Monday, March 31, 2008

Mae West: Moral Turpitude

Moral turpitude is back in the news — — but this time MAE WEST had passed the scepter.
• • The New York Times, in an article called "What Moral Turpitude Looks Like" [30 March 2008], was citing a U.S. Customs spokeswoman's objections when she refused to admit "the infamously debauched writer Sebastian Horsley" to this country, citing concerns of "moral turpitude." Apparently, the Englishman celebrated his past arrests in Britain for drug possession and prostitution in his book Dandy in the Underworld [NY: Harper Perennial]. Modeling a custom-made stovepipe, Horsley posed at home for The Times opposite a row of skulls.
• • Of the dramatic black Lincoln-esque headgear, Sebastian Horsley admitted, "It makes me almost pointlessly tall." But the dandy summed it up: "Dandyism, you know, you do it for yourself, but it requires a reaction or it wouldn't exist."
• • No doubt Mae West would have agreed. When writing her plays, she was counting on a certain reaction — — and without it "Sex" would not have gone so far.
• • In April 1926, Mae West opened in "Sex," which Variety described as a "nasty red-light district show." That must have been good for some advance ticket sales.
• • During the 1920s, there was an ongoing debate about what was morally acceptable in the public venue of theater and who was responsible to arbitrate that question. This was hardly a new question in the entertainment world; theater had long been considered a cauldron of unabashed and unacceptable moral turpitude.
• • Here's what some critics said about "Sex" at Daly's 63rd Street Theatre in New York City.
• • The cheapest, most vulgar, low "show" to have dared to open in New York this year — — Billboard
• • "Sex" wins high marks for depravity, dullness — — Herald Tribune
• • "Sex" is a crude drama — — The New York Times
• • "Sex" an offensive play, a monstrosity plucked from the garbage can — — New York Daily Mirror
• • Fumigation needed — — Milwaukee Sentinel
• • A sink of moral turpitude — — Variety

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo:
• • Mae West • • 1926 • •

Mae West.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mae West: Out of the Closet

MAE WEST is coming out of the closet on 4 April 2008.
• • NBC/ Universal have been opening their vaults to release some of their classic library of Paramount and Universal films.
• • DVD Times announced the April 4th releases of three two-disc “Glamour Collections” devoted to three of Paramount’s biggest female stars: Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, and Carole Lombard.
• • Here is the Mae West lineup:
• • Mae’s first film, “Night After Night”
• • Mae’s her pre-code classic “I’m No Angel,” one of her best motion pictures
• • Mae’s “Goin’ to Town”
• • Mae’s “Go West Young Man” with Cary Grant’s roommate Randolph Scott
• • Universal’s “My Little Chickadee” with W.C. Fields (which also appears on the “W.C. Fields Comedy Collection”)
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo:
• • Mae West • • 1932 • •

Mae West.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mae West: Want a Date?

MAE WEST gets her day in court — — when she returns to the Times Square area on Saturday 29 March 2008.
• •
COURTING MAE WEST will be featured at The Producer's Club [358 West 44th Street, NYC] on March 29th under the direction of Louis Lopardi, who has selected a number of actors to do a table reading.
• •
COURTING MAE WEST opens at the Algonquin Theatre (NYC) on 19 July 2008 at 7:00 PM.

• • SYNOPSIS [100 words] • •

• • Based on true events during the Prohibition Era, this 95-minute play follows a vaudeville veteran whose frustrations with the rules of male-dominated Broadway have led her to write her own material and cast her own shows. Is the Gay White Way ready for love stories that feature New York City drag queens instead of card-carrying members of the union? Is the legitimate theatre ripe for racially integrated melodramas set in Harlem? Is the Rialto raring to reward a working-class heroine determined to sin and win?
• • Come up and see Mae West as she challenges bigotry, fights City Hall, and climbs the ladder of success wrong by wrong.


• • How about a date?
• • Plan ahead. Get ready to come up and see Mae onstage in New York City when the Annual Fresh Fruit Festival presents "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship and Secrets" (based on true events 1926 — 1932 when Mae West was arrested and jailed) under the direction of Louis Lopardi at the Algonquin Theatre [123 East 24th Street, NYC 10010] July 19th — 22nd, 2008.
• • "COURTING MAE WEST" opens at 7 o'clock on Saturday night July 19, 2008 at the Algonquin Theatre [East 24th Street and Park Avenue South].
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • "COURTING MAE WEST" — — showtimes
• • July 19th, 2008 — — 7:00 PM
• • July 20th, 2008 — — 1:00 PM matinee
• • July 21st, 2008 — — 6:00 PM
• • July 22nd, 2008 — — 9:00 PM
• • Tickets to COURTING MAE WEST will only be about $20 - $25 per person.
• • The theatre has 99 seats.
• •
SPECIAL: $100 - $150 donation — — donor gets name in the Program — — and 1 free ticket to the play.
• • $151 - $500 donation — — donor gets name in Program and TWO free tickets to the play and invited to all parties.
• • Fresh Fruit Festival: a non-profit group organizes this ambitious annual festival [now in its 7th year]. The colorful two-week arts festival is a money-losing venture sustained by funds from The New York City Council, a culture grant from New York State, a stipend from Senator Tom Duane, and donations from good people.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Source:http://maewest.blogspot.com/atom.xml

• • Photo:
• • Mae West • • 1927 • •

Mae West.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Mae West: Strong Women

