The Heat's On (1943) Gets Buried On Crowded Wartime Bills
Publicity said "Mae West Comes Back,"
but was anyone waiting? She'd been offscreen since a popular pairing with W.C.
Fields three years earlier, but as with her late Paramounts, whatever audience was
left felt cheated by scraps of a once ribald act. Boxoffice heat was off The Heat's On and would stay so where censors
prevailed and a public knew well that Mae had been de-clawed.Made sense then, to let censorship
be focal point of The Heat's On (initially titled Tropicana), the West character's play shut down by
blue-noses as was case when she came to prominence during the 20's. Problem was
a script its star rejected utterly when finally given access, producer-director
Gregory Ratoff having promised all along
that Heat's story would jell to her satisfaction. Shooting was well on before
the mess revealed itself, leaving West to rewrite just ahead of cameras. Result
was a flop that featured her for less than a third of running time, the rest
filled by specialty acts and feeble-mind Victor Moore as yet another neutered
suitor for Mae. There is no longer even pretense at suggestive dialogue, and West in performance stands stock-still in weighty costumes as chorus members swirl about her. Circumstances of the shoot had clearly taken all the fight out of Mae, but worse would come when The Heat's On went into release. Theatres had their own notion of billing, Mae cruelly set below
the title at Cleveland's RKOPalace (ad above)
where The Heat's On was lesser element of an all-star stage revue. Columbia distributed, but
would maybe wish they hadn't when a puny $667K came back in domestic rentals. Mae
West swore off movies and kept her promise another twenty-seven years until the
dreaded Myra Breckinridge. The Heat's On turns up at TCM from time to time in
an outstanding transfer.