Sunday, December 31, 2006

Mae West: December 31


• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photograph: Mae West • • 1930 • •

Mae West.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Mae West: High Def

In Canada, The Calgary Sun’s reporter Bruce Kirkland has been busy picking his favorite DVDs for the year 2006. Here is a quick peek at his mindset.
— DVD STORY OF THE YEAR — Fully loaded
BY: Bruce Kirkland, Calgary Sun Media
Send in the clowns: A war between next-generation DVD technologies broke out, confusing and/ or infuriating consumers. On one side is HD-DVD, on the other Blu-ray. Both promise startling quality. But they are incompatible and both risk going down to defeat in 2007 if the public still balks over buying new machines to play them. ...
— TOP TITLES —
• • • Franchise Collection: MAE WEST: Among many individual artists honoured this year with DVD collections, one of my faves is the box set devoted to one of the brassiest stars in Hollywood history. Among the titles is My Little Chickadee, her 1940 romp with irascible W.C. Fields.
• • Source: The Calgary Sun [Canada] - - www.calgarysun.com/
• • Byline: Bruce Kirkland
• • Published on: 30 December 2006
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Illustration: Mae West • • W.C. Fields • • 1940 • •

Mae West.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Mae West: Gay Mainstay

In December, the newspaper Chicago Sun-Times offered its front page to its Controversy section with a piece titled “Decoding Icons”; the columnist gave a backward glance to various gay and lesbian cultural heroes. MAE WEST was included in this pantheon.
• • According to the essay, older gay men often take Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, and Barbra Streisand as personal representatives of the men’s own struggles: All these females had been judged by limited standards.
• • On the distaff side, lesbians see their own icons as powerful, though not necessarily butch — such as former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, fantasyland's Xena, and tennis pro Martina Navratilova.
• • The scribe pointed out the obvious - - that the very nature of icons may shift and that gays want to be respected now, not just tolerated.
• • Additionally, outspoken people - - such as UK author Oscar Wilde - - are now joining the ranks of entertainers such as MAE WEST, Cher, Bette Midler, Dolly Parton, Madonna, and Joan Crawford. ...
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: Mae West • • on trial for writing "Pleasure Man" • • 1928 • •

Mae West.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Mae West: Keep Abreast

MAE WEST, who did more for corsets than Alexander Graham Bell did for gossip, wore foundations made by the Spirella Corset Company — — upside down. Mae custom-tailored the restrictive undergarment to give her a certain look for her starring role as "Diamond Lil."
• • A Bushwick neighbor, interviewed in 1928, commented that, when onstage at Broadway's Royale Theatre, Mae padded her bust to balance out her curvy hips. "She looked like an upholstered egg cup up-ended," recalled this Brooklynite.
• • A belle at the turn-of-the-century, such as Lillian Russell, would not have been wearing Spirella's labels, of course. It was not until 1904 that Spirella started making their made-to-measure corsets. Spirella’s first corsets were produced that year in America — — and by 1910 in Great Britain. In those days, bustiers were made by experienced specialty seamstresses who could operate the heavy-duty "industrial strength" sewing machines necessary to tackle the heavy brocades and coutils.
• • For her stage play "
The Constant Sinner," Mae wanted a more modern look and she was outfitted by the Mayo Undergarment Company in 1929. The setting for Mae's character Babe Gordon was Harlem during the Prohibition Era.
• • This week, an article in
The Comet asks readers: Can you tie up a corset company’s loose ends? Here is some information for the studious breast-historians out there.
• • Question: Did you work for the Spirella Corset Company in Letchworth [Great Britain]?
• • If you did, then a company supplying foundations and underwear for films, television, and theatre would like to speak to you.
• • Button-Boot and Spatterdash of Humberside is appealing for anyone with memories of the company, people who worked for Spirella Corset Company or used its service, in order to make a record of the information.
• • Dr. Geoffrey Duffield, senior partner at the company, said any information is welcomed, no matter how trivial, and stressed the importance of retaining the information while it was still in living memory.
• • His company can be contacted by letter, Freepost, Brigg, DN20 9BR; email corsetiere@corset.ndo.co.uk; phone 07973 222 767 or fax 01652 650651.
• • Spirella - - formed in England in 1910 by William Wallace Kincaid - - moved into the Spirella Building in 1920 and continued production of bespoke corsets until the 1970s when demand slowed and eventually the company closed.
• • The building was also known as Castle Corset or the Factory of Beauty.
• • The SCC was extremely important to the town's economy as one of the biggest and most influential employers, particularly during the 1920s to 1940s, said Terry Gray, public relations manager of Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation.
• • Around 2,000 people are said to have been employed there.
• • Among its customers, the company provided underwear for such film stars as MAE WEST and the Marx Brothers' staple Margaret Dumont. . . . [Spirella's claims that they outfitted Marilyn Monroe for the film "
The Prince and the Showgirl" are inaccurate. Monroe did not wear this brand.]
• • As well as supplying corsets, Spirella manufactured parachutes and decoding machinery during World War II.
• • Send comments to Dr. Geoffrey Duffield: corsetiere@corset.ndo.co.uk
• • Source for portions of this text: The Comet, UK — — www.thecomet.net/
• • Published: 28 December 2006
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/

