My Little Chickadee

My Little Chickadee

Director: Edward F. Cline

Cast: Edward F. Cline, Mae West, W.C. Fields, Joseph Calleia

     
 

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The once-in-a-lifetime teaming of Mae West and W.C. Fields in My Little Chickadee had the potential for comic greatness: what emerged, though generally entertaining, was, in the words of critic Andrew Sarris, "more funny strange than funny ha-ha." Mae West dominates the film's first reel as Flowerbelle Lee,See more details below

Overview

The once-in-a-lifetime teaming of Mae West and W.C. Fields in My Little Chickadee had the potential for comic greatness: what emerged, though generally entertaining, was, in the words of critic Andrew Sarris, "more funny strange than funny ha-ha." Mae West dominates the film's first reel as Flowerbelle Lee, a self-reliant woman who is abducted by a mysterious masked bandit during a stagecoach holdup. Because she refuses to tell anyone what happened during her nocturnal rendezvous with the bandit, Flowerbelle is invited to leave her prudish hometown and move to Greasewood City. En route by train, Flowerbelle makes the acquaintance of con-artist Cuthbert J. Twillie (W.C. Fields), who carries a suitcase full of what seems to be large-denomination monetary notes. After a lively clash with marauding Indians, Flowerbelle tricks Twillie into a phony marriage; she does this so that she can arrive in Greasewood City with a modicum of respectability, and incidentally to get her hands on Twillie's bankroll. Once she discovers that Twillie's "fortune" consists of nothing but phony oil-well coupons, Flowerbelle refuses to allow Twillie into the bridal chamber (he unwittingly crawls into the marriage bed with a goat, muttering "Darling, have you changed your perfume?") Through a fluke, the cowardly Twillie is appointed sheriff of Greasewood City by town boss Joseph Calleila. The plot is put on hold for two reels while La West does a "schoolroom" routine with a class full of markedly overage students, and while Fields performs a bartender bit wherein he explains how he once knocked down the notorious Chicago Mollie. Jealous over the attentions paid to his "wife" by Calleila and honest newspaper-editor Dick Foran, Twillie decides to gain entry into his wife's boudoir by posing as the still-at-large masked bandit. His ruse is soon discovered by Flowerbelle, but the townsfolk capture Twillie as he makes his escape. They are about to lynch the hapless Twillie when Flowerbelle discovers that Calleia is the genuine masked bandit. She urges Calleia to save Twillie's life by making a surprise appearance at the lynching and by returning the money he's stolen. When all plot lines are ironed out, Flowerbelle and Twillie bid goodbye to one another. Borrowing a device utilized by ZaSu Pitts and Hugh Herbert in 1939's The Lady's From Kentucky, W.C. Fields invites Mae West to "come up and see me sometime," whereupon West appropriates Fields' tagline and calls him "My Little Chickadee." The script for this uneven comedy western was credited to Mae West and W.C. Fields, though in fact West was responsible for most of it. Fields willingly conceded this, noting that West had captured his character better than any other writer he'd ever met. Despite this seeming gallantry, it was no secret that West and Fields disliked each other intensely, a fact that had an injurious effect on their scenes together. My Little Chickadee has assumed legendary status thanks to its stars, and it certainly does deliver the laughs when necessary: still, it is hardly the best-ever vehicle for either Fields or West, two uniquely individual performers who should never have been required to duke it out for the same spotlight.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
What should have been a once-in-a-lifetime laugh riot, My Little Chickadee turns out to be an amusing but surprisingly routine comedy. Teaming Mae West and W.C. Fields was an inspired idea, but the coming up with it seems to have taken all of the inspiration out of the two stars. The script they are credited with co-writing has plenty of catchy one-liners and the requisite zingers, but it also has arid spaces where the jokes don't really land. And the plotting is rather more involved than necessary, with the mystery bandit subplot frequently getting in the way of the fun. Director Edward F. Cline's direction is more of the point-and-shoot kind, but that really shouldn't matter; in a star team-up like this, one doesn't want a director getting in the way and cluttering things up. Unfortunately, the chemistry that the uniquely gifted West and Fields should have is largely missing. Many of their scenes together are shot in alternating close-ups, and during these shots, one never believes that the star on camera is communicating with another character at all. Fortunately, West and Fields do have numerous opportunities to work their magic as individuals, and here they deliver like gangbusters - West's visual annoyance at a couple of stray arrows that come her way are by themselves worth the price of admission, and Fields's bathtub sequence is another winner. Chickadee is a missed opportunity, but it has enough going for it to make it worth catching.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/10/2011
UPC:
0025192090981
Original Release:
1940
Rating:
NR
Source:
Universal Studios
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[Full Frame]
Time:
1:24:00
Sales rank:
20,934

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Mae West Flower Belle Lee
W.C. Fields Cuthbert J. Twillie
Joseph Calleia Masked Bandit
Dick Foran Wayne Carter
Ruth Donnelly Aunt Lou
Margaret Hamilton Miss Gideon
Donald Meek Amos Budget
Fuzzy Knight Cousin Zeb
Willard Robertson Uncle John
George Moran Clarence
Jackie Searl Boy
Gene Austin Himself
Mark Anthony Townsman
Hank Bell Actor
Georgie Billings Boy
Wade Boteler Man
Al Bridge Actor
Harlan Briggs Hotel Clerk
Bob Burns Actor
Eddie Butler Henchman
Lane Chandler Porter
Lita Chevret Indian squaw
Bing Conley Henchman
Jimmy Conlin Bartender Squawk Mulligan
William B. Davidson Sheriff
Jan Duggan Woman
Frank Ellis Townsman
Al Ferguson Train Passenger
Chester Gan Chinaman
Slim Gaut Bowlegged man
Ben Hall Schoolboy
Russell Hall Candy
Bud Harris Porter
Charles Hart Boy
Edward Hearn Actor
Otto Heimel Coco
Otto Hoffman Pete the Printer
Lloyd Ingraham Leading Citizen
Dan Jackson Actor
Si Jenks Deputy
John Kelly Actor
Walter McGrail Actor
Bob McKenzie Actor
George Melford Sheriff
James C. Morton Actor
Anne Nagel Miss Ermingarde Foster
Vester Pegg Gambler, Townsman
Bob Reeves Barfly
Addison Richards Judge
Jack Roper Henchman
Dick Rush Actor
Buster Slaven Boy
Dorothy Vernon Diner
Morgan Wallace Gambler
Delmar Watson Boy
Joe Whitehead Actor
Bill Wolfe Actor

Technical Credits
Edward F. Cline Director
Lester Cowan Producer
Edward A. Curtiss Editor
W.C. Fields Screenwriter
Jack Otterson Art Director
Charles Previn Musical Direction/Supervision
Frank Skinner Score Composer
Joseph A. Valentine Cinematographer
Mae West Screenwriter
Vera West Costumes/Costume Designer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- My Little Chickadee
1. Masked Bandit (Main Titles) [6:55]
2. Going My Way? [5:37]
3. Indian Attack [2:53]
4. Matrimonial Predicament [5:33]
5. Pear Shaped Idea [3:51]
6. The Last Gasp [3:30]
7. City Slicker [6:32]
8. A Game of Chance [2:21]
9. Willie of the Valley [4:49]
10. Building a City [2:46]
11. Secret Rendezvous [8:18]
12. Can't Resist Temptation [4:19]
13. Not Wanted Here [4:03]
14. Head of the Class [5:33]
15. A Little Osculation [7:16]
16. Identified by a Kiss [4:37]
17. Taking Matters Into Hand [4:12]
18. End Titles [:18]

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