Musical Monday: Murder in the Blue Room (1944)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Murder in the Blue Room (1944)– Musical No. 614

Studio: Universal

Director: Leslie Goodwins

Anne Gwynne, Donald Cook, John Litel, Grace McDonald, Betty Kean, June Preisser, Regis Toomey, Nella Walker, Andrew Tombes, Ian Wolfe, Bill Williams (as Bill MacWilliams), Frank Marlowe, Milton Parsons (uncredited), Alice Draper (uncredited), Victoria Horne (uncredited)

Twenty years ago, Nan’s (Gwynne) father was found dead in the Blue Room of the family home. For the first time since then, Nan and her mother open up the house and Nan invites her jazz singing friends to perform, the Jazzybelles (McDonald, Kean, Preisser). When one of the guests (Williams) wants to stay in the Blue Room, he is missing the next morning and everyone has to stay in the house for the investigation.

• Popular swing singer Martha Tilton dubbed Anne Gwynne.
• Bill Williams’s first films. He is billed as Bill MacWilliams.
• A version of the films: Geheimnis des blauen Zimmers (1932), Secret of the Blue Room (1933) and The Missing Guest (1938).
• The Ritz Brothers were originally supposed to be the comedic duo, but were replaced by a comedic female jazz singing trio, performed by Grace McDonald, Betty Kean and June Preisser.

Notable Songs:
• “A Doo-Dee-Doo-Doo” performed by Grace McDonald, Betty Kean and June Preisser
• “The Boogie Woogie Boogie Man” performed by Grace McDonald, Betty Kean and June Preisser
• “One Starry Night” performed by Anne Gwynne, dubbed by Martha Tilton

My review:
Mixing mystery, murder and swing music may not seem like a likely trio, but that is just what is wrapped up in this week’s Musical Monday, “Murder in the Blue Room.”

It’s difficult to find a murder or ghostly themed musical. But this film and last year’s Halloween Musical “You’ll Find Out,” fit the bill.

In “Murder in the Blue Room,” Nan’s father committed suicide in the Blue Room of the family home 20 years before. 20 years later, Nan, her mother and stepfather (Anne Gwynne, Nella Walker, John Litel) decide to reopen the home and throw a party. Nan’s mother never believed that her husband committed suicide, but there was no way in or out of the room. When one of the guests Larry (Bill Williams) is killed that night in the Blue Room, everyone has to stay in the house until the murder is solved. This includes Nan’s show business friends, Betty, Peggy and Jerry – who form the Jazzybelles swing group. Those in the home include:
• Mr. and Mrs. Baldrich, Nan’s mother and stepfather. Played by Nella Walker and John Litel.
• Steve, an author and boyfriend of Nan. Played by Donald Cook.
• Dr. Carroll, the local family physician and family friend. Played by Andrew Tombes.
• Edwards the Butler, played by Ian Wolfe.

The Jazzybelles, Grace McDonald, Betty Kean, June Preisser

While Anne Gwynne has top billing in this film, the stars with the most screentime are Grace McDonald, Betty Kean and June Preisser as their comedic singing duo, the Jazzybelles. Betty Kean does most of the talking for the group and is the funny one. Kean’s lines and mannerisms reminded me of Joan Davis.

June Preisser performers her rubber-like gymnastic dances moves, but has the fewest lines. Grace McDonald gets to demonstrate her dance moves as well. One fun song the Jazzybelles sing has to do with the Boogie Man with their large shadows up on the wall.

Originally, this comedic trio was supposed to be played by The Ritz Brothers. Thank goodness it wasn’t.

This is a great musical for Halloween – it has swing music, humor, murder, mystery and a ghost. It’s unusual to have those elements with music mixed in, but it makes for a lighthearted but also creepy story.

At a brisk 60 minutes, “Murder in the Blue Room” is a fun musical for the Halloween season.

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