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There are two ways to approach this movie: #1, as a film in and of
Or #2, as a showcase for Mae West.
As a film, it is mildly amusing in a weird, campy 1970s way. It's got a made-for-television look about it, and appears to have been filmed on a pretty low budget. The plot has to do with a legendary American movie star (West) in London for her marriage and subsequent honeymoon with her current husband (Timothy Dalton). Oh, and this is her sixth marriage, by the way---hence the title of the film.
The story is basically that they are unable to consummate their marriage, because various other men--- including nearly all of her ex-husbands--- keep showing up unexpectedly. The sexual aspect of the story is handled very delicately; you know what the husband wants to do with his wife, but it is never put forth directly, but rather by sort of Victorian-era implication.
If it seems like rather a flimsy story, that's because it is. There isn't much to it; there is some low-key comedy in the guest appearances of the ex-husbands (plus assorted other men, including an entire "American athletic team" whose presence in London is never explained. Perhaps they're training for off-season Olympics). The whole thing is handled as a complete farce--- there isn't one shred of reality in this film, which makes it seem unique in the era in which it was made. It's like a cartoon for grownups, with live actors playing the parts.
The real intent of "Sextette" was to be a cinematic showcase for the legendary Mae West. A lot of people outdid themselves in other reviews to say outrageously nasty things about her (or, in a couple of instances, equally outrageous heaps of praise for her). Maybe the best way to write about her in this movie, is to be a little more realistic and objective.
First of all, it's true that Mae West *was* 85 years old at the time of filming this. I'm not saying that because she looks it (she doesn't). I'm saying it because the whole movie makes such extreme efforts to ignore her age. No, she ISN'T supposed to be 20-something--- come on, people, do the math! Her character was married six times, so she's got to be in her forties at least! But she's definitely not playing "elderly", and this seems to freak a lot of people out. She's playing a healthy, attractive "mature" woman whose sex drive is unabashedly strong. There is no hint in the dialogue, or in the reactions of other men TO the character, that this woman might be very, very old (as is the actress playing her).
Therein lies the problem. 85-year-old Mae West was simply not up to the demands of playing this part. She was aging too rapidly; no, she didn't quite look 85, but in some scenes she did look old for probably the first time in her public life. (Photographs taken throughout the 1970s show her looking remarkably young). Put it this way: just eight years earlier, in 1970, West had played a similar "sexy" part in the movie "Myra Breckinredge". She'd been 77 years old then, and she was in good enough health and spirits to carry it off big-time. West was THE highlight of that earlier film. She was stylish, hip, quick-moving, quick-thinking, and she truly did look around fifty or so.... she looked young enough to make the part believable.
But by the time of "Sextette", she just didn't have it any more. She tried very hard, but her physical and mental limitations strained believability too much. A few basic problems: First of all, her wardrobe and hairstyle (obviously a wig) were decades out-of-date. In "Myra Breckinredge", she had looked hip and stylin'. In "Sextette", she looked like a relic.
Then there was her speech difficulty: no longer able to remember dialogue, West wore an earpiece under her wig (this is true, it's not some tabloid made-up story) to have her lines read to her by the director offstage. She would then repeat the line to the camera. This made her acting seem stilted, unnatural-- and unfunny. When somebody asks her if she's seen Big Ben, and she replies "I don't know.... I never met the gentleman", this line could have gotten a big laugh in better times. But here she "reads" the line as if from a piece of paper (or like she's straining to hear it in her earpiece): I-ne-ver-met-the-gen-tle-man". It sounds robotic, lip-synched, dubbed.
Then there are various technical flaws: her songs, for instance, which WERE lip-synched, weren't lip-synched very well. In "Baby Face", you can clearly see her get off the soundtrack. And "After You've Gone" sounds like it was slightly sped up. The soundtrack is tinny, the photography is blurry (particularly West's scenes; she looks fuzzy and too bright in many instances).
The movie wasn't an entire diaster for her. She does have a few good scenes. When she tells Timothy Dalton "The night is still young", she looks genuinely young herself--- filtered camera lens though it may be--- and she makes the line believable. In the Alice Cooper sequence, she also looks surprisingly young; and when she stands behind Cooper with her hands on his shoulders (as he's playing piano), she seems to be clearly enjoying herself. And a few seconds later, when she stands in the doorway--- her back to the camera--- she gives one last hip-twitch (the final "Mae West" screen moment of her career), and you have to chuckle a bit in good-natured admiration. 85 she may have been, but she was still out there working, still entertaining people in the best way she knew how. There's even a bit of poignance in that moment.
