Classic Movie 2019

Classic Movie Of The Week: Go West, Young Man (1936)

Starring: Mae West, Warren William, Randolph Scott, Alice Brady

Director: Henry Hathaway

A beautiful Hollywood star (West) is tangled in a romance with a politician that might ruin her career. Her PR man, Morgan (William), decides to strand her in the countryside to stop her from meeting up with her lover, only to find her trying to seduce the local mechanic Bud (Scott) instead. Can he keep her out of trouble?

I wanted to pick a Mae West film for the list this year and this one was easy to find, but it’s not her at her very sparkliest. Mae was a women from a family of theatre and performing types, and grew up in Brooklyn. She actually made it into films a little late in life, but lied about her age, and honestly, she is always shot in a way that makes her look fabulous and young so you would never know. She originally worked in the theatre and made her name as being incredibly funny and outspoken. Her play titled Sex was a huge hit, even though some newspapers refused to run ads for it because of the name. But it got her the attention of Paramount, and in fact, her huge success single handedly saved the studio from bankruptcy.

Many stories tell of the way Mae would be handed a script and would go home and rewrite it with her own brilliant one liners, and you can see in the poster above that she’s made sure to get credit for her work. And so she should. Mae West write dialogue that was snappy, flirtatious, sexy and full of humour and innuendo. And she delivered it with signiture flair and humour. And that’s all here in this film.

The problem that Mae West and the studios had was that the Production Code had come into effect. Mae could originally say anything she wanted on screen, because there really wasn’t much in the way of censorship and there wasn’t anything like the ratings system we have now. After the Production Code came in studios had to be more careful and a lot of the things that West could say before were only able to be implied now. Personally, I think she’s always great and is incredibly sharp and funny, and would watch any of her films, but some of them are hard to find.

So, even though this film comes after she was reined in a little (I mean, you could never really censor Mae, she’d find a clever way around you every time) it’s still a great deal of fun. I love that the mechanic that she’s flirting with seems pretty obvlivious about her intentions and I love the waitress who is nuts about movies. And I feel for poor Morgan, trying to keep his wayward star out of trouble. There are so many good lines here and delivered at speed it’s remarkable. Mae West was an absolute genuis as a comedy writer and as a performer too.

See It If: I would recommend any Mae West film, and I do think this one is great. West is sassy, sexy and brilliantly funny, and her supporting players are all great foils for her to bounce off.

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