Lady Gangster (1942)

“I like women who ain’t all sawdust inside.”

Dorothy Burton (Faye Emerson), a failed actress, is hired by a gang of bank robbers. Her job is to get inside the bank before it opens–with the gang following closely behind. Dorothy certainly looks respectable enough, but the robbery goes wrong, and Dorothy is left to take the rap. The police don’t believe Dorothy’s protestations that she just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Radio personality, Kenneth Phillips comes to Dorothy’s rescue, and he negotiates a good behaviour release. Dorothy’s tentative release goes wrong and she ends up in the slammer.

Lady Gangster is a B-film. The title and the plot seem attractive, but the film is mediocre. The strongest character here is Dorothy, but unfortunately the script doesn’t make her wicked enough, and moments of remorse weaken the plot. At times, she’s as hard as nails, and she manages to fool Phillips–but not the police or the prison warden. Jackie Gleason appears in a small role as Wilson, one of the bank robbers. Some of the best scenes take place in the women’s prison–with female prisoners coming to blows over the ironing board. There’s also a cross-dressing gang member who adds to the fun. For gangster film fans, Lady Gangster is a decent way to spend an evening, but the lack of dramatic tension weakens the film. From director Robert Florey.

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