Marlo Manners is enjoying her honeymoon with Sir Michael Barrington, husband number 6. As luck would have it, an international conference is taking place in the same hotel and the Russian delegate (one of Marlo\'s former husbands) is threatening to derail the negotiations unless he can have one more fling with his ex. Adding to the complications is a tape Marlo has made detailing all of her affairs and scandals, which her manager is desperately trying (and failing) to destroy.
Mae West ... Marlo Manners / Lady Barrington
Timothy Dalton ... Sir Michael Barrington
Dom DeLuise ... Dan Turner
Tony Curtis ... Alexei Andreyev Karansky
Ringo Starr ... Laslo Karolny
George Hamilton ... Vance Norton
Alice Cooper ... Waiter
Keith Allison ... Waiter in Alexei\'s Suite
Rona Barrett ... Herself
Van McCoy ... Delegate
Keith Moon ... Dress Designer
Regis Philbin ... Himself
Walter Pidgeon ... Mr. Chambers, the chairman
George Raft ... Himself
Gil Stratton ... Himself
There are two ways to approach this movie: #1, as a film in and of itself. Or #2, as a showcase for Mae West.
As a film, it is mildly amusing in a weird, campy 1970s way. It\'s got a made-for-television look about it, and appears to have been filmed on a pretty low budget. The plot has to do with a legendary American movie star (West) in London for her marriage and subsequent honeymoon with her current husband (Timothy Dalton). Oh, and this is her sixth marriage, by the way---hence the title of the film.
The story is basically that they are unable to consummate their marriage, because various other men--- including nearly all of her ex-husbands--- keep showing up unexpectedly. The sexual aspect of the story is handled very delicately; you know what the husband wants to do with his wife, but it is never put forth directly, but rather by sort of Victorian-era implication.
If it seems like rather a flimsy story, that\'s because it is. There isn\'t much to it; there is some low-key comedy in the guest appearances of the ex-husbands (plus assorted other men, including an entire \"American athletic team\" whose presence in London is never explained. Perhaps they\'re training for off-season Olympics). The whole thing is handled as a complete farce--- there isn\'t one shred of reality in this film, which makes it seem unique in the era in which it was made. It\'s like a cartoon for grownups, with live actors playing the parts.
The real intent of \"Sextette\" was to be a cinematic showcase for the legendary Mae West. A lot of people outdid themselves in other reviews to say outrageously nasty things about her (or, in a couple of instances, equally outrageous heaps of praise for her). Maybe the best way to write about her in this movie, is to be a little more realistic and objective.
First of all, it\'s true that Mae West *was* 85 years old at the time of filming this. I\'m not saying that because she looks it (she doesn\'t). I\'m saying it because the whole movie makes such extreme efforts to ignore her age. No, she ISN\'T supposed to be 20-something--- come on, people, do the math! Her character was married six times, so she\'s got to be in her forties at least! But she\'s definitely not playing \"elderly\", and this seems to freak a lot of people out. She\'s playing a healthy, attractive \"mature\" woman whose sex drive is unabashedly strong. There is no hint in the dialogue, or in the reactions of other men TO the character, that this woman might be very, very old (as is the actress playing her).
Therein lies the problem. 85-year-old Mae West was simply not up to the demands of playing this part. She was aging too rapidly; no, she didn\'t quite look 85, but in some scenes she did look old for probably the first time in her public life. (Photographs taken throughout the 1970s show her looking remarkably young). Put it this way: just eight years earlier, in 1970, West had played a similar \"sexy\" part in the movie \"Myra Breckinredge\". She\'d been 77 years old then, and she was in good enough health and spirits to carry it off big-time. West was THE highlight of that earlier film. She was stylish, hip, quick-moving, quick-thinking, and she truly did look around fifty or so.... she looked young enough to make the part believable.
But by the time of \"Sextette\", she just didn\'t have it any more. She tried very hard, but her physical and mental limitations strained believability too much. A few basic problems: First of all, her wardrobe and hairstyle (obviously a wig) were decades out-of-date. In \"Myra Breckinredge\", she had looked hip and stylin\'. In \"Sextette\", she looked like a relic.
