In I'm No Angel, Mae West's second star vehicle, she's sideshow attraction Tira, "the girl who discovered you don't have to have feet to be a dancer." As usual, West wrote all her own dialogue for the film, and it's full of priceless wisecracks. A crowd of men ogles her as she tosses off a saucy little number, "They Call Me Sister Honky Tonk," swinging her hips phlegmatically. Then she slithers offstage, muttering "Suckers." Bored with life, Tira consults a fortuneteller. "I see a man in your future," he drones. "What, only one?" quips Mae. Tira wants to quit the carnival, so her boss (an unctuous Edward Arnold) makes her a proposition. If she'll become the show's lion tamer, she can meet "the swells." Just one little thing: she's got to put her head in the lion's mouth. (West insisted on performing this stunt herself, to the horror of Paramount Pictures' executives.) Enter Cary Grant as Jack Clayton, an aristocrat who falls for this floozie from the wrong side of the tracks. Some of the film's merriest scenes show Tira and her five black maids having a ball dancing and singing as she prepares for her dates with Jack. (West made it her business to keep as many of her black girlfriends working in movies as possible.) Tira's head maid, Beulah, played by Gertrude Michael, is the object of that momentous line "Oh, Beulah, peel me a grape." Mae slays 'em all in this picture, dressed, as always, in fabulously flamboyant finery. --Laura Mirsky
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