FORTY NAUGHTY GIRLS. RKO Radio Pictures, 1937. James Gleason, Zasu Pitts, Marjorie Lord, George Shelley, Joan Woodbury, Frank M. Thomas, Tom Kennedy, Edward Marr. Based on the story “The Riddle of the Forty Naughty Girls” by Stuart Palmer in Mystery, July 1934. Director: Edward F. Cline.

   I know some of you may like Tom Kennedy’s lowbrow comedy performances, especially as dumb cops in movies like this and the Torchy Blaine serie, among dozens of others, if not more, and so do I, in small doses. But in Forty Naughty Girls, reportedly a Hildegarde Withers and Inspector Piper detective mystery, he should get third billing, he has so many lines, rather than way down the list of credits where you will actually find him.

   The murder of a press agent for a Broadway musical who’s a man with too many ladies takes place during one of the performances of said play, with the solution coming just as the play is over for the evening. No thanks to Inspector Piper’s deductive techniques, however. His approach is to accuse someone of the crime only to discover (Miss Withers does a lot of whispering in his ear) that he’s way off base and his case just doesn’t hold up.

   Miss Withers, on the other hand, does a lot of sniffing around on her own — literally, as she is on the scent of a perfume she smells on the dead man’s clothing. She also finds herself in the prop room under the stage, to much would-be hilarity, but not from me, and of course, with Tom Kennedy’s character around to pull the wrong lever, she finds herself on stage during a dance number, much to her surprise, but lose her aplomb, does she? In a word, no.

   This is the last movie of six adventures of Miss Withers recorded on film, and the second of two with Miss Pitts, she of the fluttering hands and the quavering voice. She was also in the preceding one, The Plot Thickens, reviewed here. Compared to this one, the preceding one was not bad. This one? Abysmal.