Saturday, July 24, 2010

100 years, 100 films 24: I'm No Angel (1933)

This Mae West vehicle directed by Wesley Ruggles is basically an incompetently structured romantic comedy with an unusually high count of double entendres. Mae West is fun to watch, but the rest of the movie is, quite frankly, terrible. And it doesn't make any sense as a film, either. Cary Grant is the romantic lead (this is before he was famous, or good, but he still does possess some of that ol' Grant charm), but he only shows up in the last third of the movie. Why? Because we've got a whole heap of completely pointless scenes about other men to get through.

We start with Mae West as a dancer in a carnival show. She spies a rich man in the audience sporting an impressive piece of bling, takes him back to her hotel room, and tries to seduce him. Mid-seduction, some weasley douche walks in, saying that she's Mae West's husband. Mae West says that he isn't. That's all the backstory we ever get about the two of them. The weasley douche knocks out the rich guy. For no discernable reason, the weasley douche thinks the rich guy is dead. His genius plan for dealing with the body is to... put it out in the hallway of the hotel, right in front of West's door. Good thing the rich man wasn't dead after all, or his plan would have seemed pretty fucking retarded!

After this incident, Mae West decides that she wants to be a lion tamer instead. Somehow, this makes her really rich and famous, with a giant mansion and a slew of servants. I don't really think lion taming is all that much more lucrative than dancing, but I'm No Angel begs to differ. While she is busy taming lions, a rich guy sees her, and decides that he is "in love with" (read "wants to boink") her. He decides this while sitting next to his fiance, and basically tells his fiance this. The rich guy and Mae West start dating for a while, he breaks it off with the fiance.

Cary Grant plays the friend of this rich guy. Grant wants his friend to break it off with West and go back to his old fiance because West, "just isn't right for him." The rich guy refuses, so Grant goes over to West's house to confront her. She basically tells him that the rich guy means nothing to her, and that she's seeing like a dozen different men. Cary Grant is cool with this, and then falls in love with West. They get engaged for some reason, and then they break it off for some other reason, neither of which I can remember or care about. There's then a big court case over the "Breach of Promise," even though both parties are super rich and neither of them need the money. But it all works out in the end - Cary Grant says stupid things to his lawyer, and then he and West decide to get married after all.

These three episodes are almost entirely unrelated to each other. Grant and the rich guy who broke it off with his fiance are "friends", but once the Grant storyline starts up, the other guy is pretty much never heard from again. But, okay, I can forgive those two segments for being two seperate elements, because you could argue that one is a set up for the other. But what the hell is the point of the first bit? None of it has any bearing on the rest of the story - why didn't she just start the film as a lion tamer? Why spend a full third of the film on what is basically irrelevant backstory?

I suppose the answer to that question is that the weasley douche has something to do with causing the breakup between Grant and West, and the early stuff is supposed to be establishing him as a character - but he's not established at all. I honestly had no idea what his relationship with West was - where they lovers who's relationship had soured? Was he a creepy stalker? Where they actually engaged at the time? All this stuff could have been covered if the movie had started with the lion taming stuff, but had had a scene where the weasley douche talks to West about how she shouldn't be running around on him. But no, it decided to waste a full thirty minutes of screen time on totally irrelevant crap.

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