwealth films (Canada, of course, being part of the Commonwealth) from the quota count, and the americans soon closed up shop.

Anyway, in Convicted, Jerry is no longer a stripper, but a dancer, the castanet-clicking, ruffle-swirling"Mistress of the Rhumba" no less. And although she doesn't get star billing (that "honour" goes to Charles Quigley), it's Hayworth who nabs most of the screentime, and its her dance routines that supposedly are the highlight of this seldom-seen film.




Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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