Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mae West: Duesie Got Away

A 1935 trophy car, originally built for MAE WEST, was sold again to a new owner at a Monterey, California car auction during August 2007, it was reported recently.
• • Duesenberg built just 36 supercharged 320-hp Model SJs, wrote car-newshound Ken Gross. This swoopy Bohman & Schwartz Town Car, originally destined for silver-screen bombshell Mae West, was snapped up for $20 grand in 1935 by Ethel V. Mars, the candy fortune heiress.
• • A dog when it was painted silver, RM [the seller] sprayed this car a sinister jet black. Ending a spirited bidding duel, Peter Bainbridge's gavel fell at $4.4 million, proving that Duesies — — even with staid, formal coachwork — — remain America's undisputed classics and will never go out of style, according to Ken Gross.
• • An automobile formerly owned by Steve McQueen sold for $2.3 million during the same vintage vehicle auction . . .
— — excerpt — —
• • Source: Edmunds' Inside Line
• • Article: "Top 10 Sales at the 2007 Monterey Auctions"
• • Byline: Ken Gross, Road Warrior columnist
• • Published 28 October 2007
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none • •

Mae West.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mae West: 1937 Player

It is a happy seventieth anniversary for the venerable Players Directory, whose first issue was printed in January 1937 and included MAE WEST and the hottest in Hollywood.
• • The Players Directory, the industry's oldest and best-known casting directory, up-graded their design. Their first issue was a 248-page publication listing 1,257 players, including names like Mae West, James Stewart, Gene Autry, Bette Davis, Mary Astor, and Gary Cooper. Must be quite a collectible — — these 1937 editions!
• • They say that their printed Directory continues to be a valuable tool in the casting process and the most recent printed issue includes thousands of listings, among them many of today's best-known actors. In July 1996, the Players Directory began to develop new ways for agents and casting directors to do their jobs, utilizing rapidly changing online technological tools. Find them here — — playersdirectory.com.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1937 • •

Mae West.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mae West: Right After Night

Right after MAE WEST stole the show – – with her cameo in "Night After Night" – – the reviews came in, applauding the Brooklyn bombshell from coast to coast. Featuring Mae West and starring George Raft, the film opened at the Paramount Theatre on 31 October 1932. Here is what Variety had to say on 1 November 1932.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Judicious casting, pacing that inspires excitement and dialog that sparkles are three forms of flattery for this cut-and-dry scenario. The cast is interesting, the pace commands attention, and the dialog is exceptionally entertaining, so here is one instance where a story's shortcomings can be overlooked. The points in its favor make "Night After Night" an entertaining – – and probably profitable – – talker.
• • Further than that, it's another advancement for George Raft and an auspicious start for Mae West in her first talker.
• • Raft as a mugg proprietor of a class speakeasy with a Park Avenue yen is the central figure from start to finish, but it's the quartet of varied femininity surrounding him that gives the picture its real character nourishment.
• • Miss West is last but not least of the femme foursome which includes Constance Cummings, Wynne Gibson, and Alison Skipworth. That each fits perfectly in her role, in appearance and performance, and that each is a distinct type without a conflict attests to an expert casting job. Bootlegger stuff and some gangster atmosphere climaxed by and off screen shooting finish are played down to run secondary to the feminine interest. Raft is mixed up in both.
• • The women are: a past flame (West), recently discarded sweetheart (Gibson), present head woman and "nice" girl (Cummings), and a middle-aged school teacher employed to give the mugg English lessons. When the Misses Skipworth and West are on view, together or separately, the laughs come often, and in the brief period assigned them as a team the comedy pace is even speedier. They do a virtual cross-fire two-act when doubling.
• • Miss West's dialog is always unmistakably her own. It is doubtful if anyone else could write it just that way. The way the West-Skipworth moments stand out suggests the picture could have stood more of them, but the obvious intent is to nurse Miss West along. She's tossed into this one rather abruptly and without bearing on the plot, much in the manner that Jimmy Durante has been handled by Metro. That's okay if they don't do it too often. As long as this film proves the former legit name has something for pictures, it wouldn't be taking a chance to shoot the works on her from now on.
• • Miss Skipworth's intelligent painting of a cultured lady having her first taste of hootch is a gem.
• • Misses Cummings and Gibson are more restricted than their elders, holding down ingenue-like roles that call for looks mostly. But they deliver in every way. No leading man has been more ably supported.
• • Story is merely that of a mugg who yearns to toss off the mugg staff after falling in love at a distance with a Lady. That he winds up with his goal attained doesn't matter much, although the happy ending changes the tone that runs through the story up to then. He's told midway by one of the girls he is more likable when he's himself.
• • Roscoe Karns is the only other male player of story importance, being active in most of Raft's scenes as the speakeasy owner's combination pal and handy man. He grabs laughs, too.
• • Louis Calhern is in for one scene. Except for minor footage in the Park Avenue lady's apartment, the action doesn't leave the speakeasy.
• • The place is one of those brownstones in the 50's and the twist is that, before becoming a ginmill, it was the "nice" girl's birthplace and home.
• • Story was adapted from Louis Bromfield's "Single Night," but the dialog that was added by Mae West made the story and the picture.
• • By: Bige, Variety
• • Originally published: 1 November 1932
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Paramount production and release.
• • Directed by Archie Mayo.
• • Adapted by Vincent Lawrence from Louis Bromfield's "Single Night."
• • Continuity by Kathryn Scola.
• • Ernest Haller, photog.
• • At the Paramount, New York, week of October 28.
• • Running time, 76 minutes.
• • Joe Anton . . . George Raft
• • Miss Jerry Healy . . . Constance Cummings
• • Iris Dawn . . . . . Wynne Gibson
• • Maudie Triplett . . . . . Mae West
• • Mrs. Mabel Jellyman . . . . . Alison Skipworth
• • Leo . . . . . Roscoe Karns
• • Blainey . . . . . Al Hill
• • Dick Bolton . . . . . Louis Calhern
• • Jerky . . . . . Harry Wallace
• • Patsy . . . . . Dink Templeton
• • Frankie Guard . . . . . Bradley Page
• • Malloy . . . . . Marty Martyn
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1932 • •

