Mae West in “Klondike Annie”
Today is the anniversary of the release date of the 1936 Mae West comedy Klondike Annie. Partially penned by West herself (based on her 1921 stage play Frisco Kate), the comedy essentially follows the same template as Charlie Chaplin’s The Pilgrim. A wanted criminal (West as the “Frisco Doll”) travels far from the scene of her crime and goes in disguise as a Bible thumper (“Sister Annie Alden”.) The turn of the century Alaskan setting conjured yet another Chaplin film: The Gold Rush. And this time out Mae had a serious hard-core quality director behind the lens: Raoul Walsh. The film suffered from heavy censorship — it’s best ten minutes are presumably destroyed forever. Still it marks her last really happy experience as a film auteur and the beginning of the end at Paramount. There were two more films to follow on her original contract, Go West, Young Man (1936) and Every Day’s a Holiday (1937), and then the studio let her go (this after her box office success had essentially save the studio five years earlier)
For more on comedy film history don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
To learn more about vaudeville and show biz history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.