NINE GIRLS. Columbia, 1944. Ann Harding, Evelyn Keyes, Jinx Falkenburg, Anita Louise, Leslie Brooks, Lynn Merrick, Jeff Donnell, Nina Foch, Shirley Mills, Marcia Mae Jones, Willard Robertson, William Demarest. Based on the play by Wilfred H. Pettitt. Director: Leigh Jason.


   Supposing that you knew that tomboyish Jeff Donnell was sometimes billed as “Miss Jeff Donnell,” or that she played George Gobel’s wife ‘spooky old’ Alice on The George Gobel Show in the mid-1950s, I wouldn’t blame you if you counted up the number of female stars in this movie and found that there were ten. (Alice, by the way, was neither spooky nor old.)

   There is an easy explanation, of course. The nine girls of the title are sorority sisters (including two soon to be pledged), while Ann Harding plays Miss Thornton, their favorite teacher and sorority mother. Anita Louise (playing Paula) has the shortest role in the movie. She’s one of those ultra-cultured creatures who manages to make herself intensely disliked if not hated by each of the other eight girls, and hardly above a little non-sisterly blackmail to get her way.

   Willard Robertson is the State Police officer who investigates Paula’s murder (if you ever see the movie, you will know how infinitely inevitable that event is), while William Demarest plays his dim-witted (and leering) assistant. There is quite a bit to leer at in the movie, too, as all of the girls have quite a variety of clothes to wear, including swim suits. I can’t tell you that this movie, made on a small B-movie budget, was a smash hit at the box office, but with nine girls in it, if it was, I can tell you who the attractions were.

   What I can’t tell you is which girl played what part. Some, those who had larger roles, I can, if you’re interested, but Evelyn Keyes (of Johnny O’Clock fame, among others) had a large portion of the dialogue, and so did tall statuesque Jinx Falkenburg, who probably had the shortest movie career of any of them.


   Lynn Merrick, whom I didn’t know before now, does a smash-up imitation of Katharine Hepburn, but only when there’s a man in the vicinity.

   Nina Foch (also later in Johnny O’Clock) did not have a high billing this early in her career, but she was perhaps the most noticeable of the eight girls, all suspects, cooped up together in a vacation lodge while the police do their thing. (She’s the mousy girl with glasses who was forced by the dead girl to write papers for her.)

   Personally, from the mystery end of things, I think the killer’s identity was revealed 10 or 15 minutes too early, but on the other hand, detection in an isolated manor house is or was not the primary reason this movie was made. View it as a light-hearted high spirited comedy instead, with lots of spooky moments during the night and silly antics and corny jokes all of the rest of time.

   If you enjoy silly antics and corny jokes, you’ll like this movie as much as I did.