Mae West.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mae West: Coming Up

Recently, in San Francisco, Buzzin' Lee Hartgrave began a paragraph with a MAE WEST curve.
• • With good intentions (albeit with a hazy grasp of the facts), Hartgrave writes: Many, many years ago Mae West wrote a play called “Sex”. Mae West, as you probably know was the Queen of the double entendre. When the play opened on Broadway, it was promptly shut down [sic] for being to ‘smutty’. Smutty, Tutty. They were all doing it all over New York. Of course “they” were all politicians. Did you know that they had a ‘Wide Stance’ even then?
• • Anyway, the naughty play will open at the Aurora Theatre [San Francisco, California] starting on November 2nd, 2007, and will close on December 9th.
• • Here is the cast: Delia MacDoughall will play Mae West [sic]. Also in the cast are Danny Wolohan, Steve Irish, Robert Brewer, Kristin Stokes, and Craig Jessup.
• • Source: Buzzin' Lee Hartgrave
• • Printed on: 26 October 2007
• • If you are not yet booked for All Souls Day, then don't delay. Come up and see Mae in Frisco.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • in "Sex" 1926 • •

Mae West.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mae West: Stark Young

Born in Mississippi in the month of October was a drama critic who wrote about MAE WEST.
• • Stark Young [11 October 1881 6 January 1963] was an American teacher, playwright, novelist, painter, literary critic, and essayist.
• • In her book Mae West: An Icon in Black and White [2001], author Jill Watts discusses Stark Young's reaction to Mae West onstage.
• • According to Jill Watts, critic Stark Young viewed Diamond Lil and Mae West as a riddle: Here is a stage figure who is not one of those players, however admirable, with whom we can feel at home, knowing that they are the same sort of human beings as we are, save for a desire to imitate or to exhibit themselves, or both. You watch Miss West without this easy understanding and also without falling asleep. Whatever ideas or conceptions she may or may not have, she is alive on the stage as no one is in life, she shines, she astonishes — — shocks, if you like — — engages and puzzles you.
• • Jill Watts includes another remark about Mae West's portrayal of Diamond Lil by Stark Young: "You may watch her performance and take it any way you like," Stark Young wrote. "The theatre, you perceive is a place for your pleasure."
• • Stark Young compared the gritty realism of "Sex" [in 1926-1927] with the more nostalgic theatricality of the Suicide Hall setting of "Diamond Lil" [1928]. He writes: "Diamond Lil" is as daring in the end [as "Sex"], the same sexy morsels, embraces, and interventions of the law with rank suspenses, frank speeches, underworld, and so on. But it is more covered, continuous, and studied than the other production, and the crowd of characters, the costuming and vaudevillistic intervals, pull the whole of this later play into a more familiar style, less crudely, and sheerly singular than "Sex" appeared to be. ...
— — excerpt — —
• • "Diamond Lil" by Stark Young, drama critic [New Republic, 27 June 1928]
• • In 1959, a stroke derailled his life. Stark Young died in 1963 at age 81.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Drawing: • • Mae West • • Miguel Covarrubias • • 1928 • •

