With a ballyhoo of gigantic proportions behind it, “Belle of the Nineties,” the new Mae West picture which was brought into the New York Paramount for what is hoped will be a long run, cannot be a failure. Curiosity alone will account for a steady stream of patrons at the box-office window. For months Mae West’s censorship trouble, the change in titles (originally the film was called “It Ain’t No Sin” and then “Belle of New Orleans,” latter changed to “St. Louis Woman” and finally was released under its present title), have been news and people won’t be able to resist the temptation of seeing what it is all about.
Whether you will like the picture or not depends entirely upon your feeling for Mae West. If you are one of those who believe that the buxom Junoesque blonde is a splendid and finished actress you will vote for “Belle,” but if you feel she belongs in burlesque your reaction to the film will be one of indifference.
“Belle of the Nineties” is a typical Mae West production, and blame or praise for it must be placed squarely on the ample shoulders of Miss West. She not only plays the lead but also wrote the story, did the casting, passed on the costumes and picked the tunes. She cast herself in the role of Ruby Carter, a sporting woman who lived in St. Louis in the late nineties. Her particular boy friend is a prize fighter picturesquely called Tiger Kid (Roger Pryor). Ruby is very devoted to this gentleman of the ring but his manager breaks up the affair by making it appear that Ruby is unfaithful to the Tiger who promptly concludes his relationship with her. Ruby is nearly disconsolate and leaves for New Orleans where she works in the Sensation House, a gambling joint owned and operated by villainous Ace Lamont (John Miljan). Naturally this gent makes violent love to Ruby but La Belle is adamant and Ace makes little progress, however his sweetheart, Molly (Katherine De Mille), becomes peeved and resents the attention given to Ruby. Ace makes plans to burn up the Sensation House and Molly at the same time, but Ruby and Kid Tiger, who comes back just in time, save the day and the film ends happily.
As this column intimated a few days back, you will be humming the tunes and repeating the wise cracks from “Belle.” Perhaps the best gag in the picture concerns a scene between Ace and Ruby. The former is making violent and touchy love to Ruby. He says: “Your red lips, your white skin, your soft cheeks, your…” Ruby’s answer: “Say, is this a proposal, or are you taking inventory?”
Without Mae West, “Belle of the Nineties” would be just another well-directed, well-costumed melodrama. With Mae West in the cast it is what you want it to be.
OTHER CINEMA NEWS
“The Richest Girl in the World” at the Music Hall, in which Miriam Hopkins plays the role of a young heiress besieged by fortune hunters, rates a double “A” plus. It is light, amusing and clever. Hollywood has stepped away from the stereotyped stories for this. Miss Hopkins as the heiress wishing to escape gentlemen who want to marry her for her fortune changes places with her secretary and watches the young men make love to a girl who they think is very wealthy. Tony, an amiable rascal who is very frank about the heiress’ money, is one of the contenders. He enlists the aid of Miss Hopkins and wants her to help him capture the lady be believes is the heiress. Strangely enough the real heiress falls in love with him and what finally transpires will surprise and delight you. After watching Miss Hopkins in “She Loves Me Not” her new picture will earn your forgiveness.
Hugh Walpole, famous English novelist, confirms the belief that every author has a wide streak of “ham” somewhere in his makeup. Now in Hollywood at the Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer studios where he is supervising the dramatization of some of his works, he accepted the role of the vicar in “David Copperfield,” M.G.M.’s picturization of the Dickens novel.