Belle of the Nineties (1934): Mae West’s first Post-Code Comedy

Leo McCarey, one of the best Hollywood directors, helmed this Mae West Western comedy at the height of her popularity, and just before the Production Code would have a damaging effect on her career.

It was initially titled It Ain’t No Sin, until the censors interfered, then St. Louis Woman and Belle of New Orleans, until complaints were registered from those two places.

Belle of the Nineties was Mae West’s first post-Production Code film. West plays a cabaret entertainer, Ruby Carter, plying her trade along the Mississippi. Having no trouble surviving on her own terms in a man’s world, Ruby fends off the unwarranted attentions of a stream of men, but reserves her affections for the muscular boxer, The Tiger Kid (Roger Pryor).

Several black entertainers and athletes make appearance in this humorous tale, including Duke Ellington and His Orchestra.

The musical highlights include West’s unforgettable rendition of “My Old Flame.”

The ending, in which West settles down by marrying the hero, is too conventional and too tame for West’s otherwise edgy screen persona.

Running time: 73 minutes.