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My Little Chickadee Review

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Having met on a stagecoach, Flower Belle Lee and Cuthbert J. Twillie pose as a married couple to gain entry into Greasewood City, where Twilie is appointed sheriff by Jeff Badger, the local bigwig who is really the notorious gold thief, the Masked Bandit.

★★★★★

Mae West was touting a screenplay about Catherine the Great when she signed up for this lively comedy Western with W.C. Fields. The pair had once had adjacent dressing-rooms on the Paramount lot, but had always believed their comic styles too different to allow a worthwhile collaboration. However, Universal's offer was too tempting for stars deemed past their best and they embarked on producing a screenplay that has become unjustly notorious for their supposed bids to hog the limelight.

Each claimed more than their share of credit for the script. Fields contended that the core came from his idea `December and Mae', which underwent numerous revisions before becoming a lampoon on the ignorance of American film audiences. West, however, insisted that she had written the scenario and left gaps for Fields to insert his own dialogue and comic business. Yet, producer Lester Cowan, whom Fields came to detest, further averred that the picture owed its genesis to Ferenc Molnar's play, The Guardsman.  



Whatever its origins, the screenplay was typically mangled by Production Code chief, Joseph Breen, who removed countless instances of mild cheekiness and reduced West's `Willie of the Valley' from being a bawdy torch song to a harmless ditty. Yet, the film retained plenty of choice moments, such as Fields spending his wedding night with a goat and cheating his way through a card game, while West ably demonstrated both her sharp-shooting and seduction techniques.  



However, Fields gets much the best of the comedy, as he was just as funny with props as he could be exchanging quips. But the frontier setting left too little room for the kind of acute social and sexual satire that was West's speciality and she spent more of her time driving the serviceably flimsy plot than lacing it with innuendo.

 Fields and West gel well in their scenes together, but don't overlook the practised support playing of Donald Meek (as a gambler impersonating a preacher) and Margaret Hamilton, as the town busybody.

Mae West and W C Fields show their talents in writing and performing to pretty good effect.

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