Becoming Mae West is a great read.
A dazzling biography of one of our most flamboyant stars and "a truly mighty woman"
- Boston Globe
Emily Wortis Leider combines newly uncovered archival material, fine writing, and a rich appreciation of Mae West's unique blend of comedy and "come-hither" appeal to shape this enormously engrossing biography and portrait of an era. She gives us not just Mae West the bawdy icon, but also the driven performer who honed her act on the vaudeville circuit, wrote her own material to get a decent part, and never stopped battling the censors -- who provided some of her best publicity but who eventually struck a blow for prudery from which her career would never recover.
She was the Madonna of her time, parlaying a modest talent into international celebrity with a carefully cultivated, outsized personality and an unerring instinct for just how outrageous to be without alienating her audience. Mae West (1893-1980) crafted the persona that made her the biggest movie star of the early 1930s during her vaudeville and Broadway apprenticeship. Those formative years are the subject of this absorbing cultural biography, which closes in 1938 when Paramount dropped her contract. A generous sampling of West one-liners adds sparkle to the text.
"Emily Wortis Leider meticulously re-creates the world that created Mae West, a world she bent to her own ambitions.... Mae's sashay across the screen will henceforth seem as much an achievement as it has always seemed a delicious inevitability."
- Steven Bach, author of Marlene Dietrich