Directed by: Edward F. Cline (Million Dollar Legs)
Starring: Mae West, W.C. Fields, Joseph Calleia, Dick Foran, Fuzzy Knight
The teaming of Mae West and W.C. Fields in this Wild West comedy might not have resulted in quite the great movie that was hoped for — certainly, it did nothing to endear its stars to each other — but My Little Chickadee (1940) still a worthy and very funny outing. In fact, it contains some of the comics’ best material, especially Fields. That the two leads didn’t take to each other much isn’t evident onscreen in the least — and the pairing actually come off better than you might expect. The whole idea is that West’s Flower Belle Lee is in need of a husband to prove her respectability. A lovestruck (or at least sex-struck) Cuthbert J. Twillie (Fields) proves just the ticket, especially when West mistakenly believes he has a satchel full of money and there’s a gambler (Donald Meek) on hand to pose as a minister. She, of course, has no intention of consumating the marriage (“Don’t worry, honey, he’ll never cross my threshold,” she tells her masked bandit boyfriend). Twillie, of course, is determined to do just that. That’s only a part of the film’s story, but since it’s the only part that really brings the duo together onscreen, it’s probably the most significant. While West’s character gets the better of Fields’ character, he comes off better comedically. By 1940, the censors had pretty well clamped down on West (it’s amazing she got the “threshold” line past them) and her material suffered for it. That said, her delivery of almost any line could make it suggestive. It may not be a truly great picture, but any movie that finds Fields in bed with a goat is an essential. Plus, West gets a pretty good song in the bargain.
In Brief: Mae West and W.C. Fields team up for this comedy set in the Wild West that finds West “marrying” Fields in order to become respectable (and because she thinks he has money). While the fireworks one might have expected from two such iconic comedians don’t quite happen, it’s still a very funny movie and historical for the pairing.