24 December 2008 | Bunuel1976
BELLE OF THE NINETIES (Leo McCarey 1934) **1/2
Mae West's first vehicle following the enforcement of the Production Code emerges as a lesser comedy, despite the involvement of the renowned McCarey (who directed many a star comedian around this time, including various Laurel & Hardy shorts, Eddie Cantor, The Marx Bros., W.C. Fields and Harold Lloyd).
As ever, West wrote the script herself: having gone through the titles included in the R1 DVD collection not too long ago, this film can be seen to have adhered strictly to formula so that, in spite of offering nothing new (all the men, be they naïve or unscrupulous, invariably throw themselves at the star's feet who, of course, plays a notorious chanteuse), the undercasting of the chief supporting players and the severely reduced trademark double entendres, it still gets by on the consummate professionalism on display (conveyed in Paramount's recognizable in-house style). Among the highlights here are a marathon boxing match, a typically soulful number by the underprivileged black community and the fiery climax.
The film's brief 70-minute running-time (in PAL mode) and unassuming plot line makes this ideal for late-night viewing; however, such rampant streamlining also leads to an overly abrupt denouement in which events are neatly tied up via a montage of newspaper clippings!