Mae West and yes, that is George Hamilton.

SEXTETTE will long live in infamy, I guess. The essential innocence of Mae West’s banter is suddenly rendered sickly and peculiar as it emerges from the mouth of an eighty-something woman. And I don’t mind the idea of old people having sexuality or sexiness: an actor friend found himself in the presence of Honor Blackman, and couldn’t help but feel, er, the impact of her presence. And it wasn’t purely nostalgic, by any means.

But SEXTETTE gets it wrong. Maybe director Ken CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG Hughes wasn’t the man for the job (my old pal Lawrie Knight, who knew him well, referred to him with some awe as “the dirtiest man I ever met”), although who ARE you going to get to make a Mae West pop musical in 1978?

Here’s a clip that’s actually rather lovely ~

Yes, that’s Alice Cooper.

Now read the review, over at The Daily Notebook: this week’s edition of The Forgotten.

15 Responses to “Mae-September”

  1. I remember watching this on TV aged about 11 because it had James Bond, Ringo Starr and Dom Deluise. I knew nothing about Mae West or her age. I remember the film did all this build-up about how amazingly beautiful and attractive West’ character is. The newscasters announce it, there’s a whole musical number about it and then finally she enters and…..I can clearly remember thinking ‘her attractiveness must be one of those things I’ll “get” when I’m older’.
    Her face was in such soft focus that she seemed to have almost no distinguishing features at all,

    At the time I thought the film was OK, but then I also liked the Carry Ons.

  2. Heh.

    The best Carry Ons are much better than this. The worst — let’s say Carry on Emmanuelle or Carry on Columbus — aren’t quite as bad, but are less interesting. The talent (and in some cases “talent”) involved here make it jaw-dropping.

    Maybe the biggest problem for me with Mae is that she seems barely able to open her eyes. The weight of the false lashes? Medication? At any rate, it’s a big problem for a screen star.

  3. David Boxwell Says:

    How a truly beautiful 84 year-old woman acts/is: Emmanuelle Riva in AMOUR.

  4. Yes. Well, there’s more than one way of doing it. Being French seems to help. I wouldn’t want to be prescriptive. And whatever look Mae was comfortable with is fine with me — it’s her casting in a film that worries me. In a way she was always a stage star, and she might have been able to get away with this in a play, devoid of the close-up and with the aid of the same kind of suspension of disbelief we apply to the scenery.

  5. A very interesting point of comparasion Mr. Boxwell, as Riva began her career with Resnais and Duras’ Hiroshima Mon Amour projecting an image of female seuality out of an entirely different cinematic universe than the one that gave us Mae West. In Haneke’s Amour Riva plays her age. In Sextette Mae gives it the old “the stars are ageless” try — and spectacularly fails. A painful experience.

  6. I’m now trying to picture what a Resnais version of Sextette would be like. Kind of a Last Century at Paramount kind of thing.

  7. Could have been worse, it could’ve been a Hollywood version of Last Tango in Paris. Were Timothy Dalton and Tom Selleck in this one?
    As for Honor Blackman. Grr. It’s always an honour to be in the the presence of Honor. (I should imagine.)

  8. Timothy Dalton was in this one. Selleck was in Myra Breckinridge

  9. Thanks, I do tend to conflate those despite having watched them on tv years ago. Oh, the humanity, at least they’re different… And Myra is based on interesting and has va-va-voom Raquel Welch.
    I wonder what Selleck thinks of Myra now (eh, he’s been in worse), maybe *that’s* why he grew the empowering moustache and became Magnum P.I.?! Surely, Tim Dalton Would be amused?

  10. Keith Moon is very good in this, actually, channeling Robert Newton. Ringo Starr is so miscast as a Von Stroheim type that it’s rather endearing. And I just worked out why Alice Cooper is so likable in the above clip — he treats Mae as a sweet old lady. Whereas poor Tim Dalton has to be ardent. I suspect he recalls it with a shudder…

  11. Yes, yes, yes! I have led a sheltered life but I’ve always wanted to read someone making the obvious link between Moon the Loon and the great Robert Newton! I am not mad! (well, I wouldn’t go that far) As for Timothy, it’s a long time since I’ve seen it but your mention of him being “ardent” brings back memories (horrible, horrible memories) so perhaps he *does* shudder rather than laugh, poor guy. Hah. And then everyone remembers Brian Blessed in Flash Gordon rather than his perfectly creditable amused turn as Barin (yet, who can forget the mighty Peter Wyngarde still perfectly louche like George Sanders under a golden mask?). He’s also amusing as the echt-Flynn in Rocketeer and as the villain in Hot Fuzz. Not to mention he’s my favourite Bond! (Best Bond Movie tho’? OHMSS – Savalas; La Rigg; not-at-all-bad Lazenby; dear Angela Scoular; John Barry’s best 007 score; Satchmo; great editing; charming cinematography; one-liners “this never happened to the other fellow”, “he had a lot of guts”; emotion – watch the scene in which a demoralized Bond is saved by beautiful strong Diana; it’s quite fantastic, I think).

  12. I am very happy.

  13. Agree re On Her Maj, definitely my favourite. They should have kept Peter Hunt on.

    Apparently little English boys of Moon’s generation were all obsessed with Newton, and his idolatry went on into adulthood and extended to competitive alcoholism. The observation isn’t original to me — I think Moon must have spoken of it.

    Dalton is AWFULLY good in Hot Fuzz, isn’t he? He has a nice bit in Loony Tunes: Back in Action, also.

  14. Timothy Dalton and Mae West duet on “Love Will Keep Up Together.” Once seen it can’t be etc.

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