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I saw this at the Cottage Road cinema last week with the lovely [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313. As it is only 66 minutes long, and the Cottage Road crew like to make a proper night out of their classic screenings, it was preceded by the 45-minute comedy short A Home of Your Own (1964), dir. Jay Lewis, which is about the various happenings and antics on a building site as a new housing development is being built. It doesn't have any dialogue as such, although characters do sigh, mutter, tut, etc., so the focus is all on slap-stick and visual gags such as somebody walking straight across a bed of concrete which another guy has just finished smoothing out, but it was lots of fun and we enjoyed seeing it. Also very good for spotting lots of people you recognise from more famous contexts, like Ronnie Barker, Richard Briers, Peter Butterworth (of Carry On fame) and Bernard Cribbins.

After a short intermission complete with ice-cream tray, it was time for the main feature: one of Mae West's earliest screen roles, adapted from a Broadway play which she had written herself. Obviously Mae West is amazing, and nothing much I say could do justice to that, or cast any additional light on her awesomeness, so we will take it as read. But an evening of her wicked drawl, sassy lines and slinky frocks is certainly a delight. Indeed, in addition to her own no-nonsense, sexually-liberated, self-directed central character, Lou, the story features multiple well-defined women and offers up plenty of scenes of just them speaking to one another, which definitely makes it stand out from amongst the standard fare of the day. One of them is a black woman, who although in a typically-subservient role as Lou's maid does get plenty of her own dialogue and actively contributes to Lou's various schemes and machinations. Wikipedia tells me that this character was specifically and deliberately brought on board by West as a way of seeking to combat racism in the entertainment industry, which reflects well on her.

It's a gritty dog-eat-dog world that Lou inhabits, with at least one absolutely psychotic former lover in jail and dodgy deals going on all around her, and she is certainly no angel. One plot-line sees her colluding in having a girl who came into the bar where she works as a singer to attempt suicide shipped off into what we're presumably supposed to understand is prostitution on the Barbary Coast. But the overall thrust of the piece is that men constantly do women wrong, like this girl who has been strung along by a man whom she didn't know was married, and that it is about damn time women got their own back. There is so much double-dealing and so many personal rivalries that I found the plot a bit confusing at the end because I couldn't remember what everyone's agenda was. But anyway, it all ends up happily for Lou, who gets the one man who might make an honest woman out of her, and indeed for the girl who had attempted suicide, as she has the whole ring of traffickers busted and arrested. A fantastic evening and I hope not the last of Mae West's films I'll get the chance to see on the big screen.

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 2nd, 2018 07:34 pm (UTC)
All I know of Mae West is 1) WW2 RAF crew nicknaming their lifejackets in her honour 2) the quite incredible Sextette with Timothy Dalton, but now I feel I should look into her more closely!
Jun. 2nd, 2018 07:42 pm (UTC)
Whereas I haven't seen Sextette! But anyway, there are good reasons why she's legendary, and we should definitely all see as much of her stuff as we can. :-)
Jun. 3rd, 2018 08:23 am (UTC)
I will get on that!

I watched Sextette so I could fully appreciate the SMERSHPOD episode devoted to it. You can find the whole thing on YouTube if you dare.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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