Fashion Model (1945): A Comedy Murder Mystery?
In the 1940s, a genre that combined buffoonery and murder was popular, and yet—following exhaustive research (I tire easily)—I am unable to find what that genre, or subgenre was named. The films were mostly comic relief held together by a string of murders. Usually a cute gal and a cute guy (or Abbott and Costello) set about the task of solving a murder because one of them is the chief suspect. Fashion Model, directed by William Beaudine, is such a film.
Hallmarks of the genre include bumbling—even stupid—police detectives, bloodless murders committed off-camera, and a lot of silliness as the two main characters attempt to elude the police (often by donning outrageous disguises) and solve the crimes. Oh, yes, there should also be rich people and mansions; if there are no rich people, then allegedly haunted mansions. Logic does not play a large part in these films because the point is comedy. The comedy isn’t strong enough to sustain an entire feature length film (which may explain why some were so short), and the mystery gives it substance and direction.
The audience is advised that Fashion Model is not to be taken seriously by a very early scene in which two (yes, two!) fashion models engage in a cat fight over a stock boy. Running only 62 minutes, the movie includes three murders, missing jewels, a detective who couldn’t have gotten past third grade no less through cop school, the chief detective who is maybe a gram smarter, a cute couple, several bushels of corn, and the requisite rich people.
Fashion Model is a pleasant movie; besides murder, there is absolutely nothing one could find disagreeable (except a shirtless, out-of-shape man, but that’s splitting hairs). There’s quite a bit of slapstick involving drinkers, mannequins, and costumes, and much of the dialogue is “smart talk”—what your mother was referring to when she said, “don’t get smart with me.” While it would be interesting to hear someone mouth off to the police the way the two central (and innocent) characters do, one suspects that the comments would be very poorly received.Continued on the next page