Sunday, July 12, 2015

Behind the Scenes: New York Times' 1933 Review of "I'm No Angel"

This week at the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival presented by Bank of America, we're screening the 1933 musical comedy "I'm No Angel," starring Mae West and Cary Grant. Below, enjoy the New York Times' review of the film, originally published on October 14, 1933.

Arrayed in a variety of costumes which set off her sinuous form, Mae West is appearing at the Paramount in her latest screen vehicle, "I'm No Angel," a title which, as might be surmised, fits the leading character. Here Miss West, who wrote the story herself from "suggestions contributed" by Lowell Brentano, is beheld as a circus beauty named Tira, who wins applause and admiration by risking her blond head in a lion's mouth twice daily.

It is a rapid-fire entertainment, with shameless but thoroughly contagious humor, and one in which Tira is always the mistress of the situation, whether it be in the cage with wild beasts, in her boudoir with admirers or in a court of law.

Tira is ever ready with a flip double entendre and she permits no skeleton to be found behind her cupboard doors. She has an emphatic personality, which proves a magnet for even social lights with millions. She receives costly presents, including diamond necklaces, but she is hardly a gold-digger. She refrains from posing, preferring to keep to her natural slangy speech in her journey through the story from a tent to a penthouse.

Image from IMDB.

She admits that she has thrown discretion to the winds and she sometimes finds herself in an awkward predicament, but through a wily lawyer she succeeds in proving that she is guiltless. The feeble parts of this picture are those in which a criminal known as Slick is introduced. The less one sees of him the better one feels, for the production is interesting only as long as it proceeds on its merry route.

The glimpses of Tira making her impressive entry to the circus arena and then proceeding to the big cage with the roaring lions are depicted shrewdly. Tira does not actually stick her whole head in the lion's mouth, but contents herself by putting her face between the beast's jaws, which is quite enough. Even this is set forth with a certain degree of fun, and one feels that Tira probably has a pistol ready for an emergency and that other circus employees are ready to shoot in the event that the beast starts to close its mouth. But one is apt to wonder whether they could possibly be quick enough. Society among the spectators is thrilled, all except one snobbish girl, who is furious because her fiance is very enthusiastic over the performer's courage—and her beauty.

Later there comes the time when Tira puts her fair head into a court of law as the plaintiff in a breach-of-promise case. She sues Jack Clayton, whom she really loves, for $1,000,000, and it is not Tira's artful counsel who wins the case, but the circus queen herself. She cross examines the defendant's witnesses and turns their testimony in her own favor, the unusual proceeding being countenanced by a judge whose sympathy Tira wins with the utmost ease.

Miss West plays her part with the same brightness and naturalness that attended her second film role. There is no lack of spontaneity in her actions or in the utterance of her lines. She is a remarkable wit, after her fashion. Cary Grant is pleasing as Clayton and Walter Walker is excellent as the considerate old judge. Gregory Ratoff does well as Tira's lawyer. Wesley Ruggles has directed the film with his usual intelligence.

HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival presented by Bank of America 
Mondays, June 22 - August 24
Lawn opens at 5pm

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