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Saturday, June 07, 2014

Where Mae West Tried Again


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 RKO Palace (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.

More at Greenbriar Archive: Mae West Glamour Starter, Part One and Two, Night After Night, Belle Of The Nineties, and Every Day's A Holiday.

3 Comments:

Blogger lmshah said...

I always called this film BELLE OF THE FORTIES, with a lean new Mae West streamlined for wartime production. Problem was indeed, no one wanted Mae West by then, new or old. It's not quite as painful as her last two movies.

RICHARD M ROBERTS

12:43 PM  
Blogger KING OF JAZZ said...

Small clowns scare me.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

After seeing her in an actual supporting acting role in Night After Night at Cinesation, I'm kind of sorry everything she did through the rest of her starring career (we'll ignore those later abominations) had her playing Mae Westâ„¢, the female drag queen. She wasn't a great actress by any means, any more than she was really a great beauty, but she had lots of personality and energy, and could have played the sorts of parts that, say, Leila Hyams or Lilyan Tashman got. Not that she would have wanted supporting roles over her parody of legendary stardom, but I can wish she'd come back to Planet Earth once in a while.

7:09 PM  

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