"The Production Code certainly did its duty (and damage) with Mae West's films. Her lines and remarks were dramatically "toned down". If you compare this movie with its immediate Pre-Code predecessors "She Done Him Wrong" and "I'm No Angel", you'll know what I mean.Anyway, still worthwhile to watch, West has a field day as "the flame" of both, St. Louis and New Orléans, with boxer Roger Pryor, upper-class Johnny Mack Brown and villainous casino owner John Miljan, at the top of the list of her admirers. Mae never looked so ravishing again as in this picture, in those awesome 1890s gowns designed especially for her by Paramount's top couturier Travis Banton. She also gets to sing a great deal here, mostly accompanied by a young Duke Ellington and his Orchestra."
Not Mae's best script, but her best score
Jay Dickson | Portland, OR | 11/23/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Like her nearest competitors the Marx brothers and W.C. Fields, Mae West worked best in films where the logic of the plot made the least sense (as in I'M NO ANGEL where she's a lion tamer who conquers New York's society lions). In this film version of one of her stage plays, the plot is pretty sensible, which acts to its detriment. Mae doesn't get nearly as great lines as she usually does, and there's all this creaking plot machinery to establish her moral position and that of her no-good boyfriends. Still, it has great sets and costumes, and you get to hear her really cut loose with some of the best honky-tonk songs she ever got to sing in her wonderful adenoidal way, including "My Old Flame" and "Memphis Blues." Her accompaniment is by Duke Ellington and his orchestra (you even get to see them with her in one scene), which should let you know how special this score is. And Mae is, of course, always Mae."
A WEST-ERN GEM FROM 1934
scotsladdie | 01/16/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"More spectacular than Mae's first two vehicles, BELLE OF THE NINETIES cost more that her previous starrers combined, and still reaped a huge profit. The story was written by Mae herself and it's pretty weak - although the Hays office snapped its scissors on some of her best lines. West's unique presence, and command for innuendo - which could raise laughs from the most innocuous remarks, kept the movie simmering. So did the superb Duke Ellington Orchestra which ably helped Mae through four numbers - most notably the standard to be MY OLD FLAME. Looking like an upholstered egg-timer, the star was kept on the screen front and centre throughout by astute director Leo McCarey in this William Le Baron production from 1934. For trivia buffs, the working title of this flick was IT AIN'T NO SIN - however the censors disagreed, and the title was laundered along with the risque script. Mae struts her stuff as 1890's singer Ruby Carter who gets involved with a boxer.......... Such lines as "It's better to be looked over than overlooked" and such done in her inimitable style gets the point across, even if the prudish and rather foolish Hays office thought otherwise. The rather chunky, 41 year-old star was photographed by Karl Struss and Mae never looked better on film."
Belle of the Nighties
"Tee" | LA | 04/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of Mae's five best films. Yes, the movie's original script was censored, but indications are that the original was much racier than even her early films (as one might expect given the production title IT AIN'T NO SIN) so it's not really any tamer than her first three films and Mae has several of her best lines, my favorite is "I'm in town - but not for good." The song numbers are the best Mae ever did in the movies. The movie also offers a rare look at "tableaux", the odd stage art popular in the 19th century of simply posing on the stage which climaxes with Mae posing as the Statue of Liberty, or as George Jean Nathan put it, The Statue of Libido."
Mae West as Ruby Carter
Jarrod Kirkland | 01/08/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"BELLE OF THE NINETIES was originally entitled "It Ain't no Sin". However, the censors disagreed and the result was a changed title and a laundered script. Mae is a nightclub performer who sings "My Old Flame" among other numbers with Duke Ellington's orchestra in the background; Roger Pryor is her love interest, a boxer named Tiger Kid. In one scene John Miljan goes into great detail in describing Mae's physical attributes while proposing, Mae stops him cold: "Wait a moment"! "Is this a proposal or are you takin' inventory! " Directed by Leo McCarey and photographed by Karl Struss (Mae never looked better) this is still an amusing example of West-ern humor!"