The Heat’s On (1943)

 “Doesn’t your conscience ever bother you?”

heatThe Heat’s On (AKA Tropicana) is a sly knock at censorship and how it affects the entertainment industry. Broadway legend Fay Lawrence (Mae West) is in Indiscretions–a show that’s destined to flop–until producer Tony Ferris (William Gaxton) gets the bright idea to get some free publicity on an indecency issue. Ferris develops this idea after bumbling Hubert Bainbridge (Victor Moore) approaches Ferris and asks him to give his niece, Janey (Mary Roche) a spot in one of his shows. Ferris dismisses the idea until he discovers that Hubert Bainbridge is one of the members of the Bainbridge Foundation–an organisation devoted to ‘cleaning up’ Broadway. Ferris promises to get Janey a part if Bainbridge has the police raid the show and close it for one night.

The plan goes only too well, and the show is closed permanently. Consequently, Fay, who wasn’t thrilled with either the show or Ferris, moves on to another theatre. Ferris schemes to get her back and recoup his fortunes in another show.

Mae West was 50 years old when she made the film, and she looks wonderful. In 1943, she’d already become an icon, and this is reflected in the role. She’s mostly a problem solver, and the only sensible person on the set. The very best scene occurs when she invites Hubert Bainbridge up to her apartment and proceeds to seduce him. It’s in this scene that Mae West dances the rumba and delivers some classic comebacks.

The Heat’s On tries to be a musical–the plot is broken up with various musical numbers from segments of various shows. Mae West performs I’m a Stranger in Town. One of the acts (featuring Hubert Bainbridge) is particularly painful. Other numbers include Xavier Cugat and his orchestra, and these musical pieces are very professional. The Heat’s On is disappointing because too little of Mae West decorates the plot. More West and less of everyone else would have been a much better idea. From director Gregory Ratoff.

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