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HEAT’S ON, THE (director: Gregory Ratoff; screenwriters: story by Boris Ingster & Lou Breslow/Fitzroy Davis/George Saint George/Fred Schiller; cinematographer: Franz Planer; editor: Otto Meyer; music: John Leipold; cast: Mae West (Fay Lawrence), Victor Moore (Hubert Bainbridge), William Gaxton (Tony Ferris), Lloyd Bridges (Andy Walker), Mary Roche (Janey Bainbridge), Hazel Scott (Herself), Xavier Cugat (Himself), Alan Dinehart (Forrest Stanton), Lester Allen (Mouse Beller), Almira Sessions (Hannah Bainbridge); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Gregory Ratoff; Columbia Pictures; 1943)
“It would be difficult to make a worse musical/comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It would be difficult to make a worse musical/comedy. The film comes at a time when Mae West hadn’t made a pic for the last three years (My Little Chickadee-1940, with W.C. Fields) and has turned fifty, as other much younger starlets such as Lana Turner, Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth have caught the public’s fancy. Mae mistakenly signed a contract with hack director/producer Gregory Ratoff (“Moss Rose”/”Paris Underground”/”Irish Eyes Are Smiling”) without reading the script. When she finally read it, she was furious and ended up rewriting her own dialogue. But that didn’t help the weak narrative, it only made the pic more disjointed. Besides the lame jokes, dull musical numbers, and sorry excuse for a narrative, Mae wasn’t on enough as the film kept cutting away to the obnoxious supporting cast who were about as interesting as watching wet paint dry. This bitter experience made Mae flee back to the stage and not make a film for 27 years, when she was coaxed out of retirement to star in the travesty called Myra Breckinridge-1970, where at least she performed well.

Mae West is cast as famous Broadway actress Fay Lawrence, who is starring in a dud play produced by chiseler Tony Ferris (William Gaxton). Fay wants out of her contract, but Tony pleads with her to stay as he tells her how much he loves her and pulls out the old nostalgic loyalty plea by bringing up the many hit shows they had together. Her way out is through a clause that says if not enough revenue is coming in for the week, she can void the contract. To get publicity for the show Tony gets the Bainbridge Foundation, who are running a campaign to clean up Broadway, to close the show for a night for indecency. But Tony’s surprised when the show gets completely shut down and Fay immediately agrees to star in rival producer Forrest Stanton’s Tropicana. The slimy Tony then gets Foundation’s bumbling supply room clerk, Hubert Bainbridge, the brother of the Foundation’s head, to call Stanton and tell him a lie that Fay has been blacklisted by his Foundation. In exchange, Tony promises to make Hubert’s ambitious niece Janey Bainbridge a star in his next show. The uninteresting and ridiculous battle with the rival producers escalates, and when the prissy blue-nosed head of the Foundation, Hannah Bainbridge, returns from the West Coast, she’s outraged to learn her dummy brother was hoodwinked into embezzling money from the Foundation to back Tony’s show. Hannah stops payments, but Fay comes to the rescue with another mindless bright idea to keep things going and the film closes with a show being put on by everyone concerned. I guess that meant everything worked out okay.

The revolting story never added up, and the music seemed thrown together without regard for story content. This one goes to the top of my list of all-time bum musicals, and even for wartime fare it hits rock bottom.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”