Okay, so May Day is still a month or so away. Here at MovieFanFare, we’re declaring today Mae’s Day, marking the release of four classic Mae West films as part of the Universal Vault series (click here to read guest blogger Emma Alsop’s list of five reasons to enjoy West’s saucy brand of screen comedy). Each picture had been out in various collections, but this is your first chance to buy them as singles.
Night After Night (1932) — Retired pug Joe Anton (George Raft) had finally opened his own nightclub, and was itching to show that he had developed class…especially to gorgeous debutante Jerry Healy (Constance Cummings). He hires proper matron Mabel Jellyman (Alison Skipworth) for coaching in how to be a gentleman, but his old crowd–like brassy Maudie Triplett (a scene-stealing Mae West, in her film debut)–won’t make the transformation easy! Wynne Gibson, Louis Calhern co-star.
“She stole everything but the cameras,” Raft once said about his debuting co-star. Raft had originally wanted legendary speakeasy hostess (and his old employer) Mary “Texas” Guinan for the role of Maudie, but Paramount rightly figured that Broadway star West would be a bigger draw. It’s in this film where a coat check girl, seeing Mae’s jewelry, exclaims, “Goodness, what beautiful diamonds!,” to which the actress replied, “Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie.”
I’m No Angel (1933) — Hilarious, naughty pre-Production Code farce featuring Mae West as an unscrupulous carnival entertainer who takes a turn as a lion-tamer in order to get her boyfriend and fellow con artist out of a jam. Along the way she also falls for a suave millionaire (Cary Grant), the cousin of an admiring playboy. Songs include “I Want You, I Need You” and “They Call Me Sister Honky Tonk.” With Edward Arnold and Gregory Ratoff.
I’m No Angel was the second and last screen pairing of West and Cary Grant, following She Done Him Wrong earlier in the year. Throughout her career West claimed that she “discovered” the British-born leading man after sorting through a pile of publicity photos of Paramount contract players, a charge that Grant vehemently denied (He had co-starred with Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus in 1932). When the carnival fortune teller tells West’s Tira “I see a man in your future,” Mae responds with “What, only one!”
Goin’ to Town (1935) — Saloon singer Cleo Borden (Mae West) suddenly finds herself one very wealthy lady when her oilman swain loses a shoot-out–and she’s his only beneficiary. Though she takes a shine to Edward Carrington (Paul Cavanagh), the administrator appointed to handle her fortune, he’s not as impressed–and she takes a crash course in how to be a real lady. Fun West vehicle co-stars Gilbert Emery, Monroe Owsley.
It’s estimated that in 1935 only newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst made more money in America than Mae West. Your quote from this movie is from when Cleo tells a young admirer, “For a long time I was ashamed of the way I lived.” When he asks, “You mean to say you reformed?,” she answers “No, I got over being ashamed.”
Go West Young Man (1936) — Mae West plays a film star who heads to a small town to attend the preview of her newest film and finds romantic complications among the common folk, particularly when she falls for a down-to-earth farmboy (Randolph Scott). Mae’s marvelous one-liners, satirical swipes at Hollywood, and songs like “I Was Saying to the Moon” and “On a Typical Tropical Night” are among the highlights. With Warren William, Alice Brady.
“Don’t be modest. Modesty never gets you anything. I know.”After being known as the woman who saved Paramount Pictures from bankruptcy in the early ’30s, this was West’s next-to-last film for them before censorship hassles and declining ticket sales led the studio to drop the actress in 1937. Following her team-up with W.C. Fields in 1940’s My Little Chickadee for Universal, Mae would make one more picture, 1943’s The Heat’s On, for old friend and I’m No Angel co-star Gregory Ratoff, then retire from the screen until she came back in the infamous 1970 comedy Myra Breckinridge.