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Tuesday, September 23, 2014


The surprise in Mae West’s second film appearance (her first starring vehicle) is the load of melodrama squeezed between the infamous sexually suggestive quips & her signature honky-tonk vocals in just 67 minutes. We’re talkin’ white slave traffic, counterfeiting, prison break, police investigation, even Cary Grant as a handsome missionary for Mae to vamp. Each merely one more dramatic highlight for West to react to. And what reactions! She’s a changed gal from last year’s debut in NIGHT AFTER NIGHT/’32, with her stylized look firmly in place and the film’s tempo adjusted to match her swaying walking rhythm. A fairly elaborate period production (Paramount was placing a very big bet on her), it’s beautifully lit by lenser Charles Lang (those footlight-accented stage numbers), but limps a bit under the bumpy laissez-faire hand of actor-turned-director Lowell Sherman. Shot-by-shot, he makes some nice moves, but he can’t be bothered with transitions. An editor’s nightmare. West would soon adjust the comedy/drama/music mix, but tighter censorship and the fast growing disparity between her self-image vis-à-vis what the camera caught made her comet-like rise-and-fall one of the quickest in Hollywood cultural-icon history.

DOUBLE-BILL: Mae falls for Cary's missionary next door and doesn’t stop by for a visit? Talk about your missed opportunities! She must have thought about it too and hides out as a Salvation Army lass for part of KLONDIKE ANNIE/’36.

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