Then there was her speech difficulty: no longer able to remember dialogue, West wore an earpiece under her wig (this is true, it\'s not some tabloid made-up story) to have her lines read to her by the director offstage. She would then repeat the line to the camera. This made her acting seem stilted, unnatural-- and unfunny. When somebody asks her if she\'s seen Big Ben, and she replies \"I don\'t know.... I never met the gentleman\", this line could have gotten a big laugh in better times. But here she \"reads\" the line as if from a piece of paper (or like she\'s straining to hear it in her earpiece): I-ne-ver-met-the-gen-tle-man\". It sounds robotic, lip-synched, dubbed.
Then there are various technical flaws: her songs, for instance, which WERE lip-synched, weren\'t lip-synched very well. In \"Baby Face\", you can clearly see her get off the soundtrack. And \"After You\'ve Gone\" sounds like it was slightly sped up. The soundtrack is tinny, the photography is blurry (particularly West\'s scenes; she looks fuzzy and too bright in many instances).
The movie wasn\'t an entire diaster for her. She does have a few good scenes. When she tells Timothy Dalton \"The night is still young\", she looks genuinely young herself--- filtered camera lens though it may be--- and she makes the line believable. In the Alice Cooper sequence, she also looks surprisingly young; and when she stands behind Cooper with her hands on his shoulders (as he\'s playing piano), she seems to be clearly enjoying herself. And a few seconds later, when she stands in the doorway--- her back to the camera--- she gives one last hip-twitch (the final \"Mae West\" screen moment of her career), and you have to chuckle a bit in good-natured admiration. 85 she may have been, but she was still out there working, still entertaining people in the best way she knew how. There\'s even a bit of poignance in that moment.
But the problem is, this film was played so strongly as a British farce, it works completely against the premise and the style of the whole movie to be feeling any poignance, or anything but a sense of robust comedy for the actress playing the lead. If you are aware of her BEING a frail elderly woman at any time, then the movie isn\'t meeting its own agenda. And that\'s what happens too many times. Except for a few fleeting moments, Mae simply wasn\'t at her best here. For a much better, funnier look at Mae West in the \"later years\", see \"Myra Breckinredge\". She was a hilarious scream in that one.
I was a journalist for fan magazines in the 70\'s and I had the great opportunity to interview Miss West several times for my respective magazines. I interviewed Miss West at her Hollywood apartment (the Ravenswood), and I also interviewed her on her \"open\" set during the production of her last film Sextette.
By \"open\" set, I am referring to the fact that the set was not closed and shut off to reporters. It was not shut off for me for certain and I can testify to that fact. I can also testify to the fact of what I observed during the filming of this movie. This movie would definitely have had a closed set if there were so much to hide concerning Miss West as has been mistakenly reported.
There were lots of overstated rumors and gossip concerning \"hidden microphones,\" the so-called \"in-ability\" of Miss West to perform, etc. I know what I observed. There were rumors that Miss West stayed in the elevator for hours waiting for her \"cue,\" rumors that Miss West was completely senile, etc. My observations did not prove any of those \"rumors.\" Mae West did not stay in any elevator for hours waiting for someone to come and get her. That is a total, complete fabrication. I believe someone mentioned this here already and the fact is....that did not happen!
Now for the famous \"hidden earphone\" legend, which says Mae was, force-fed all her lines for this movie! That is absolutely asinine to the tenth degree. Make no mistake about it--Mae knew what she was up against in the making of this film, and she knew that she would be attacked, scandalized and otherwise lied about with many of the so-called \"facts\" before it was over. The ridiculous \"legend\" that she spoke \"traffic directions\" after prompting has been revealed by the principle players in this movie as completely false!!!! \"It never happened,\" as Dom Deluise has publicly stated and truthfully so!!!
Miss West was not a zombie, was not senile, was not \"out of it,\" in any sense of the word during the filming of this movie. That is a total and ridiculous lie. No one for a moment believed or thought that Mae was a \"young hottie\" as someone here criticized. Like-wise, no fair-minded person at all believed that she was a washed up has-been either, let me tell you that!
This woman had a presence that was unparalleled in the history of movies. When she came on the set, it was an unbelievable experience. She retained a remarkable screen presence and charisma. It was a true example of a Hollywood legend in every sense of the word. It is an outrageous insult and disservice to the career of this remarkable woman to perpetrate these lies any longer!!!
I find it repugnant that many of the people who comment here quickly dismiss this final effort by Miss West with their scathing comments and unjustified attacks. All these comments do truthfully boil down to her age in this film. Witness the constant comments here that Mae was playing a young woman, had her face taped back, blah, blah, blah, etc. The movie does not say that she is a young star, does not pretend that at all.
