I'm No Angel

The best of the West. Mae is a Depression-era angel of mercy, dispensing quips and songs like fallout in one of the funniest films ever lensed. On camera 95% of the time, West's screenplay traces her climb from sideshow carnival hootchie-kootchie girl to international circus star. In true lady Leo form, she even gets to realize her own biggest fantasy on...read more

Rating:

The best of the West. Mae is a Depression-era angel of mercy, dispensing quips and songs like fallout in one of the funniest films ever lensed. On camera 95% of the time, West's screenplay traces her climb from sideshow carnival hootchie-kootchie girl to international circus star. In true

lady Leo form, she even gets to realize her own biggest fantasy on camera: taming lions. Obviously, West was being rewarded with total creative control, a power seldom given by the studios, but the success of her previous film, SHE DONE HIM WRONG, had gone a long way toward keeping Paramount from

declaring bankruptcy. She is surrounded by a slick supporting cast working at comedic fever pitch, but West never breaks a sweat, parading through her promenades, amazed by her own dazzle, savoring every star turn, thrilled with her own reflection in each costar's eyes.

Indeed, I'M NO ANGEL is a monument to the Westian ego; never has fullblown female narcissism been explored in such an utterly unselfconcious way, yet it's tempered by West at her most self-mocking. Each time you're convinced that it's all parody, West suddenly plays it straight...but so you'll

laugh out loud. She's a textbook of historic comic technique and diva timing--historic because West embraces every great bygone tradition of show business: vaudeville, burlesque, legit and speakeasy. And ANGEL is highlighted by a lesson in diva plotline no other star can equal, because only West

would dare defend herself in court. Crammed into the 87 minutes of running time are numerous other unforgettable moments. Watch for West's record collection, her weird lion tamer boots (designed to hide her platforms), her midway rendition of "They Call Me Sister Honky-Tonk", her spider wing dress

sleeves. This was the second time West used Cary Grant as her leading man, and he later said she was the most difficult person he ever played opposite, yet she taught him more about comedy than anyone else he ever worked with. ANGEL came after the beauticians had perfected West's visual star

persona and before the moral bluenoses took to laundering her work--it's the peak of her stardom. Certainly we feel rewarded by this flawless comedy classic and enriched by the legacy of West herself: a legend of legends, a figure of American folklore that stands alone in the cinematic

pantheon.

{