I’m No Angel (1933): Mae West Comedy Co-Starring Cary Grant

Directed by Wesley Ruggles, I’m No Angel was Mae West’s third picture, for which she received sole story and screenplay credit.

This Pre-Code film, the most popular movie in 1933, was one of the few Mae West features which was not subjected to heavy censorship.

Tira (Mae West) sings in the sideshow of Big Bill Barton’s Wonder Show, while her current boyfriend, pickpocket “Slick” (Ralf Harolde), relieves her distracted audience of their valuables for Big Bill (Edward Arnold).

A rich customer arranges a private meeting, during which Slick barges in and attempts to run a badger game on the customer. The customer threatens to call the cops and Slick hits him with a bottle. Mistakenly thinking he has killed the man, Slick flees but is caught and jailed.

Fearing that Slick will implicate her, Tira asks Big Bill for a loan to retain her lawyer, Bennie Pinkowitz (Gregory Ratoff). He agrees if she does her lion taming act, which includes putting her head into the animal’s mouth, promising that it will get them to the “Big Show.”

Tira’s fame takes her to New York, where wealthy Kirk Lawrence (Kent Taylor) is smitten, despite being engaged to the snobbish socialite Alicia Hatton (Gertrude Michael).

Kirk’s friend and richer cousin, Jack Clayton (Cary Grant), goes to see Tira to ask her to leave Kirk. But he falls for her, and their romance leads to wedding engagement.

Unwilling to lose his prize act, he has Slick, recently released from prison, sneak into Tira’s penthouse, where Jack finds him in his robe. Jack breaks off the engagement, and the Jilted Tira sues him for breach of promise.

The defense tries to use her past to discredit her, but the judge allows her to cross examine the witnesses herself.  She wins over not only the judge and jury, but also Jack. Jack wants to give her a big settlement check, but when he meets her, Tira tears up the check and they reconcile.

I’m No Angel was released right after She Done Him Wrong, when Mae West was the country’s biggest box office attraction and its most controversial star. In the early 1930s, West’s films saved Paramount from bankruptcy.Depression era audiences responded to the rise of a woman from the wrong side of the tracks.

Discovering Cary Grant?

Cary Grant starred opposite her for the second and final time.  Grant was upset that West often took credit for his career despite the fact that he had made major films before. The hit Blonde Venus, starring Marlene Dietrich and Cary Grant, predates She Done Him Wrong by a year even though Mae West always claimed to have discovered Grant.  The story goes that she spotted him as an unknown walking across a parking lot, asked who he was and stated that, “If he can talk, I’ll use him in my next picture.” This tale remains routinely incorporated into most magazine articles about either West or Grant to this day.

West did some of her own stunts, including riding an elephant into the ring.

West’s outre satire outraged moralists: Mae West was one major reason for reinstating the strict Hollywood Production Code in 1934.

The Hays Office forced a few changes, including the title of the song “No One Does It Like a Dallas Man,” altered to “No One Loves Me Like a Dallas Man.”

Cast

Mae West as Tira

Cary Grant as Jack Clayton

Gregory Ratoff as Benny Pinkowitz

Edward Arnold as “Big Bill” Barton

Ralf Harolde as “Slick” Wiley

Kent Taylor as Kirk Lawrence

Gertrude Michael as Alicia Hatton

Russell Hopton as “Flea” Madigan

Dorothy Peterson as Thelma

William B. Davidson as Ernest Brown (as Wm. B. Davidson)

Gertrude Howard as Beulah Thorndyke, Tira’s main maid

Libby Taylor as Libby, Tira’s hairdressing maid

Hattie McDaniel as Tira’s manicurist (uncredited)

Soundtrack

“They Call Me Sister Honky-Tonk” (1933) (uncredited) Music by Harvey Oliver Brooks,  Lyrics by Gladys DuBois and Ben Ellison. Sung by Mae West

“That Dallas Man” (1933) (uncredited) , music by Harvey Oliver Brooks, lyrics by Gladys DuBois and Ben Ellison. Played on a record on which Mae West sings

“I Found a New Way to Go to Town” (1933) (uncredited), music by Harvey Oliver Brooks, lyrics by Gladys DuBois and Ben Ellison. Sung by Mae West

“I Want You, I Need You” (1933) (uncredited), music by Harvey Oliver Brooks, lyrics by Ben Ellison. Played on a piano and sung by Mae West

“I’m No Angel” (1933) (uncredited), music by Harvey Oliver Brooks, lyrics by Gladys DuBois and Ben Ellison. Sung by Mae West at the end and during the closing credits