on March 21, 2012
Avec sa dégaine de loubarde, ses oeillades appuyées et sa silhouette à l'opposé des canons actuels (mais qui avait fait d'elle un sex-symbole de son temps) Mae West peut paraître démodée. Cependant, intelligente, rouée, à la répartie qui fait mouche, sympathique, Mae symbolise la revanche du petit peuple américain sur les aristocrates anglais d'abord et ceux qui, américains, se prétendent plus ou moins en descendre, celle aussi du vrai bon sens contre les conventions et les "bonnes" manières, enfin l'affirmation de la liberté (de ton, d'allure, de conduite dans la vie) par rapport aux standards figés des années 30.Si on les replace dans leur contexte, la plupart de ses films - dont elle écrit la plupart du temps le scénario et les dialogues - ont extrêmement bien vieilli et apparaissent même si décapants, si originaux qu'ils en deviennent "jouissifs". Ce coffret regroupe cinq de ses films les plus célèbres et permet dans de bonnes conditions techniques (excellents transferts, belle présentation, VO sous titrée français) de se familiariser avec une des figures les plus populaires et les plus originales de l'avant guerre américaine.
"Mae West - The Glamour Collection" is a good addition to the film library of fans of the legendary blonde and for the general Hollywood collector.
The set includes 5 movies ranging from mediocre to great, "Night After Night" (1932)- in my opinion is the worst film of the bunch, "I'm No Angel" (1933) - is the funniest, "Goin' to Town" (1935) - is the most enjoyable, ""Go West, Young Man" (1936) - is mediocre West and "My Little Chickadee" (1940) - pairs West with the legendary W.C Fields.
"Night After Night" ** 1/2. This almost forgotten little film is a curiosity item because it is Mae West's screen debut. The film stars George Raft, who plays Joe, a former boxer and owner of a speakeasy who is interested in romancing an attractive and mysterious socialite, Miss Jerry Healy (Constance Cummings). Whatever one thinks of the film (I am not too enamoured with it as I find it a bit tedious to get through) there is no denying once West's Maudie Triplett enters the scene, she steals the show and despite her brief appearance here, delivers some of her classic dialogues ("Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie.") The scene in the hotel bedroom with West and Alison Skipworth dealing with a hangover and an innocent misunderstanding is a hoot. This film may have been a star vehicle for the other actors but Mae West managed to steal the spotlight off them and several decades later, this film is remembered mostly for her presence.
"I'm No Angel" ****. This film is one of West's best features and it contains some of her wittiest dialogue. West plays Tira, a circus performer who hits the big time as a lion tamer. Her fame and prestige catches the eye of several male suitors, one of them is the dashing Jack Clayton (Cary Grant) who is clearly smitten and proposes marriage. Wanting to settle down with Clayton, Tira decides she wants to quit her circus act but her manager concocts a scheme in order to keep her in the show and destroy her relationship. Much has been said about this charming early 30's comedy. As mentioned, it contains some of West's wittiest dialogue and she delivers them fast and furious and some of her most famous lines are featured here including "When I'm good I'm very good but when I'm bad, I'm better" and "It's not the men in your life that count, it's the life in your men". And when asked by her shady Manager (after Tira got herself in a bit of trouble) "How are you mixed up in all of this?" Her response: "Like an olive in a dry martini." The woman was a hoot however West's ego stroking is at it's zenith in this film which is also my main complaint. Despite the bawdy humour and hysterical dialogue, there is too much of Mae and far too much swooning over her and her physical appeal. A bit less would have worked better especially considering that Hollywood's other more conventional bombshells, Harlow, Monroe, Welch, Hayworth etc, hardly had this many men salivating over them in one 90 minute feature. We get it, Tira, as written, is a bewitching temptress, but the audience doesn't need reminding every 5 minutes on how irresistible she is since it becomes tiresome and at times, laughable and the standard then becomes too impossibly high to meet with only a few women being able to meet or exceed that incredibly high expectation. Still, this is a funny movie and is definitely one of her best.
