director Ken Hughes
Sextette is a bizarre artifact, I’ll give you that. It was a film project for a then living legend, Mae West, aged 85, a final musical movie celebrating her and her most notorious one-liners. Adapted from a play she’d written almost two decades before, Sextette is a modernized musical-comedy not inherently different from She Done Him Wrong (1933) or I’m No Angel (1933). The big difference is about 45 years.
And Sextette treats Mae West as if she is the exact same Mae West, age 40 (quite old even in the 1930’s for a movie starlet), the same character she played in life or at least in the light of the media. But she is 85, apparently having undergone some plastic surgery (though thankfully un-Botoxed as yet). And it’s this inherent dissociation that connotes itself throughout her every scene.
A cavalcade of old and new faces support the picture, from George Raft and Walter Pidgeon to Ringo Starr and Alice Cooper. None more especially so that Timothy Dalton, who plays her jealous new husband having to contend with her many ex-lovers, all who still adore and desire her.
To be honest, the film is really derided in an extremely ageist fashion, from the day it was released through now in its cult cinema existence. I actually thought she looked pretty good for 85, and though she was no doubt edited into more coherence and pluck, she delivers her lines like she had through the years, with that unique and personal Mae West patter, a classic Hollywood caricature extraordinaire.
The real groan-inducing moment was her duet with Dalton of the Captain and Teninlle’s “Love Will Keep Us Together” for which Dalton earns a full fifty percent. I would argue that though she had a singing career and it was certainly part of her whole shtick and persona, her pipes were never her selling point. Her later version of “Baby Face” is equally rough to sit through.
Maybe someone should have talked them all out of this, but clearly a lot of people were on board to make a go of giving the living legend her due, a final film as a tribute to her whole persona and being.