Columbia Pictures Gregory Ratoff Gregory Ratoff Fitzroy Davis, George S George, Fred Schiller 9 February 1944 80 minutes Mae West, Victor Moore, William Gaxton, Lester Allen, Allan Dinehart, Mary Roche, Lloyd Bridges and Almira Sessions
The best that can be said about The Heats On is that Mae West looks sensational in it. She was at her slimmest ever on film and looks divine in the contemporary 40s wardrobe designed for her by Walter Plunkett. She also has a couple of very funny scenes. But otherwise, the film is badly written, badly directed and badly edited. The only saving grace is that Mae had only limited artistic input so at least its poor quality cannot be entirely blamed on its star.
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Her big mistake was to rely on the promises of her old pal, Gregory Ratoff (Pinkowitz in Im No Angel) when she signed up to do the film without seeing a shooting script. By the time she did see the script she had already done a lot of pre-publicity and some of the production numbers had already been filmed. She felt that the script was at odds with her screen persona and she disliked it so much that she asked to be released from the picture. Ratoff pleaded with her to stick with the project saying that if she withdrew, it would bankrupt him. Mae, always a push over for a hard luck story, went along with him so long as she could rewrite all of her scenes. It was a decision she would live to regret.
Foreshadowing similar problems with Myra Breckenridge 27 years later, the film was doomed when it became clear that the producer/director and the star approached the script from two different angles, the former wishing to preserve the integrity of the story and the latter determined to preserve her prized screen persona. Mae won the day but the end result is a mess - nothing really hangs together, and worst of all some of Maes scenes, including a much pre-publicised production number in which she was pictured wearing a magnificent "cobra" outfit, ended up on the cutting room floor.
Mae has two songs in the picture - Im a Stranger in Town and Hello Mi Amigo. In both numbers she is extravagantly and beautifully gowned. She is in fine voice for Im a Stranger in Town but unbelievably bad editing cuts across what should have been a fabulous big finish to the number. For Hello Mi Amigo, the films finale, the sound engineer deserved to have been shot because Maes voice can hardly be heard over the elaborate orchestration. A big finish it is not.
The Heats On does have its moments. Memorable are Maes very witty scenes with Victor Moore and Almira Sessions. But the film fails as a Mae West vehicle since Mae is on screen for only a quarter of the running time. When Mae is not on screen to inject some interest, the film is quite simply dull. Needless to say The Heats On attracted very unfavourable reviews and the heat appeared to be off so far as Maes screen career was concerned. Scarred by the experience and becoming increasingly frustrated by the straight-jacket created for her act by the film censors, Mae began to turn her thoughts back to the theatre. There she could exercise more control and, once again, quite literally run the whole show! It would not be long before Diamond Lil was back sparkling brighter than ever before ..