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• • Photo: Mae West • • • • 1928 • •

Mae West.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mae West: December 1919

On 28 December 1919, MAE WEST was very busy — — double-booked, in fact.
• • The 26-year-old "firefly of vaudeville" was appearing that night at the Lyric Theatre [on 42nd Street, west of Broadway]. Sharing the Lyric bill with her were these entertainers: Eugene and Willie, the Howard Brothers; Carl McCullough; the 4 Haley Sisters; and "8 other favorite acts."
• • On the same night, Mae West performed at the 44th Street Theatre [near Broadway]. On the program was the top-billed act — — Sophie Tucker and Her Kings of Syncopation — — along with Ames & Winthrop, Mae West, Riggs & Witchie, and "8 other favorite acts."
Source: The New York Times — — 28 December 1919
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/

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• • Photo: Mae West • • by James Abbe • • 1916 • •

Mae West.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Mae West: Jimmy Hussey

When MAE WEST was featured at the Central Theatre [Broadway & West 47th Street] on 25 December 1920, she had no idea Santa Claus had a career surprise waiting.
• • Irish-American comedian Jimmy Hussey [1891-1930] was the star attraction that Christmas Day. Also performing were Phil Baker and Aileen Stanley - - but Mae West must have pulled focus and attracted Hussey's attention.
• • Born in Chicago in 1891, James J. Hussey made his stage debut (accidentally) when he attended a performance in The Windy City and started singing choruses from the balcony. Instead of getting thrown out, he won a contract and started appearing on the Shubert vaudeville circuit.
• • Clearly, Mae left the right impression on Christmas Day 1920. Several months later, Hussey wrote the book and the lyrics for the revue that would be renamed "
The Mimic World 1921." He made sure his new material was custom-tailored to Mae's unique talents. She was cast in many prominent skits in this production - - including the con artist "Shifty Liz."
• • Clearly with Mae's approval and cooperation, Hussey penned the skit "The Trial of Shimmy Mae." Hussey himself played the judge as Mae demonstrated the shimmy in his topsy-turvy courtroom.
• • For the skit "The Bridal Suite," Jimmy Hussey took the role of a busy newly-wed who has to leave his honeymoon for a business meeting. In his absence, the pretty bride entertains her lovers, making her own appointments. "The Bridal Suite" was scrapped from the revue when it had a Boston try-out. The censors also cut the lights when Shimmy Mae started to dance.
• • "
The Mimic World 1921" opened on 17 August 1921 and Hussey's close friend, Jack Dempsey (another Irish-American) attended the premiere, and visited Mae backstage after the show.
• • Hussey, who was a brilliant success onstage as a Jewish comedian, died at age 39 of pneumonia on 20 November 1930. Mae West attended his memorial service, which was held at St. Malachy's on West 49th Street, a ceremony that also commemorated the recent deaths of two other Roman Catholic colleagues of hers, Tommy Gray and Tony Pastor.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/

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• • Photo: Mae West • • "The Mimic World" • • 1921 • •

Mae West.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Mae West: Cold Outside

"Baby, It's Cold Outside" is a pop standard with words and music by Frank Loesser. In 1944, Loesser wrote the contrapuntal duet and premiered the song with his wife at their Navarro Hotel house-warming party.

