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Belle of the Nineties

Why Did Paramount Pictures Purchase 50 Parrots?

There are roughly 398 species of parrots worldwide, but not all have the ability to talk. African grey parrots and Amazon parrots are more likely to mimic human speech than others.

In 1933, as a publicity stunt for the film Belle of the Nineties, a Hollywood Press Agent bought 50 parrots. They were all trained to say “It ain’t no sin” and were supposed to be place in theater lobbies to advertise the opening of the film.

What Was The Story Behind the Tagline?

You’re probably wondering why the parrots were trained to say “It ain’t no sin” to promote the film. Belle of the Nineties was originally entitled – It Ain’t No Sin. This was based on the original story’s title which was written by Mae West herself. However, the censors at the time, did not like the name and had the producers change it.

What Happened to the Parrots?

Since the film was no longer using the original title, the marketing team had no use for the 50 parrots that were bought and trained. Instead of reselling the parrots or keeping them captive, they were released in South America. Yes, still saying the line “It ain’t no sin.” (Source: Mae West)

Belle of the Nineties: The Film

The movie, Belle of the Nineties was released in 1934. It was directed by Leo McCarey under Paramount Pictures. The film was known the premiere performance of “My Old Flame” which was sung by Mae West with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

The production of the film started in March 1932 and was done by June that same year. The film was released in September 21, 1934. It earned $2 Million in the US alone, in spite of the whole parrot debacle. (Source: New York Times)

Who is Mae West?

Mae West is the star and writer of the original story and screenplay of the film Bell of the Nineties. She is also one of the most controversial movies stars in her day. She was born on August 17, 1893 in Brooklyn. Her entertainment career started at a young age when she would appear in amateur shows in her home town.

She would often use different aliases while performing. She initially used the stage name Baby Mae and changed it to Jane Mast at the start of her career as an impersonator.

She encountered several issues with censorship that she would often joke about it saying; “I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it.” (Source: History)

When she ended her film career, she started writing books and plays. She also dabbled in music and has recorded rock and roll albums. She continued to perform in Las Vegas and the UK.

In August 1980, Mae West tripped while trying to get out of her bed. She was not able to speak after the fall. She was then taken to the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, where tests showed that she had suffered a stroke. She died 3 months later at the age of 87. (Source: New York Times)

In 1999, the American Film Institute voted Mae West as the 15th greatest female screen legend of classic American cinema.

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