Mae West.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mae West: Phoenix, Arizona

MAE WEST slept here.
• • Mae, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, and Spencer Tracy are just a few of the Hollywood stars who have called the Hotel San Carlos (in downtown Phoenix) home – – at least for a night. Rumor has it that the landmark houses more than a few ghouls.
• • Completed in 1928, the Italian Renaissance-designed hotel was built on the site of Phoenix's first school, a one-room, adobe building built in 1874.
• • In May 2006, a ghost visited one female guest who was spending a night in the Marilyn Monroe Suite. Monroe always requested a certain third floor room because of its proximity to the rooftop pool. The guest told the manager that she and her boyfriend noticed that the lights would dim and then brighten. And a ghostly foot rubbed against hers.
• • Whichever hotel suite Mae West used, she would not have been rattled by spooks. It is possible that she stayed at the Hotel San Carlos in 1933 while she was promoting "I'm No Angel" at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1933 • •

Mae West.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mae West: Head for Fashion

MAE WEST influenced Hollywood's wardrobe wiz Edith Head [born 28 October 1897 – – died 24 October 1981], whose impressive screen career earned her 34 Academy Awards nominations. "Mae taught me all I know about sex," quipped the gown guru, "clothes-wise." Head won an Oscar eight times – – all for helping MAE WEST and others don their gay apparel for memorable scenes in big-budget movies.
• • How many fans knew what Mae's costumes looked like in COLOR?
• • As costume designer at Paramount Pictures, Edith Head took on a side chore: the custodian of a score of costumes that had been sentimentally preserved because they contributed to movie history.
• • In November 1960, an article in The New York Times discussed the final appearance of these glamourous gowns. "I'm only managing to hold them together with emergency sewing now. This will be about their last time out," said Edith Head. The collection, referred to as a "million dollar" affair, included Mae West's emerald green, jewel-encrusted come-up-and-see-me-sometime gown from "She Done Him Wrong," Texas Guinan and Clara Bow outfits, and Ginger Rogers's mink dress from "Lady in the Dark." . . . [excerpt, N.Y. Times 29 November 1960]
• • Co-starring Cary Grant as a Salvation Army Officer, "She Done Him Wrong" was the only Mae West film that was considered for an Academy Award. Nominated for "Best Picture" in 1933, it lost out to the winner: "Cavalcade." [The trophy-winning motion picture dramatized a cavalcade of English life from New Year's Eve 1899 until 1933 seen through the eyes of well-to-do Londoners Jane and Robert Marryot.] For her portrayal of the wealthy Mrs. Marryot, actress Diana Wynyard received a "Best Actress" nomination but did not go home with the statuette.
• • The Oscar – – that should have gone to Mae West – – was awarded that year to Claudette Colbert, another headliner dressed from time to time by Edith Head. Colbert may have won over the Academy but she never captured the admiration of Ms. Head, who barely concealed her dislike.
• • In contrast, this designing woman had enormous affection for Mae West and other glamour girls such as Barbara Stanwyck and Grace Kelly.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West's friend • • designing woman Edith Head • •

Mae West.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mae West: A New Book

MAE WEST shows up on the best sheets. In this case, the freshly printed sheets lie between the covers of a new book: Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists by James Geary [Bloomsbury, 437 pages].
• • Discussing this new release in the Washington Post, journalism Michael Dirda praised this new compendium of wise words in "short, sharp shocks."
• • According to Michael Dirda, The aphorism is the prose equivalent of a memorable line of poetry, a bit of worldly wisdom or self-understanding reduced to a short, sharp shock: "It is a rule of God's Providence that we should succeed by failure" (John Henry Newman). In The World in a Phrase, his 2005 history of the form, James Geary laid down his "Five Laws of the Aphorism: It Must Be Brief, It Must Be Personal, It Must Be Definitive, It Must Be Philosophical, and It Must Have A Twist."
• • Need some examples? Here are three, honestly chosen at random, from Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists:
• • "Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before." (Mae West)
• • "To live is to lose ground." (E.M. Cioran)
• • "The only things one never regrets are one's mistakes." (Oscar Wilde)
• • Anyone who enjoys such quotations with an attitude probably owns — — or should acquire — — The Viking Book of Aphorisms, compiled by W.H. Auden and Louis Kronenberger, and The Oxford Book of Aphorisms, edited by John Gross. They remain invaluable and irreplaceable collections. But their emphasis is on the great maxims of the past, and they are organized by theme — — that is, chapters proffer a hodge-podge of epigrammatic observations, by various authors, about love, ambition, or human suffering (to name three popular subjects). . . .
— — excerpt — —
• • Source: Book review from The Washington Post
• • Critic: Michael Dirda
• • Published on: 21 October 2007 [page BW10]
• • In this unedited extract from Dirda's recent column, it is more than pleasing to see that a quote by Mae West rises to the top.
• • The quote is in a film scene from "Klondike Annie" [1935-36].
• • If you're going to quote, quote from the best.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none • •

Mae West.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mae West: Quote? Note!