• • In 1958, the most memorable rendition of Loesser's duet was performed (and televised) at the annual Oscar ceremony when MAE WEST and Rock Hudson teamed up.
• • In 1948 - - after years of informally performing the song at various events - - Loesser finally sold the rights to MGM, which inserted the song into its 1949 motion picture, Neptune's Daughter. The film featured two performances of the song: one by Ricardo Montalb├ín and Esther Williams, and the other by Red Skelton and Betty Garrett. These performances earned Loesser an Academy Award for Best Song.
• • Many vocalists have paired up to record this light-hearted duet including Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan, Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer, and Louis Armstrong and Velma Middleton.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: Mae West • • Rock Hudson • • 1958 • •

Mae West.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Mae West: December 1933

As 1933 was ending, MAE WEST had the sweet satisfaction of box office success - - along with a contract from Paramount Pictures granting her creative control over her films (and a lucrative two-picture a year deal). The promise of an oustanding future in the movies was quite a Christmas present.

• • In an interview for the Los Angeles Sunday Dispatch, Mae West reflected on the initial reception she had received in California when she arrived in the summer of 1932. Filmtown, said Mae, had given her "the biggest frozen handshake I'd had in years."
• • "Hollywood, when I lifted the toothbrush and the corsets off the overland train," Mae added, "just looked limp. There wasn't even a band to play the girl to her new home. The nearest cameraman was about 20 miles away. Just for a minute, as I hiked to the taxi rack, I reckoned that Mae West stock had taken a Wall Street high ball."
• • Source: Los Angeles Sunday Dispatch, 6 January 1935.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Illustration: Mae West • • 1933 • •

Mae West.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Mae West: On Paper


In his book review for The Los Angeles Times, Martin Rubin asks: Who is going to read a biography of Mae West?
• • Here is a short excerpt from that article.
• • . . . My guess is anyone familiar with her in some way. Most will have seen at least one of her films, which are like no other in that they are primarily vehicles for Mae West; certainly, one way or another, they will have encountered that extraordinary image composed of voluptuousness combined with an odd mixture of blatancy and fluffy coziness. Someone who knows nothing about Mae West could hardly be interested in the actual woman behind the image: Why would he possibly care? He needs to go and see one ofthe movies and experience the phenomenon, not simply read about it. But for those hooked on Mae West, this book will provide huge chunks of insight and information, to say nothing of a lot of fun. ...
- - excerpt - -
• • Reviewer: Martin Rubin, Special to The Los Angeles Times
• • THE SATURDAY READ: The self-creation that was Mae West
Mae West 'It Ain't No Sin'
Biographer: Simon Louvish
[NY: Thomas Dunne Books/ St. Martin's Press, 2006]
• • Source: The Los Angeles Times - - www.calendarlive.com/books/
Published on: 23 December 2006
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: Mae West • • 1917 • •

Mae West.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Mae West Is Coming


The York Theatre Company will offer the first FREE reading of a new musical about MAE WEST in February 2007, according to Playbill Magazine in New York City.
• • Reporter Andrew Gans gives these details: The York Theatre Company's Developmental Reading Series will continue in January and February 2007 with free readings of several new musicals including one about MAE WEST: "It's Not What I Say. . . ". The new musical "Gay Grimms" will kick off the new year of free readings at this Off-Broadway theatre company. ..."
• • "It's Not What I Say. . ." - - billed as "The New Mae West Musical" - - will receive a reading on 20 February 2006 at 7:30 PM. With music by Daniel Lanning and book and lyrics by Lanning and R. Bell, the musical is set in 1953 on the 60th birthday of the late performer: "[Mae West] has not made a movie in ten years and decides to go back to playwriting, but this time she’s writing a musical… about herself, naturally. However, as she is busily musicalizing the 'sexsational' events of her life, Mae is once again faced with the danger of landing in jail." . . .
• • The York Theatre Company is located at Saint Peter's Theatre in Citigroup Center at 619 Lexington Avenue (midtown Manhattan). Telephone 212-935-5824 for information.
• • Source: Playbill Magazine - - www.playbill.com/
Playbill Reporter: Andrew Gans
Published on: 21 December 2006
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: Mae West • • 1932 • •

