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GO WEST YOUNG MAN (Paramount, 1936) directed by Henry Hathaway, with
full screenplay credit by Mae West, with Warren William and Randolph
Scott as co-stars, returns the "come up and see me sometime" gal in her
first full-fledge comedy since I'M NO ANGEL (1933). No villains, no
accidental killings nor murder victims, no jealous ex- lovers out for
revenge, just the good clean humorous fun but minus those suggestive
one-liners for which West is famous. While the given title and the
support by cowboy actor, Randolph Scott, might pass itself off as a
western, GO WEST YOUNG MAN, is actually a contemporary comedy based on
a recent Broadway play, PERSONAL APPEARANCE, that starred Gladys
George. Being featured in a movie from a play originated by another is
indication as to why West seems miscast in a role that might have been
far better suited on screen by its originator. While West might
physically act in the manner of Gladys George on some occasions, she
does build up her character to suit the traditional Mae West style.
Unlike her previous screen efforts giving her a some men to choose
from, this time she copes with three (Warren William, Randolph Scott
and Lyle Talbot), but only gets to ride off with just one, and only
Overlooking this somewhat misleading title for now (which could easily be confused with her 1935 fringe western, "Goin' to Town", the opening credits presenting its casting names and staff in italic lettering, and night club-style underscoring indicating a lavish scale musical, the story opens with crowds gathering in a movie theater attending the premiere of DRIFTING LADY, starring Mavis Arden (Mae West) of Superfine Pictures Inc. The initial ten minutes devotes itself to a movie within a movie, starting with Xavier Cugat and his orchestra conducting as Mavis sings "On a Typical Tropical Night," to follow with her romancing one man, betraying another, Rico (Jack LaRue), a married man whom she abandons for a third (G.P. Huntley Jr.). (This plot alone is much interesting than the actual story itself). As DRIFTING LADY comes to a climatic finish, Mavis Arden, in person, on a movie promotion, steps out on stage making her speech to her avid fans that the character on screen is not real Mavis. Before going on another tour, Mavis attempts on meeting privately with Francis X. Harrigan (Lyle Talbot), a congressman, at the Palace Roof. In order to keep her single and unavailable to men, Morgan (Warren William), her press agent, arranges for Mavis and Harrigan's evening together to be disrupted by reporters. Harrigan later arranges to meet with Mavis in Harrisburg where he intends on proposing to her. Thanks to Morgan, Mavis never makes it her destination. Her limousine breaks down, leaving the movie star, her French maid (Alice Ardell), and chauffeur (John Indrisano) stranded on the road in the middle of nowhere. Eventually ending up at The Haven, an old boarding house managed by Addie Struthers (Alice Brady), Mavis and staff become her temporary boarders. Demanding Morgan for arrangements to leave as soon as possible, Mavis changes her manner after taking notice on Bud Norton (Randolph Scott), a handsome young mechanic outside her window lifting a car on his shoulders, leaving Morgan with further schemes on breaking up that relationship entirely.
While the scenario to GO WEST YOUNG MAN has the makings of a hilarious mad-cap comedy, the finished product comes off a bit weak at times. On the whole, it's really not bad in spite the fact that it could have been better, and funnier. With an impressive cast of familiar faces, it's interesting to note that, for a Mae West comedy, it consists of more female co-stars (Brady, Elizabeth Patterson, Isabel Jewell, and Margaret Perry, the latter playing Scott's fiancée) than actors fighting for her affection. With Warren William playing a scheming press agent ("just a mouse studying to be a rat") his presence, along with Lyle Talbot and Jack LaRue, give GO WEST YOUNG MAN more of a Warner Brothers appeal, considering how these actors were under contract for that studio. Character types Maynard Holmes and Nicodemis Stewart fill in the cast, along with Etienne Girardot as the complaining boarder not wanting his eggs cooked sunny side up because, "They're looking at me!"
Regardless of some brighter moments, instrumental underscoring and faster pacing might have helped this 81 minute comedy along. Other songs were reportedly written for this production, particularly "Go West Young Man," which was underscored during the opening credits, but West gets to sing one other tune, "I Was Saying to the Moon," while with Randolph Scott. Although the production code has cleaned up Mae West's screen character, her Mavis still has her eye for the opposite sex, in this case, Bud (Randolph Scott. With this being Scott's only performance opposite West, his presence offers something to the plot but no great demands. They do share one sort-of love scene together while West lies in a pile of hay in a barn telling the young man how all this reminds her about her first movie, "The Farmer's Daughter."
