The five films included in Warner Archive’s The Maisie Collection: Volume 1 aren’t exactly all-time classics — the narratives tend to be formulaic and flimsy, the productions are cheap and the giant reset button that gets pressed before each new entry ensures there’s no continuity in the franchise. And yet, there’s an irresistibly entertaining quality to these films and a charm that supersedes their B-picture limitations thanks to the presence of Ann Sothern as the titular Maisie Ravier, a feisty Brooklyn showgirl who finds herself in a variety of predicaments.
Sothern may not have the name recognition of a Jean Harlow (originally intended for the role before her untimely death) but her witty ripostes and utterly convincing take-no-shit attitude make her one of the most appealing comedic actresses of her era. Audiences of the time obviously agreed — MGM made ten Maisie films between 1939 and 1947, and the first five are presented here in what one presumes is the first of two planned volumes. The five films included are:
After traveling to a middle-of-nowhere Wyoming town for a showbiz gig that doesn’t pan out (a common opener in these films), Maisie finagles a job at a local ranch, despite the protestations of manager Slim (Robert Young). Ingratiating herself to owners Cliff (Ian Hunter) and Sybil Ames (Ruth Hussey), Maisie begins working as their personal maid and finds herself wrapped up in their personal life, as the couple is trying to overcome infidelity and rebuild their marriage.
Congo Maisie (1940)
Essentially a reworking of the first film, transposed to the jungle and with some added voodoo nonsense, Congo Maisie sees the showgirl stowing away on a ship after getting stranded in an African village. After being discovered, she’s forced to take up with Michael Shane (John Carroll) a former doctor and plantation owner, and when they travel to his former jungle outpost where a new doctor lives, the romantic entanglements begin to crop up yet again.