The Story (continued)
I'm No Angel (1933)
Just then, Slick comes in (a familiar shakedown tactic to extract money from the Chump), breaks in on his "wife" to threaten the suitor and call the cops. But she is upset with Slick:
You can't shake this guy down. Here I am just about to come up with some dough and you come in and spoil it.
And the Chump refuses to be taken for a sucker:
You picked the wrong one this time. I got connections in this town and I'm gonna see that you get what's comin' to ya, both of ya.
Slick knocks him out with a bottle after he resists. Tira refuses to take the blame for what Slick has done, although Slick understands her motives:
You'd like me to get set up though so you could have a free hand with the boys. What a good time you'd have. Well listen, you may be tired of me, but I ain't tired of you.
He forces a kiss from her. Unconcerned and coldhearted about the stiff body on the floor, Slick robs the Chump of his expensive diamond ring before the two of them leave. Soon after, Slick is caught on the circus grounds with the stolen ring, identified by the Chump, and arrested/jailed for theft and beating. Tira calls long-distance for lawyer friend Benny Pinkowitz (Gregory Ratoff) to help out. Big Bill Barton thinks Pinkowitz is a shyster and wonders how she got mixed up in the incident with Slick. "Like an olive in a dry martini," she replies.
Pinkowitz agrees to help but demands money to cover court costs: "a nice piece of change to square up everything." Tira asks Big Bill a favor for "some dough right away." She explains her alternatives:
It's either one thing or the other. You fix me up with dough before morning or I gotta get out of town. If Slick goes up, he's gonna drag me with him. I want the dough and I'll pay you back as soon as I can.
To help raise money to help Slick and cover his defense, Tira proposes a crowd-pleasing act for Barton - she will even stick her head in the big cat's mouth. Bill is unconvinced until the circus barker persuades Bill to go through with her crazy proposal. They rush to Tira's quarters:
Big Bill: I changed my mind.
Tira: (wisecracking) Does it work any better?
They suggest a business proposition to her, to become the star attraction of Barton's new show that would play to large audiences:
The Big Show. Playing the big cities...No more worrying...All the clothes you want.
But Tira is already skeptical and fearful: "What good will clothes do me without a head?" But she is soon convinced by the promise of stardom, fame, and money:
Boys, I think you got me sold. The only trouble with a trick like that. If it don't work the first time, you don't get a second chance.
Tira is advanced $2,000: a "couple of grand." She immediately prepares her whip and pistol, and walks to the lion's cage. She consults with the lion in the cage:
Now listen, honey. There's a little somethin' I want to talk over with ya. Now this is what you gotta do!
At the Big Show playing for two weeks in New York City, Tira is the star of the new sensational lion-tamer act, the "million-dollar beauty." She enters the ring astride an elephant, wearing a white sequined uniform with a whip in her hand. The climax of her act is the death-defying act of placing her head in the jaws of the king of beasts.
A sailor in the audience tells his pal: "Say, if them lions don't show some sense, I'm going down and bite her myself." Following the show, Tira tells her black maid Beulah Thorndyke (Gertrude Howard):
Well, Beulah, that's another performance under my belt and I still got the face...It's my fortune. When I was born with this face, it was the same as striking oil.
Back stage, she is introduced to "silk hats" (high-society people), including rich playboy Kirk Lawrence (Kent Taylor) and his fiancee, an upper class snob named Alicia Hatton (Gertrude Michael). Alicia believes that Tira is beneath her and leaves immediately. The group of "silk hats" tells her how impressed they are with her daring lion act and request autographs. As Kirk leaves, he personally tells her:
Kirk: Well anyway, you've been awfully kind. I'll never forget you.
Tira: No one ever does.
Speaking loudly outside Tira's door so that Tira can hear, Alicia feels Tira only appeals to the men because "they all have low minds and she's certainly low enough to appeal to them...I think she's crude in a very ill-bred person." Not willing to let the insult pass, Tira humiliates the woman by tossing her glass of water out the door, soaking society girl Alicia's bare back.
Kirk returns to retrieve his cane, deliberately left so he can speak privately to Tira and make a play for her: "You're wonderful. You're dazzling. You're beautiful. You're gorgeous...Let's get better acquainted." She finally accepts his dinner invitation for the next day, and expresses her admiration for Kirk by offering one of her typical interchanges to the males in her life:
Tira: I like sophisticated men to take me out.
Kirk (counting himself out): Well, I'm not really sophisticated.
Tira (quick-wittedly): Ah, you're not really out yet either. (He kisses her hand as he parts.)
In a montage of images, Kirk drops his fiancee and the next day purchases expensive presents for Tira - duly impressed with her courageous act with the lion. One present has a note attached: "To Tira - Who can tame more than lions. Kirk." While receiving a pedicure, a manicure, and hair-styling from three black maids, her coterie is very impressed by her appeal to gentlemen:
A maid: I been under the impression that you is a one-man woman.
Tira: I am. One man at a time.
In a visual gag, Tira places photographs of her male admirers next to porcelain animals. Kirk's photograph is next to a stag, Barton's is beside a skunk.
Kirk's jealous fiancee Alicia Hatton appears at Tira's door, and is let in to complain:
I suppose you know why I'm here...I am Kirk's fiancee...I want to know just what you intend to do...You know you're making a fool of him...
Alicia accuses Tira of taking an interest in Kirk's wealth. Tira defends herself but Alicia calls her a liar:
Tira: Whatever you're thinkin', you're wrong. I only like him like a brother. You ain't got nothin' to worry about...Say, listen you. A better dame than you once called me a liar and they had to sew her up in twelve different places. You're lucky I'm a little more refined than I used to be. And if you was as much a lady as I am, you'd get out of here before I get real sore.
Alicia: You haven't a streak of decency in you.
Tira: I don't show my good points to strangers. I'll trouble you to scram.
Tira refuses a bribe to stay away from Kirk, and then shoves Alicia out the door. Turning back and striding across the room, she instructs Beulah in one of her most famous lines:
Tira: Oh, Beulah.
Beulah: Yes, ma'am.
Tira: Peel me a grape.
(She has a pet African woolly monkey, Boogie, who makes a cameo appearance and loves to peel the tough skin off each grape.)
Kirk's cousin, millionaire leading man Jack Clayton (Cary Grant) is concerned about Kirk's passion for Tira and suggests that Kirk drop Tira before she ruins his life:
Jack: This mad infatuation of yours for this lion tamer will ruin your life and Alicia's too...You seem to forget that you're an engaged man.
Kirk: I intend to handle my own affairs...(I'm going to continue with this woman) indefinitely.
Meanwhile, Slick is released from jail and compliments Tira on her penthouse and lifestyle:
Slick: ...a swell joint you got here. You done pretty nice for yourself. From a tent to a penthouse. Yup. This is a great layout.
Tira: Well, this is one place you ain't laying out in honey.
She does promise to help him get a place in the circus if he gives up pickpocketing.