Created by Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich
Pseudonyms include George Hopley & William Irish
Call it a weakness, but the idea of a stripper sleuth gets me going in all sorts of ways. And this no doubt unhealthy and definitely adolescent obsession started with a short story read at a tender young age that I still can’t seem to shake. Yeah, stripper sleuths — they’re not usually private eyes, but hey, they take their clothes off!
Cornell Woolrich’s JERRY “ANGEL FACE” WHEELER is a stripper who turns gumshoe to save her kid brother Chick from a murder frame-up in “Face Work,” a frequently-anthologized short story that first appeared in the October 1937 issue of Black Mask (predating Gypsy Rose Lee’s The G-String Murders by a few years). Of course, while her heart’s in the right place, Jerry’s no angel–she’s willing to do almost anything (wink, wink) to save her brother from the chair.
The story proved popular enough that it was filmed the next year as Convicted, starring an up-and-coming actress named Rita Hayworth. You may have heard of her.
The film itself sounds interesting, although it definitely diverged from the original story. Jerry is no longer a stripper, but a castanet-clicking, ruffle-swirling dancer known as “Mistress of the Rhumba.” And although she doesn’t even get star billing (that “honour” goes to Charles Quigley), it’s Hayworth who nabs most of the screentime, and it’s her dance routines that supposedly are the highlight of this seldom-seen film, shot in less than two weeks in British Columbia, Canada, to fulfill Hayworth’s contract at Columbia.
It was also a “quota quickie,” an American reaction to Britain’s attempt to protect its fledgling film industry from foreign (ie: American) domination. Hollywood got around the quota system by quickly setting up a studio in Victoria, B.C. and cranking out a series of mostly appalling B films. Britain soon got wise and excluded Commonwealth films (Canada, of course, being part of the Commonwealth) from the quota count, and the Americans soon closed up shop, and went home. But not before producer Kenneth J. Bishop cranked out a dozen or so of them, including several crime films such as The Secrets of Chinatown, and a couple featuring Theodore Tinsley’s gossip columnist sleuth, Jerry Tracy. It should be noted, by the way, that Convicted was the first-ever Cornell Woolrich adaptation.
- “Face Work” (October 1937, Black Mask; aka “Angel Face,” “One Night in New York”)
- CONVICTED | Watch it now!
- (1938, Columbia)
Black & white
Screenplay by Edgar Edwards
Based on the short story “Face Work” by Cornell Woolrich
Directed by Leon Barsha
Produced by Kenneth J. Bishop
Starring Charles Quigley as Burns
and Rita Hayworth as JERRY WHEELER
Also starring Marc Lawrence, George McKay, Doreen MacGregor, Bill Irving, Eddie Laughton, Edgar Edwards, Phyllis Clare
- Pole Positions
- Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess
A fantastic site for all things Rita, and the source for the swiped photo above, a still from Convicted. The site’s a real labour of love (I recognize the symptons) and well worth a visit for fans. Recommended.