Every single comment made against this film was related (and only related) to Miss West\'s age in this movie. Are movie actors required to retire at a certain age? I don\'t think so, and if fact age should have (pardon me Miss West), \"Nothing to do with it.\" As Miss West told me in an interview with her, \"What am I suppose to do? Retire to a rocking chair? That would do me in for good!\" Right Mae!
I interviewed Mae West at her Ravenswood apartment on North Rossmore Ave., during the filming of this movie. It was an experience I will never forget!!!! Mae humbly put the lie to the many, many rumors concerning her in that unforgettable interview. I inspected her skin for signs of plastic surgery (the telltale scars) and there were none!!! I inspected her lovely hair (what wigs are you talking about here?) and it was her own!!! Her hands were like that of a baby, so smooth, soft and young looking.
Mae had not a single wrinkle in her face, her body was firm, she had all her own teeth, and regardless of what you have heard or read elsewhere, she had her own hair. This was a woman who appeared to be decades younger than her true age. I was in a state of shock when I first saw her.
And she was super alert too, and she knew exactly what she was talking about--very professional and not at all the pathetic figure that some would like to now make her. In fact, she was so very amazing that it was unreal, and I suppose this could be the reason for rumors that this was not the original Mae West! Yes, one rumor that went around forever was that this woman was really the daughter of Mae West and not the original. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
There was an absolute magic in her personality and presence. This is something that is no longer in effect with the so-called stars of today. She had something called magnetism and a great personality, the likes of which will never be again.
Mae West delivered one hell of a good job in this movie when her age in figured in, and she was still up to it, still looked really good, and she gave it her all and it is damn well high time it is acknowledged!!!!!!! One final comment is (as mentioned here several times) the UK version of this movie is excellent quality, and not the poorer quality of the US releases. It makes a big difference!!!
There is little I can add to a review of this film other than what has already been said by some others, some of which I agree with and some of which I don\'t.
After reading the reviews on here, I watched the film again to see if I was missing anything or seeing things I shouldn\'t but my opinion of the film remains the same.
Some of the performances are on the poor side of mediocre but West and Dalton are very definitely not in that category.
Unlike another reviewer has stated, Dalton was not dubbed for the duet. He actually recorded the track and then mimed to it on screen. It\'s the way tracks on all screen musicals are done, only in the theatre do the actors sing live and these days even that\'s not always the case throughout a whole song.
The line referring to Timothy Dalton\'s character as \"England\'s number one spy\" and \"even bigger than 007\" is seen by many as a coincidence 9 years before he was to go on and play the character, just the same as the reference to his character in an episode of \"Charlie\'s Angels\" as being a \"James Bond-like figure\", but by the time Dalton made both these appearances he had been offered the Bond role twice and turned it down for being, in his opinion, too young.
Anyway, back to the film. As I have said, I have thoroughly enjoyed it every time I have seen it (not that I sit there and watch it con continuous loop). West may be a little slower with her lines but she still delivers them convincingly, Dalton is entertaining and not just the eye candy he could have been in this film and there are some good contributions from the supporting cast. There are a few lame moments and some pedestrian scripting in parts but there are some choice moments such as West\'s already quoted \"It ain\'t opportunity\" line as well as the moment when Deluise knocks on the door telling West he has something urgent and West points at Dalton lying in bed and asks \"Urgent? And what\'s that, chopped liver?\" Quite! The punchbag sketch gave me the biggest laugh.
By the way, I agree that it is a disservice for IMDb to include a rumour as fact in the trivia section but this is unfortunately far from the only incidence of this on the site. Going back to the subject of James Bond, it quoted that Pierce Brosnan was the original choice for Bond in 1986 but had to turn the role down due to his \"Remington Steele\" commitments when the fact is that Brosnan was the THIRD choice after Dalton had turned it down again, this time due to the film he was working on having no set date for completion, and the role was only offered to Brosnan after it had been categorically turned down by the second choice, Sam Neill. This practice is sadly to the detriment of all the news that is reported on this site and subsequently shown to be accurate.
Anyway back to the fil. This film is generally far more maligned than it deserves and for all the wrong reasons. It is just a good bit of fun. I don\'t think it was ever meant to be seen as a cinematic, comical or musical epic but a complete nightmare it isn\'t.