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Mae West: The Essential Collection [3 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Special Features

  • She Done Him Right cartoon short

Synopsis

Go West, Young Man
Go West, Young Man represented the first time that Mae West starred in a film not originally written with her in mind. Based on Lawrence Riley's stage comedy Personal Appearance (which starred Gladys George on Broadway), the film casts La West as Mavis Alden, a pretentious and somewhat stupid movie star who is shipped out on a nationwide promotional tour of her latest picture, Drifting Lady. Stranded in a backwater Pennsylvania town, she finds time for a chaste romance with local gas-station attendant Bud (Randolph Scott). Her enthusiastic press agent tries to stage-manage a wedding between the two casual lovers, whereupon West wriggles out of the commitment by renouncing Scott -- repeating the flowery dialogue from her newest cinematic masterpiece. Mae West is moderately amusing in an uncharacteristic assignment, but one wonders what the results would have been if Paramount had allowed her to star in her first choice of assignments: A satirical biography of Catherine the Great. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Night After Night
In one of his first starring roles, George Raft plays Joe Anton, a tough but basically decent speakeasy owner who falls in love with Park Avenue socialite Miss Healy (Constance Cummings). Hoping to come up to the girl's social level, Joe starts taking lessons in speech and behavior from haughty dowager Mrs. Jellyman (Alison Skipworth). What he doesn't know is that Miss Healy pays attention to him only because he's living in the posh apartment where her family had resided before the Stock Market crash. Even so, the girl genuine falls in love with Joe when it appears as though he's about to desert her in favor of his ex-flame Iris Dawn (Wynne Gibson). A dreary retread of stock movie-drama themes, Night After Night would be utterly forgotten today were it not for the presence of Mae West, making her film debut. A scant few seconds after her first appearance, the generously bejeweled West is accosted by a hatcheck girl who coos "Goodness, what lovely diamonds." Swivelling those famous hips, La West replies expansively "Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie." Commenting years later on Night After Night, George Raft, who suggested that Mae West be cast in the film, ruefully recalled "She stole everything but the cameras." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

She Done Him Wrong
"I'm the finest woman who walked the streets," declares bejeweled, hip-swishing Lady Lou (Mae West) at the beginning of She Done Him Wrong. Lou works as a singer at the Gay Nineties saloon of Gus Jordan (Noah Beery Sr.), who plies her with diamonds to keep her by his side. She runs afoul of stalwart mission captain Cummings (Cary Grant), who warns her that she's on the road to perdition. Mae West's first starring film, She Done Him Wrong literally saved Paramount Pictures from bankruptcy. It would remain the best of her feature films, most of which were severely watered down by the Production Code (whose renewed stringency of 1933 was brought about in great part by West herself). She Done Him Wrong was based on West's own stage play, Diamond Lil, which ran on Broadway for 97 weeks. West sings "Frankie and Johnny," "I Like a Man Who Takes His Time," and ""I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone."" ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Belle of the Nineties
Originally titled It Ain't No Sin until the censors prevailed, then St. Louis Woman and Belle of New Orleans, until complaints were registered from those two communities, Belle of the Nineties was Mae West's first post-Production Code film. West is cast as cabaret entertainer Ruby Carter, plying her trade along the Mississippi. Having no trouble surviving on her own terms in a man's world, Ruby fends off the unwarranted attentions of a steady stream of libidinous males, reserving her affections for a muscular boxer called The Tiger Kid (Roger Pryor). In keeping with the star's casual liberality, a number of black entertainers and athletes are given ample opportunities in this film, notably Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. The surest sign that the Code had "tamed" West a bit is the fact that she actually marries the hero at film's end. The musical highlights include West's unforgettable rendition of "My Old Flame". ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

