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See Belle Of The Nineties on youtube.
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BELLE OF THE NINETIES (Paramount, 1934), directed by Leo McCarey, stars the "calm and collected" Mae West, contributor to the story, screenplay, and bedside manner dialog ("It's better to be looked over than overlooked"). In her fourth detail movie and only 1934 release, it also became the first in a series of Mae West comedy/dramas to have the production seal-of-approval. While not up to the standards as her two previous 1933 efforts of SHE DONE HIM WRONG and I'M NO ANGEL, BELLE OF THE NINETIES has more of a reputation than West herself as being the film to have gone through numerous production problems. Another than alternate games before the chosen choice, and Roger Pryor as the substitute for the original choice of George Raft, BELLE OF THE NINETIES includes few scenes ending with abrupt blackouts. Another than that, BELLE OF THE NINETIES ranks one of Mae West's most interesting, if not entirely successful screen efforts, with her witty one-liners making this more memorable than the plot itself. Set in the Gay Nineties, circa 1892-93, in St. Louis, Ruby Carter (Mae West), a burlesque queen (and "The most talked about girl in America"), is much admired by many male patrons who attend the café to watch her perform. She sincerely loves a prizefighter named "The Tiger Kid" (Roger Pryor). Feeling Ruby's affection will complicate the Tiger's possibilities for the championship fight, Kirby (James Donlan), his manager, schemes to break up their relationship. Unaware of the set-up, Ruby leaves St. Louis for Fresh Orleans to agree an engagement working for Ace Lamont (John Miljan) at his Sensation House. While there she stirs up much attention, especially with Ace, causing his mistress, Molly Brant (Katherine DeMille) to become extremely jealous. Having no interest in Ace, Ruby focuses her attention to Brooks Claybourne (Johnny Mack Brown), a young millionaire actually helping her with expensive diamonds and jewelry. Sometime later, Kirby, along with his star fighter, Tiger Kid, arrive in Fresh Orleans where the Tiger is to war the Champ in a boxing match being promoted by Ace. Ace, jealous of Ruby's affection towards Brooks, hires Tiger to act as the masked bandit to steal her jewelry while on a carriage ride. Later, Ruby spots Tiger is seen conversing with and giving the Ruby's jewelry Ace. Suspecting some sort of setup, Ruby avenges herself on both men, leading to the unexpected murder of one of them.With a smooth mix of newer songs (by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow) and nostalgic tunes from the nineties era, such as "And the Band Played On" (better known as "The Strawberry Blonde"), introduced through underscoring during the opening credits, the soundtrack to BELLE OF THE NINETIES includes: "Here We Are" (sung by chorus); "My American Beauty" (sung by Gene Austin with Mae West appearing in tableaux posing as a butterfly, rose, bat, spider and finally the Statue of Liberty); "When a St. Louis Girl Goes Down to Fresh Orleans," "I Hate to Wait," "My Old Flame," "Those Memphis Blues" (by W.C. Handy) and "Troubled Waters" (all sung by West). With the tunes presented and performed, "My Old Flame," is noteworthy. Set at night, West, smoking a cigarette, stands on the outside terrace watching her maid and beau (Libby Taylor and Sam McDaniel) taking part of Brother Eben's prayer meeting. She sings while the spiritual group of Negroes are seen waving their arms as they are being saved in having their sins washed away in the river. The test of super imposing results between West and the attendees of the prayer meeting, along with shadowy photos reflection from the river, is done quite effectively. In the helping cast is Warren Hymer ("Hi, Ruby, this is your Bunny Boy." Ruby: "Bunny Boy? I don't know any rabbits"), and Duke Ellington and his Orchestra during the the "Memphis Blues" number. Although Mae West is usually the central focus, veteran actor John Miljan (1892-1960) as the villainous Ace Lamont, nearly steals the movie his leading lady. West's on screen hero description of Ace is summed up with this amusing quote: "That guy's no good. His mother could have thrown him out and kept the stork." In their "love" scene, Ace (Miljan) compliments Ruby about her "golden hair, fascinating eyes, alluring smile, lovely arms ..." Ruby quickly responds, "Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Is this a proposal or are you taking inventory?" One particular stage shows Miljan's real evilness to nice advantage as he socks his unwanted mistress, Molly (DeMille) in the jaw, placing her in a closet with the intention of burning down his own casino with her in it so not having to pay off a huge gambling debt that would wiped him out financially. Miljan's sinister laugh and dark curly hair add to his snarling meanness. Roger Pryor as the lovesick prizefighter, is showcased well, though never rose to the ranks of stardom. The third billed Johnny Mack Brown is offered the least amount of screen time along with Frederick Burton and Augusta Anderson appearing briefly as his parents. As with SHE DONE HIM WRONG, BELLE OF THE NINETIES is very authentic in capturing the flavor of the 1890s era, right down from period settings to costumes, compliments of costume designer, Travis Banton. BELLE OF THE NINETIES, which went on video cassette in 1992, contains an added premium of a theatrical trailer featuring certain key sings along with her singing "My Old Flame" differently from what was used in the final print. Nearly a decade later, BELLE OF THE NINETIES became the first Mae West detail from her Paramount years to be distributed on DVD. So far, both VHS and DVD formats have come and gone, as well as having acquired a rare cable TV broadcast in soon years on Turner Classic Films (TCM premiere July 3, 2014). (***)
Mae West throws all the curves in this one as a singer (?) in the 1890s who dumps her boxer boyfriend in a mix-up and runs off to Fresh Orleans to perform and live there. She's featured in a stunning musical number where she models a shimmering gown vs which numerous costumes are superimposed by a projector! One pose has her as lady liberty. Unfortunately, this is a less liberated, somewhat cleaned-up Mae West. She still likes to have fun, and enough gags remain to create this one worth a several solid laughs. Nice production by Paramount.