MAE WEST comes up in Laurie Boeder's Classic Movies Blog on about.com.
• • In Boeder's article, "The Most Famous Movie Quotes No One Ever Said," she lists these.
• • Mae West never said her oft-imitated, "Come up and see me sometime," from "She Done Him Wrong."
• • Humphrey Bogart never said, "Play it again, Sam."
• • Bela Lugosi never said, "I vant to suck your blood."
• • James Cagney never said, "Top of the world, Ma!"
• • "Those wacky kids at the list universe have favored us with yet another handy list — — the top 15 movie misquotes that persist in the popular culture," adds Boeder on her blog.
• • Also among the classic movie misquotes are lines from "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" — — such as the Mexican bandit sneering, "Badges? We don't need to show you no stinkin' badges!"
• • Laurie Boeder concludes: if you're going to misquote, misquote from the best!
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • book cover • •

Mae West.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Mae West: Rona Barrett

MAE WEST's friend Rona Barrett turned 71 years old this month. Her birthdate is 8 October 1936. Born (like Mae) in New York City, Rona Burstein was intelligent, ambitious, and starstruck enough by 13 years old to begin a fan club for a fellow landsman — — Jewish crooner Eddie Fisher.
• • During the 1950s, Rona Barrett began penning an entertainment news column which appeared in newspapers around the country. By the time she launched a broadcast career, she was becoming as famous as the Hollywoodites she covered. She became the go-to-gal for gossip, taking over the throne that once belonged to Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper. Instead of Hopper’s hats, Rona's trademark was her silvery-blonde poodle bob.
• • Rona Barrett hosted her own primetime TV specials and series along with publishing three successful magazines, including Rona Barrett's Hollywood, Rona Barrett's Gossip, and one about daytime TV.
• • She played herself in the Mae West movie "Sextette."
• • She also spoke about the Brooklyn sexpot for a TV documentary — — "Mae West: An Intimate Portrait."
• • Rona Barrett liked to call herself "a pussycat — — with an iron tail."
• • Happy Birthday to Rona, now cultivating lavender [Lavandula] on her California ranch.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none • •

Mae West.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mae West: Ultimate Seduction

The blonde with no diamonds came up to see Mae West at the Ravenswood Apartments, Los Angeles, in 1979. This is an excerpt from Charlotte Chandler's interview with Mae West in Hollywood one year before the Brooklyn bombshell passed on. The interview was included in Chandler's book The Ultimate Seduction.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Mae West held out her hand to me. As I took it, I scratched my palm on one of her diamond rings. All of her fingers were covered with diamonds. These, she explained, were just her "daytime diamonds". Holding out her hands, she said, "They're all real. They were given to me by admirers." Her gaze settled on my unadorned hands. "Oh, you poor kid! You don't have any!"
• • For a moment she regarded me with pity. Then she brightened. "But you have some at home?"
• • I shook my head.
• • Mae West studied me, then said encouragingly, "You could, honey. But you've gotta try, and you've gotta know how to try. Knowing what you want is the first step toward getting it. There's nothing better in life than diamonds."
• • Mae West had been giving no interviews at all. She already knew all the people she wanted to know, especially in light of the hours she felt compelled to spend on hair, makeup, and dress before she could see anyone. I had cost her three hours, but it would have been double that if I had been a man. If she were going to see anyone at all, a man would have been preferable any day, and especially any night.
• • "They always sent a man," she told me, not specifying who "they" were. "I considered spending my time with girls a waste of time, so I didn't mingle with any." The only exceptions were her beloved mother and her sister.
• • For Mae West, Hollywood had real unreality, and that was the way she liked it. To the end, she nobly resisted any assault on her fairytale castle. The apartment in Hollywood's Ravenswood was truly an extension of Mae West. The furniture was upholstered in eggshell white silk and satin, and appeared virginal, as if it had just been moved in for my visit. Once Mae had achieved perfection by her own standards, she hated any change. The celebrations of herself on display throughout the apartment evinced no false modesty. They also signified that in her mid-80s she was not afraid to be in competition with her younger self.
• • Whenever Mae interjected one of her celebrated epigrams to make a point, she would change from a serious tone to the sultry flippancy of Diamond Lil. As she spoke, her sculpted platinum hair would swing as in a shampoo commercial.
• • Perhaps she didn't like to give interviews to women because she couldn't act her part. Mae West had to be there herself; she couldn't just send Diamond Lil. She pointed out that although she was Diamond Lil, Lil was not Mae because there was more to Mae West.
• • Mae gave me a hard look and said there was something to tell me before we "got into it."
• • "If you smoke," she said, "you'll have to leave the room. I don't let anyone smoke in my presence."

