Monday, July 24, 2006

Way-Out West

Of the five titles in the Mae West: The Glamour Collection set, I recently watched Go West, Young Man and Mae's debut film, Night After Night. In Go West Mae's role as "Mavis Arden", a haughty, dim movie star, at first is at odds with Mae's smart, earthy, wisecracking personna which, as usual, is in full evidence onscreen. Fortunately, Mavis and Mae both have an eye for the gents, and once hunky Randolph Scott shows up and Mavis/Mae zeros in on him as a potential beau, the film becomes breezy and bemusing, climaxing with an almost roll-in-the-hay for Mae and Randolph (by this time, the Production Code wouldn't let Mae have too much fun).

I found the pre-code Night After Night more interesting. This 1932 George Raft vehicle creaks today, until the ultra-modern Mae shows up mid-film, entering Raft's club while asking a gaggle of ardent suitors, "Why don't you guys be good and go home to your wives?" Mae follows this up immediately with "Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie"- the first of many now-legendary onscreen West quips. Less than one minute into her appearance (as "Maudie Trippet"), West has cemented her place in film history, and it's amazing to watch her enliven this standard programmer with her originality and talent- it's the equilavent of watching Liza Minnelli star in the Albuquerque High Player's production of Cabaret. After her great entrance, Mae pals around with Raft and his female dinner companions, then she has a wild scene waking up in bed with Alison Skipworth, playing a spinsterish schoolteacher Maudie's bonded with over drinks the night before. Mae's only in Night for about ten minutes, but she gets the last line and laugh and, as costar Raft famously put it, "She stole eveything but the cameras."

The image quality was fine, especially for Night, which featured a remarkably clean and sharp picture for a 74-year-old release. Other titles in the set include two of West's signature films, the great I'm No Angel and the iconic W.C. Fields costarrer My Little Chickadee. I've yet to view Goin' to Town, the final film in the set, but with Mae in it the film has at least one major asset, and I'm looking forward to watching her strut her stuff once again, big boy.


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