My Little Chickadee (1940)

“Flower Belle: what a euphonious appellation. Easy on the ears and a banquet for the eyes.”

Synopsis:
On her way to Greasewood City, Flower Belle Lee (Mae West) meets a lustful traveling salesman (W.C. Fields) and pretends to marry him in order to gain respectability. Meanwhile, she carries on affairs with a shady saloon owner (Joseph Calleia), a newspaper man (Dick Foran), and a mysterious masked bandit, yet refuses to let the frustrated Fields — who has been named sheriff of Greasewood City — near her.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
My Little Chickadee is notorious as the only pairing of screen icons W.C. Fields and Mae West. Though it’s considered by many to be a sub-par comedic outing (see the review links below), I have to say I disagree: it’s full of countless hilarious moments, and — as with many Fields vehicles — the rather silly plot matters far less than the constant innuendos and gags. West (delightfully described by Time Out as “the first female female impersonator” — see link below) is as self-confident and curvaceous as ever, flirting shamelessly while she rolls her eyes upwards with a smirk. But as Peary notes, it’s Fields who really shines here, as we see him “chatting incessantly, bragging, lying, telling weird anecdotes, [and] using a weird language all his own.” Also of note is Margaret Hamilton, playing heavily on her Wizard of Oz characterization as a shrewish witch, but given much more comedic range. Best of all, however, are the few scenes in which West and Fields play off of each other — it’s a shame this was their only joint venture.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • W.C. Fields at his lying, conniving, cowardly best
  • Margaret Hamilton as a meddling bluenose
  • Many humorously racy lines: “I have some very definite pear-shaped ideas that I’d like to discuss with you.” (!!!)

Must See?
Yes. While inexplicably maligned by many modern critics, My Little Chickadee remains a delightful, historically relevant comedy.

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One Response to “My Little Chickadee (1940)”

  1. Not a must.

    ‘fraid I’m going to have to side with modern-day critics on this one. I last saw it years ago and had a memory of it being – at least – entertaining. Seeing it again, the dullness of it is shocking.

    Esp. after recently re-visiting Fields’ ‘The Bank Dick’ – by comparison a much-better (if still not great) film. ‘TBD’ has a better script, funnier lines and a number of solid character actors supporting. ‘MLC’ does have Margaret Hamilton – who pretty much walks away with the picture. (Even though I wish she’d been given some juicier bits, her delivery makes her stand out.)

    Sadly for West, her biggest laugh isn’t even hers; it comes early on when (tho in her 40s) she is referred to as a “young lady”. As well, her musical number midway (one would think an opportunity to lift things) is tepid.

    Biggest surprise is how little effort was made to – at least – concoct a rousing finale (again, unlike ‘The Bank Dick’).

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