Mae West.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Mae West: Woody

Writing for Jewish Week, film historian George Robinson compares New York comedian Woody Allen with MAE WEST, the Marx Brothers, and others.
Here is an excerpt from his piece:
• • Woody Allen was and is a writer first and foremost. Whatever visual flair his films have shown over a 37-year career has come primarily from his choice of some of the world’s best cinematographers to shoot his films. As a writer he is an original and unique voice, family resemblances aside. As a director, he remains a shaky amalgam of incompatible influences, a filmmaker who has never found an entirely congenial visual style and whose best work often succeeds despite, rather than because of, his choices of camera angle, blocking and mise-en-scene.
• • So be it. Perhaps in a backwards way, that problem fits Allen’s on-camera persona perfectly. Just as Chaplin’s theatrical framing invokes his roots in musical halls and Keaton’s architectural sophistication plays brilliantly into his mechanistic view of the comic universe, Allen’s visual awkwardness fits in with his schlemiel persona.
• • On the other hand, I suspect that when the books are closed on Allen’s career, he will be placed more with the great screen clowns — W.C.Fields, the Marx Brothers, MAE WEST — than with its great directors, someone whose persona dominates his work to the great pleasure of his fans and the frequent dismay of his critics (myself included). . . .
- - this is a short excerpt from this weekly publication - -
• • The Evolution Of Allan Konigsberg
Film Forum retrospective on Woody Allen illuminates the filmmaker/ comedian’s shifting, yet essentially Jewish, career.
• • BY: George Robinson - Special To The Jewish Week
• • Printed: 22 December 2006
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: Mae West • • to come • •

Mae West.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mae West: Marabou Missing?

Frederick's of Hollywood's Lingerie Museum, once located in Frederick's old purple, pink, and gray Art Deco building, had MAE WEST's marabou-trimmed negligee on display. All that has changed, explains Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer in his intriguing article "Frederick's uplifting museum is dismantled." When the store moved to a new location, unfortunately there was no longer any room for MAE WEST's bedroom-wear, Madonna's bustier, Tom Hanks' boxers, or Natalie Wood's bra.
• • Here is an excerpt from Gordon's recent reportage:
• • Holiday shoppers will find seductive stocking stuffers and naughty gifts at Frederick's of Hollywood's flagship store on Hollywood Boulevard. The silky chemises, outrageously tiny thong panties and lacy brassieres are all there, many offered in bright Christmas red and New Year's Eve black.
• • But where is the mannequin of Milton Berle in his drag dressing gown? Where is Madonna's black and gold bustier? Where is Mae West's marabou-bedecked negligee?
• • To the consternation of some local kitsch lovers and underwear fetishists, Frederick's of Hollywood quietly dismantled its Lingerie Museum and Celebrity Lingerie Hall of Fame when the underwear emporium moved three blocks west last year to a more upscale location.
• • Nevertheless, some guidebooks and tourism websites still list the vanished displays. And visitors still ask for the small and unusual museum, which was founded in 1987 and featured, at various times, Natalie Wood's bra from "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice," Tom Hanks' boxers from "Forrest Gump," Susan Sarandon's garter belt from "Bull Durham," and Tony Curtis' cross-dressing dainties from "Some Like It Hot."
• • "A nice, free attraction that was fun to visit" is the way Robert Nudelman, an activist in Hollywood Heritage, a preservation group, described the museum inside the former store. "It did have its place in local color and scene here and it did have an impact in bringing in visitors."
• • Nudelman recalled its moment of international fame during the 1992 riots, when looters invaded and stole a bustier Madonna had worn on a concert tour, along with a lot of retail merchandise. (Madonna later reportedly gave a replacement in exchange for a Frederick's cash donation to a charity.)
• • The new shop, on Hollywood Boulevard by the corner of McCadden Place, is closer to the Highland Avenue tourism buzz than it used to be. Decked out with crystal chandeliers and leopard rugs, it projects a more elegant tone in which - - museum fans suspect - - Ethel Merman's girdle might not fit. . . .
• • Company spokeswoman Jennifer Cornwall said the new store did not have room for the museum, so most of the items were packed off to a warehouse in Phoenix. . . .
= = brief excerpt from Larry Gordon's article = =
• • Source: The Los Angeles Times
• • Printed: 19 December 2006
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: Mae West • • 1932 • •