• • I assured her that this wouldn't be necessary. Her approving look indicated that I had passed an important test.
• • "Then you'll keep your soft skin. That's how I kept mine. I always use baby oil. But the secret is it has to be warm, and you have to have a man put it on you — — all over."
• • Her next query had the same tone of entrapment as the smoking suggestion. She asked if I wanted a drink. I declined. She said it was a good thing because she didn't have any liquor.
"I never understood drinking. It isn't good for your looks, and it cuts down on what you are. I never wanted to cut down on what I am.
• • "I was indefatigable. They only just found out that I had a double thyroid. Always had it, but didn't know it. Maybe that's the source of my energy, especially my sex energy. Is that scarf because you're cold, or do you have something to hide?"
• • I take it off.
• • "That's better. Now, unbutton a few buttons. Men like it if you show them a thing or two. I dress for women and undress for men.
• • "When I was making a film, I would stand during the whole shooting so I wouldn't wrinkle my dress. I'd say, 'Do I want to look my best for my public that expects it of me? Or would I rather sit down?' That ain't no choice.
• • "First impressions are what count. It's like when you arrive at a party. That's when people take a real look at you, and if they're impressed, that's how they think of you. If your makeup fades and you get creases in your dress later, that isn't what they remember."
• • What would you do if you didn't make the best first impression on a man?

• • Get a different man. I'd figure there was something wrong with him. I never needed clothes to make me feel sexy. I felt that way all the time. The nearness of an attractive man kept me in a constant state of sensual unrest.
• • You summed it up at the end of I'm No Angel when Cary Grant asked you, "What are you thinking about?" and you answered, "The same thing you are."

• • That's very exciting for a man. When men sense a woman is ready for sex, they're ready right away. When men came to see me, I had to try to calm them down a little first. [Sighing] I had a lot of great love affairs. Sex and work have been the only two things in my life.
• • In reverse order of importance.

• • Yeah. If I had to choose between sex and work, it was always my work I'd choose. I'm glad I didn't ever have to choose between them for more than a week, though. Since I was grown up, I've never been without either for more than a week. . . .
— — excerpt — —
• • The Ultimate Seduction by Charlotte Chandler [N.Y.: Doubleday, 1984]
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • surrounded by fans and the press • •

Mae West.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mae West: Secret Sisterhood

In "Diamond Lil" MAE WEST refers to her character Lil as "one of the finest women who ever walked the streets." That description also fit Frankie Baker, whose sense of frontier justice in October 1899 had inspired the folktune "Frankie and Johnny."
• • "You say, boy, of Frankie she had dice in one hand and a gun in the other." Frankie Baker of St. Louis, and the sporting circuit, Omaha, Kansas City, Denver, San Francisco, Chicago, shot her man in her twenty-seventh year, having already gained notoriety by her open handedness, good looks, and her proud and racy bearing, wrote John Huston in Frankie and Johnny [NY: Boni, 1930]. Clearly, this was a dame Mae could admire.
• • "[Frankie Baker] was a beautiful, light brown girl, who liked to make money and spend it. She dressed very richly, sat for company in magenta lady's cloth, diamonds as big as hen's eggs in her ears. There was a long razor scar down the side of her face she got in her teens from a girl who was jealous of her. She only weighed about 115 lbs, but she had the eye of one you couldn't monkey with. She was a queen sport."
• • The actress Mae West sang "Frankie and Johnny" from 1928 until the 1970s, when she performed it — — accompanied by a shimmy — — at a California party for The Masquers. She made the folktune her trademark. Why? Possibly because the woman who was Mae West realized that, in Frankie Baker of St. Louis, she met her match, her diamond diva, her secret sharer. The scarlet sisterhood had its queen sport — — and Mae paid her homage till the end.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Cartoon: • • Mae West as Diamond Lil • • 1928 • •

Mae West.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mae West: St. Louis

Actor John Huston, enthralled by Diamond Lil's rendition of "Frankie and Johnny" on Broadway in 1928, gave MAE WEST a copy of this fascinatin' news clipping that had appeared in the St. Louis-Post Dispatch on the 19th of October in 1899.
• • Note: Frankie Baker's weapon was a knife — — not a noisy gun [in the newspaper account].
• • The unnamed third party in this fatal love triangle was Alice Pryar, an 18-year-old prostitute [nine years younger than Frankie Baker]. In the song, the "other woman" is called Nellie Bly.


