My Little Chickadee

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The story is set in the American Old West of the 1880s. Miss Flower Belle Lee (Mae West) is a singer from Chicago who is on her way to visit relatives out west. While she is traveling on a stagecoach with three men and a woman named Mrs. Gideon (Margaret Hamilton), the town gossip and busybody, a masked bandit on horseback holds up the stage for its shipment of gold and orders the passengers to step out.

The masked bandit immediately takes an interest in the saucy blonde. As he makes his getaway with the gold, he takes her with him. Upon reaching the town of Little Bend, the others report the robbery and kidnapping to the sheriff (William B. Davidson). Flower Belle then walks into town, unharmed, and explains, “I was in a tight spot but I managed to wriggle out of it.”

Later that evening, at the home of her Aunt Lou (Ruth Donnelly) and Uncle John (Willard Robertson), the masked bandit enters Flower Belle’s second floor bedroom and they start kissing. However, his presence and departure is witnessed by Mrs. Gideon. She quickly reports what she has seen and Flower Belle angrily finds herself hauled up before the judge (Addison Richards). Flower Belle is then run out of Little Bend.

She boards a train to Greasewood City. It makes an unscheduled stop to pick up con-man Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields). When hostile Indians attack, Flower Belle saunters to a window and mows them down with two pistols, while Twillie dodges flying arrows and fights off the Indians with a child’s slingshot. Flower Belle has little use for Twillie until she sees a stash of money in his bag. Believing him to be rich, she then plays up to him and they get acquainted. They have an impromptu wedding, officiated over by a passenger, Amos Budge (Donald Meek), a gambler who looks like a minister.

As she has only pretended to marry Twillie for “respectability”, Flower Belle gets a separate hotel room in Greasewood City. Meanwhile, Twillie is made sheriff by the saloon owner and town boss Jeff Badger (Joseph Calleia), who has an ulterior motive. Flower Belle attracts the attention of Badger, newspaper editor Wayne Carter (Dick Foran), and every other man in town. While keeping her troublesome “husband” out of reach and out of trouble, Flower Belle encounters the masked bandit again.

One night, Twillie enters Flower Belle’s room disguised as the masked bandit. He is accused of being the masked bandit, and is about to be hanged. With the noose around his neck, he makes his last request to the lynching party. “I’d like to see Paris before I die. Philadelphia will do!” However, Flower Belle saves Twillie. At one point, she and Badger had kissed, and from that, she recognizes that he is the masked bandit.

When Flower Belle and Twillie say good-bye, West and Fields spoof each other’s signature line.

“Come up and see me sometime”, he says.

“Mmm, I will, my little chickadee”, she replies.

As Flower Belle sashays up the stairs, “The End” is playfully overlaid on her posterior.

REVIEW:

Apparently Mae West did a number on me last week, because I’m back for another helping of her double entendres with My Little Chickadee. If that title sounds familiar, it is because the title comes from a popular catchphrase used by the star of the film, W.C. Fields. Most of us aren’t old enough to have been around back then, so we know the references in Bugs Bunny cartoons, I’m sure.

What is this about?

Before swooping down on an unwary Old West town, card sharp Cuthbert J. Twillie (W.C. Fields) and tainted lady Flower Belle Lee (Mae West) say “I do” in a sham wedding, but when Twillie gets mistaken for a masked outlaw, it’s up to Flower Belle to come to his rescue.

What did I like?

Chemistry. When you pair screen legends together, you can only imagine the magic that they are sure to create. When studio executives made the decision to pair Mae West and W.C. Fields, they must have known what they were doing because the chemistry between these two is the same as two old friends picking up right where they left off after many years apart. I even felt a bit of romantic tension there, but that was part of the plot.

Wild, wild, west. This isn’t a western, but it is just one cattle rustle shy of being one. As can be determined from some of my other posts, I love me some westerns. Put some classic comedy in there and my mind is blown! I was eating up the western angle they were playing up. Seriously, who would take W.C. Fields for a legit sheriff?

School’s in. The school scene is one of the best in the film. The current school marm has passed out from something or other and Mae saunters in and tries to teach them. At the time this is set, education was mostly for the males, so no girls were in the class. As you can imagine, these boys were doing all they could to keep their tongues in their mouth while Mae and her voluptuousness was trying to teach them a few things. I won’t lie to you, if I had a teacher that looked like that, I’m sure I’d have been staring at her the whole time, too!

What didn’t I like?

Shtick. Mae West is known for her seductive way of talking and walking, as well as a certain air about her when she’s on screen. The problem is, I felt this was the same character I saw last week in She Done Him Wrong, which was one of her first films, nearly 10 years before this, if I’m not mistaken. You would think she would’ve changed something up, right?

Wicked witch. You may recognize Margaret Hamilton. She is best known for playing the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. Again, she is playing a character that isn’t going to win her any Miss Congeniality awards. This woman she’s playing for no reason that I can tell just lives to stir up trouble. For instance, near the film’s end, things seem to be settling down after a near hanging. Out of nowhere, she brings up some old stuff and riles the crowd back up. I guess you can say she’s the villain of this film.

Bandit. The masked bandit was a nice touch to accentuate the western aspect of this film, as well as give West a bad boy lover. However, I didn’t quite buy the guy in the mask as a criminal. I guess it is too much Zorro and Lone Ranger, but he seemed to have more of a vigilante air abut him from the start. I can’t explain why, he just did.

I neglected to mention the ending. Without spoiling anything, but both West and Fields have signature sayings and it was nice to hear them say the other’s line back at them. That scene alone is almost worth sitting through the entire 90 minutes of My Little Chickadee. That isn’t to say that this isn’t a good film, because it is. Truthfully, though, this is one of those pictures that is for those of us that appreciate older cinema. That being said, I still give this a high recommendation. You never know, you just may end up liking it!

4 out of 5 stars

 

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One Response to “My Little Chickadee”

  1. […] don’t go out of your way to do so. Save that trip for West’s better known films, like My Little Chickadee and She Done Him […]

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