Mae West.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mae West: Top Doll

It was December 1935, the height of the Great Depression, and newspapers began posting the annual earnings of adults in the United States who had made over $15,000. Only about 18,000 Americans had a salary that topped $15,000 during the mid-1930s. Publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst received half-a-million that year. MAE WEST was right behind her nemesis with salary checks totaling $339,166.65 during the same period.
• • Obviously, Hollywood's talented top doll was bringing in top dollars at a time when breadlines and soup kitchens were a common sight across this nation. However, "Hundreds of corporation officials were revealed as making as much salary in one year as most men dream of accumulating in a lifetime of work," noted The New York Times, quoting figures furnished by the U.S. Treasury Department. "Salaries of $100,000 and more were not rare."
• • Financially speaking, MAE WEST outpaced her movieland peers. Dozens of salaries are memorialized in this lengthy year-end report. Here are a few.
• • Bing Crosby, actor - - $104,449 - - in addition to $88,499 he earned as a crooner from Crosby Productions, Inc.
• • W.C. Fields, actor - - $155,083.
• • Marlene Dietrich, actress - - $145,000.
• • Charlie Chaplin, actor - - $143,000.
• • William LeBaron, producer - - $114,711.
• • Adolph Zukor, Paramount Pictures Distributing Co. - - $52,193.
• • Walt Disney, creator of Mickey Mouse - - $51,500.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: Mae West • • 1932 • •

Mae West.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mae West: Turkish Delight

Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun [1923-2006] became a music lover because of his mother, who collected hit records by MAE WEST and others.

• • According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, "It was his mother, Hayrunisa Rustem, who gave Ahmet Ertegun a passion for music."
• • "If it hadn't been for the mores of Turkish society, she probably would have been a star," Ahmet Ertegun once wrote. "She had a beautiful voice, played every instrument by ear, was a terrific dancer and loved music. Wherever we were, she always bought all the popular hits of the day: MAE WEST, Josephine Baker, the Mills Brothers, the Boswell Sisters, among many others, so we always had a lot of music in the house." . . .
• • Source: "AHMET ERTEGUN: His Atlantic Records shaped pop music"
Reporters: Geoff Boucher and Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
Published on 15 December 2006 - www.latimes.com/
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: Mae West • • circa 1926 • •

Mae West.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mae West: Shod

MAE WEST was particular about her shoes. Who shod the comedienne's petite feet?

• • In 1920, Alfred J. Cammeyer was the be all in Manhattan for ladies footwear.
• • From a single shop on Sixth Avenue and West Twelfth Street - - under the Sixth Avenue Elevated Train and not far from Jefferson Market Jail - - canny salesman Cammeyer expanded his empire.

• • As Prohibition was increasing the number of speakeasies, greatly enhancing the popularity of nightlife and upping the demand for pretty shoes, the demand for fashion kept apace. Smart merchants made the shopping experience more enjoyable and luxurious. A.J. Cammeyer sold footwear to flappers from three new emporiums by 1920: 47 West 34th Street, 557 Fifth Avenue, and 672 Fifth Avenue.
• • Mae was investing more in her costumes by 1920. Photographs show her pretty feet in low-heeled boots and Queen-Anne-style mules by Cammeyer.
• • His West 34th Street location was well-situated near Macy's Department Store - - and not far from the Manhattan Opera House on West 34th Street and Eighth Avenue, where Mae West entertained in December 1920 at various Sunday concerts.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Illustration: Mae West • • shoemaker • • 1920 • •

Mae West.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Mae West: Clarke Moore

Not to be confused with poet Clement Clarke Moore [1779-1863], who wrote The Night Before Christmas, during the 1930s there was an illustrator working for Movie Classic (and other publications) whose name was Clarke Moore.

• • In November 1933 Clarke Moore was assigned to sketch Mae West in color from a black and white photograph furnished by Paramount Pictures. His artwork was used on this magazine cover, the January 1934 issue.
• • In December 1933 subscribers to New Movie discovered this festive looking edition in their mailboxes.
• • 'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a . . . censor. :-D
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Painting: Mae West • • by Clarke Moore • • 1934 • •

Mae West.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Mae West: Hips Hips...

Hips, hips, hurray! That is how a Midwest reporter saluted MAE WEST in December 1933.

• • There is more to the rapid growth of Miss Mae West's public than meets the first glance, and it is more than hips, hips, hurray. ... Diamond Lil is Victorian on the other side of the fence and the fence is up, but the spirit of the ladies may also be up. They may refuse to stay on their side. In that case it is again good night to the dichotomies.
• • Source for this quote: Chicago Daily Tribune, 7 December 1933
• • In 1927-28, Mae West wrote the play Diamond Lil, which was a huge success on Broadway in 1928. Yea for Mae! A few years later, Paramount Pictures bought the manuscript from Mae and turned it into a movie. Mae selected an unknown British actor Cary Grant to co-star with her onscreen as a Manhattan-based Salvation Army officer in this classic which was set on the Bowery in the 1890s.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photograph: Mae West • • 1928 • •

Mae West.