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Belle of the Nineties (1934)

Passed | | Comedy, Drama, Musical | 21 September 1934 (USA)
Ruby Carter, the American Beauty queen of the night club-sporting world, shifts her operations from St. Louis to New Orleans (which kind of belies the Western genre designation), mostly to ... See full summary »

Director:

Leo McCarey

Writers:

Mae West (story "It Ain't No Sin"), Jack Wagner (additional dialogue)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Mae West ... Ruby Carter
Roger Pryor ... Tiger Kid
Johnny Mack Brown ... Brooks Claybourne (as John Mack Brown)
John Miljan ... Ace Lamont
Katherine DeMille ... Molly Brant
Duke Ellington ... Piano Player
James Donlan James Donlan ... Kirby
Stuart Holmes ... Dirk
Harry Woods ... Slade
Edward Gargan ... Stogie
Libby Taylor Libby Taylor ... Jasmine
Warren Hymer ... St. Louis Fighter
Benny Baker ... Blackie
Morrie Cohan Morrie Cohan ... Butch
Tyler Brooke Tyler Brooke ... Comedian
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Storyline

Ruby Carter, the American Beauty queen of the night club-sporting world, shifts her operations from St. Louis to New Orleans (which kind of belies the Western genre designation), mostly to get away from prizefighter Tiger Kid. Installed as the prize attraction of "The Sensation Club", ran by Ace Lamont, she quickly becomes the toast of the town and also marked as personal property by Ace, arousing the fury of Ace's former flame, Molly Brant. The not-overly-bright Tiger comes to town and is set for a title match with the champ by Ace, while the latter also has him steal some of Ruby's jewels. Ruby, no dumb-belle, figuring Ace has the fix in on the fight, uses some of her other jewels to lay a trap for Ace. Tiger confesses, after the fight, to Ruby his role in the jewel robbery while she hints that Ace was the one who slipped him the knock-out drops. Tiger goes after Ace, who, for his own reasons, has Molly locked in a closet. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

SEZ MAE WEST..."He that hesitates is late" (original print ad) See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Musical

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

21 September 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Belle of New Orleans See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$800,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to David Niven, this film was to have been called "It Ain't No Sin" and, as a publicity stunt, 40 parrots were trained to repeat "it ain't no sin." Then the Hays Office made the studio change the title. See more »

Goofs

The songs "Memphis Blues" and "St Louis Blues", sung by West in 1890s New Orleans, were written and published in the 1910s by W.C. Handy. See more »

Quotes

Ace Lamont: Great town, St. Louis. You were born here?
Ruby Carter: Yes.
Ace Lamont: What part?
Ruby Carter: Why, all of me.
See more »

Connections

Featured in 100 Years of Comedy (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

My Old Flame
(uncredited)
Music by Arthur Johnston
Lyrics by Sam Coslow
Performed by Mae West and the Duke Ellington Orchestra
See more »

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User Reviews

 
It ain't no sin.
19 June 2011 | by Steffi_PSee all my reviews

The enforcement of the Hollywood production code in 1934 was abrupt, and for many in-production movies it meant hasty rewrites and reshoots. Belle of the Nineties, Mae West's follow-up to the phenomenally successful (not to mention outrageously code-flaunting) I'm No Angel and She Done Him Wrong, was just such a victim of the post-code cull.

Sources vary regarding this picture, but most agree it had to be adapted quite extensively to fit the more stringent regulations. The story is typical Mae West (she wrote her own material) but the jokes are a little lukewarm, suggestive of nothing more than a nice cuddle and the prospect of marriage. It's odd though because there is as always suggestion of much more in West's body language. Her opening scene is as good an example as any. A musical number, but West doesn't sing or dance; she merely flicks her eyes and sashays her hips as a number of backdrops appear behind her, a performance existing solely to convey her sexual allure.

As well as toning down the dialogue, the story seems to have been truncated, possibly to save time after the rewrites. A large chunk of plot is skimmed over with a few newspaper headlines. When West's character arrives in New Orleans she flirts with a young man who picks up her glove, and it looks as if he is going to become an important character, but he doesn't. The director is slapstick master Leo McCarey, who seems to be using the opportunity to fine-tune his cinematic technique, handling movement on different levels and keeping the camera chugging smoothly around. His biggest contribution is probably to show West's musical numbers from the point-of-view of a face in the crowd, with the camera often at her feet or peeping out between other silhouettes. All in all though it seems a little plodding for a McCarey job, and one wonders if the hassle of reshoots had drained his enthusiasm for the project somewhat.

Belle of the Nineties is perhaps the weakest of all the Mae West pictures, because it is like some strange hybrid. By leaving in West's promiscuous character and sassy mannerisms but taking out all the witty smut, Paramount has left us with something far more disturbing and questionable than the easygoing innuendo of her previous efforts. Things like the oddness of West's walk start to stand out as verging on ridiculous. Of course, the choice of leading man doesn't help either. Roger Pryor's childish grin as he gazes appreciatively at the blonde beauty is decidedly creepy in itself. A few years later, with Klondike Annie, West would work out a suitable post-code persona for herself, which without her trademark sexuality was mediocre though certainly watchable. But Belle of the Nineties, lacking the sex but having the set-up, is awkwardly bad.


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