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  I'm No Angel Peel Me A Grape
Year: 1933
Director: Wesley Ruggles
Stars: Mae West, Cary Grant, Gregory Ratoff, Edward Arnold, Ralf Harolde, Kent Taylor, Gertrude Michael, Russell Hopton, Dorothy Peterson, William B. Davidson, Gertrude Howard, Libby Taylor, Hattie McDaniel, Irving Pichel, Nat Pendleton, Dennis O'Keefe
Genre: Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The place is the carnival belonging to Big Bill Barton (Edward Arnold), a man not above sending a pickpocket into the crowds drawn by the barkers to add to his funds. One of the star attractions is Tira (Mae West) and tonight she's as popular as ever as she performs a saucy song for the audience of mostly men who are gathered around the stage. However, she's reluctant to go further this evening and decides to retire to bed, although not before she consults the carnival's fortune teller who has introduced her to the ways of the horoscope and, looking into his crystal ball, predicts that this night will be an unlucky one for her, but she has a brown-eyed man in her future. "Only one?" asks Tira, disappointed, but the clairvoyant looks again and corrects himself - there will be two significant men in her future, and they will have money... lots of it.

There might not be a Paramount studios today if it hadn't been for Mae West, as it was the success of her two early films there, She Done Him Wrong and this one, that saved them from bankruptcy. Unfortunately she also had another effect on the film business, with her unashamedly sexual plotting and jokes ushering in the Production Code of censorship, and the "cleaning up" of the film business to make Hollywood movies suitable for every maiden aunt. West wrote the script for I'm No Angel, and it could be seen as a last hurrah before her sting was removed and her subsequent films were considerably watered down.

Nevertheless, the risque films she did make are fine showcases for her humour, and with her suggestive drawl every line she speaks seems to be dripping with innuendo, even the most innocent remarks. As Tira she is basically playing herself, or the Mae West she would like to be - a role she played in real life as well, much to the frustration of her returning co-star Cary Grant who credited her with teaching him a huge amount about comedy, but being off-puttingly artificial in her dealings with him. Whatever the truth of that, her persona suits the film to a tee, creaky as it is, as Tira gets involved in crime, a lion taming act, and various men, only one of whom is good enough for her.

The bad luck in Tira's future is when a jealous ex-boyfriend uses a bottle to knock out a man she is entertaining, but the scandal is just the tonic her career needs, according to Big Bill anyway, and that lion taming is the result. In typically understated fashion, Tira enters the circus ring on top of an elephant accompanied by a fanfare, and is dressed in a glittery uniform complete with whip and pistol (which presumably fires blanks). Amusingly, she talks to the lions as if they were men she has to keep in line, and the popularity of the performance wins the heart of a rich businessman who showers her with gifts. So where does Cary Grant come into all this? He's the businessman's cousin, and after meeting Tira in the lavish apartment she can now afford, he falls for her (it's fun to see him getting flustered as she turns on the charm). West is the star of the show all the way, whether firing off her quips (catchphrase: "Come up and see me!") or getting the better of her adversaries, always winning you over regardless. She even conducts her own prosecution in the trial at the end - there was never another like her.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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