Saturday, July 03, 2010


Someday I may be ready to write about a Mae West movie or a W. C Fields movie, but for some reason, these two stars are problematic figures for me. I like their movies, but despite their mass appeal in the 30's, I think they don’t translate well to today's viewers. Both performers had strongly etched personas (bad girl with a heart of gold & nasty crank with a heart of stone) and both could be quite funny, but their movies are erratically paced; his pay little attention to narrative and hers pay too much. Unfortunately, this film, the only one they made together, has most of their weaknesses and few of their strengths. The saucy West has been thrown out of town for being suspected of carrying on with a bandit; on the train out of town, she meets up with Fields, carrying a big bag of money, and marries him to get respectable. What Fields doesn't know is that the minister is a fake and they aren't really married, so West keeps avoiding him, especially in the bedroom, and continues to dally with other men. The plot gets sillier and more incoherent, but the movie is too heavily plotted to ignore it. Both West and Fields get some good moments, though rarely with each other. Margaret Hamilton steals her scenes doing a variation on her uptight Elmira Gulch character from OZ. Some of the better lines: Man: "I heard you buried your wife"; Fields: "I had to--she died"; Fields, apropos of nothing, "Did you ever kick a woman in the midriff?"; When a judge asks West if she's showing contempt for the court, she replies, "No, I’m doing my best to hide it." Not terrible but disappointing, given the one-time superstar pairing. [DVD]

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