But the problem is, this film was played so strongly as a British farce, it works completely against the premise and the style of the whole movie to be feeling any poignance, or anything but a sense of robust comedy for the actress playing the lead. If you are aware of her BEING a frail elderly woman at any time, then the movie isn't meeting its own agenda. And that's what happens too many times. Except for a few fleeting moments, Mae simply wasn't at her best here. For a much better, funnier look at Mae West in the "later years", see "Myra Breckinredge". She was a hilarious scream in that one.
I can't add anything to the comments already made about this time-capsule
worthy film, but please let me list why it tops my camp favorite
1) The tinny musical arrangements! I've never heard a musical sound so small! There's one time when Mae West is lip-syncing to a song (rather poorly) and it kind of churns up like an old Victrola was being cranked.
2) Those waiters tap dancing on the carpeted stairs! With post-dubbed taps!
3) Mae's ONE decent hilarious line reading: (Following a knock on the door) DeLuise- "Who's that?" West- "It ain't opportunity!"
4) The male starlet who plays the "mascot" of the Olympic team! The way he extends his arm to shake Mae West's hand is pure Gloria Upson from "Auntie Mame."
5) The dancing bellboys and maids in the "Next" number...a hoot!
6) Timothy Dalton singing "Love Will Keep Us Together" to Mae West looks a little like a human version of one of those Kermit/Miss Piggy numbers from "The Muppet Show."
7) The cornball macho ad-libs and butch posturing of the Olympic team.
8) Miss West's semi wiggle/shuffle/ hobble thing she does when she's supposed to be walking. Her gowns are so long, why didn't they put her on rollers and push her into scenes? Sure would have pepped things up.
9) The ridiculousness of Keith Moon TRYING to act gay while surrounded by an entire cast of men who don't really have to try.
10) During Mae West's honeymoon interview with the press, the way the laughs to her jokes start and stop like a lid was being lifted and replaced on a Laugh-can.
I love this abomination of a movie. Long live ambitious filmmakers with no talent and legendary stars who never know when to pack it in!
I was a journalist for fan magazines in the 70's and I had the great
opportunity to interview Miss West several times for my respective
magazines. I interviewed Miss West at her Hollywood apartment (the
Ravenswood), and I also interviewed her on her "open" set during the
production of her last film Sextette.
By "open" set, I am referring to the fact that the set was not closed and shut off to reporters. It was not shut off for me for certain and I can testify to that fact. I can also testify to the fact of what I observed during the filming of this movie. This movie would definitely have had a closed set if there were so much to hide concerning Miss West as has been mistakenly reported.
There were lots of overstated rumors and gossip concerning "hidden microphones," the so-called "in-ability" of Miss West to perform, etc. I know what I observed. There were rumors that Miss West stayed in the elevator for hours waiting for her "cue," rumors that Miss West was completely senile, etc. My observations did not prove any of those "rumors." Mae West did not stay in any elevator for hours waiting for someone to come and get her. That is a total, complete fabrication. I believe someone mentioned this here already and the fact is....that did not happen!
Now for the famous "hidden earphone" legend, which says Mae was, force-fed all her lines for this movie! That is absolutely asinine to the tenth degree. Make no mistake about it--Mae knew what she was up against in the making of this film, and she knew that she would be attacked, scandalized and otherwise lied about with many of the so-called "facts" before it was over. The ridiculous "legend" that she spoke "traffic directions" after prompting has been revealed by the principle players in this movie as completely false!!!! "It never happened," as Dom Deluise has publicly stated and truthfully so!!!
Miss West was not a zombie, was not senile, was not "out of it," in any sense of the word during the filming of this movie. That is a total and ridiculous lie. No one for a moment believed or thought that Mae was a "young hottie" as someone here criticized. Like-wise, no fair-minded person at all believed that she was a washed up has-been either, let me tell you that!
This woman had a presence that was unparalleled in the history of movies. When she came on the set, it was an unbelievable experience. She retained a remarkable screen presence and charisma. It was a true example of a Hollywood legend in every sense of the word. It is an outrageous insult and disservice to the career of this remarkable woman to perpetrate these lies any longer!!!
