Belle of the Nineties (1934)

 “Some of the wildest men make the best pets.”

In Belle of the Nineties, Mae West plays Ruby Carter–a singer whose romance with boxer, the Tiger Kid (Roger Pryor) ends abruptly and badly. Ruby leaves for New Orleans and begins singing in the nightclub the Sensation House owned by shady Ace Lamont (John Miljan). Lamont has his beady eyes on Ruby, but she has bigger fish to fry–a new wealthy suitor who lavishes Ruby with expensive gifts–including a stunning diamond necklace.

belle-of-the-ninetiesLamont’s in-house girlfriend, Molly Brant (Katherine DeMille) jealously watches as Ruby Carter moves into the Sensation House and Lamont begins falling all over himself trying to win Ruby’s attention. When Lamont finally gets the hint that Ruby isn’t interested in him, he plots his revenge.

Belle of the Nineties isn’t typical Mae West fare–the film contains a bittersweet edge thanks to Ruby’s painful experience with the Tiger Kid. Mae West’s character, Ruby Carter, shows a sentimental side that is absent from the typical Mae West vehicle. In Belle of the Nineties, she’s still funny–but not quite as hard-edged, and she definitely possesses a heart. Duke Ellington and his band were handpicked by West to appear as the Sensation House band, and the film offers a rich selection of Mae West songs–St Louis Woman, Scandalizing My Name, and My Old Flame. From director Leo McCarey.

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