My Little Chickadee (1940)

“My Little Chickadee” is a light, unpretentious send-up of the American Western filled with one-liners and innuendo galore. Starring Mae West and W.C. Fields, would one expect anything else? The film opens with Flower Belle in a stagecoach heading to her Aunt Lou’s house in the Midwestern town of Little Bend. The wagon is held up by the Latino “Masked Bandit”, who makes off with both the gold and Flower Belle. One of the other wagon passengers, Mrs. Gideon (Margaret Hamilton) tells the sheriff what has happened and a posse is sent to rescue Flower Belle. That evening Flower Belle returns to her Aunt Lou’s house on her own, quipping that she “wriggled out” of trouble and escaped… with some of the gold, which she says the Bandit gave her for her trouble. Oh sure. She sashays upstairs to her room and her Aunt Lou follows. For some reason Aunt Lou, who had been walking and talking like a typical Midwesterner up until now, follows West while mimicking her exaggerated hip swaying. She does this again in the courthouse, where she’s also dressed like her niece. There is no explanation why. Aunt Lou helps Flower Belle get settled in to her room, and moments after she leaves, the Masked Bandit returns for more of Flower Belle’s, er, hospitality. Mrs. Gideon happens to be walking by the house and sees the Bandit through Flower Belle’s window. Flower Belle is taken to court the next day to explain herself and to reveal … Continue reading

The Big Trail (1930)

When “The Big Trail” (1930) arrived at the house a few weeks ago, it was the last of a long string of John Wayne films I’d decided to watch for what might be called “educational purposes”. To say Wayne is not my favorite actor is to understate the situation, yet I hadn’t given Wayne much of a chance recently. I figured if I was going to continue to publicly state my rather strong opinion about his films and his acting ability, I should do so with at least a couple dozen Wayne films under my belt. After viewing “The High and the Mighty”, “The Searchers” and “The Long Voyage Home”, the arrival of “The Big Trail” was no surprise to me, although by the time I popped it into the player, I had completely forgotten my original reason for wanting to see it: my hero, El Brendel. You’ve heard me say this before, and you’ll hear me say it again: “The Big Trail” is not a good film. John Wayne was young, tall, and beautiful — my gods, he was beautiful — but he couldn’t act his way out of a cool damp sack. He was clearly hired for his beefcakey attributes. This is made clear early in the film when he gets his hair wet and tousled and strikes an obvious pose for the camera. Not that I’m complaining, I’m just here to inform. This early talkie could be used as a checklist for all the techniques that had … Continue reading