"Goin' to Town" ****. This film is probably my favorite in this set as it contains her witty dialogue and trademark "purrrr's" and most importantly, is very entertaining. West plays Cleo Borden. A temptress with a past who marries into the big leagues but despite having all the money in the world, she is shunned by most of high society and has a difficult time trying to swoon the man of her affections. There is a lot that happens in this film which is one of the reasons it's never boring. West flirts, becomes engaged, becomes a widow, travels to Argentina, flirts some more, marries, and is constantly feuding with the many men, including Edward Carrington (Paul Cavanagh), the man of her desire and an incredibly snobby and ruthless high society lady, Mrs. Crane Brittony played tremendously by Marjorie Gateson. Although this film was released when the strict production code was in effect, West delivers some funny dialgue including one of my favorites:
Cleo: "Yeah, for a long time I was ashamed of the way I lived."
Man: "You mean to tell me, you've reformed?"
Cleo: "No, I got over being ashamed."
Or the scene as she is trying to tell her not so intelligent male suitor that they are not right for each other:
Cleo: Listen Ivan, you're alright to play around with but as a husband, you get in my hair..... Besides, we're intellectual opposites".
Ivan: "What do you mean?"
Cleo: "Well I'm intellectual and you're opposite."
"Goin' to Town" is classic Mae West. It is not often recognized as being her best film but for my money, it is one of her best and it stands up to repeated viewings.
"Go West Young Man" ** 1/2, is a tame West vehicle. By this time, the censors were successful in watering down her material so do not expect a lot of her witty and sexually laced dialogue. There is very little of it here. West plays Mavis Arden, a temperamental movie star who is constantly being scrutinized by her press agent, Morgan (Warren Williams). Morgan is secretly in love with her and tries to sabotage all of her dates and personal appearances with the male population. During one of these personal appearance tours, her car breaks down and she is forced to take refuge in a boarding house populated by several colorful characters, including a star-struck girl (Isabel Jewell) and a strapping mechanic (Randolph Scott) whom Arden becomes smitten with. In comparison to her other star vehicles, this one is rather lackluster and it's not solely due to the watered down treatment of her dialogue. The film is rather weak, and if there is a West feature that has a running time that feels endless, it's this one. There is not much action here and West plays a rather shallow, unlikeable character and despite moments of redemption, you end up caring for no one and even the secondary characters come across as a bit annoying. Good to watch at least once as there is no accounting for personal taste, but for me, this is mediocre West and she has done and will do better.
"My Little Chickadee" *** 1/2. Considering this was the anticipated pairing of West and Fields, the film is not the stand-out masterpiece one would expect as it still takes a back-seat to her superior "She Done Him Wrong" and the more bawdy "Belle of the Nineties". However, this film still entertains. West plays Flower Belle Lee, a scorned woman who is run out of her home-town, Little Bend, for being accused of romancing a masked bandit. She is permitted to return once she can prove she is respectable and married. Accompanying her on her travel to Greasewood City is the obnoxious Mrs. Gideon (played annoyingly by Margaret Hamilton) who played a crucial role in her tarnished image. Along the way they meet Cuthbert J. Twillie (W.C Fields). Although they are a mis-matched pair, they stage a fake marriage and Flower Belle wins back her respectability however trouble seems to follow them to the untamed Greasewood City as the masked bandit is still in hot pursuit of Flower Belle. The movie has it's moment and there are some genuinely funny scenes. One involving a goat and the other, a classroom full of immature boys and the always funny Flower Belle. If you are fans of West, Fields and Hamilton, you will love this pictures. My complaint is that as the film moves along, the novelty wears off and most of the characters become irritating, with the probable exception of West. I happen to think that West actually looked better in her later films ("Everyday's a Holiday", "My Little Chickadee" and "The Heat's On") than in her earlier films and it is more believable, at least for me, to accept her as a temptress desired by all the men that lay eyes upon her. The pairing of these 2 stars is an interesting one and the film has its moments of wit, action and comedy. Legend has it that the 2 stars could not stand each other, if this is true, you cannot tell in the final picture.