I find it repugnant that many of the people who comment here quickly dismiss this final effort by Miss West with their scathing comments and unjustified attacks. All these comments do truthfully boil down to her age in this film. Witness the constant comments here that Mae was playing a young woman, had her face taped back, blah, blah, blah, etc. The movie does not say that she is a young star, does not pretend that at all.
Every single comment made against this film was related (and only related) to Miss West's age in this movie. Are movie actors required to retire at a certain age? I don't think so, and if fact age should have (pardon me Miss West), "Nothing to do with it." As Miss West told me in an interview with her, "What am I suppose to do? Retire to a rocking chair? That would do me in for good!" Right Mae!
I interviewed Mae West at her Ravenswood apartment on North Rossmore Ave., during the filming of this movie. It was an experience I will never forget!!!! Mae humbly put the lie to the many, many rumors concerning her in that unforgettable interview. I inspected her skin for signs of plastic surgery (the telltale scars) and there were none!!! I inspected her lovely hair (what wigs are you talking about here?) and it was her own!!! Her hands were like that of a baby, so smooth, soft and young looking.
Mae had not a single wrinkle in her face, her body was firm, she had all her own teeth, and regardless of what you have heard or read elsewhere, she had her own hair. This was a woman who appeared to be decades younger than her true age. I was in a state of shock when I first saw her.
And she was super alert too, and she knew exactly what she was talking about--very professional and not at all the pathetic figure that some would like to now make her. In fact, she was so very amazing that it was unreal, and I suppose this could be the reason for rumors that this was not the original Mae West! Yes, one rumor that went around forever was that this woman was really the daughter of Mae West and not the original. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
There was an absolute magic in her personality and presence. This is something that is no longer in effect with the so-called stars of today. She had something called magnetism and a great personality, the likes of which will never be again.
Mae West delivered one hell of a good job in this movie when her age in figured in, and she was still up to it, still looked really good, and she gave it her all and it is damn well high time it is acknowledged!!!!!!! One final comment is (as mentioned here several times) the UK version of this movie is excellent quality, and not the poorer quality of the US releases. It makes a big difference!!!
There are only a very few moments of absolute awe which I can recall in my life. What is not reflected in the blurb about this film, and the comments referring to Miss West's embarrassing appearance in this film, is the effect she had on the cast and crew when she entered the set on the Paramount lot. We were in the "gym" waiting to begin shooting, talking and yapping away as actors will do at 7 AM before anything gets going, when the double doors to the set opened, and as each person turned and looked at the lady entering and realized it was Mae West, they fell silent - until you could have heard a pin drop or your heart beating just a bit faster and louder. Miss West may have been a poor shadow of what she had been years before, but she was still Mae West. Incredible as it may seem, at eighty years old she radiated a presence I have felt from very few others. Later on, while shooting a scene with her, and the director was loudly yelling at her through her ear-piece, rather than becoming angry at the rude treatment she was getting, she simply turned to me with that Mae West smile; and in one look she said, "It's okay kid, I'm Mae West, who the hell gives a damn about him." When I looked back at her, somewhat in awe, she winked. Ultimately, she did the take the way she wanted to do it. Maybe the public will never see that scene as I saw it played out, but I will never forget it.
Oh yes, the magic is still there for sure in the Queen of Sex's final film Sextette. Some people may attack her because of her age in this film, but in truth, this film is good fun and really campy! Miss West was also the Queen of Camp and she sure as hell delivered the camp in this one! She deserves honors, not attacks for still having the ability to deliver!! I have to admit I was absolutely dumbfounded when I saw this and the reason was because Mae West was still the Number 1 Queen of Sex for certain! She was such a darling in this, such fun, and so very good humored!!! It did my heart good and uplifted me in a way like I have never been uplifted to see her still strutting her magnificent stuff here! Man, was she an original and one-of-a-kind! There exists no other like her in all of movie history! She was so smart, so wise and so very wonderful, and it all shows in this -- her final movie. She still had what it takes, looking absolutely wonderful and so perky too!!! All those whispered rumors about her were absolutely that -- just gossip!!! She was and still is the greatest movie star in the history of film. She is so fantastic it is unbelievable!!! What forces came together to make this Empress of Sex???? I don't know the answer to that but I do know that she was one of the most fun loving, wonderful, magnificent film stars in all of movie history! What a woman!!! What an actress!!! And let me tell you that no other film star in history hung in there to the very end like she did and still had it!!! She has to be given credit for that no matter what else you may think!!! Who says a person has to give up on life, sex or anything else just because you reach a certain age???? Everyone should be able to identify with this durable, ageless wonder in that regard. She should be an inspiration to all, because all of us get older really, really fast, but Mae West proved that doesn't mean a thing!!! So stop attacking and get on the Westian bandwagon and celebrate!!! This movie is good natured fun, and a good damn movie in fact!!! Full of good natured fun and it proves that life doesn't end at any certain age and we should all be thankful to Mae West for that, bless her wonderful, wonderful heart!!!!
