Sunday, September 19, 2004

Mae West: Biographical Challenge

How much of Mae West's life did you know about already?
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Actress, writer. Born Mary Jane West on August 17, 1893, in Brooklyn, New York.
Her father, John Patrick West, held various jobs as a livery stableman, a detective, a salesman, and a prizefighter. Her mother, Matilda, was a model and dressmaker.
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By the age of seven, West was singing and dancing in amateur performances and winning local talent shows. She soon left behind formal education and joined a professional stock company headed by Hal Clarendon, where she played the character of "Little Nell" in a long-running melodrama. In her early teens, West joined a vaudeville company, where she met Frank Wallace, who soon became her song-and-dance partner. Unknown to the public for more than 30 years, she and Wallace married in 1911 when West was only 16. Both the relationship and the stage partnership soon ended, but West and Wallace did not divorce until 1942.
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While still a teen-ager, West became a star on the vaudeville stage. Her first Broadway appearances were in 1911, in the revues A la Broadway and Hello Paris. The following year she appeared in A Winsome Widow, produced by Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. In 1918, West took a role in the musical comedy Sometime, in which she introduced a dance known as the "Shining Shawabble." She soon became a hit on the New York vaudeville stage, becoming known for her flashy and tight-fitting clothing as well as her provocative comments, delivered in dialects or a throaty voice. Her costumes would typically include an assortment of rhinestones, leopard skins, and huge plumed hats, all worn on her five-foot-tall body.
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West was unique in being one of the few women who performed solo in vaudeville, and even at her young age, she commanded a salary of several hundred dollars per week. In 1926, West wrote a play that was co-produced on Broadway by Jim Timony, a lawyer who was reportedly also her lover.
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The aptly named Sex became both a popular success and the target of censorship groups such as the Society for the Suppression of Vice.
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As described in Becoming Mae West, the play included "prostitutes caught in arousing embraces, guns, knock-out drinks, a jewelry heist, cops, an offstage suicide, bribery, and the threat of a shootout." In the 41st week of its run, police arrested the cast and West was found guilty of corrupting the morals of youth. She was sentenced to ten days in a New York City prison but was released two days early for good behavior.
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West's second play, The Drag in 1926, sympathetically tackled a subject that was not discussed onstage at the time --- homosexuality. After a two-week run in New Jersey, West was persuaded not to bring it to Broadway. Her third play . . . .
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Mae West biography is continued here . . .
http://www.biography.com/


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