MAE WEST had been aiming to play Catherine II of Russia [Catherine the Great] for years. She got her chance in 1944.
• • The czarina, who was born on 2 May 1729 and died on 17 November 1796, reigned as Empress of Russia for 34 years, from 28 June 1762 until her death — — during the month of November.
• • Though the drama was not a big success on Broadway, it did last for 191 performances.
• • "Catherine Was Great" had its New York City premiere on 2 August 1944. The show closed on the Gay White Way on 13 January 1945.
• • Wouldn't it be something if, during November, Catherine's restless spirit hovered over the Royale Theatre [where the production was booked on West 45th Street from 2 October 1944 until the curtains came down shortly after the New Year in 1945].
• • In a 1993 article, film critic Molly Haskell observed this about Mae: For years she tried to promote a film about Catherine the Great, in which she would offer a warmer and more sensual alternative to what she described as Dietrich's "hollow-cheeked doll." Although West finally succeeded in launching an unfunny Broadway play on the subject of the czarina, for most of her career she was in fact playing a bawdy, carnivalesque version of Catherine, surrounded by an "honor guard" of admirers. See her — — as the lion-tamer in "I'm No Angel" — — entering atop an elephant, wearing a white spangled jumpsuit. Looking at her now, we can't but applaud this middle-aged woman (she was 40 when she made her first film), undisguisedly rotund, flaunting an unliposuctioned, unsiliconed body and demanding her sexual privileges! . . .
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West and Rae Bourbon • • 1944 • •