Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Annie are you OK?

Some time back I purchased a cheap box set of Mae West movies. One of the movies in teh set I haven't blogged about yet is Klondike Annie, so I recently watched it to do a full-length post on it.

The scene is the Gay Nineties in San Francisco. Mae West plays Rose Carlton, the "Frisco Doll" who is the lover of Chan Lo (Harold Huber), and basically trapped in the relationship. One night Rose gets in a scuffle with Chan Lo, which results in her accidentally stabbing him to death. She could claim self-defense, although whether or not a jury would believe her is an open question. So she takes the easy way out by getting on a tramp steamer headed for Nome, AK, and the Klondike gold ruch.

Bull Brackett (Victor McLaglen) is the captain of the ship, who at first doesn't know anything about Rose's past. Along the way, another passenger comes aboard, Salvation Army missionary Annie Alden (Helen Jerome Eddy). Annie is nice to Rose, and gets Rose to begin thinking about leading a somewhat more virtuous life. But poor Annie has a bad heart, and dies at sea. Meanwhile, the police are still looking for the Frisco Doll, which gives Rose an idea. She'll take Annie's place and head up the mission in Nome! It gives her a chance to atone for her sins, as well as to stay one step ahead of the law.

But by this time Bull has fallen in love with Rose, and knows that she's the Frisco Doll wanted by the police back in San Francisco, a fact that he can hold over her head. Still, Rose goes to the mission and helps run it, even if her methods are sometimes unorthodox. Bull can't understand why she'd do this, but since he's in love with her, he puts up with it.

Joining this happy group is police inspector Forrest (Philip Reed). He's looking for the Frisco Doll not knowing she's right under his nose. He begins to fall for Rose-as-Annie, which brings about its own set of problems, because thanks to the Production Code, Rose is going to have to face the music at some point, even if she really is innocent. This isn't like Sylvia Sidney's character in Alfred Hitchcock's Sabotage.

The Production Code is, I think, the source of the problems I have with Klondike Annie. Mae West had a racy sense of humor with the double entendres flying, but the enforcement of the Code starting in 1934 forced her to tone it down quite a bit. The Code is also what forces this movie into the ending it has. But apparently it also resulted in a few edits that made the movie a bit more confusing than it needed to be. Supposedly there was a scene of Rose actually dressing the dead Annie up as a prostitute, aiding in Rose's getaway. But that was deleted thanks to the Code.

Overall, Klondike Annie is a good example of a 1930s programmer, and not a bad little movie. I'm really glad it was on the box set and at the price it's quite inexpensive. However, thanks to the Code it just isn't up to the standards of earlier West movies like She Done Him Wrong.

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