GO WEST YOUNG MAN, along with other Mae West Paramount titles of the 1930s, were distributed to video cassette from MCA/ Universal in 1992-93 to commemorate the centennial of her birth. Sadly these Mae West videos have been discontinued, and the movie itself was last shown on a cable channel of Chicago's very own WGN around 1987, and hasn't been seen anywhere since. In spite that GO WEST YOUNG MAN has been labeled as one of Mae West's more quieter comedies, with a fine supporting cast such as this, it should still be enjoyable viewing. And what does the title have to do with the story? We'll never know. (***)
Go West Young Man is based on a successful Broadway play, Personal
Appearance which had a 501 performance run in the 1934-1935 season and
made a star of Gladys George. What did Gladys do, but play a Mae West
type actress stranded between Scranton and Harrisburg on a personal
Of course since Paramount bought the screen right and they had Mae West, why not use the real deal in the lead. So Gladys George got her screen stardom in other roles and Mae West played Marvis Arden, a film star very much like Mae West.
Mae's got a contract that says she can't marry, but being Mae she's got a healthy sexual appetite and who knows where that might lead. That's the job of Warren William, press agent assigned by her studio. He busts up all of her potential romances, but he's also got an ulterior motive.
In fact he does a very hilarious job in pouring cold water on a romance between her and a rather fatuous politician played by Lyle Talbot. But Mae gets herself stranded out in the Pennsylvania countryside and takes a real liking to young farmhand Randolph Scott.
Randy is the only weakness in the cast. I just couldn't quite accept him as the naive young farm boy. He's just played too many tough western types for me to ever buy that.
Still this is Mae West's show and she carries it off with a style that only she can employ. No ersatz Maes for the movie going public.
This movie was shown on Australian TV in the mid-'60s and never been seen here since. True, this is not an out-and-out romp like Mae's earlier films but it does have a more subtle comic line about a movie star in small-town America. The scene where Mae is lying down in the hay is surprisingly explicit: she reaches out her arms to Randolph Scott and says: "I love it." She was actually talking about the country life or something but in the context it was pretty strong stuff for 1935. I'm sure this is the movie where she is chauffeur-driven in a fantastic Rolls-Royce town car with "rattan"-work around the rear of the car, rather like Norma Desmond's in Sunset Boulevard. The car would be worth a fortune today. Also featured was the wonderful Elizabeth Patterson as the cynical granny of the house, a characterisation she made her own, and reprised it as late as 1957 in Pal Joey. It's a bit more subtle than Mae's earlier films but it has a certain maturity and a low-key humour as a gentle poke at country folks. The young Randolph Scott is quite a hunk in this too. I quite enjoyed it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Mae West starred in and wrote this movie about an actress, whose life
is fodder for the paparazzi and her fans. She can't make a move without
everyone knowing about it. Her agent, Warren William, has grown very
fond of her, but has never really said so in so many words, as he
watches her have her own love life. He convinces her to high-tail it
out of town for a deserved rest, but on the drive, in the middle of
nowhere, the car breaks down. He walks ahead and gets someone to go
back for the car and her.
Unbeknownst to him, he stops where one of her biggest fans live, Isabel Jewell, who is absolutely great in what is probably her best unknown role. (She was also in "Gone with the Wind," as Emmy Slattery, of whom Scarlett's mother nursed when the typhoid hit, but her mother would later die from typhoid. Emmy would later marry the ex-overseer Victor Jory, of whom Scarlett throws the red clay/dirt in his face saying," That's all of Tara you'll ever get.")
Isabel, who works for Alice Brady, who keeps a small apartment court, is ecstatic to see her favorite star. To fix the car, we have Randolph Scott, of whom Mae takes an instant liking to. Who could blame her? Warren does not like that at all, and tries to get him out of the way by sending him on an errand, but someone else goes. So what happens?
