Lloyd Nolan stars as Mike Shayne in Dressed to Kill (1941), in which he becomes embroiled in an entertaining little murder mystery on the eve of his wedding. His bride-to-be, Joanne (Mary Beth Hughes) is a performer in a burlesque theater, and a resident of the Hotel Du Nord next door. As they are leaving to get hitched, a maid’s scream alert Shayne to the demise of one of the hotel’s residents and his guest.
Said resident has occupied an upper apartment for years, and even had a number of secret passageways to the theater next door installed, where his last successful show closed decades before. Immediately, suspicion falls upon his former cast mates, who in one manner or another are slowly being eliminated.
The film is hardly as charming as the Thin Man films, nor as cerebral as any Sherlock Holmes adventure. It’s a sugar cookie of a movie, hardly satisfying or nutritious, merely intended to satisfy a momentary craving for a simple murder mystery
Mike befriends a down-on-her-luck prostitute who is later found murdered, and the unique ring she wore is missing. It would appear the ring is a piece from a collection of jewels smuggled out of France following the war. Determined to get to the bottom of her killing, Mike follows leads that take him from one end of the social spectrum to the other. Most of those he encounters along the way have a nasty way of ending up dead.
The script is a bit suspect, leaving a few plot threads unresolved, but the film is so steeped in classic LA film noir, complete with mid-1950s jazz and dimly lit, cramped sets, that most fans of the genre might be forgiving. I enjoyed it, but your mileage may vary.