Maisie -- the unsung-est of all the unsung dames.
In the late '30's and throughout most of the 1940's, M-G-M produced a series of movies centering around the character Maisie Ravier. It was originally slated to be one movie, MAISIE, starring Jean Harlow, but Harlow's death meant that Ann Sothern took over. The character proved to be so popular the series went on to have 9 more follow-up films, including MAISIE GETS HER MAN, GOLD RUSH MAISIE, CONGO MAISIE, MAISIE GOES TO RENO, and my personal favorite, SWINGSHIFT MAISIE.
Ann Sothern is completely natural as this quintessential dame (rather than coming across as an actress playing a dame). The Maisie character is everything a dame should be: comfortable in her own skin, resilient, self-reliant, tough, soft-hearted, sexy, wise, and quick with a quip. Maisie was "a sweetheart with bite," writes Monica Sullivan, "She took no nonsense from anyone, was impervious to wolves, loved guys she could help in some way, was a great friend to other women: Who wouldn't want "Maisie" around?" She was so good at the character Sothern went on to play similar roles in DULCY and PANAMA HATTIE.
It's a shame that almost no one knows these films today. Though they may not be classics, Maisie provides a great lesson for women in how to negotiate the world. While she might struck some as being a rather unsophisticated model not worth emulating, I find her attitude toward life and the circumstances she encounters to be a perfect blend of idealism, cynicism, practicality, sentimentality, glamour and guts. I wish Maisie were my fairy godmother, or at least my next-door neighbor. But I'll have to settle for Maisie as muse, and use "WWMD?" (What Would Maisie Do?) as a touchstone for living life with verve, self-assurance, kindness, independence, and optimism.