The Lady Confesses, 1945. 7/10

Pretty good murder mystery. Mary Beth Hughes gives a convincing performance as Vicki, the earnest fiancee of Larry (Hugh Beaumont). They seem like a normal, happy couple. Larry’s problem is that he has a wife already (Barbara Slater as Norma); once she’s back in town he has to do something.

Once Norma turns up dead, the plot works nicely to point the finger at a sleazy nightclub owner, Lucky (Edmund MacDonald). Larry and Vicki seem to have rock-solid alibis; Lucille (Claudia Drake), meanwhile, as a singer in Lucky’s nightclub, and Larry’s friend, continues to loom in the background.

Since Norma has invested in the nightclub, she appears to have some tie to Lucky as well. The ending has some good surprises; but there are hints early on that Lucille and Larry are up to something. Each of the main characters has a motive. That helps keep the mystery churning, but some angles don’t add up.

Why would Lucille agree to help Larry get rid of his wife? Even if she has a grudge against Lucky, how is Norma’s death going to help Lucille? It would only make sense if she thought she had the inside track on Larry, but he just uses her. He’s definitely in love with Vicki. The idea to frame Lucky is smart, though, and almost works.

The other issue is Vicki’s reckless enthusiasm for ‘infiltrating’ the nightclub by getting a job there. The only explanation is that she’s really not sure about Larry. Although she finds out that Lucille is in danger, she doesn’t figure out who the killer is until Larry actually attacks her.

Since the entire plot is driven by Larry’s desire to marry Vicki, it’s bizarre that he eventually wants to get rid of her too. She tells him what she knows of Lucille’s murder–just vague details; nothing that could incriminate him. She notices the sudden chill in his demeanor, but, somewhat naively, she doesn’t see through it.

Still, this is a good mystery; fast-paced, with even performances, and a sort of partial-noir atmosphere. Worth checking out. 7/10.

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