Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mae West: Marjorie Gateson

MAE WEST played Cleo Borden in "Goin' to Town" — — and Marjorie Gateson played Mrs. Crane Brittony.
• • Born in Brooklyn, New York (like Mae), Marjorie Gateson came into this world in the cold month of January — — on 17 January 1891.
• • Miss Gateson made her film debut in 1931 after a career on the stage of more than two decades, playing secondary character roles — — usually as females of wealth and breeding, who were often haughty and aloof. She is perhaps best known for her roles as the society matron who attempts to thwart Mae West's plans for social climbing in the 1935 film "Goin' To Town" and for a kinder, gentler socialite who learns to box through the efforts of Harold Lloyd in "The Milky Way" [1934].
• • The character actress died of pneumonia in 1977.
• • In honor of her January birthday, we are reprinting this motion picture's critique from Variety Magazine. However, Abel's caustic opinion probably gave no one any cause for celebration.
• • According to Abel: Mae West's poorest. Exhibs and exploiteers will have to go to town to sell "Goin' to Town." Peppered with the usual Westian pepigrams, paprika, and pertness, it's punchy enough on the dialog, but deficient on story. Miss West as scriptist as well as star has seen to it that her nifties are up to the usual quota, but no amount of epigrammatic hypoing can offset the silly story.
• • It may insure action, for "Goin' to Town" goes all over the map to take in lots of geography. Starts in cattle-rustlin' rancho territory; thence to Buenos Aires for cosmopolitan swank; from there to ultra Southampton, L.I., for a sample of La West giving the 400 the acey-duecy, and the fadeout is an off-to-Lunnon with an earl, no less. This cues for the "Now I'm a Lady" song, also the tag first ascribed to this flicker.
• • Secret of Miss West's previous pix has been that they stayed in character. The studio probably decided it's time to get her out of the mauve decade, and while it's a commendable attempt, it's gone awry.
• • Lines are crisp and unsubtle. Since that's expected of her, she's selling it, generously and well. But after the prelims are over, it's something else again.
• • The yen for Paul Cavanagh, who's an oil-driller on her property, chases him off to South America and she tags after him. A desire to acquire social standing buys her a broke, socialite husband (Monroe Owsley), which makes possible the Southampton stuff. There an operatic gala, staged at the family manse, becomes one of those things, although Miss West warbles "My Heart at Thy Still Voice," the aria from "Samson and Delilah," in almost a legit fashion (why wasn't it 100% kidded?) and is the background for a murder implicating Ivan Lebedeff, cast as an impossible gigolo.
• • Marjorie Gateson is the femme menace, likewise a farcical version.
• • Gilbert Emery as Winslow, financial accountant of her properties, and Fred Kohler, Sr., as the heavy, alone have some semblance of realism.
• • "He's a Wicked Man But He Loves So Good" and "Now I'm a Lady" are two numbers, done more or less incidentally, and distinguished principally by the brass work in the orchestrations.
• • Star endeavors to square the general script inanites by a tongue-in-cheek treatment, but it's done too McCoy to impart any other impression. Role gives her ample opportunity to strut a flock of glad rags.
• • • • Abel. Variety, originally published on 15 May 1935
• • • • Paramount production and release. Stars Mae West. Directed by Alexander Hall. Produced by William LeBaron. Original by Marlon Morgan and George B. Dowell; screen play and dialog. Miss West. Songs, Sammy Fain, Irving Kahal; camera, Karl Struss. At the Paramount N.Y., week of May 10, 1935. Running time, 75 minutes.
• • Cleo Borden . . . Mae West
• • Edward Barrington . . . Paul Cavanagh
• • Ivan Veladov . . . Ivan Lebedeff
• • Taho . . . Tito Coral
• • Mrs. Crane Brittony . . . Marjorie Gateson
• • Buck Gonzales . . . Fred Kohler, Sr.
• • Fletcher Colton . . . Monroe Owsley
• • Winslow . . . Gilbert Emery
• • Young Fellow . . . Grant Withers
• • Annette . . . Adrienne D'Ambricourt
• • Signor Vitola . . . Luis Alberni
• • Senor Ricardo Lopez . . . Lucio Villegas
• • Dolores Lopez . . . Mona Rico
• • Donovan . . . Paul Hervey
• • Sheriff . . . Francis Ford
• • Ranch Foreman . . . Wade Boteler

• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1935 • •
Mae West.

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