Belle of the Nineties (1934)

“It’s better to be looked over than to be overlooked.”

Belle Nineties Poster

Synopsis:
A popular nightclub singer (Mae West) from St. Louis signs a contract with a manager (John Miljan) in New Orleans to get away from her ex-lover, a boxer (Roger Pryor) who has falsely accused her of cheating on him.

Genres:

Review:
This innocuous Mae West-ern was one in a string of enormously popular films West wrote and starred in during the 1930s, following her success in She Done Him Wrong (1933) and I’m No Angel (1933) (both Peary titles). Here, West once again plays (to reasonably campy effect) an utterly irresistible femme fatale chanteuse, but the storyline she’s given herself to work with is lame and confusing. All we’re really watching for are West’s infamous quips, which are too few in number and too tame — most likely because the Production Code had just gone into full force. Leo McCarey directed, but there’s little evidence of his comedic genius here. Hardcore West fans will want to check this one out, but the rest of us can feel free to skip it.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Mae West doing what she does best (while wearing some beautiful gowns)
    Belle Nineties Mae West

Must See?
No, though Mae West fans will certainly want to check it out.

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One Response to “Belle of the Nineties (1934)”

  1. First viewing. In agreement; not must-see.

    For reasons that made West popular in her day (mostly her risque nature), this no doubt worked as passable entertainment in 1934 – but it has not aged well. It’s a flimsy tale for the most part and it only picks up some momentum near its conclusion (too little, too late).

    West gets to sing a few nice Blues-inspired numbers (“My Old Flame”, “Those Memphis Blues”, “Troubled Waters”) and there is the occasional effective line or exchange, i.e.:

    Maid: All my life, I’ve been looking for a man that’s big and handsome and’s got plenty of money.
    West: What you’ve been looking for is three men.

    Director McCarey also makes sure to employ some nice, fluid camerawork. But, overall, this is quickly forgettable stuff.

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