• • Amid the Suffering . . .
• •
• • .Allen Britt's brief experience in the art of love cost him his life. He died at the City Hospital Wednesday night from knife wounds inflicted by Frankie Baker, an ebony hued cake-walker. Britt was also colored. He was seventeen years old. He met Frankie at the Orange Blossom's ball — — and was smitten with her. Thereafter they were lovers.
• • In the rear of 212 Targee Street lived Britt. There his sweetheart wended her way a few night's ago and lectured Allen for his alleged duplicity. Allen's reply was not intended to cheer the dusky damsel and a glint of steel gleamed in the darkness. An instant later the boy fell to the floor mortally wounded.
• • Frankie Baker is locked up at the Four Courts.
• • The City Hospital's account was quite different.
• • According to a doctor, Allen Britt died at 2:15 AM on the 19th of October 1899 with a bullet wound of the liver. He lived seventeen years in the city [St. Louis, Missouri] before his death. He was born in Kentucky.
• • Allen Britt's occupation at the time of entering the emergency room was given as "job worker."
• • George and Nancy Britt, Allen's parents, buried their son in St. Peter's Cemetery on 22 October 1899.
• • Why was the ballad called "Frankie and Johnny" and not "Frankie and Allen"?
• • When John Huston interviewed her in 1929, Nancy Britt was still living at 32 Johnson [formerly Targee] Street in St. Louis. Mrs. Britt had asked the composer, she claimed, not to use her son's name. Perhaps because a "john" is a customer of a prostitute, Johnny was substituted.
• • These details were provided to the Mae West blog exclusively by NYC historian LindaAnn Loschiavo, author of the play "Courting Mae West." If you copy this info, please affix this CREDIT LINE in full.
• • Tring to escape notoriety, Frankie Baker moved around. She wound up at the Eastern Oregon State Hospital. According to news accounts, she was eventually committed to this facility, where she died shortly thereafter on 10 January 1952.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Cartoon: • • Mae West as Diamond Lil/ Lady Lou • • 1933 • •

Mae West.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mae West: Frankie Baker

MAE WEST was only six years old when the St Louis Post-Dispatch published their edition on 19 October 1899. This paper reported a local crime: beautiful Frankie Baker, a 27-year-old mulatto prostitute [residing at 212 Targee Street, St. Louis, Missouri], who kept an expensively decked-out 17-year-old mack, stabbed him on October 15th. A few days later, Frankie's cheating (and abusive) lover died. A blitz of headlines followed: "Woman Kills Colored Man in St. Louis."
• • The stabbing and the ensuing trial wherein Frankie Baker [1872-1952] was acquitted inspired the folksong "Frankie and Johnny."
• • In 1928-1929, Mae West sang "Frankie and Johnny" on Broadway in her show "Diamond Lil," giving the song a glamour glow, enhancing its prominence.
• • Actor John Huston, mesmerized by Mae's gutsy rendition, embarked on a cross-country trip, researching the folksong, and publishing several regional versions along with his new play "Frankie and Johnny" [N.Y.: Albert and Charles Boni, 1930].
• • The Boni brothers published John Huston's book on 1 January 1930. Originally dark-skinned, Frankie and Johnny became Caucasian in the hands of Miguel Covarrubias. In fact, Frankie bears a strong resemblance to. . . Diamond Lil!
• • However, the most famous and realistic illustration of Frankie's showdown with her John was painted by the Scotch-Irish artist Thomas Hart Benton [15 April 1889 - 19 January 1975] during the early 1930s
and here it is a real beauty.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West 's song • • 1930
Mae West.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mae West: October 1918

MAE WEST received top billing in the review of "Sometime" by The New York Times (published on Saturday 5 October 1918). Featured in the cast for this musical comedy in three acts at the Shubert, Mayme Dean . . . . Mae West heads the list of names, so perhaps it was composed "in order of appearance."
• • After that, the New York Times critic never mentions Mae again.
• • 'SOMETIME' COMES, WITH ED WYNN;
• • Musical Comedy of Commerce, with Book and Lyrics by Rida Johnson Young.
• • MUSIC BY RUDOLF FRIML
• • Francine Larrimore as Heroine and Frances Cameron as Intriguing Villainess. [Saturday 5 October 1918, page 11]

