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Klondike Annie

Klondike Annie(1936)

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The opening credits of the film read, "From a play by Mae West, a story by Marion Morgan and George B. Dowell and material suggested by Frank Mitchell Dazey." According to SAB, Mae West's unpublished and unproduced play was called Frisco Kate. SAB also indicates that Morgan and Dowell's unpublished story was called "Hallelujah, I'm a Saint," and Dazey's suggested material was actually an unpublished story called "Lulu Was a Lady." Pre-release scripts at the AMPAS Library are titled The Frisco Doll and Klondike Lou. The original story in the script files is titled "Hallelujah! I'm a Saint! or How About It, Brother?" According to a January 1936 news item in Hollywood Reporter, Paramount was considering dropping Mae West as a contract star because of the "production turmoil entailed in working with the temperamental star" and the high cost of their production. The article notes that the approximate cost of Klondike Annie was $1,000,000, $200,000 of which went to West for her performance and writing. Paramount threatened to halt filming of Klondike Annie and sue West for the cost of production; however, by late January 1936, West and Paramount came to an agreement, the production continued, and her contract was renewed for another feature. A September 1935 news item in Hollywood Reporter indicates that cameramen Victor Milner and Ted Tetzlaff were slated to work on the film, but were replaced by George Clemens when Mae West insisted on a new cameraman. Daily Variety news items noted that assistant director James Dugan also left the production due to "difficulties" with West, and was replaced by David MacDonald. According to New York Times, Dugan directed the poker scenes.
       The MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveal that Will H. Hays, president of the MPPDA, was adamant that the character of Annie never appear as an actual "religious worker," or that the film make any actual religious references. In 1935, the first script, Klondike Lou, was rejected for this reason. A September 1935 letter from the Hays Office regarding the second submitted script noted that Annie's clothing "ought not to have about it any definite suggestion of her religious work." In addition, the lines, "There are souls to be saved everywhere," and "We have a mission at Nome," were recommended to be changed to "There are souls to be rescued" and "We have a settlement at Nome." Hays's concern over the possible religious content of the film continued into February 1936, when he stated in an interoffice letter to Joseph I. Breen, director of the PCA, "My worst worry is not the alleged salaciousness, but is in the producer's failure to avoid the impression that it is a mission house picture and that "The Doll" was masquerading as a missionary. The effort to avoid this is to me unconvincing." Nonetheless, with alterations the film was approved and released.
       Local censors almost unanimously deleted the scene in which Chan Lo is stabbed by Doll, in addition to the scenes in which Ah Toy is tortured, and various scenes of intimacy between Doll and her lovers were also deleted. The Hays Office came under fire from various organizations for approving the release of Klondike Annie, and newspapers owned by Paul Block and William Randolph Hearst launched a vigorous campaign against the promotion of the film. In a May 1936 letter to Paramount from the president of the San Francisco Motion Picture Council, the president condemned the film because "it presents its heroine as a mistress to an Oriental, then as a murderess, then as a cheap imitator of a missionary-jazzing religion-[it] is not in harmony with other education forces of our social set-up. And these elements are particularly objectionable when they are interspersed with smutty wise-cracks." The Atlanta Better Films Committee also condemned the film because of its topic. The Paul Block newspapers published an editorial that suggested that the Hays Office would "serve the American public as well as the whole film industry to better purpose if they were to outlaw indecent and immoral pictures such as the film Klondike Annie. Here is a picture which lauds disreputable living and glorifies vice. Censors May cut out a few of the worst scenes in some states. But they cannot clean it up, for the whole story is on the lowest possible level. It is humiliating that a film of this kind can be presented to the public in the guise of entertainment." Hearst's papers banned all advertisements for Klondike Annie; however, Paramount managed to get around this by placing the following advertisement in the trade papers: "Important feature. For information call VA-2041." The National Legion of Decency published a proclamation against the film in several publications. An article in the Herald claimed the film was "an affront to the decency of the public." According to contemporary articles, the National Police Gazette filed a libel suit against Paramount for using a facsimile of the magazine in the film during a scene in "a bawdy house." The film was banned in Australia. Despite the negative press, Motion Picture Herald reported that Klondike Annie grossed "$2500 to $8500 over average per box office."
       According to the pressbook, some Chinese musicians from Los Angeles appear in the film. Malamutes appearing in the film were owned by Carl Stecker. Although Film Daily credits Sam Coslow with music and lyrics, his contribution to the final film has not been confirmed. New York Times reports that Victor McLaglen earned $87,500 for this film. Modern sources add Philo McCullough to the cast.