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One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
The Frisco Doll:
I got a debt to pay - not to this crowd, but to Annie, and I'm gonna do it. It won't take long, and then I'll be squared up.
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The inimitable Mae West struts her stuff yet again in this breezy, passable, but lesser Paramount Studio vehicle. Based on her play ("Frisco Kate") and co-credited for the writing here, she is the whole show naturally.
The story, if you care, has Mae playing Rose ("the Frisco Doll") Carlton, an 1890s entertainer who has to take it on the lam after bringing down one of her paramours - not with sly one-liners, but with a knife in the back. She's forced to slum it on a ship headed for the Klondike. With the police breathing down her bodice, she winds up impersonating a Salvation Army missionary (Helen Jerome Eddy), who conveniently dies of a `bad heart attack' while on board. In a change of heart, the sultry Mae, now dressed down in drab, basic black, vows to fulfill the woman's mission and ventures on to reform an Alaskan town full of drunks, prosties and other sinner types with her own revamped style of Bible-thumping. Somehow you feel these unfortunates will never be ENTIRELY saved, but that's never the point anyway. Interspersed throughout are a few typical West songs, notably `I'm an Occidental Woman in an Oriental Mood for Love' decked out in full Oriental regalia, including headgear, which really has to be seen to be believed.
It's always grand entertainment to see the most virile of men falling all over themselves over La West -- reduced to simpering, whimpering fools once they zero in on our gal. This time one of filmdom's most rugged and respected character stars, Victor McLaglan, becomes her prime, buffoonish play toy. McLaglan (who had won an Oscar a year or two before) plays Bull Brackett, a brusque, salty ol' sea captain here, who barks out orders in his best Wallace Beery imitation and roughs up nearly every guy within throwing distance. But watch the big brute turn to pure mush at the first sight of Mae -- sulking, grousing, bumbling, even running into poles, for God's sake. And McLaglan's not the only one. Dashing, doe-eyed Philip Terry's Mountie, McLaglan's chief rival, risks all respect, not to mention his career, in his play for her, while obsessive-compulsive `Oriental' Harold Huber loses much more than that over his fascination with " the pearl of lotus flower.' Ah, yes, in a distinct case of reverse gender discrimination, every man is weak, inept, servile, and just plain putty around dear ol' Mae. Improbable fun...but fun.
And speaking of support roles, nobody has ever been given the chance to steal a Mae West movie, so to mention anyone else in the cast would be a waste of time. By the way, you won't see any pretty dames supporting West either. She wouldn't stand for it. So every other female -- bar girls, suffragettes, society ladies, you name it - are at least 50-70 in age here, and either much heavier than the quite zaftig West or downright ugly. Smart girl that Mae!
Suffice it to say there's never much action in a Mae West movie because the old girl (she was 44 at the time this movie was released) simply can't move in those tight, breath-taking (literally!) outfits she wears. She simply sashays from place to place, plants herself, and lets out a few double entendres. The dramatic action is usually compromised by a series of set poses - lighting a cigarette, filing her nails, primping her platinum-blonde locks, laying carefully on a settee, or shoving some pawing, lovesick puppy away from her camera light. Actually, what you're waiting for anyway are Mae's delicious quips, but, sadly, there are way too few of them in "Klondike Annie", none of those classic lines we all enjoy and remember so well. Methinks those dastardly censors cut out her best lines this time, because there's not a lot of zing in the ones she delivers here. Rumor has it William Randolph Hearst and his newspaper establishment took offense at Mae portraying any kind of religious figure and insisted on immediate congressional action. Whatever.
Raoul Walsh directed this but there is really little directing going on. The narcissistic Mae could never have been considered a director's star. And as for her acting? Well, if Mae were alive today, I'd love to ask her, "What the hell DO you see looking up at the ceiling all the time?" Whatever it is, I'm sure it's better than some of the silliness we're seeing down here.
But Mae is Mae, so what you see is what you get.
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