This is right up there with "Can't Stop the Music" as wonderfully inspired
trash. I find it funny that so many people are offended by Mae's appearance
and numerous flirtations in this film. These are the same yokels who laugh
at Bob Hope or George Burns when they chat up a young babe. It's nice to
see the tables turned. Mae is grand - there's no other word for her- and
her statue-like appearance (due to God knows how many face lifts and layers
of make-up) actually help to accentuate the nature of her cinema icon glory.
She always was bigger-than-life.
The plot of this film and the musical numbers are truly terrible, but they're there merely as plot devices for Mae to strut her stuff, and for Timothy Dalton to rack up enough embarrassing moments to cancel out his entire career even if he makes it to Mae's age! This movie always was meant to be camp, since Mae has always been the reigning camp queen, but of course it also tried to pass as real Hollywood entertainment, which means that there's a lot of unintentional humor too. There are tons of witty lines, and it's fun to see this huge gallery of stars (I barely recognized Alice Cooper without his long hair and smeared mascara. He looked like Paul Jabara, which I bet was intentional). I would not recommend seeing this film on an empty stomach, as seeing Timothy Dalton breaking out into "Love Will Keep Us Together" will cause a severely nasty involuntary reaction. But for fans of true camp, this movie is an absolute must see!
How demented is this film! What a crown pleaser! I showed this in the 80s at my cinema ...and to teenagers too! Often they came stumbling into the lobby gasping and choking in disbelief, some came to the ticket box and nervously asked if we knew what was unfolding on the screen. Very proudly I always told them I selected this film myself and made them watch it before the co feature (usually a Monty Python film)......hilarious! The kids were genuinely shocked..to them here was some mummified wedding cake granny sashaying about leering at men of all ages and fondling teen gym boys and various croaky old leading men...and Ringo Starr too......it absolutely rewired their funny little heads. Girls just screamed and screamed and screamed. They couldn't stop. Kids rioted in the stalls. I have never seen an audience behave like it. The noise could be heard blocks away. You should find a copy and show it to everyone you know. Mae West paid for this film herself as her swansong and it's a beauty! What a life! Bonkers maximus.
The ultimate vehicle for Mae West. Sure to be misconstrued by those who do not realize what Mae was up to, this campy delight is a true gem from the '70s. Part of the fun is watching Mae West's unconcealed joy in rolling out her legendary lines (and legendary body). The gleam in her eye as those droll words trip off her mischievous lips is delicious. To realize that here is The Female who caught onto sex at an early age and worked it for all it's worth is to appreciate this legend at her peak. Fans of Richard (all right, Ringo) Starr, Walter Pidgeon, George Raft, George Harrison, and Tony Curtis will appreciate their patsy cameos opposite irresistible Mae. The godfather take-off is a scream. Mae West always fancied her singing voice, and whenever this film allows it, she delivers: "Happy Birthday (Twenty-one)" and "Babyface" will never be the same. Surprisingly well produced and directed, here's an example of the vanity film at its best. Leaves you wanting it to go on, and on, and on. C'mon on up and see it sometime!
I am sick of the comments here commenting on this movie in the
negative. It is truly sad that the ones here would say some of the
things they have said.
Mae West was (and still remains) one of the true legends in the history of Hollywood. Yes, she may not have been "young" anymore by any definition in this movie, but she was quite incredible in this film.
I do not know how anyone in their right mind could not give credit to someone in their 80's who managed to pull this off (and pull it off Miss West certainly did)!
I do not believe I can recall a single star in Hollywood who managed to give this good a "farewell" performance. This movie is certainly not bad at all BY ANY STANDARDS. The negative comments here ALL reflect West's AGE when they comment!!!
In fact, she was damn well pretty funny! Especially if you consider her age. And truthfully what in the hell does age have to do with anything?
While not "I'm No Angel" or "She Done Him Wrong," Mae's last is no better or worse than some of her late '30s films. The direction tries too hard for outrageous ... and misses, but you'll get at least a couple of chuckles.
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