Paramount release of William LeBaron production. Stars Mae West. Features Victor McLaglen. Directed by Raoul Walsh. Screen play and dialog, Mae West; original play, Mae West, from a story suggested by Marion Morgan and George B. Dowell; additional material suggested by Frank M. Dazey; music and lyrics, Gene Austin and Jimmie Johnson; film editor, Stuart Heisler; camera, George Clemens. At Paramount, N.Y., week March 11, '36. Running time, 78 mins.
Newspaper attacks will probably pulmotor the chances of this one materially. As a picture it is again Mae West with the usual formula of wisecracks. That is no longer enough.
The basic idea of the story is absurd. Scene is the early '90's, the time of the Klondike rush. Miss West kills her Chinese paramour and flees to Alaska for safety. This projects her into the story as a prostie and a murderess. The situation is evidently contrived as a buildup for that in which the soiled dove feels the regenerative effects of a Salvation Army mission up north. This might possibly have had some dramatic effect except that Miss West plays it always in the same key, so the mission scenes are merely the peg for some canting hypocrisy and a farcical development that may give more offense to earnest church workers than anything since Chaplin's "The Pilgrim." It is in this, rather than the supposed indecency, that offense is apt to be found. And it is unnecessary.
Miss West's final sacrifice is a return to Frisco to face the murder charge, in the arms of the boat captain who won her on the up trip, tossing over the U.S. marshal she beguiled from his sworn duty. In other words, Miss West really ought to let someone else have a word as to her stories.
There is a rough, if unpalatable humor in the mission scenes, with the entertainers form the dancehall singing new lines to old airs to pep up the congregation and increase the collections. But in general the picture lacks comedy points even though McLaglen puts perfume back of his ears and uses breath pastiles to increase his appeal. Miss West retains most of the laughs. Which may be okay for Miss West but doesn't help the film.
There are a number of songs. Most have been written to fit the script and lack general appeal.
Miss West is handicapped by having to wear rather dowdy dresses in about half the footage. In other portions she struts fine feathers and wears a set of furs that will make the women gasp.
McLaglen is clearly uncomfortable and under wraps here and Philip Reed is far too much the matinee type to suggest the marshal of a frontier town. Harold Huber has a brief but spiritless moment as the Chinaman while Lucille Webster Gleason troupes two scenes gorgeously. Most of the bits are well cast.
"Annie" is baldly told, insincerely acted and largely lacking in the salty quips anticipated.
-Chic. Variety, originally published March 18, 1936