Doreen MacGregor, Charles Quigley and Rita in a scene from 'Convicted'

A Central Film (1938)
Distributed by Columbia Pictures

Producer: Kenneth J. Bishop
Director: Leon Barsha

Screenplay: Edgar Edwards,
from story, "Face Work", by Cornell Woolrich

Charles Quigley as Burns
Rita Hayworth as Jerry Wheeler
Marc Lawrence as Milton Militis
George McKay as Kane
Doreen MacGregor as Mary Allen
Bill Irving as Cobble-Puss Coley

Black and White, 58 mins. running time

Convicted was filmed in December of 1937 in Canada, wrapping up Rita's first year under contract to Columbia Pictures, a year spent having her picture taken in the portrait gallery and rushing in and out about ten "B" pictures (that were more like B-'s). Convicted was a very low budget "quota quickie" filmed in about two weeks which featured Rita as a rhumba dancer fighting for her brother's life. The screenplay was penned by Edgar Edwards, who also played the brother. Rita worked opposite her most frequent co-star, Charles Quigley, for the last time in Convicted, and although he receives top billing this time around, it's she that gets the most screen time.

The entertainment begins as "Mistress of the Rhumba", Jerry Wheeler (Rita Hayworth) goes into her routine. With castanets clicking and ruffles swirling, she shows she is not any ordinary dance hall girl. But the story begins when the floor show ends. Waiting for Jerry off stage is Mary Allen (Doreen MacGregor), her brother Chick's (Edgar Edwards) long-suffering sweetheart. Mary tells Jerry that Chick is planning to run away with another woman, Ruby Rose (Phyllis Clare). Jerry's always looking out for her brother's interest, so she tries to save Chick from the clutches of the gold-digging Ruby, who has turned him into a crook raising enough money to keep her happy. First Jerry appeals to Ruby to lay off him but she refuses, and she has no better luck trying to talk sense into Chick. His arrangements to run away with Ruby go on as scheduled. But the plan goes terribly wrong. Chick finds Ruby strangled to death in her apartment and when he's discovered alone with the body, trying to revive her, he becomes the sole suspect in the murder case. Jerry knows Ruby was involved with many unsavory characters, and knows someone must have set Chick up. She makes it her mission to crack this puzzling case.

At the trial, the histrionics of Ruby's maid give Jerry a lead as to who to question first, but the mystery surrounding the case becomes even more shrouded when the maid is run down in cold blood. With the help of the cop assigned to the case, Burns (Charles Quigley), Jerry is able to continue her investigation. From an auction of items from Ruby Rose's estate, Jerry obtains a telling note among the possessions that gives her her next lead. The note, addressed to Ruby, warns her not to try to skip town with all the expensive baubles she'd been given. This sets Jerry thinking about a $10,000 bracelet Ruby had shown off to her. The note was signed from Milton Militis (Marc Lawrence), a shady character -the "Nightclub King" and owner of Ruby's apartment building. In order to get close to Militis, Jerry becomes a dancer at one of his establishments, billed simply as "Angel Face", to conceal her identity.

She knows Militis is behind the scheme, but she must find a way to prove it. Remembering the bracelet, along with the note he'd sent to Ruby, Jerry learns from Burns that if she finds the bracelet in his possession, it'll be enough evidence to save Chick and incriminate Militis. Jerry cozies up to him to get in his good graces and arranges to be left alone to search his apartment. But at the last minute, the ruse she'd cooked up goes sour and Militis returns. Some goons he's with recognize "Angel Face" as Jerry Wheeler, sister of the guy they'd set up to take the fall for Ruby's murder. The jig is up -not before she gets the bracelet- but now Militis must to eliminate Jerry. Luckily, an undercover cop (sent by Burns) posing as a patron of the club overhears the plans for Jerry's murder and informs the authorities. Burns arrives in the nick of time and saves her, just as Militis declares that he's going to take care of her the same way he did Ruby. With this confession, he'll be put away for good now and Chick will be set free to return to the devoted Mary Allen. Jerry and Burns find themselves falling for each other as well.

Convicted is no cinematic masterpiece but it's a treasure if only for the fact that it captures a fresh young Rita at this early stage in her career that can be quite hard to find. These quickie films gave the studio's starlets a chance to play the lead in a motion picture and gain experience in their trade. While Rita was sharpening her acting skills in films like Convicted, this one also gave her a chance to display her talents in an art form she had long since mastered -dancing. Her all too brief numbers in Convicted are the picture's highlights.

Rita Hayworth in a scene from 'Convicted'
Rita Hayworth as Jerry Wheeler, in a scene from Convicted.

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