Monday, December 1, 2014

TCM Star of the Month: Cary Grant

We're in a new month, which means we're getting a new star of the month on TCM. Every Monday in prime time, actually going into Tuesday morning, we'll have the films of Cary Grant. This first Monday in December brings several of the films that Grant made at Paramount at the beginning of his career. One that I thought I had blogged about before, but apparently haven't, is I'm No Angel, at 10:45 PM.

Grant isn't the star here; this was the beginning of his career. Instead, the star is Mae West, playing Tira, who at the beginning of the movie is a dancer in the traveling carnvial show. But she's more than that. She's got a partner in crime in Slick Wiley (Ralf Harolde), a pickpocket who poses as Tira's husband when she lures unsuspecting men into her hotel room for dalliances. One of those dalliances goes wrong, and the mark ends up knocked out, but still able to recognize his two assailants. Slick eventually goes to prison; Tira's case is more complicated.

Tira seeks help from her boss Bill (Edward Arnold) to pay for the lawyer she's going to need to stay out of prison. He agrees, but only under the condition that she'll play a part in his new lion-tamer act that ultimately has her sticking her head into a lion's open mouth. You can understand why she's not so happy about it, but if the choice is between that and jail, what are you going to do? She stays out of jail, and the act becomes a success, enough for the carnival to make it to New York to perform, which is where Cary Grant is going to come in.

New York means high society and wealthy people, and some of them go to see the show since it's at a respectable arena. One of them, lawyer Kirk (Kent Taylor) sees Tira and falls for her, which is a bit of a problem not simply because they're from two completely different worlds, but because Kirk has a fiancée who needless to say isn't very happy about her man going to see this carnival performer! So it's up to Kirk's cousin Jack (Cary Grant) to solve the problem by paying off Tira to leave Kirk alone. The only thing is, Jack falls for Tira too, which presents a whole bunch of complications....

Mae West's bawdy persona suited her well for the pre-Code era as she flings off one-liners full of sexual innuendo, and that allows her to shine in I'm No Angel. This is West's movie all the way; Cary Grant, who gets second biling and is our Star of the Month on TCM, doesn't show up until halfway through the film. Grant gets the chance to play a suitably elegant and dashing young man, and does so as well as he did with his Salvation Army worker in She Done Him Wrong (airing just before I'm No Angel at 9:30 PM). The rest of the cast is adequate, but not particularly standing out.

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