"My Little Chickadee" - - scripted by MAE WEST and W.C. Fields - - was released on 15 March 1940.
• • In an essay "Our Little Chickadee," novelist Marta McPhee explained [for readers of The New York Times in 1996] why she and her six sisters were entranced by MAE WEST, especially since they were growing up on a farm far from the bright lights of "sinful" city life.
• • "Why Mae West," our mother would ask, "when there's Grace Kelly or Katharine Hepburn?" Because Mae West was everything we were taught not to be - - brazen, ornate, sexually forward - - and for that we loved her. (There were seven of us girls.)
• • We loved her for the same reasons my step-brother Danny and the boys loved John Wayne: she was tough and strong, confident enough to make her own laws and stand alone in the world. "Every man I meet wants to protect me," she once said. "I can't figure out what from."
• • She could shoot better than any man, twirl guns and catch them in midair. She even placed her head in the mouth of a lion. But West was more than that for us.
• • Fleshy and not beautiful, she represented a rejection of Hollywood's typical female star while still being female and sexy and smart. Her power had to do with the strength of her persona, and that persona was purely sexual - - no excuses, no apologies. A fortuneteller says to her, "I see a man in your life." She answers,"What, only one?"
• • West danced the line between what was permissible and not, provoking people and causing them to contemplate contradictions in society. She wrote much of her own work, pushing the limits of bourgeois tolerance. She wrote about male and female prostitution, about homosexuals, and interracial relationships; she wrote a racy romance novel.
• • In her early forties, with the films "She Done Him Wrong" and "I'm No Angel," she became Hollywood's biggest star - - and its most controversial.
• • She understood her strengths - - her sexuality and her talent for aphorism born of the vaudeville stage - - and made the most of them. . . .
• • Mae West could never play a victim or see herself as one. ...
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1940 • • to come