Mae West in “Goin’ to Town”


Mae West’s comedy Goin’ to Town was released on April 25, 1935.

Goin’ to Town was Mae’s first post-code feature, and it’s kind of a mess. As always, it’s a showcase for her fabulousness, her beautiful outfits and so forth, although this time it’s set partially in a contemporary milieu (I say partially because the opening section is a western so it feels like a throwback). Most of her previous films had been set against the Diamond Lil backdrop of the 1890s (although Night After Night had certainly been contemporary).

Goin’ to Town is enjoyable and does have its racy parts but does seem to limp into the station on a little less gas.  It would have leaped the tracks into awesome if the main guy had been Cary Grant, whom Mae originally wrote the part for. The whole movie actually only makes sense from that perspective. The plot: Saloon singer Mae inherits an enormous ranch from her husband (murdered by rustlers on their wedding day) that turns out to have oil on it. She falls for the geological engineer in charge of the drilling (how’s THAT for a missed double entendre, Mae?) But he is an English snob and rejects her. (This of course would have been Grant’s part. Here it is played by some poor scraecow named Paul Cavanaugh). She follows him down to the casinos and racetracks of Argentina (because Mae is a show-woman nonpareil, there is a horse racing sequence). Here she throws her money around, but gets the idea into her head that she must have breeding to win her man, who continues to reject her. She marries a broke guy from a good family. Next we go to their mansion in Southampton, where Mae sings in the opera Samson and Delilah for a charity function. Her husband is killed in a plot to frame her, but the truth rapidly comes out and she gets her man. Or “men”. Along the way she’d also had her eye on a good looking Russian dude who is a pawn in the plot against her, and she also has a couple of guys on payroll to do her bidding, a business manager, and an American Indian from the ranch who does her dirty work and more heroic deeds.

I noted many continuity errors in shooting and editing, ones that are internal, i.e., weren’t caused by censor’s cuts, which is why I called it “a mess”.

But look! Mae sings opera!

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