Now that I've practically told half the film, I'll sum up by saying that no one could make being naughty as much fun and entertaining as Mae West. But, what's interesting about Mae West is that her face isn't all that pretty. In fact, her whole appeal is her way about her. She moves this way. She talks that way. She inflects this. She saunters that. To embody and exude sexuality was her forte, and in word play. No one could make double-entendres like her. She definitely had a well-rounded figure, being gifted in all the right places and almost exaggerated so, as Kathleen Turner puts in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," ("..just drawn that way.")
She, also, was a very good screenwriter in adapting this previously written material into a movie, with very good dialogue. I was very impressed with the naturalness to it. She wrote just like people talk. But, obviously, she had smarts to be in the industry, make a star of herself, and to be in charge of practically everything.
There will never again be the likes of Mae West. Discover for yourself what all the heat's about. Mae West at her best, and that's at being bad. "Cause if you're good, what's the point of livin'?"
If you want to know who inspired Lady Gaga and Madonna, just look at Mae West. She stars and wrote the screenplay for this film vehicle of hers. She knew how to market herself in her career. In this film, she played Mavis Arden, a celebrity on her way to Los Angeles where she gets stranded in a small town in middle America. I believe it was Gettysburg. Anyway, she acts rude and offensive when her car breaks down in the small town but she comes back with an apology. Mae West characters are never really vicious or obnoxious. In this film, she is surrounded by great supporting cast of characters. While this film is about her, she doesn't forget the other characters and the storyline about her falling in love with a country aspiring inventor and mechanic. The film may have some issues with storyline and script but it's satisfactory with a surprising ending.
Go West, Young Man is a delightful screwball comedy featuring an
unlikely but happily cast trio of Mae West, Warren William, and
Randolph Scott. Mae is a glamorous movie star, the idol of millions,
stranded in a hick boarding house when her limo breaks down in the
sticks. She passes time by putting her fleshy moves on the handsome
mechanic, played by Scott, who in 1936 was still very young looking and
not yet principally identified as a western star. But the hayseed
mechanic is more interested in tinkering with electronic inventions
than in either the sultry Mae or his forlorn fiancé (Margaret Perry),
while Mae's manipulative and protective press agent William and the
fiancé's old maid aunt (Elizabeth Patterson) do all in their
considerable conniving powers to put the romance on the skids. They get
a lot of help from a herd of wacky local yokels, all ga-ga over glamor
queen and all harboring their own ridiculous dreams of getting into the
While Screwball comedy is a genre of elusive definition, Go West, Young Man embodies most of the common elements -- romance all out of whack, a collection of goofy but likable characters, frenetic, sometimes slap-stick action, class satire, and witty, fast-delivery dialog -- all breaking off in unexpected directions, like the baseball pitch the genre is named after. This movie also features a couple of other devices often seen in other screw-ballers -- the hoity-toity dame stranded in the boonies, and the cops being called, usually by mistake, and coming in like gangbusters. Henry Hathaway, a director better known for his outdoor action pictures, brings it all together with style and good humor.
The Mae West phenomenon seems to be rather poorly understood by the modern generation. They just can't fathom how so much fuss could have been made over a plump, middle-aged dame with no class except for low class, and not even very pretty, except in an incredibly cheap way (which, unfortunately, appeals enormously to most of us guys). How could all those men throw themselves at her feet? Well, that's pretty funny. So is sex in general. And that was her whole point! She was a grotesque parody of the sex goddess. Mae wrote most of her own material including the screen play for Go West, Young Man. She satirized everyone, playboys, politicians, country bumpkins, and most of all herself! She does it better than ever in Go West, Young Man, but in this movie it is even funnier than most of her others, because the satire is more gentle. The rubes are made to seem ridiculously funny, yet also very human and likable. And Mae, herself, gets the sharpest barbs. If for no other reason, this movie is worth watching for the hilarious scene of the sullen, portly sex goddess sauntering toward the boarding house steps escorted by a throng of adoring hayseeds and their pigs! That, as with many of the other gags, gives me a chuckle again every time I think of it. Which is the true test of whether a comedy is funny!
Code or no code, Go West, Young Man is still a Mae West movie, but it manages to be good, (almost) clean fun. Top notch Old Hollywood entertainment.
GO WEST YOUNG MAN is a good but yes, toned down comedy from Mae's
pre-code days, but still fun to watch and not a waste of time at all.
