Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I'm No Angel (1933)

Director: Wesley Ruggles
USA 1933
87 min

Yes, I'm quite into pre-code right now. So blame me.

It's time for another Mae West-written 1933 comedy starring herself and Cary Grant - and this time an even better one than She Done Him Wrong! At least in my opinion.

West plays Tira, a seducing circus performer swaying her hips "north, south, east and west" (don't know about that, but her body language sure oozes sex). Behind the stage her favourite waste of time is finding rich men and using them. In one of the first scenes she even gives an unforgettable advice to a young friend of hers:

Always remember, honey. A good motto is: "Take all you can get and give as little as possible". Don't forget, honey. Never let one man worry your mind. Find 'em, fool 'em and forget 'em!

That is a dangerous lady! And of course, the Hays office had a lot to say about this one. For instance they had to change the title of a song from "Nobody Does It Like A Dallas Man" to "Nobody Loves Me Like A Dallas Man". But grieve not - there are so many obvious sex insinuation in this film that you loose the count after only a couple of minutes.

Cary Grant appears as a rich, genuine man named Jack Clayton, who manages to grab Tira's heart for real. But of course, there are many men from Tira's past that want to stand in the way of her romance - not to mention the head of the circus, who doesn't want to loose his main attraction to something as trivial as marriage. They manage to frame both Tira and Clayton, leading to a misunderstanding that cancel their marriage plans. What follows is one of the most entertaining courtroom scenes I've ever seen in a comedy, full of snappy dialogue and wise cracks.


How could one not love this meaty, seductive female version of Groucho Marx? I recently read an (unintentionally) amusing blog post from som crappy blogger, accusing Mae West of not writing her own screenplays. Why? "Mae West was illiterate, and told other people what to write down, and then she took the credit for their work."
Aaallright... So if Dostoevsky had read Crime and Punishment aloud for me, and I had written it down - would I be the author of that masterpiece? Oh, it would have made me so sore if he took the credit for my work, then. Fucking idiot.

I've also read that many hate West's singing voice. Why? It's got swing in it, power and character. The last two films I've seen with her, I've never been bored with one musical number. I like it!

Tira and her monkey. "Beulah, peel me a grape."

Anyway, I have fallen for Mae West. And the fact that she's rather cram herself into those nasty corsets than loosing weight, becoming a sex goddess woth that healthy figure, and continuing seducing men, much younger than she, on-screen well into her 80's. She was 85 when she seduces a 34 year old Timothy Dalton in the, apparantly very bad, film Sextette (1978). By then, she was known as "The Queen of Camp". Now, isn't that something? She really loves herself, and that's what's so admiring. At least when it's well-deserved.

Okay, so any favourite scenes of mine from this film? The whole picture is pure delight (I gave it a 9 out of ten on IMDb), but some comical tops are:
  • Clayton's first visit at Tira's apartment, when he awkwardly tries to say goodbye to her, just as he understands that she wouldn't mind him staying a bit longer. Those seconds of ambivalence are just hilarious.
  • All scenes with the three black maidens. Sure, they're stereotypical black women, but that's what makes it so great. They really love their employer, giggling every time she receives another phone call from a man, or a knock on the door. The dialogue between them and West is top notch.
    "I always thought of you as a one man woman!"
    "Yeah, sure... One man at a time."
  • Clayton, when he can't help laughing at Tira's wise cracks in the courtroom scene. He can't help it, he adores her.
  • The short Nat Pendleton appearance, as Harry the acrobat, one of Tira's many admirers. Seriously, WAS he in every 1930's movie there was? I don't mind it though, he's an underestimated supporting actor. Always looking like he has more muscles than brains.


Jack Clayton: You were wonderful tonight.
Tira: Yeah, I'm always wonderful at night.
Jack Clayton: Tonight, you were especially good.
Tira: Well... When I'm good, I'm very good. But, when I'm bad...
[winks at Jack]
Tira: I'm better.

Tira: What do you do for a living?
Ernest Brown: Oh, uh, sort of a politician.
Tira: I don't like work either.

Rajah the Fortune Teller: I see a man in your life.
Tira: What? Only one?

Jack Clayton: Oh I'm crazy about you.
Tira: I did my best to make you that way.
Jack Clayton: Look darling, you need a rest, and so do I. Let me take you away somewhere, we'll...
Tira: Would you call that a rest?
Jack Clayton: What are you thinking about?
Tira: Same thing you are.

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