Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mae West: Bearcat or Tiger

Viewpoints on MAE WEST vary. And the overall success achieved by "Belle of the Nineties" is often in the eye of the beholder.
• • According to a current critic Dave Kehr, who writes for The Chicago Reader, Leo McCarey, the director whose obsessive Catholicism in the midst of anarchic humor sometimes made him the Fritz Lang of comedy, seems slightly ill at ease when faced with the unbounded libido of Mae West in this 1934 production ["Belle of the Nineties"]. West is a Saint Louis torch singer (backed by the Duke Ellington Orchestra) who exhales "My Old Flame," "Memphis Blues," and "When a Saint Louis Woman Comes Down to New Orleans" in between amours, Kehr concludes.
• • But, in fact, the screenplay and its "unbounded libido" was a re-tread.
• • The script for "It Ain't No Sin" [re-titled "Belle of the Nineties"] was Mae West's 1934 rewrite of her controversial bestseller "Babe Gordon" [1931] re-titled "The Constant Sinner" a work of fiction set in Harlem during the Prohibition Era.
• • In the stage version [and its novelization], the story is focused on a white prizefighter's tart [as Babe Gordon styles herself] who dallies in Harlem with an Irish boxer Bearcat Delaney and a dashing black pimp Money Johnson. Babe Gordon also sells cocaine, cleverly hidden in rouge containers, for some extra income and intrigue during her boring job in a department store. The cocaine sub-plot was bleached out of the Paramount screenplay, obviously.
• • In both the novel and the play, beautiful Babe Gordon marries Bearcat Delaney.
• • Though some believe that Mae West capitulated to the Hollywood censors by agreeing to a walk down the aisle for her characters Ruby Carter and the Tiger Kid, faithful readers recognized the similarity to Mae's 1931 storyline, which always contained the marriage angle.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1934 • •
Mae West.

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