My Little Chickadee

My Little Chickadee (1940) starring W. C. Fields and Mae West

My Little Chickadee is a classic comedy starring two of the great comedians of their day, W. C. Fields and Mae West.  The basic plot has Mae West’s character, Flower Belle Lee, run out of town on a rail, where she meets W. C. Fields’ character, Cuthbert J. Twillie.  During an American Indian attack on the train, Mae West shows great courage and daring—and W. C. Fields doesn’t.  Mistakenly thinking that he’s a wealthy man, Mae accepts his marriage proposal afterward, and with the aid of another con man on board the train gets “married” before they arrive at their new destination.

Mae West - W. C. Fields - My Little ChickadeeThere’s a masked bandit who’s been robbing the territory blind—and it’s due to her involvement with him that Mae’s been thrown out of her hometown.  The bandit continues to attack the new town, and woo Mae West as well—as does half the male population of the town.  W. C. Fields is made sheriff due to his “heroism” on the train, giving him an opportunity to do some of his classic jokes and routines, inside and outside of the saloon.  Eventually, he’s mistaken for the masked bandit, as he’s desperate for his wife’s affection, leading to a “grand necktie party” where the town people are about to hang him …. Can Mae West save him?  Will she?  It’s a comedy, after all 🙂

In all, My Little Chickadee is a funny movie, serving primarily as a vehicle for two screen comedians to strut their stuff, and worth watching. My Little Chickadee is available on DVD as part of The W. C. Fields Comedy Collection.

Editorial review of My Little Chickadee courtesy of

When Columbia Pictures sought to pair Mae West and W.C. Fields in a film, neither was thrilled, but since both stars’ careers were on the skids, they agreed to the project. They fought about everything: script, billing, casting, philosophy, work habits, style. Onscreen, Fields is always the butt of his own jokes. West never is. He’s all broad slapstick, she, all sly innuendo. In the film West hangs onto her precious image–that inimitable combo of sexiness and wit–as Fields systematically subverts it. It’s the clash of the screen-legend titans.

In the Wild West town of Greasewood, West, as Flower Belle Lee (her usual seductive saloon singer), is kidnapped by the Masked Bandit (Joseph Calleia, in a role Bogart turned down). After refusing to turn him in, she’s run out of town and can only return when she’s “married and respectable.” She meets flimflam man Cuthbert J. Twillie (Fields) on a train. He’s instantly smitten: “My heart is a bargain today, will you take me?” “I’ll take you, and how,” she agrees, spying his satchel of cash. Many plot twists later, Twillie’s on the gallows. Hangman: “Have you any last requests?” Twillie: “I’d like to see Paris before I die. Philadelphia will do.” In her ideal happy ending, West’s Flower Belle finds true love–with two men–the Masked Bandit and the town muckraker, Wayne Carter (Dick Foran).

The film’s funniest scenes involve Field’s futile attempts to get West into a compromising position: “I have some very definite pear-shaped ideas I’d like to discuss with thee.” Suffice it to say that Fields ends up in bed with a goat. –Laura Mirsky

Funny movie quotes from My Little Chickadee starring W. C. Fields, Mae West

Schoolboy: We was doin’ arithmetic on the blackboard when Miss Foster took sick.
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Oh, arithmetic… I was always pretty good at figures myself.

Judge: Are you trying to show contempt for this court?
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): No… I’m doin’ my best to hide it!

Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): May I present my card?
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): ‘Novelties and Notions.’ What kind of notions you got?
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): You’d be surprised. Some are old, some are new. Whom have I the honor of addressing, m’lady?
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Mmm, they call me Flower Belle.
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): Flower Belle, what a euphonious appellation. Easy on the ears and a banquet for the eyes.
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): You’re kinda cute yourself.
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): Thank you. I never argue with a lady.
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Smart boy.

Mrs. Gideon: Ohhh! I hope that wasn’t whiskey you were drinking.
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): Ah, no, dear, just a little sheep dip. Panacea for all stomach ailments.

Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): Tell me, prairie flower, can you give me the inside info on yon damsel with the hothouse cognomen?
Mrs. Gideon: Do you mean Miss Flower Belle Lee?
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): I don’t mean some woman out in China.
Mrs. Gideon: Well! I’m afraid I can’t say anything good about her.
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): I can see what’s good. Tell me the rest.

Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): Come, my phlox, my flower! I have some very definite pear-shaped ideas that I’d like to discuss with thee.

Milton: Big chief gottum new squaw?
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): “New” is right. She hasn’t been unwrapped yet.

Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): During one of my treks through Afghanistan, we lost our corkscrew. Compelled to live on food and water…
Gambler: Will you play cards!
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): – for several days.

Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Mmm, funny, every man I meet wants to protect me. I can’t figure out what from.

Cousin Zeb: Uh, is this a game of chance?
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): Not the way I play it, no.

Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): Sleep! The most beautiful experience in life. Except drink.
Barfly drinking straight whiskey: Squawk Mulligan tells me you buried your wife several years ago.
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): Ah, yes. I had to. She died.

Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): If a thing is worth having, it’s worth cheating for.

Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Any time you got nothin’ to do and lots of time to do it, come up.

Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): I will be all things to you: father, mother, husband, counselor, jackanapes, bartender…
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): You’re offering quite a bundle, honey.
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): My heart is a bargain today. Will you take me?
[she sneaks a look at his satchel full of what she thinks is money]
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): I’ll take you – and how.

[giving schoolboys an arithmetic lesson]
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Two and two is four and five will get you ten if you know how to work it.

