Katy’s response to this: Mae West is so weird. It’s true – takes some time to get used to her personality at the start of the movie, as she slowly struts and moans, throwing out quips in a Popeye mutter as everyone who sees her becomes instantly entranced. Then the story gets weird too. Circus star Tira has been dating a rich guy (prolific small-timer Kent Taylor, who’d end up in MST3K-bait in the 1960’s) under the nose of his jealous fiancee Alicia, then dates the rich guy’s rich friend (Cary Grant) instead. Tira ends up suing Grant when he breaks off their engagement due to interference from her pickpocket ex-buddy Slick, acts as her own attorney, winning both the case and Grant. Feels more like she has successfully defended her own promiscuity, coming off as the most sexually liberated woman in movies for thirty years in either direction. The authorities agreed, establishing the production code to shut her up.
I wonder if 12-year-old Jack Clayton (director of The Innocents and Something Wicked This Way Comes) saw Cary Grant’s “Jack Clayton” getting the girl and thought he oughtta get into the picture business.
Just as narratively complicated as The Strawberry Blonde but with 100% less weight – a fluffy Mae West comedy written by a fluffy Mae West and directed by McCarey, who could surely handle this after dealing with the Marx brothers in Duck Soup. Mae gets all the attention, massive hats, punchlines and glamorous lighting, and there’s nothing else to say about the filmmaking – except for one amazing scene. She has given a few bucks to her maid Libby Taylor (also Mae’s maid in I’m No Angel), who goes down to a musical prayer meeting at the river while Mae stands in her window above the river singing her own song – as the songs collide and blend, so do the visuals.
Anyway the plot is ridiculous – Mae likes a boxer (Roger Pryor, son of bandleader Arthur) but pretends to dump him during training and moves to New Orleans where she continues her hit stage show of standing silently in huge costumes subtly moving her hips to rapturous applause (she also sings sometimes). The boxer comes to N.O. to fight the champ, and Mae’s promoter (professional mustachioed villain John Miljan) is ripping her off. Mae spikes her boyfriend’s water, causing him to lose the fight and ruining Miljan financially – then as his theater burns down, the boxer kills Miljan, and somehow all this is okay and they end up together.
There’s also a rich beau, a damsel in distress, and Duke Ellington, who appears on piano but wrote none of the songs. We didn’t know what instrument Duke plays or what he looks like, so weren’t even sure that he was in the movie.
Wikipedia: “A publicity stunt went awry when 50 parrots were trained to shout the original title of It Ain’t No Sin. The parrots were subsequently released in the jungles of South America still repeating ‘it ain’t no sin’ over and over again.”