LADY GANGSTER stars Faye Emerson as Dot Burton,an aspiring actress who turns to crime when she can’t get any acting jobs ( as you would!)
The film opens with Dot going into a bank with her dog – she’s a decoy for three gangsters who burst in with guns and rob the bank.They shoot a cop and she is taken to police HQ for questioning.
Frank Wilcox is Ken Phillips,a local broadcaster she used to know. He believes her story that she doesn’t know the robbers.And the District Attorney lets her out on bail in Frank’s custody.
She goes to see Ma Silsby (Vera Lewis), a landlady she boards with and who introduced her to the three robbers. Dot hears them planning a three -way split of the money. The police are heard outside and she sees the threesome hiding the money in a fireplace before they take a powder.
Dot promptly takes the brief case full of money, puts it in a case and gives it to Ma to keep for her.
She tries to tell Ken about the money and being mixed up in the bank robbery but ends up in jail.
The film changes focus to within the women’s prison where Dot is befriended by Myrtle(Julie Bishop)
Ruth Ford is Lucy, a stool pidgeon for the matron ( Virginia Brissac)
Lucy finds out things through ‘Deaf Anne'(Dorothy Adams) who is a very skilled lip reader.
Dot gets a visit from her ‘sister’ – it’s one of the gang saying they will be waiting for her when she gets out. ( Roland Drew dressed in drag is hilarious)
There’s a prison break and a shoot-out at the end.
It’s 62 minutes of constant action, and Faye is is almost every scene. She’s very good. As is Julie Bishop.
It’s directed by French born Robert Florey who also directed Faye in DANGER SIGNAL
The weak link in the film are the men. Frank Wilcox is poor as the love interest for Faye. Only Jackie Gleason as one of the gang is well cast.
I love an IMDB comment about the women’s prison:
“This prison is like something out of Stage Door – with a common area and people knitting,dancing and listening to the radio.”
The New York Times in 1942 called it, “a disagreeable and pointless little film.” A statement which I totally disagree with. With better casting and some re-writing of Faye’s character ,it would have been even better. But the plot is ok.
Barbara Stanwyck’s Ladies They Talk About was based on the same play that Lady Gangster is taken from.
The film is public domain and easy to find.