Mae plays a movie star who stars in romantic drama and Warren William is her press agent who dreams up schemes to keep her from getting married, because her contract says that she cannot get married until 5 years. While they are on their way to Harrisburg Mae's custom-made car stuffed full of cold cream and shampoo breaks down. So, she is stuck in a rural colonial cottage boarding house with yummy Randolph Scott, twittering Alice Brady, and her biggest (and ditziest) fan Isabel Jewell.
While Mae West's acting and dialog was made tamer for the talkies, so was wonderful, handsome, cynical Warren William's, who was one of Warner Bros. top stars in the pre-code era. Warren William used to play ruthless bosses and all out cads, and while his role here is good and he gets to do some sleazy arguing and engineer some tricks on Mae West, GWYM was indeed a big step down for him. It was all because of that awful Satan MET A LADY (1934) which greatly hurt his career. Not to mention the awakening of the film censors by the Legion of Decency.
Elizabeth Patterson gives a great performance as the spunky Aunt Kate, and Isabel Jewell does a wonderful job as energetic, imaginative, movie-crazy Gladys. She does a funny imitation of Marlene Dietrich.
Oh yeah, and Randolph Scott was a total hunk with his "large and sinewy" muscles.
Mae West wrote the screenplay for Go west Young Man based on a stage show called Personal Appearance by Larry Riley. Here, she plays the larger than life Mavis Arden; a Hollywood actress romantically torn between a politician and a handsome auto mechanic (Randolph Scott). Mae's given three musical numbers which showcase her talent but the light comedy often falls flat and there's little chemistry between her and her leading men. Henry Hathaway was a director known for his B movie westerns prior to Go West Young Man and would go on to film some wonderful movies like True grit and The Sons of Katie Elder but he has no feel for the material. If you love Mae West by all means give this one a look but it's a far cry from some of her signature roles.
This seems a slightly different Mae West picture in that Ms. West pretends to be someone else while hiding her true personality until the right man for hers comes along. Also, the females in the cast have more of a scene-stealing status than before especially when the scenes are on Elizabeth Patterson and Isabel Jewell. Because this was made after the Production Code was put into full effect, there aren't too many of those risqué lines one would associate with Ms. West but when she's around Randolph Scott, well, just hear her talk then! The plot, such as it is, has her as a movie star forced to spend some time at a farm after her car breaks down, but really, it's just an excuse for some shenanigans among the cast. No great shakes, but Go West Young Man provides some good amusement for your viewing pleasure.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just like Jean Harlow did prior to the code in throwing a bit of Mae
into her persona, Mae West returned the honors and did the same thing
once the code bit her routine in the censorship bustle. A bit thinner
and less wide in the hips, Ms. West resembles Harlow a bit, both
through their alto voices, obvious attraction to the opposite sex, if
not the obsession with it. West tones down to "Ooh's" and "Aah's" a bit
and the drag queen like buck teeth are gone as well here. She's Marvis
Arden, supposedly the biggest star in pictures, who escapes to the
country for some rest, and finds romance with a mechanic (Randolph
Scott) much to the chagrin of her press agent (Warren William). The
country folk have mixed feelings of a "glamorous" movie star in the
midst, some of them equally as eccentric as show folk. The plot
thickens when a misunderstanding has West believed to have been
kidnapped with subtle humorous results.
Post-code wasn't kind to Mae West, her personality too big to be reciting dialog with the blood cut out of it. She has good moments, and Randolph Scott is appropriately cast as the man she desires. Such great character actors as Elizabeth Patterson, Etienne Girardot and Alice Brady have some very funny moments (Patterson in particular when she apes Ms. West). Nicodemus Stewart, the black actor playing the farm handyman, adds a rare effeminate quality to his character, one rarely seen after the code, and especially one (if ever) seen in a black characterization. This is made all the more noticeable since his physical appearance appears to be masculine, while his demeanor is unmistakeably feminine.
While this doesn't come close to being Ms. West's signature film, it is still solid entertainment, and a rare opportunity to see a film version of a now forgotten play ("Personal Appearance") which was a major hit on Broadway several years before. Strange as it seems, that play when it came out seemed a perfect vehicle for the pre-code Mae, but from what I've researched on the play, the sexual innuendos in the original script were definitely removed. Two strong leading men, amusing character performers and some very amusing lines, however, make this a film worth viewing for more than just Mae's many fans.
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