The Heat’s On (1943)
“Turn on the Fun! A Heat Wave of Beautiful GIRLS! GAGS! RHYTHM! and ROMANCE!”
The Heat’s On (1943)
Director: Gregory Ratoff
Cast: Mae West, Victor Moore, William Gaxton
Synopsis: When his biggest star joins a rival’s show, a Broadway producer bluffs and schemes to get her back.
The troubled production of a movie is often evident in the finished article, which is definitely the case with The Heat’s On, the irrepressible Mae West’s first film for three years – and her last for 27. She only agreed to make the movie as a favour to her friend and relative (by marriage) Gregory Ratoff, as he was unable to raise the required funding without her name behind it, but made the mistake of signing the contract before even seeing a script. By the time she did see one, Ratoff had already filmed many of the musical numbers, and West’s character was entirely different to that which he had described to her – and from her own carefully crafted screen persona. She only went through with making The Heat’s On on the condition that she was permitted to re-write all of her own lines. Allowing West to do this, however, meant that Ratoff had to hastily re-write large portions of the script to accommodate her changes – sometimes at only a few hours notice. Shooting was chaotic – and it shows on the screen.
West plays Fay Lawrence, a broadway star whose latest show is doing so badly that its own producer, Tony Ferris (William Gaxton) arranges for moral watchdogs The Bainbridge Foundation to demand it is temporarily shut down in order to win some much-needed publicity. Unfortunately, his plan backfires when the show is closed down permanently, giving Lawrence the opportunity to sign on to star in a rival production. Realising that he needs Lawrence if he is to have any chance of staging another hit, Ferris cons Hubert Bainbridge (Victor Moore – Make Way for Tomorrow, The Seven Year Itch), the inept brother of the head of the Foundation, into blacklisting Faye so that the producer of her new show will agree to sell ownership over to him, and then persuades Bainbridge to embezzle funds from the foundation to fund his own production of the show.
If you get the impression that West’s character doesn’t figure much in that synopsis, that’s because, although she receives top billing, hers is really only a supporting role, with most of the screen time going to Gaxton and Moore. She’s still in decent shape for her age (she was nearly fifty), drawling her lines as she sashays around the screen, but it’s easy to sense that she’s going through the motions and has little interest in the flick. Much of the brief running time is taken up by musical numbers which are often out of context with the storyline. Most of them are unmemorable, although young pianist Hazel Scott stands out in her two numbers, particularly when playing two pianos at once. There isn’t much else to recommend The Heat’s On, other than Moore’s endearing performance and a couple of brief appearances from a young Lloyd Bridges (High Noon, Airplane).
(Reviewed 24th February 2016)