On the birthday of Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington - - born 29 April 1899 in Washington, D.C. - - it's interesting to recall how hard MAE WEST had to fight with Paramount Pictures to get the musician into her film "Belle of the Nineties."
• • Always the champion of the African-American talents she met, Mae insisted that the studio hire him to play and also appear in the movie. The studio didn't want to hire Ellington, at first, because they said the famed Cotton Club headliner would be "too expensive." When Paramount finally gave in to Mae, they agreed to let Ellington and his orchestra play - - however, they insisting on having all white musicians on the set.
• • Mae West marched into the head office at Paramount and said, "White men can't play black music in my picture!" And it was done. Ellington and his band were used and shown onscreen, thanks to Mae (who refused to budge on this).
• • Hollywood's censors did have the final say, though; they refused to let Mae appear next to the musicians in the same scene.
• • "Belle of the Nineties" was in production from 19 March 1934 until June 1934.
• • During the 1920s, Mae West met Duke Ellington at Owney Madden's speakeasy. An autographed photo of Mae given to the "Duke" was among his most cherished possessions.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none • •