Today in 1934, Paramount Pictures released the movie “Belle of the Nineties.”
Mae West played a nightclub star who moves to New Orleans, where all the men fell for her.
Plus there was boxing and jewel thievery and music written by W.C. Handy.
It was released shortly after the movie industry adopted a production code, so Mae West’s persona is not really on full display here.
It’s not well remembered today, except for a planned publicity stunt around the movie involving parrots.
There are a lot of versions of this story, but as longtime Paramount fixture A.C. Lyles told it, the studio got hold of dozens of parrots and put them in a room where a clip of sound was played over and over.
Parrots, of course, can mimic human speech.
The studio bosses figured if they could teach the birds the title of the movie, they could send the birds to theater lobbies all over the country and convince moviegoers to check out the latest Mae West picture.
There was only one problem: at that point, the movie had a different, more Mae West-y title: “It Ain’t No Sin.”
That’s what they taught the parrots to say.
Only they changed the title to “Belle of the Nineties,” a much more Production Code-friendly name.
That meant the publicity stunt didn’t happen, of course.
It’s not completely clear what happened to the parrots, but I like to think that maybe adventurers passing through somewhere tropical might look up into the trees and spot a parrot that somehow said, over and over, “It Ain’t No Sin… It Ain’t No Sin.”
That said, if you want parrots to publicize your movie, shouldn’t you name it “rawk”?
Today is the International Day of Peace, or World Peace Day.
There’s a lot we can all do to make the world a more peaceful place.
One idea is to do like Mani Manithan of southern India, who walked backwards everywhere he went for decades to symbolize how violence makes the world go backwards.
A.C. Lyles (“A Woman At War” via Google Books)
Mani Manithan: I walked backwards for 25 years (Friday Magazine)
Photo via Wikicommons