Wayne Carter: Spring is the time for love.
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): What’s the matter with the rest of the year?

Jeff Badger: And as for that tenderfoot sheriff, why, he couldn’t keep his nose out of a bottle long enough to hold up a dog’s tail, much less a stagecoach.

[last lines – each saying a line associated with the other]

Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): If you get up around the Grampian Hills – why don’t you come up and see me sometime?
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Ah, yeah, yeah, I’ll do that, my little chickadee.

Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): I generally avoid temptation… unless I can’t resist it.

Mrs. Gideon: Was that chap dragging you across the prairie a full-blooded Indian?
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): Ah, quite the antithesis. He’s very anemic.

Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): Babydoll, these weed-benders have been running off at the mouth… to your detriment.
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Hmmm, I ain’t surprised. Bad news travels fast.
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): I understand you need a Cicero and guide.
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): I need more than that, honey.
[she places her arm on the seat back between them – he takes her hand]
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): Ah, what symmetrical digits! Soft as the fuzz of a baby’s arm.
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): But quick on the trigger.
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): Mmm, yes. Uh, may I?
[kisses her fingers]
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Help yourself.
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): Would you object if I avail myself of a second helping?
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Don’t you think you’re a little forward on such short acquaintance? You’re compromising me.

[to the hotel porter]
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): By the way, my ski shoes and hockey mask will be up on the next train along with the polo pony. I understand the countryside abounds here with wild game: flamingoes… wine wombats… Indian civets.

Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): [to Wayne Carter] You’re a man with ideals. Well, I guess I better be goin’ while you still got ‘em.

Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): I’ve been worried about you, my little peachfuzz. Have you been loitering somewhere?
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): I’ve been learning things.
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): Unnecessary! You are the epitome of erudition… a double superlative. Can you handle it?
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Yeah, and I can kick it around, too.

Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): I’m tending bar one time down in the lower East side in New York… a tough felona comes in there by the name of Chicago Molly. I cautioned her, “None of your peccadilloes in here.” There was some hot lunch on the bar comprising of succotash, Philadelphia cream cheese and asparagus with mayonnaise. She dips her mitt down into this melange – I’m yawning at the time – and she hits me right in the mug with it. I jumps over the bar and I knocks her down.
Squawk Mulligan, bartender: [walks up] Where’s the funnel?
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): I don’t know. It’s up along there somewhere. You were there the night I knocked Chicago Molly down, weren’t you?
Squawk Mulligan, bartender: YOU knocked her down? I was the one that knocked her down.
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): [to the barfly] Oh, yeah, yes, that’s right. He knocked her down. But I was the one started kicking her!
Squawk Mulligan, bartender: Here’s the funnel.
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): [to Squawk] Yeah, OK.
[to barfly]
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): I starts kicking her in the midriff. D’ja ever kick a woman in the midriff that had a pair of corsets on?
Barfly drinking Panther: No, I just can’t recall any such incident right now.
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): Why I almost broke my great toe. I never had such a painful experience.
Barfly drinking Panther: Uh, did she ever come back again?
Squawk Mulligan, bartender: I’ll say she came back! She came back a week later and beat the both of us up.
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): Yeah. But she had another woman with her… an elderly lady with gray hair.

[the town mob is about to lynch Twillie]
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields): I’d like to see Paris before I die… Philadelphia will do.

Wayne Carter: I never argue – with a lady.
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Play it safe, huh?

Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): [reading off the blackboard] “‘I am a good boy. I am a good man. I am a good girl.” What is this, propaganda?

Mrs. Gideon: …if you ask me…
Cousin Zeb: Well nobody asked ya! So close yer gopher-trap, ya old snapping turtle!

Wayne Carter: I think you could turn a man’s head very easily if he wasn’t careful.
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Well, there’s no fun in being too careful.
Wayne Carter: Aren’t you forgetting that you’re married?
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): I’m doin’ my best.

Jeff Badger: You are the sheriff wife now. It would be very embarrassing for you to know who I am.
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Mmm… I’ve never been embarrassed in my life.

Wayne Carter: There’s no such thing as law and order in this town. Decent citizens live in fear of their lives.
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): That ain’t right. There should be a law against it.

Jeff Badger: I’m Jeff Badger. I own this place. Is there anything I can do for you?
Flower Belle: Yeah, you can get outta my way.

Jeff Badger: I wonder what kind of a woman you really are.
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Too bad, but I can’t give out samples.

Aunt Lou: These are right pretty pictures of you, Flower Belle.
Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Yeah, I like’em. They look just like me.

Flower Belle Lee (Mae West): Don’t mind being’ held up, but I don’t like the inconvenience.

Trivia about My Little Chickadee

  • As he leaves at the end of the film, Cuthbert J. Twillie (W.C. Fields) says to Flower Belle, “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime?”, a reference to Mae West’s famous line in an earlier film, She Done Him Wrong (1933).
  • On lunch break one day, W.C. Fields went to his dressing room to start on a new bottle of whiskey he had saved for that purpose. Apparently, someone beat him to it, as the bottle had been opened and about half of it had been drunk. Fields immediately ran outside and roared to the crew, “Who took the cork out of my lunch?”
  • Dick Foran, who was being paid by the week, would go to Mae West and tell her that W.C. Fields was rewriting his lines to give himself more screen time and to try to steal the film from her. Then he would go to Fields and tell him the same thing about West. In this manner, he was able to extend his employment from a few weeks to several months, as both Fields and West – who didn’t like each other – would hold up production while they would rewrite their scenes.

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