The films are contained within 2 DVD's. "Night After Night" and "I'm No Angel" is presented on the first side of the first disc with "Goin' to Town" on the reverse side. The other 2 films are presented on the same side of the second disc. The picture quality and sound on all films is simply okay and are no better than the many VHS versions I previously owned. There are no extras other than the trailers for 2 of the films - "I'm No Angel" and "My Little Chickadee". Each film comes with a chapter selection and language option and there are no linear notes. So basically you just get the films. For the price, it is worth it. I just wish the set would be more complete as it omits a couple of West's better films such as "She Done Him Wrong" - arguably her best feature, the entertaining "Belle of the Nineties" (1934), the rather interesting drama "Klondike Anne" (1936) and the rather enjoyable "Every Day's a Holiday" (1937) which is Mae West lite and a weaker entry in her film catalogue but still fun to watch. I would have preferred any of these over 2 of the films featured here. Regardless, this is recommended to the fans, if you haven't purchased this set already.
Untamed, always fun, funny and bawdy, this legendary, full-figured blonde is fun to watch and is pure, unabashed entertainment. Recommended.
on April 26, 2002
MY LITTLE CHICKADEE was originally released to mixed reviews, but by the 1970s a revival of interest in both W.C. Fields and Mae West sparked renewed attention to the film--and while it is somewhat uneven and does not give us either actor at their best, this single pairing of two of Hollywood's most legendary comics offers enough amusement to keep us watching right through to the end.
By every account available, Fields and West absolutely loathed each other. After Field's death West went to considerable effort to belittle both Fields and his contribution to this film, insisting that she herself wrote the story and the script and Fields was responsible for his personal material only. Ironically, her claims re this are hardly flattering to her talent, for the great weakness of CHICKADEE is the actual story itself, which is remarkable for its lack of imagination: Flower Belle becomes mixed up with an outlaw and is run out of town--and told she can't return until she can prove she is respectably married. The opportunity to do precisely that arrives in the form Cuthbert J. Twillie, an inept con-man who becomes her dupe.
Although uninspired, the plot does have the benefit of allowing both West and Fields to do their own thing both separately and occasionally together--and when it works, it goes off with a bang. Their meeting on the train, their wedding night, and West's unlikely stint as a schoolmarm (teaching the young about figures, of course) are all hilarious bits, and Margaret Hamilton gets in some good moments in the supporting cast. The film only sinks whenever it returns to the storyline of West and her bandit lover--so all in all, although not the best, it is well worth a watch, particularly for Fields and West fans. Recommended, but don't expect too much.
on December 20, 2001
Mae West was certainly not your classic beauty, but sauntering into Hollywood at the age of 40 (!) she was somehow very attractive, if more in a "just can't take your eyes off" sort of way than one of genuine good looks. She had a saucy charisma and brash femine confidence that made her age and weight oddly desirable, and within the start of her film career a bonafide sex symbol. But by the time of "My Little Chickadee," at 48, it seems her age has finally caught up to her, and she is reduced to making cheap imitations of herself. The magic and allure is all gone, and though she makes a brave attempt at salvaging a last piece of that brazen bombshell of films like "She Done Him Wrong" and "I'm No Angel," her success is poor. What's more her self-confidence has seemed to become a self-centerdness, and she no longer seems to be acting, but standing alone quoting herself. She no longer really reacts to anyone, but is completely self-contained, as if she was the only actor in the whole picture.
But old age, weight, and wrinkles, the things that most dragged down West, only add to the charm of Fields, who turns in a delightful and suitable performance. For Fields, "My Little Chickadee" only helps to better define his screen presence, and at times he would be very funny. I say "would be." Perhaps it is the admirable struggle and fail of a star who could have nearly retired by the time she was just starting out, but the film has an air of sadness that... well, just isn't funny.