Combustible Celluloid
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With: 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, Walter Walker
Written by: Mae West
Directed by: Wesley Ruggles
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 87
Date: 10/06/1933

I'm No Angel (1933)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Dangerous Curves

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I came to Mae West late, in 2021, when Kino Lorber released a batch of her movies on Blu-ray. I was familiar with her snide, sexy drawl, and her memorable one-liners, and the way she seemed to sway and sashay across a room, rather than moving her feet. But I had never seen a whole movie. Having watched four of them now, I'm of a mixed mind. She truly was one of a kind; her sex appeal came not from her mathematically-impressive curves, but from her attitude. She liked sex and let us know it, but she also liked to turn down all propositions. Her unavailability made her more desirable. Yet, even in the pre-code era, the movies shoehorned her bawdy style into a formula: she gets the guy in the end, and it feels like a letdown. Post 1934, forget about it. Her best films are no doubt She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel (1933), both pre-codes, and both co-starring Cary Grant, her greatest foil.

Directed by Wesley Ruggles and based on a screenplay credited to West, I'm No Angel was released in October and is set at a circus, where Tira (West) sings to distract pickpockets in the crowd. She also puts her head in a lion's mouth, and dazzles a jury in a courtroom sequence. The plot is much the same, with crooked goings-on, a misunderstanding, and Grant — this time as wealthy Jack Clayton — saving the day. Great lines include "When I'm good, I'm very good. But, when I'm bad... I'm better." and "Peel me a grape."

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