Klondike Annie (1936)

“I got a debt to pay — not to this crowd, but to Annie, and I’m gonna do it.”

Klondike Annie Poster

Synopsis:
After stabbing her possessive Chinese boyfriend (Harold Huber), a dancehall singer known as the Frisco Doll (Mae West) boards a ship to Alaska, where she immediately entrances the ship’s captain (Victor McLaglen). When a missionary (Helen Jerome Eddy) on board the ship falls ill and dies, the Frisco Doll assumes her identity on land.

Genres:

Review:
Often cited as Mae West’s definitive film, Klondike Annie is nonetheless an unusual vehicle for the busty blonde, one clearly tempered by the mandates of the Hays Production Code. West’s Frisco Doll undergoes a definite shift throughout the film, morphing from a self-absorbed fugitive to someone who thinks about the needs and desires of others. While this is an admirable character arc, it’s also a bit of a let-down, since “naughty Mae” is the persona we’re accustomed to seeing on-screen. For my money, I’d rather watch West in full saucy form, either in She Done Him Wrong or My Little Chickadee.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Mae West as the Frisco Doll
    KA West
  • West’s outrageously baroque “Oriental” costume in the opening scenes
    KA Costume
  • Victor McLaglen as the lovestruck captain
    KA McLaglen
  • A few witty exchanges:
    McLaglen: I can always tell a lady.
    West: Yeah? Whaddya tell ’em?

Must See?
No, but film fanatics will likely be curious to check it out, and it’s certainly a must for Mae West fans.

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One Response to “Klondike Annie (1936)”

  1. A once-must, for its place in cinema history. First viewing.

    I’m not a Mae West fan – but I find her impressive here and think this is one of her best films. She actually gets to act! The film is not totally believable (i.e., it’s a real stretch that her character could get a whole pack of saloon folk to come to a revival meeting, just like that as a group!, and that they would all be quite moved by the experience) but it’s the film’s overall message – of personal growth and taking responsibility for the truth – that has potent appeal.

    In McLaglen, West has one of her best co-stars – he appears more on her no-nonsense level than some others she has been paired with; the well-mounted production is beautifully shot and it has all been put in the very capable hands of director Raoul Walsh. Those who have an established view of West as merely a sashaying broad are likely to be pleasantly surprised by what she pulls off here. Definitely one to check out!

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