• • According to their drama critic reporting in 1918, not much can be said for the book and lyrics of "Sometime," which came last night to the Shubert "with" Ed Wynn as comedian, and nothing shall here be said against them unless it be dispraise to record that they are of the musical comedy of commerce. The costumes and scenery likewise will be pasted over in a silence which, it is hoped, is discreet. ...
• • The Times critic applauds Ed Wynn NOT for the dialogue written by the playwright — but instead for Wynn's sly ad libbing. What is a man to do in wartime, when he can't make both ends meet?, Ed Wynn's character Loney Bright asks aloud and then answers Make one end vegetables!
• • The critic did enjoy the title tune "Sometime," and its rendition by the heroine Francine Larrimore who had "a touch of distinction."
• • How difficult it is to find a photo of the commercially successful and prolific Rida Johnson Young, who penned the book and the lyrics. Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, the beautiful former actress was born on 28 February 1869, and hit it big with "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life," "Naughty Marietta," and other favorites.
• • In the pink-ribboned month of October, dedicated to breast cancer awareness, we mourn the early death of Rida Johnson Young, claimed by that disease at age 57, after a long struggle with it, on 8 May 1926.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West's venue • • Shubert Theatre
Mae West.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mae West: A Little Lovin'

It was October of 1918 and Mae West was receiving excellent reviews.
• • According to Jill Watts, in her superb biography Mae West, An Icon in Black and White, the New York Clipper rated her performance "capital." Even stingy Sime, after groaning that her shimmy was ill-suited for a Broadway stage, agreed that Mae "bowled them over" [Variety Magazine 11 October 1918].
• • A young soldier, newly arrived in NYC after serving in the war, remembered Mae's charisma. Leonard Hall noted that she was a "slender, beautiful ball of fire who performed as a specialty dancer in high kicks, cartwheels, and fast taps. She was a tasty tornado."
• • Mae West, writes Jill Watts, "was the show's hit."
• • With her tough gal posture and a hand on her hip, Mae forged her own portrayal of the vampy man-eater Mayme Dean (who was originally written as a pathetic little sparrow). Mae West even spiced up "All I Want Is a Little Lovin'" with her own lyrics. Rather than working with the busy choreographer of "Sometime," Mae West got some guidance from her Chicago pal Joe Frisco, a popular white jazz dancer who was an expert in black technique.
• • And Mae West's number "Any Kind of Man" must have stopped a few hearts when Mae went into her shimmy! Don't you wish you were right there inside the Shubert Theatre during October 1918?
• • So astoundingly popular was her Mayme Dean portrayal that Arthur Hammerstein had to fight off a rival producer's attempt to lure Mae West away.
— Source: Jill Watts
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • Sometime, 1918
Mae West.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mae West: Arthur Hammerstein

MAE WEST was cast in a show produced by Arthur Hammerstein: "Sometime."
• • This musical, which opened at the Shubert Theatre [225 West 44th Street, NYC] on 4 October 1918, closed in June 1919, after running for 283 performances.
• • On 24 May 1918, Variety Magazine announced that "Mae West, known in vaudeville for some seasons as a 'single,' is going into Arthur Hammerstein's forthcoming musical play 'Sometime,' which starts rehearsals in July." Variety added this peculiar [incorrect] note: "It will be her first appearance in the legitimate."
• • Mae, age 25, played an enticing flapper Mayme Dean who couldn't land a man. One of her songs — written by Rida Johnson Young was "Vampire with No One to Vamp."
• • Born on 21 December 1872 and educated in New York City, Arthur Hammerstein was raised by a show-biz-savvy family; his brother was the theatre mogul Willie Hammerstein.
• • After the try-outs in Atlantic City, Ed Wynn replaced Herbert Corthell in the role of Loney Bright, upping the humor by lisping his lines, and effeminately reminiscing about the days when he used to double up in a production by performing female roles such as little Eva. Mae West learned a lot about comic timing by observing Ed Wynn.
• • But in the end it was Ed Wynn who left Arthur Hammerstein in the lurch, leaving the successful Broadway crowd-pleaser when he no longer found their business relations to his liking.
• • After a long and successful career, Arthur Hammerstein died at age 82 during the month of October — on 12 October 1955.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West venue • • Shubert Theatre
Mae West.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Mae West: Wikipedia Ha-Ha

A good example of bad information online about MAE WEST is Wikipedia, where one clown prince posted the wrong birthplace of Mae West along with other hilarious errors.
• • Presumably, a newly released title will be more accurate when it comes to the empress of sex. The Neighborhoods of Queens by Long Island resident and journalist Claudia Gryvatz Copquin [with an intro by historian Kenneth Jackson] is forthcoming next month from Yale University Press.
• • On pages 76 - 77, for instance, you can read that approximately half the land in Glendale, Queens is being utilized as cemeteries. Therefore, the neighborhood's southern half is nicknamed "Cemetery Belt." Permanent residents include MAE WEST interned in a fancy mausoleum with her family — along with baseball greats Jackie Robinson and Lou Gehrig, and actor Edward G. Robinson.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none
Mae West.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mae West: Tireless Tira

