Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mae West, W. C. Fields, Joseph Calleia, Dick Foran, Margaret Hamilton, Donald Meek, Ruth Donnelly, Willard Robertson, Fuzzy Knight, George Moran, Anne Nagel, William B. Davidson, Addison Richards, Fay Adler, Jimmy Conlin, William "Billy" Benedict, Gene Austin, Hank Bell
Written by: Mae West, W. C. Fields
Directed by: Edward F. Cline
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 84
Date: 02/09/1940

My Little Chickadee (1940)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Dangerous Curves

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I came to Mae West late, in 2021, when Kino Lorber released a batch of her movies on Blu-ray. I was familiar with her snide, sexy drawl, and her memorable one-liners, and the way she seemed to sway and sashay across a room, rather than moving her feet. But I had never seen a whole movie. Having watched four of them now, I'm of a mixed mind. She truly was one of a kind; her sex appeal came not from her mathematically-impressive curves, but from her attitude. She liked sex and let us know it, but she also liked to turn down all propositions. Her unavailability made her more desirable. Yet, even in the pre-code era, the movies shoehorned her bawdy style into a formula: she gets the guy in the end, and it feels like a letdown. Post 1934, forget about it.

My Little Chickadee (1940) was the only movie made together by West and W.C. Fields, who received co-screenplay credit, while Edward F. Cline (The Bank Dick) directed. In the Old West, Flower Belle Lee (West) gets involved with a train-robbing bandit, but marries Cuthbert J. Twillie (Fields) for respectability (and because she thinks he has money). The smitten Fields trying to pursue the chilly West is out of character for him, and their scenes together just aren't very funny, but they each have a few moments alone that are OK. Great lines include: West: "Funny... every man I meet wants to protect me. I can't figure out what from," and Fields: "During one of my treks through Afghanistan, we lost our corkscrew... compelled to live on food and water for several days."

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