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  My Little Chickadee Godfrey Daniel!Buy this film here.
Year: 1940
Director: Edward F. Cline
Stars: Mae West, W.C. Fields, Joseph Calleia, Dick Foran, Ruth Donnelly, Margaret Hamilton, Donald Meek, Fuzzy Knight, Willard Robertson, George Moran, Jackie Searl, Fay Adler, Gene Austin, Russell Hall, Otto Heimel, Jimmy Conlin
Genre: Western, Comedy
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Flower Belle Lee (Mae West) is riding in a stagecoach on the way to her home in the smalltown of Little Bend when she and the passengers are held up by the mysterious Masked Bandit. She is unruffled but impatient when faced with this, and makes such an impression on the disguised criminal that he scoops her up and rides off with her, to the horror of the drivers and her fellow travellers. As soon as they get back to town, a posse is arranged to go and search for her, but that evening she turns up unscathed, and the truth comes out - she and the bandit got on very well, and Flower Belle is run out of town...

For a good few decades, every comedian (and comedienne) worth their salt would have a comedy western to star in, and Mae West and W.C. Fields were little different, except that they elected to star in one together. They were not exactly the best of friends offscreen, but did combine their resources to write this vehicle that would give them equal opportunities under the limelight, and the result was very warmly recieved, apparently owing to the novelty of seeing these two firing off quips with each other, and how well liked they had been in their own films. However, My Little Chickadee was an idea which worked better in concept than it did in reality.

Fields undoubtedly came off the better, although even he was slightly hamstrung by not exclusively hogging the screen and you do miss him when he is not appearing. West, with her brand of double entendre, was by this stage let down by the fact that she had to tone down her act in the few films she made after the censorious Production Code was brought in, and if the scenes which have her going through anaemic versions of her act are not entirely devoid of sauciness, this is not the full strength Mae we're seeing. Luckily, when the stars are together they create enough sparks to compensate.

But even then, the gags are simply reworkings of their previous material, with West the always in control flirt and Fields hard-drinking, racist, sexist and utterly self-centred, but somehow forgivable because he is such a ridiculous character. Nothing we had not seen before, but both were drawing to the end of their screen careers, Fields due to his health (he only made two more films, although one was the all-time classic The Bank Dick) and West because she had simply fallen out of favour with the era, although she was still working, just not in movies. Their characters go through a sham marriage in this, with Fields' Cuthbert J. Twillie believing it real but Flower Belle knowing different, yet really they could have been in separate films here.

The only reason Flower Belle goes through with the impromptu ceremony is because she notes the huge bag of cash that Twillie carries, though discovers later it's not bills but tokens for his snake oil business. No matter, as she has the attentions of a pair of men, one the more disreputable Jeff Badger (Joseph Calleia) who owns the saloon, and the other the honest newspaperman Wayne Carter (Dick Foran), to contend with - hmm, I wonder which could be the Masked Bandit? Meanwhile, Fields eschewed plotlines to give himself a series of sketches to work through, the best of which sees him take a bath and climb into bed with a goat. My Little Chickadee will always enjoy historical value, though the fact is that what seemed like a good idea on paper did not amount to twice the laughs but half of them, so while welcome, the stars were better solo. Music by Frank Skinner.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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