Lured is about a man who likes to send the police cryptic poems about certain women before they disappear. Only after these women have been reported missing are the police able to figure out that they were the ones in the poems. So far, eight women have vanished in this fashion.
Sandra Carpenter (Lucille Ball) is a dime-a-dance girl, or rather, since the story is set in London, make that a six-pence-a-dance girl. A coworker tells her she has answered an ad in the personal column from a good-looking man from a good family, and that she is going to quit her job and go away with him. Sandra tells her that is dangerous, but her friend says she is not worried as long as she has her bracelet with elephants as a good-luck charm. The next night, her friend disappears.
Sandra goes to Scotland Yard and talks to Inspector Temple (Charles Coburn). They soon realize that Sandra’s friend is the woman in the most recent poem, which referred to elephants. Sandra agrees to work for Scotland Yard as bait by answering every ad in the personal column that seems as though it might be from the man they are looking for.
Just before Sandra’s friend disappeared, she had made an appointment to audition for Robert Fleming (George Sanders), who is looking for dancers for one of his night clubs. He has a partner, Julian Wilde (Cedric Hardwicke), who functions as his secretary and accountant, and who lives in the same house with Fleming. Eventually, Sandra and Fleming fall in love and plan to marry. But before that happens, she answers several ads with no result.
Finally, she goes to work as a maid where she is introduced to Dr. Nicholas Moryani (Joseph Calleia), who is looking for women willing to go to South America. The women are forced to become night club hostesses or servants. But after Temple has him arrested, he says that Moryani would not have bothered with cryptic poems in carrying out his enterprise, and the killer or abductor they are looking for is still out there.
After incriminating evidence is found in Fleming’s desk drawer, he is arrested. But the real killer turns out to be Julian, of course. He killed the women because he was jealous that they preferred Fleming over him.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this movie is the way it gives people acceptable motives by the censorship standards of the day, when we can readily discern the real motives that are at work. In various ways, Julian is coded as a homosexual. His last name is Wilde, the same as that of Oscar Wilde, the notorious homosexual of the nineteenth century. He often holds a cigarette between his thumb and several fingers rather than between his index and middle finger, the way most people do. It has an effeminate look. And reading poetry was another subtle indicator of homosexuality in old movies. In other words, Julian killed beautiful women because he hated the fact that Fleming was attracted to them instead of to him.
Also, the idea that the women were shipped all the way to South America just to be hostesses and maids is laughable. Such women would have been forced into prostitution.