The Lucky Stiff

The Lucky Stiff is a 1949 American comedy crime film directed by Lewis R. Foster, starring Dorothy Lamour, Brian Donlevy, and Claire Trevor.[1] The film is based on the 1945 novel of the same name by Craig Rice.

The Lucky Stiff
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLewis R. Foster
Produced byJack Benny
William T. Lackey
Screenplay byLewis R. Foster
Based onthe novel The Lucky Stiff
by Craig Rice
StarringDorothy Lamour
Brian Donlevy
Claire Trevor
Music byHeinz Roemheld
CinematographyErnest Laszlo
Edited byHoward A. Smith
Amusement Enterprises
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • January 22, 1949 (1949-01-22) (New York City, New York)
  • May 26, 1949 (1949-05-26) (United States)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Lucky Stiff was produced by famous comedian Jack Benny, the only feature film he ever produced, through his production company, Amusement Enterprises.


Lawyer John Malone (Donlevy) is an ardent admirer of the sultry night-club singer Anna Marie St. Clair (Lamour). After meeting her at the club, he is present when her boss is killed, and she is arrested for the crime. Anna Marie is sentenced to death, so Malone and his secretary Maggie Seaton (Trevor) set out to find the real murderer, who is probably also responsible for a protection racket Malone is investigating.

At the last possible moment, Anna Marie is saved from execution. When she learns that the newspapers have reported that she is dead, she decides to use her status as a "corpse" to her advantage. Millie Dale, her replacement at the nightclub, is also killed. Malone concludes that nightclub owner Eddie Britt has been behind the scheme all along but that Anna Marie, in love with Britt, was also complicit. Police inspector Von Flanagan ends up placing Anna Marie back under arrest, while Malone places a kiss on Maggie.


Production history

Craig Rice has turned many of her novels into films before like Having Wonderful Crime (1945) and Home Sweet Homicide (1946).[2] Rice’s “The Lucky Stiff,” which was released in 1945 was another addition to the hit mystery series that included the famous character, John J. Malone. Amusement Enterprises, which was founded by the producer of the film, Jack Benny, did their first and only production on this film. Lewis R. Foster was to write and direct the movie, Ernest Laszlo had the job of Cinematographer, and Howard Smith was the Editor of the film. Furthermore, Lewis H. Creber was the art director, Alfred Kegerris was the set decorator, Odette Myrtil was in charge of costumes, music was handled by Heinz Roemheld and David Chudnow, the sound of the film was done by William Fox, and the dance was staged by Eddie Prinz. The film included the song, “Loneliness” by Victor Young and Ned Washington.

The film was released on January 22, 1949, and in April of 1949, a Human Resource news item reported that the film lost $400,000,[3] which caused CBS, who had purchased the production company from Benny, to sue Benny. Additionally, in August of 1948 Human Resources had Irmgard Dawson, Crane Whitely, Jack Shea, Bert Stevens, Barbara Stone, and Jim Nolan in the cast for the film, but they were never seen on the released film. Lastly, this film was Billy Vine’s first appearance on the big screen.


  1. The Lucky Stiff at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. Craig Rice. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  3. AFI CATALOG OF FEATURE FILMS. (n.d.). Retrieved from
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