On 6 October 1933, MAE WEST wowed the world when Paramount released "I'm No Angel."
• • To celebrate that blockbuster, in which Mae steps into a cage to tame the king of beasts, thereby making a childhood dream come true, let's enjoy a vintage review written by Mordaunt Hall, film critic for The New York Times, in 1933.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Arrayed in a variety of costumes which set off her sinuous form, Mae West is appearing at the Paramount in her latest screen vehicle, "I'm No Angel," a title which, as might be surmised, fits the leading character. Here Miss West who wrote the story herself from "suggestions contributed" by Lowell Brentano is beheld as a circus beauty named Tira, who wins applause and admiration by risking her blonde head in a lion's mouth twice daily.
• • It is a rapid-fire entertainment, with shameless but thoroughly contagious humor, and one in which Tira is always the mistress of the situation, whether it be in the cage with wild beasts, in her boudoir with admirers, or in a court of law.
• • Tira is ever ready with a flip double entente, and she permits no skeleton to be found behind her cupboard doors. She has an emphatic personality, which proves a magnet for even social lights with millions. She receives costly presents, including diamond necklaces, but she is hardly a gold-digger. She refrains from posing, preferring to keep her natural slangy speech in her journey through the story from a tent to a penthouse.
• • She admits that she has thrown discretion to the winds and she sometimes finds herself in an awkward predicament but through a wily lawyer she succeeds in proving that she is guiltless.
• • The feeble parts of this picture are those in which a criminal known as Slick is introduced. The less one sees of him the better one feels, for the production is interesting only as long as it proceeds on its merry route.
• • The glimpses of Tira making her impressive entry to the circus arena, and then proceeding to the big cage with the roaring lions, are depicted shrewdly. Tira does not actually stick her whole head in the lion's mouth, but contents herself by putting her face between the beast's jaws, which is quite enough. Even this is set forth with a certain degree of fun, and one feels that Tira probably has a pistol ready for an emergency and that other circus employee are ready to shoot in the event that the beast starts to close its mouth. But one is apt to wonder whether they could possibly be quick enough. Society among the spectators is thrilled, all except one snobbish girl, who is furious because her fiancĂ© is very enthusiastic over the performer's courage and her beauty.
• • Later there comes the time when Tira puts her fair head into a court of law as the plaintiff in a breach-of-promise case. She sues Jack Clayton, whom she really loves, for $1,000,000, and it is not Tira's artful counsel who wins the case, but the circus queen herself. She cross-examines the defendant's witnesses and turns their testimony in her own favor, the unusual proceeding being countenanced by a judge whose sympathy Tira wins with the utmost ease.
• • Miss West plays her part with the same brightness and naturalness that attended her second film role. There is no lack of spontaneity in her actions or in the utterance of her lines. She is a remarkable wit, after her fashion. Cary Grant is pleasing as Clayton and Walter Walker is excellent as the considerate old judge. Gregory Ratoff does well as Tira's lawyer. Wesley Ruggles has directed the film with his usual intelligence.
— 1933 film review
• • Source: The New York Times
• • Film Critic: Mordaunt Hall
• • Originally published on: 13 October 1933
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1933
Mae West.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mae West: Best Breasts

Tipping their hats to October newly annointed as "National Breast Cancer Awareness Month" the funsters at Film Threat listed "The 50 Best Breasts in Movie History." MAE WEST led their line-up of "the best breasts to ever grace the cinema screen." Also included were the Neapolitan knockers (size 38-D) of Sophia Loren, the million dollar mammaries of Jane Russell, and many more full-figured femmes.
• • The Film Threat Staff showed appreciation for the Brooklyn bombshell but why the heck did they pair their paragraph with a video scored to the song "Spooky"? Mae West was the ultimate in friendly, equally opportunity flirting. Ain't nothing spooky about that.
• • MAE WEST: IN THE BEGINNING • •
• • The woman who brought curves to the screen was Mae West, the taboo-breaking Brooklyn-born 1930s wisecracker who plied laughs while shaking her astonishing anatomy. Plenty of men wanted to come up and see her sometime, but Mae’s upper echelons actually helped saved lives in World War II. An inflatable life vest that created oversized flotation power was named the Mae West in honor of the star’s celebrated upper torso.
— Source:
• • http://www.filmthreat.com/index.php?section=features&Id=1984
• • Columnist: the Film Threat Staff
• • Published on: 9 October 2007
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • on YouTube video
Mae West.