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The Bowery, the 1890's: Lady Lou (Mae West) is an openly promiscuous,
diamond-collecting nightclub singer who works at Gus Jordan's (Noah Beery)
Saloon, and the two are a couple ... but that doesn't keep her from
looking for a bit of fun elsewhere, as currently she has designs on both
Sergei (Gilbert Roland), the boyfriend of Gus' associate Rita (Rafaela
Ottiano) and Cummings (Cary Grant), the harmless young man who runs the
mission next door, evdn though he seems much too holier-than-thou
to even notice her (to get him she even goes so far as to buy the building
the mission is in when he runs into financial difficulties).
Now this all
sounds difficult enough as it is, but additional to this, a girl (Rochelle
Hudson) who has last seen with Lou has disappeared and it seems Gus, Rita
and Sergei have their hands in it, Lou's ex-boyfriend Chick (Owen Moore)
has broken out of jail just to see her again - and take her back -, and
Gus' competitor Dan Flynn (David Landau) seems to also have designs on
her. Then Lou accidently kills Rita in a fight and indirectly causes Dan
Flynn to be shot ...
And as if this still wasn't enough, there is an undercover policeman
called the Hawk on the prowl, out to arrest anybody remotely
associated with Gus.
In the end, the Hawk turns out to be mild-mannered Cummings, who
really manages to arrest everybody in Gus' gang - unbeknowest to Lou, Gus
had been a money forger and smuggler -, all but Lou herself, whom he
proposes to ...
The plot of this comedy is as overconvoluted as it is thin ... but all
this doesn't matter much because this film is actually little more than a
showcase for Mae West, who - in her first movie as a lead - plays her
bad-girl-role with such a panache in this (and many of her other films)
and delivers her racy dialogue in such an unashamed manner that the rest
of the film hardly matters. Even (pre-stardom) Cary Grant is no match for
West in this one (though admittedly, his role is rather undemanding), and
to this day, there has been no other actress who was as perfect in bad
girl roles as West.
By the way, the film was so successful back int he day that it
singlehandedly saved its production company Paramount from
bankrupcy and being taken over by MGM
... a lesson that should be learned by production companies even nowadays
that money can be made from bad girls, even if they don't have to redeem
themselves in the end.