Myra Breckinridge. Has anybody ever said anything good about this movie? Not that it's a cinematic masterpiece or even one of the must-see worst cult movies ever made, but Myra does have its place for bad-movie lovers.
The director, Michael Sarne, has to take the blame for some of the film's disjointed, confusing unevenness. From all I have read, it was his baby all the way. (Though the studio, 20th Century Fox, later reedited some of it.) Gore Vidal, the author of the original novel, has distanced himself from this disaster, though his name remains in the title. (As in Gore Vidal's Myra Breckinridge.)
What sold Myra Breckinridge in the first place was the pairing of Mae West (right) and Raquel Welch. But just try to find them together in the same scene. They speak to each other only in over-the-shoulder shots where you can see only the back of the other actress' head. (They must have hated each other.)
As far as the acting goes, John Huston gives the best performance. His interpretation of Buck Loner, the head of the acting studio, is comical and believable. Huston, for one, seems to get the humor.
Welch isn't bad, either. I think she tries hard to be loyal to the Myra of Vidal's novel, a woman out to challenge the whole sexual infrastructure of American society by attempting to emasculate men and to turn women into lesbians.
Then there's Mae West in her big comeback film (after some 27 years). Unfortunately, she was put into the movie as window dressing. Even though she's given terrific costumes and very good lighting in her few scenes, I am always shocked at the camera cutting away from her while she's singing “You Gotta Taste All the Fruit.” It's almost as if her number was not important enough to film.
On the other hand, some of the scenes of Myra and Myron together should definitely have been left on the cutting-room floor. And the spliced-in old film clips are many times unnecessary and not at all related to the storyline.
The ending is as ambiguous in the film version as it is in the book – and the whole movie does seem a bit dated with its topical humor and political references. But … and here's the but … it is always fun to see Mae West in anything, and there is some gruesome pleasure in watching a disaster-in-the-making unfold before your eyes.
© Danny Fortune
Myra Breckinridge (1970). Dir.: Michael Sarne. Scr.: David Giler and Michael Sarne; from Gore Vidal's novel. Cast: Raquel Welch, Mae West, John Huston, Rex Reed, Farrah Fawcett, Roger C. Carmel, Calvin Lockhart, Jim Backus, John Carradine, Andy Devine, Kathleen Freeman, Roger Herren, Grady Sutton, Tom Selleck.