Mae West's fourth movie "Belle of the Nineties" bears considerable resemblance to her second film "She Done Him Wrong." Every movie takes zone during the 1890s or what has been dubbed the 'gay' nineties. West plays a highly paid singer in an upscale burlesque club who craves diamonds and would never steal other woman's boy unless the girl had done her wrong. Like the burlesque house owner in "She Done Him Wrong," his counterpart in "Belle of the Nineties" is as weak as they come. Indeed, according to the heroine in "Belle," the villain's mother "should have thrown him away and kept the stork." Unlike "She Done Him Wrong," "Belle" provides West with a stronger heroine who can take care of herself. She doesn't need to summon the support of a boy to right wrongs committed vs her. In another words, West is in control more often than she is out of control. Like her greatest films, West penned the screenplay and she had first-rate director Leo McCarey at the helm. The storyline takes some surprising turns toward the end and mistakes as well as outright skullduggery fuels the plot.Ruby Carter (Mae West) is a much sought after singer in St. Louis, Missouri. She has been carrying on a relationship with a lovesick pugilist, the Tiger Child (Roger Pryor of "Broken Hearts"), but the Kid's manager, Kirby (James Donlan of "College Humor"), frowns on it because the Kid's amorous outings with Ruby are interfering with his training routine. Tiger cannot receive Belle out of his blood. The sly Kirby arranges for Ruby, unbeknownst to her, to leave St. Louis and go to Fresh Orleans where she can create a bundle in Ace La Mont's Sensation House. Kirby's plan succeeds and Ruby signs a contract with Ace (mustached John Miljan of "Madame Spy") who falls in love with her. Of course, Ace's actual mistress isn't satisfied about Belle's arrival. Ace is jealous that Ruby wants nothing to do with him but everything to do with Brooks Claybourne (future western star John Mac Brown) who loves to purchase Belle expensive jewelry.Ace is setting up a championship fight, but the another boxer backs out of him. Ace needs somebody to fill the slot and he runs into the Tiger Child sparring in Fresh Orleans. Before Ace can sit down, the Tiger Child has knocked out the fresh sparring partner that Ace pitted him against. The Child and Ace work out a deal, but Tiger has to support Ace out in an unethical fashion. Ace explains that his actual lady mate is blackmailing him and he needs her diamond necklaces. He arranges to be in his carriage late one evening by the lake and the Tiger Child with a bandana over his face robs them. Ruby thinks that it is suspicious that the robber didn't take Ace's ring. Later, Ruby discovers that the Tiger Child was in on the theft with Ace. Ruby has a method of spying on Ace without his knowledge and she sees the Tiger Child deliver the jewelry that Brooks gave her and Ace shops it in his safe.Ruby plans payback. She convinces Brook who has been losing heavily in Ace's gambling tables, to bet on the champ instead of the Tiger Kid. Meanwhile, Ace has everything that he owns riding on the Kid. In the 29 round, Ruby slips something into the Kid's ringside bottle of water and prompts Ace to give it to him after the bell rings the end to other round. When the Child goes out swinging, the champ flattens him and an incredulous Ace cannot trust that he has lost everything with the conquer of the Tiger Kid. At the Sensation House, Ace agrees to pay off all his wagers, but upstairs he decides to burn his place. He decks his old woman mate Molly (Katherine DeMille of "Madam Satan") and leaves her to die in a locked closet. Earlier, Belle watched Ace shop her jewelry in his safe; she used her maid's opera glasses to receive the combination.The Tiger Child visits Ruby and explains that he had no clue that she was in the carriage the night that he assailed Ace and his date. The Child expresses his undying love for Belle and she suggests that Ace had everything to do with the Mickey in his ringside water bottle. The Child belts Ace, but Ace doesn't receive up. When Belle checks up on Ace, she discards her cigarette and the room catches on fire where Ace had spilled kerosene. Molly awakens screaming in the closet and the Child gets her out. The Child admits to striking Ace, but the court exonerates him and Belle and Ace receive married. Amazingly enough, Brooks cleans up on the championship boxing match, but Belle goes off with Tiger.Mae West doesn't give herself nearly enough intelligent lines in "Belle of the Nineties." "Take the single men," she advises her African-American maid, "and leave the husband's alone." "Belle" is as much a hero study of its shrewd protagonist as it is a storyline about revenge. What makes it unusual is that Belle goes off with Tiger instead of Brooks. There is an interesting montage sequence at an African-American church revival while Belle warbles a song to them from her balcony. Incidentally, Mae West wears some of her greatest costumes in "Belle of the Nineties." Belle's opening number where she appears vs a theatrical scene backdrop as a spider, a bat, and a butterfly is something to see. McCarey gained a reputation for his comedies, but "Belle of the Nineties" qualifies more as a melodrama with our heroine exacting revenge on Ace but giving Tiger a possibility to create good.
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