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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

The Stars Align

I'm No Angel (1933) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Midway dancer Tira (Mae West) does the hootchie coochie in Big Bill Barton's Wonder Show, and some nights she moon­lights as the lion tamer, too. One night Rajah the Fortune Teller (Nigel De Brulier) predicts, “I see a man in your life”—“What! Only one?”—and, “I see a change of position.” First, she is going to have a bad night of it, then she'll go on to have a wonderful life.

That night she's implicated in some rough stuff on a mark “The Chump” Ernest Brown (William B. Davidson) received at the hands of “Slick” Wiley (Ralf Harolde) the pick­pocket. Big Bill Barton (Edward Arnold) floats her a loan to pay for her New York lawyer Benny Pinkowitz (Gregory Ratoff), in exchange for which she agrees to ratchet up the dangerous lion act (“Big Boy will never hurt you.”)

Her act is so successful the circus moves to New York where she gets ogled my million­aires and their friends. Big Bill and Slick Wiley pull a sting to keep her under their control, resulting in a hilarious court­room drama in which Tira, despite admonitions against theatrics, comes across as part hootchie coochie girl and part lion tamer.


Tira was a wonder to behold working the men in her orbit, reminiscent on the male side of king Ahasuerus in the Bible: (Esther 2:2-14) “Then said the king's servants that ministered unto him, Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king: … So it came to pass, … many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the palace … Now when every maid's turn was come to go in to king Ahasuerus, … thus came every maiden unto the king; … In the evening she went, and on the morrow she returned.” The king was to select a queen from a large contingent of maidens whom he met day by day: (Esther 2:14), “she came in unto the king no more, except the king delighted in her, and that she were called by name.” So the ones of them he liked, he called to make dates with. The one he settled on he married, (Esther 2:17) “And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head.”

Sociologist Paul H. Landis writes In Defense of Dating:

It is quite logical to believe that some kind of dating is necessary to the development of the judgment and pair interaction that is at the root of real objectivity in mate selec­tion. … ¶Those who have dated more than one person have a chance to compare and to learn some of the usual behavior patterns of members of the opposite sex. They learn to distinguish between those whose personalities seem to promise a durable compatibility and those whose personalities obviously do not. Dating is an explor­atory experience through which young people learn. It no doubt contributes to the ability to feel at ease with the opposite sex and the love play sanctioned in dating may well be an important factor in the development of a normal hetero­sexual orientation in the psycho­sexual area. … ¶In most circles today, there­fore, it is considered desirable that young people "circulate" rather than "go steady" from the beginning, … that some variety of dating experi­ence is favorable to ultimate mate choice. The girl who is considered desirable as a date by a number of fellows is presumed to be the one most likely to be sought after in marriage. (223–4)

Tira is a wonderful example of such advice: her ease with gentlemen (of all stripes) who universally find her attractive (“She's fascinating”), her strong playfulness, and ultimately her ability to make a suitable choice (“I like sophisticated men to take me out”) could teach a lot of us a lesson.

Production Values

This B&W film, “I'm No Angel” (1933) was directed by Wesley Ruggles. Mae West co-wrote this master­piece based on an un-produced screen­play, “The Lady And The Lions.” It's her second star­ring feature, here played along­side Cary Grant. She exhibited a trade­mark feline grace. The supporting cast was well up to complementing her.

This movie came out before the Hays Code was instituted, so her material is a bit on the racy side. Songs credited to Gladys DuBois, Ben Ellison and Harvey Brooks include: “They Call Me Sister Honky Tonk”, “No One Loves Me Like That Dallas Man”, “I Found a New Way to Go to Town,” “I Want You, Need You”, and “I'm No Angel.” All these were sung by Mae West. Her memorable one-liners include: “When I'm good, I'm very good. When I'm bad, I'm better”, “Beulah, peal me a grape”, “It's not the men in your life that counts, it's the life in your men”, “Come up and see me some time”, “Always remember, honey. A good motto is: ‘Take all you can get and give as little as possible’. Don't forget, honey: ‘Never let one man worry your mind. Find 'em, fool 'em and forget 'em!’”, and “I'm No Angel ... Believe ME!” A lot of playful sarcasm is evident here.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This movie was utterly captivating, owing to the overwhelming stage presence of the star Mae West. She was a stage performer both before and after her twelve movie run (of which this was the second.) She has that je ne sais quois that makes her film a winner.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for children: Not rated, pre-code. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quotations from the Authorized King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Landis, Paul H. Making the Most of Marriage. New York: Meredith Publishing, 1965. Print.