Klondike Annie

Klondike Annie

PLOT:

Mae West butts heads with Victor McLaglen in Raoul Walsh’s Klondike Annie, but the real victor was the Legion of Decency, whose censorship strictures transformed a saucy and spicy gumbo into something closer to chicken noodle soup. West plays Rose Carlton, the kept woman of Chan Lo (Harold Huber), who takes her from walking the streets to pacing the floors of her high rent apartment. Rose ends up killing Chan and beats it from San Francisco to the frozen north. She boards a ship where burly sea captain Bull Brackett (McLaglen) takes a shine to her; when he finds out she killed Chan, he blackmails her into coming up and seeing him sometime. Boarding the ship in Seattle is missionary Annie Alden (Helen Jerome Eddy), who dies on the way to Alaska. Rose assumes Annie’s identity and, upon arrival in Alaska proceeds to preach the Good Book, saving sinners by unorthodox methods. Mountie Jack Forrest (Philip Reed) arrives in town searching for Chan’s murderer and he falls in love with Rose, unaware that the woman he loves is the killer he seeks

REVIEW:

I really reached in the obscure classic section for Klondike Annie, but with Mae West movies, except for say 2 or 3 of them, that’s what you have to do. Sometimes you find a real gem and other times you find a dud that make you wish time would fly by faster so that it would be over. So, which one of those categories does this one fall, I wonder?

What is this about?

Mae West plays Rose Carlton, the kept woman of Chan Lo (Harold Huber), who takes her from walking the streets to pacing the floors of her high rent apartment. Rose ends up killing Chan and beats it from San Francisco to the frozen north. She boards a ship where burly sea captain Bull Brackett (McLaglen) takes a shine to her; when he finds out she killed Chan, he blackmails her into coming up and seeing him sometime. Boarding the ship in Seattle is missionary Annie Alden (Helen Jerome Eddy), who dies on the way to Alaska. Rose assumes Annie’s identity and, upon arrival in Alaska proceeds to preach the Good Book, saving sinners by unorthodox methods. Mountie Jack Forrest (Philip Reed) arrives in town searching for Chan’s murderer and he falls in love with Rose, unaware that the woman he loves is the killer he seeks.

What did I like?

Two hats. Mae West was quite the talented and somewhat underrated actress. Not only did she star in quite the collection of motion pictures, but many of them were plays that she had written, such as this one. I think we’ve all see films and TV shows these days where someone attempts to wear more than one hat, in the process giving the audience a subpar effort either with their acting or the other task they have chosen to do (direct, produce, write, etc.) West was able to write and star with no problem. I wonder why it is such a chore to do this nowadays.

These curves form a triangle. Mae West was a bona-fide curvy bombshell (possibly with the help of a corset). Throw in her sexy way of speaking and it is no wonder men were falling over her. As you imagine, these men eventually butt heads with West in the middle. Usually, I’m no fan of love triangles, mostly because I’ve seen so many of them, but because this was an afterthought of the film, rather than the focal point, as it tends to be in romantic comedies of today, I was able to tolerate and even like what they did.

Era. Today, it seems like Keirra Knightley won’t do a film unless it is set in the 16th-18th century. I’m beginning to think Mae West was the same way. Of the films of hers that I’ve seen, they all seem to be set in the 18th century. I wonder if this is because it gives her an excuse to wear a corset or if it is because that era fits her style better than the stuffy time in which she lived. At any rate, she knows what works for her!

What didn’t I like?

Subdue her. It is no secret that West has an on-screen persona that can best be described as larger than life. However, someone somewhere made the decision to pull her back a little bit with this film, so we get a more subdued performance. I wish I could say that I liked it, but I didn’t. Here is a fact, West plays a similar character in most of the films she’s in, I can only speak for the handful I’ve seen, of course. The same thing can be said today with Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Craig Robinson, etc. When you find something that works for you, work it until they can’t take it anymore, I suppose. Having Mae West pull it back did nothing for her character, except make her less interesting. The only time she should have been subdued was when she was impersonating that missionary.

Censored = chopped up. It is my understanding that more than a few scenes had to be cut from this film because they were risqué and offensive for the time, such as West dressing up the recently deceased missionary woman as a prostitute. These scenes were enough to get this film banned in some places, such as Georgia. What’s the big deal, though? Well, with these censored cuts, it makes the film very choppy. For all her talents, I don’t believe Mae West was very adept at editing because the seamless way these scenes should flow in and out of each other just isn’t there. I don’t blame her. I blame the censors!!!

Death of a Chinaman. Sakes alive! People back then just didn’t care who they offended when it came to race, did they? I guess not, considering the history of race relations in this country. The first 5-10 minutes of this film are in a sort of Chinatown setting, complete with actual Asians, except for the guy that is interested in or married to (I’m not quite sure which it is) West’s character. This guy is about as white as they come, just with a fu Manchu mustache and a bad accent. All I can do is shake my had at this.

I don’t think anyone will ever say that Klondike Annie is Mae West’s best picture, but I don’t think that they’ll say it is her worst, either. This is just on of those films that got made because it could possibly make some money for the studio (my, some things never change). West did a masterful job writing and acting this film, but there is just something about it that doesn’t quite give it that magic spark needed so that I would be willing to brag on and on about it. That being said, this is worth a watch if you get the chance, just 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 Wrong.

3 out of 5 stars

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