My Little Chickadee
|My Little Chickadee|
|Directed by||Edward F. Cline|
|Produced by||Lester Cowan|
|Written by||Mae West
W. C. Fields
W. C. Fields
|Music by||Frank Skinner|
|Cinematography||Joseph A. Valentine|
|Editing by||Edward Curtiss|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release dates||March 15, 1940|
|Running time||83 min.|
My Little Chickadee (1940) is a Universal comedy/western motion picture starring Mae West and W. C. Fields, with Joseph Calleia, Ruth Donnelly, Margaret Hamilton, Donald Meek, Willard Robertson, Dick Foran, George Moran, William B. Davidson, and Addison Richards. It was directed by Edward F. Cline. The original music was written by Ben Oakland (song "Willie of the Valley") and Frank Skinner.
West reportedly wrote the original screenplay, with Fields contributing one extended scene set in a bar. Universal decided to give the stars equal screenplay credit, perhaps to avoid the appearance of favoritism, but the move incensed West, who declined to re-team with Fields afterwards. The stars spoofed themselves and the Western genre, with West providing a series of her trademark double entendres.
The story is set in the American Old West of the 1880s. Miss Flower Belle Lee (Mae West) is a singer from Chicago who is on her way to visit relatives out west. While she is traveling on a stagecoach with three men and a woman named Mrs. Gideon (Margaret Hamilton), the town gossip and busybody, a masked bandit on horseback holds up the stage for its shipment of gold and orders the passengers to step out.
The masked bandit immediately takes an interest in the saucy blonde. As he makes his getaway with the gold, he takes her with him. Upon reaching the town of Little Bend, the others report the robbery and kidnapping to the sheriff (William B. Davidson). Flower Belle then walks into town, unharmed, and explains, "I was in a tight spot but I managed to wriggle out of it."
Later that evening, at the home of her Aunt Lou (Ruth Donnelly) and Uncle John (Willard Robertson), the masked bandit enters Flower Belle's second floor bedroom and they start kissing. However, his presence and departure is witnessed by Mrs. Gideon. She quickly reports what she has seen and Flower Belle angrily finds herself hauled up before the judge (Addison Richards). Flower Belle is then run out of Little Bend.
She boards a train to Greasewood City. It makes an unscheduled stop to pick up con-man Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields). When hostile Indians attack, Flower Belle saunters to a window and mows them down with two pistols, while Twillie dodges flying arrows and fights off the Indians with a child's slingshot. Flower Belle has little use for Twillie until she sees a stash of money in his bag. Believing him to be rich, she then plays up to him and they get acquainted. They have an impromptu wedding, officiated over by a passenger, Amos Budge (Donald Meek), a gambler who looks like a minister.
As she has only pretended to marry Twillie for "respectability", Flower Belle gets a separate hotel room in Greasewood City. Meanwhile, Twillie is made sheriff by the saloon owner and town boss Jeff Badger (Joseph Calleia), who has an ulterior motive. Flower Belle attracts the attention of Badger, newspaper editor Wayne Carter (Dick Foran), and every other man in town. While keeping her troublesome "husband" out of reach and out of trouble, Flower Belle encounters the masked bandit again.
One night, Twillie enters Flower Belle's room disguised as the masked bandit. He is accused of being the masked bandit, and is about to be hanged. With the noose around his neck, he makes his last request to the lynching party. "I'd like to see Paris before I die. Philadelphia will do!" However, Flower Belle saves Twillie. At one point, she and Badger had kissed, and from that, she recognizes that he is the masked bandit.
When Flower Belle and Twillie say good-bye, West and Fields spoof each other's signature line.
"Come up and see me sometime", he says.
"Mmm, I will, my little chickadee", she replies.
As Flower Belle sashays up the stairs, "The End" is playfully overlaid on her posterior.
- W. C. Fields as Cuthbert J. Twillie
- Mae West as Flower Belle Lee
- Joseph Calleia as Jeff Badger
- Joseph Calleia as Masked Bandit
- Dick Foran as Wayne Carter
- Margaret Hamilton as Mrs. Gideon
- Gene Austin as Saloon Musician
- Fuzzy Knight as Cousin Zeb
- Anne Nagel as Miss Foster
- Ruth Donnelly as Aunt Lou
- Willard Robertson as Uncle John
- Donald Meek as Amos Budge
- William B. Davidson as Sheriff
- Addison Richards as Judge
- And Jackie Searl, Morgan Wallace, Wade Boteler, Walter McGrail, Otto Hoffman, William Benedict, Delmar Watson, Chester Gan, George Melford, Robert McKenzie, James C. Morton, Slim Gaut, Lloyd Ingraham, Ben Hall, Hank Bell, Lane Chandler
My Little Chickadee was the most successful film of 1940 after Gone with the Wind, despite only mediocre reviews from critics. It grossed upwards of $20 million in the United States alone, an outstanding amount at the time.
Popular culture references
- "My little chickadee" is the catchphrase most associated with W. C. Fields. He first used it during a scene in If I Had a Million (1932) to address co-star Alison Skipworth.
- "Come up and see me sometime" is a line West's character uses in her third film, I'm No Angel (1933). It is a reflection of the popular line from her second film She Done Him Wrong (1933) Actual quote: "Why don't you come up some time and see me? I'm home every evening." This was already misquoted and parodied as "Why don't you come up and see me sometime." These words were never used in any Mae West movie.
- My Little Chickadee was Mae West's first screen performance since Every Day's a Holiday (1937) for Paramount Pictures. This was her only performance for Universal, which now owns most of the pre-1950 Paramount film library. It was also the last successful film of her career, her three subsequent films would all fail at the box office.
- W. C. Fields also starred in a series of comedies for Paramount in the 1930s. This was his second performance for Universal.
- Margaret Hamilton played the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, which was released the year before this film. Fields had been considered for the role of the Wizard, but he declined the opportunity and My Little Chickadee was the film chosen to feature both actors.
- In Matthew Reilly's Shane Schofield series, Gina "Mother" Newman often protectively refers to Elizabeth Gant, as her "little chickadee".
- Deschner, Donald (1966). The Films of W.C. Fields. New York: Cadillac Publishing by arrangement with The Citadel Press. p. 140. Introduction by Arthur Knight