LADY GANGSTER. Warner Brothers, 1942. Faye Emerson, Julie Bishop, Frank Wilcox, Roland Drew, Jackie C. Gleason, Ruth Ford. Based on the play Women in Prison by Dorothy Mackaye and Carlton Miles. Director: Robert Florey (as Florian Roberts).

   A previous movie based on Dorothy Mackaye’s play was entitled Ladies They Talk About, a pre-Code film from 1932 starring Barbara Stanwyck and Preston Foster, also from Warner Brothers. Not having seen the earlier film, I can’t say for sure, but my sense is that Lady Gangster is by far the tamer of the two.

   Faye Emerson plays Dot Burton, a would-be actress who agrees to help a gang of bank robbers pull off their latest job. When the heist goes awry, she’s the only one who’s caught, and even though Kenneth Phillips (Frank Wilcox), a crusading radio commentator knows her from their youth, tries to help, his effort are of no avail, and off to women’s prison she goes.

   But not before she makes off with the loot ($40,000 worth) and hides it away with her landlady for future bargaining power. Even though in prison, not only do both the police and the gang want to know where the money is, but there is an on-and-off romance between Phillips and Dot Burton, complicated by many misunderstandings on both sides.

   It isn’t much of a story, but even though it’s a low budget movie, it’s from Warner Brothers, which means the production values are significantly higher than anything that ever came from a Poverty Row studio. It was interesting for me to see Faye Emerson in an actual movie role. She did just fine, but until now I knew her almost exclusively from her career on TV after the movies, especially game shows such as I’ve Got a Secret.

   Also of note was Jackie Gleason as a getaway driver for the gang, and a fellow who when I saw him slouching on a couch as Phillips’ assistant, I said to myself that he reminded me of Paul Drake on the Perry Mason TV series. Unknown to me at the time, as he wasn’t listed in the credits, that’s who he really was (William Hopper, billed as DeWolf Hopper).