I’m No Angel (1933)

 “It’s not the men in your life that count. It’s the life in your men.”

no-angelIn I’m No Angel  Tira (Mae West) is a circus performer who catapults to fame with a lion tamer act on Broadway. The boldness of sticking her head in a lion’s mouth attracts the attentions of some ‘swells’, and soon Tira is racking up expensive gifts from wealthy Kirk Lawrence (Kent Taylor)–jewels, gowns from Paris, and a penthouse apartment. Lawrence’s obsession with Tira alarms both his snooty fiancee, Alicia Hatton (Gertrude Michael) and his stuffy cousin, Jack Clayton (Cary Grant). Tira makes short work of Hatton (“A better dame than you once called me a liar, and they had to sew her up in 12 places”). Clayton doesn’t quite know what to make of Tira, and soon there’s another smouldering romance.

If you are a Mae West fan, and you haven’t seen this one, grab a copy and prepare yourself for a great display of exactly what makes Mae West a unique performer. How does someone slither across the stage while barely moving? Here, she’s a maneater who leaves a line of men in her wake. Whooping it up with her maids, she brags about “thinking about putting in a filing system” to organize all the men in her life. The film includes some great touches, including Tira’s use of a particular song to impress her men (No One Loves Me Like that Dallas Man). She changes the city in the title depending on who’s she’s currently involved with.

Tira is a powerful, sexually liberated character who isn’t embarrassed to admit having a “colourful past.” She saunters and wisecracks her way across the stage in outrageous costumes (she has a sparkly spider web train the first time she meets Cary Grant). In one scene she wears a partially see-through clingy gown and gives the circus attendees a preview with a few wiggles of her hips. In the best scene in the film, she cross-examines witnesses in a breach of promise case. After a few direct questions, the witnesses–mainly previous lovers trouped into court to damage Tira’s reputation–are mincemeat.

Mae West monopolizes this comedy film–whether she’s performing “Sister Honky Tonk”, swinging her beads as she swaggers in front of the jury, or delivering her suggestive one-liners, she’s magnificent. I’m No Angel is one of Mae West’s best films, and the script (pre-code) allows her talent free reign. The film contains some memorable lines: “Never let one man worry your mind.” “Find ’em, fool ’em, and forget ’em.” “Take all you can get and give as little as possible.” “Marriage is a new kind of racket for me.” “When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.” This is quintessential Mae West–don’t miss it. From director Wesley Ruggles.

“With the right kind of encouragement, she’ll throw discretion to the winds, and her hips to the North, South, East and West.

“Somewhere, there’s a guy with a million waiting for a dame like me.”

“Don’t worry. I ain’t gonna hurt him. I only want to feel his muscles.”

“A better dame than you once called me a liar, and they had to sew her up in 12 different places. You’re lucky that I’m a little more refined than I used to be. And if you was as much of a lady as I am, you’d get out of here before I get real sore.”

“I don’t show my good points to strangers.”

“Oh, Beulah, peel me a grape.”

Songs:

They Call Me Sister Honky Tonk

I Found a New Way to Go to Town

I Want You, I Need You

I’m No Angel

No One Loves Me Like That Dallas Man

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