I'm No Angel
Mae West's second starring vehicle, I'm No Angel casts the divine Miss West as the star performer in a seedy circus. Though she lives with Ralf Harolde, West allows herself plenty of time for other men. When Harolde runs afoul of the law, West secures extra money by becoming a lion tamer. While thus employed, West is "discovered" by playboy Kent Taylor; she willingly accepts his gifts and other favors, but she only has eyes for Taylor's cousin Cary Grant. Still, love takes second place to commerce in West's life, and she ends up suing Grant for breach of promise. When Grant allows her to win the case, she realizes she's truly in love with him after all. By rights, I'm No Angel should have been as big and bawdy a success as West's earlier She Done Him Wrong, but by late 1933 the censors were beginning to have their way with Hollywood. Several of the more ribald (and more hilarious) elements of the film were toned down--not least of which was the title, which was supposed to have been It Ain't No Sin. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Klondike Annie
Mae West butts heads with Victor McLaglen in Raoul Walsh's Klondike Annie, but the real victor was the Legion of Decency, whose censorship strictures transformed a saucy and spicy gumbo into something closer to chicken noodle soup. West plays Rose Carlton, the kept woman of Chan Lo (Harold Huber), who takes her from walking the streets to pacing the floors of her high rent apartment. Rose ends up killing Chan and beats it from San Francisco to the frozen north. She boards a ship where burly sea captain Bull Brackett (McLaglen) takes a shine to her; when he finds out she killed Chan, he blackmails her into coming up and seeing him sometime. Boarding the ship in Seattle is missionary Annie Alden (Helen Jerome Eddy), who dies on the way to Alaska. Rose assumes Annie's identity and, upon arrival in Alaska proceeds to preach the Good Book, saving sinners by unorthodox methods. Mountie Jack Forrest (Philip Reed) arrives in town searching for Chan's murderer and he falls in love with Rose, unaware that the woman he loves is the killer he seeks. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

Every Day's a Holiday
Paramount spent a record one million dollars on its 1937 Mae West vehicle Every Day's a Holiday. La West portrays a turn-of-century confidence trickster who poses as a famous French chanteuse to avoid arrest. In this guise, she manages to expose crooked police chief Lloyd Nolan and smooths the path for reform mayoral candidate Edmund Lowe. A strong cast of supporting comedians, including Charles Winninger, Charles Butterworth and Walter Catlett, match Mae quip for quip. Elaborately produced and snappily directed by Eddie Sutherland, Every Day's a Holiday should have been the hit that Mae West needed to save her flagging film career. Unfortunately, her vogue had passed, plus she was under fire from America's bluenoses because of her previous "racy" vehicles and her recent "lewd and lascivious" appearance on Edgar Bergen's radio show. (When heard today, West's "Adam and Eve" sketch seems harmless enough, but remember the formidability of the Bible Belt back in 1938.) As a result, Every Day's a Holiday lost every penny it cost and then some -- and effectively ended Mae West's relationship with Paramount, the studio she had single-handedly rescued from bankruptcy with She Done Him Wrong back in 1933. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

My Little Chickadee
Goin' to Town
Mae West is Goin' to Town in this elegant post-Production Code vehicle. West plays Cleo Borden, a nouveau riche cattle rancher who hopes to crash into high society. Though she is willing to subject herself to "refinement" lessons, she still has a high old time puncturing the pretensions of those around her: when aristocratic Ivan Valadov (Ivan Lebedeff) haughtily announces that he is the backbone of his family, West gives him the once-over and replies "Then your family'd better see a chiropractor." Through the connections of her husband-by-convenience Fletcher Colton (Monroe Owsley), Cleo is able to move freely among the glitterati of Southhampton but is forced to rely on her tried-and-true "street smarts" when she crosses swords with haughty villainess Grace Brittony (Marjorie Gateson) at a Buenos Aires race track. Through it all, aristocratic British engineer Edward Carrington (Paul Cavanaugh) awaits the opportunity to claim Cleo for his own -- as if anyone could ever "own" our fiercely self-reliant heroine. The film's highlight is a society operatic gala, in which Mae West delivers a serious (and most effective) rendition of "My Heart at Thy Still Voice" from Samson and Delilah. In a more characteristic vein, the star gets down and dirty (well, at least semi-dirty) with "He's a Bad Bad Man, But He's Good Enough for Me." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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