For Reel

Maisie Was a Lady (1941)
December 2, 2013, 2:52 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Edwin L. Marin
4 Stars
Maisie Was a LadyIn the opening sequence of Maisie Was a Lady, a drunken Lew Ayres roams a carnival until he happens upon the spectacle of a headless woman. Her image is a perverse one–the woman’s dress is pulled back to better glimpse her long, stocking-clad legs, which Ayres then teases with a toy for a laugh. Devoid of a face and a voice, this fetishized image of the showgirl is disturbingly apt in some representations of the profession. It is a remarkably ironic set-up for the fourth entry in the Maisie series, wherein Ann Sothern plays a Brooklyn showgirl with a heart of gold–a showgirl who is far from the typical sex symbol indeed. Her lower class wiles makes her a sort of transcendental guru for those she encounters, and underneath all of her wisecracks she possesses true wisdom. Sothern is well-matched in this installment with an impressive cast that includes Ayres, Maureen O’Sullivan, and C. Aubrey Smith. Ayres, taking a break from the Kildare pictures, recalls his great performance in Holiday as a cynical drunk, alternating between childishly funny and morose. The tone of the picture is similarly scattershot, however for the most part it works enormously well thanks to the talented performers.