MAE WEST made a brief appearance in an article about strong women even though the focus was on Bette Davis who was, Johann Hari wrote, "self-confident enough to demand to look bad on camera."
• • Johann Hari's column observed: Precisely a century ago, in a suburb of Boston, a child called Bette Davis erupted into the world. She was not only a woman; she was an electrical storm with skin. With nothing but raw talent and raw determination, she became the most famous woman in the world, taking on the Hollywood studio system, the FBI and the Catholic Church.
• • For a while, this not-especially-beautiful woman in her forties ruled Hollywood, playing tough women who chose their careers and their own desires over sacrificing for men or children or a picket fence. She never pretended to be dumb, or a little girl. She didn't do soft, or simpering. She had a voice like sour cream, and eyes like a raven. Humphrey Bogart said about her: "Unless you're very big she can knock you down." And she was one of the great events of her time.
• • She was popular with the mostly-female movie audience - women like my grandmother, who gave me my first glimpse of Bette Davis movies from her lap - in part because her characters will not accept 'their place.' They want more, more, more. It was not easy to be a strong woman then; she said, "When a man gives his opinion he's a man. When a woman gives her opinion she's a bitch." But she fought, and women responded to it. She was only the most shimmering example of a generation of tough Hollywood women whose characters saw the world as a place not to cower from or simper at, but to conquer: MAE WEST (who made her first film at 40), Lauren Bacall, Katherine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Barbra Stanwyck, Rosalind Russell, Marlene Dietrich, and more. ...
— — Excerpt: — —
• • "Where have all the strong women gone?"
• • Byline: Johann Hari
• • Published in: The London Independent — — www.independent.co.uk/
• • Published on: 27 March 2008
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Source:http://maewest.blogspot.com/atom.xml

• • Photo:
Mae West • • none • •

Mae West.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mae West: More Than Once

Several New Yorkers had seen Mae West's play "Sex" more than once — including Sergeant Patrick Keneally, who had taken an exhaustive number of notes while attending three performances at Daly's 63rd Street Theatre in the line of duty.
• • Police action against "Sex" had been more in opposition to "The Drag" than to Margy LaMont's lascivious adventures, explains Jill Watts in her impeccably researched bio: Mae West: An Icon in Black and White.
• • According to Jill Watts: While efforts to mothball "The Drag" succeeded, "Sex" played to capacity crowds for several more weeks. However, by the beginning of March [1927], attendance had died off and profits shrank. Desperate to keep the production alive, the Morals Production Corporation ordered a 25% pay cut for everyone. Several players handed in their notices. Finally, on Sunday, March 19, after the evening's performance, Morganstern announced that Mae West was physically exhausted and was closing the play. Yet he also emphasized her determination to fight the case to its end.
• • According to Jill Watts: Only a few days later, the New York State senate passed the Wales Padlock Bill, which required the district attorney to prosecute everyone associated with an indecent production and to lock down for one year any theatre that hosted such shows. It was less severe than mandating a stage censor and allowed the power over Broadway to remain with the district attorney, who in New York was the Tammany Hall loyalist Banton. The bill now sat waiting on Al Smith's desk.
• • In Jefferson Market Police Court (on Sixth Avenue and West Ninth Street) the defendants from the "Sex" raid came to trial on 28 March 1927. The prosecution's case rested on the testimony of Sergeant Keneally and his ability to take rapid, accurate stenography in a darkened playhouse. New York's district attorney, perhaps addicted to the fortissimo eloquence of inner lives magnificently thwarted by the law, was prepared to step into his gladiator mode to do battle with the dauntless leonine jezebel of the Jazz Era — Mae West.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • The serious-minded comedy "Courting Mae West" by Greenwich Village playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo, set during 1926 1932, explores Mae West's legal woes. Act I, Scenes 3 — 4 dramatize both the police raid on 9 February 1927 and the tense aftermath at Jefferson Market Police Court.
• • Using fictional elements, the text is anchored by true events and has several characters who are based on real people: actress Mae West; Beverly West; Jim Timony; Texas Guinan; Mr. Isidore, a news seller on Sixth Avenue and West 9th Street; and Sara Starr, based on the Greenwich Village flapper Starr Faithfull, whose death inspired John O'Hara's novel "Butterfield 8" and a dozen other books.
• • "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets" will be onstage at the Algonquin Theatre [123 East 24th Street, New York, NY 10010] by July 19, 2008.
• • Get ready to come up and see Mae onstage in mid-July 2008.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Source:http://maewest.blogspot.com/atom.xml

• • Photo:
• • Mae West • • 1927 • •

Mae West.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mae West: "Sex" Wanted

MAE WEST fan and drama critic Glenn Loney pens a fascinatin' column for New York Theatre Wire called "Glenn Loney's Show Notes."
• • The text below is a brief excerpt from Glenn Loney's in-depth article that appeared in the month of March eight years ago [on 1 March 2000].
• • Glenn Loney wrote: Over a decade ago, the trio of talents who run Glasgow's Citizens' Theatre asked me to get them a copy of "Sex." They wanted to produce it as part of their brilliantly eclectic repertory.
• • I found it impossible to get a copy of the script. Nor were performance rights available.
• • When I was advising Dr. Richard Helfer on his CUNY PhD Dissertation research for a study of Mae West and her banned plays we found it impossible even to quote lines from the plays.
• • The Mae West Estate must have had a recent change of heart. ...
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: "Sex" a Play by Mae West
• • Byline: Glenn Loney
• • Published on: www.nytheatre-wire.com/
• • Published on: 1 March 2000
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Since that bleak black-out period, "Sex" has been performed by companies in New York City; by Icarus Falling in Lansing, Michigan during October 2005; and (most recently) by the Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley, California, where the well-received production starring Delia MacDougall was held over until 23 December 2007.
• • Get ready to come up and see Mae onstage in New York City when the Annual Fresh Fruit Festival presents "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship and Secrets" (based on true events 1926 1932 when Mae West was arrested and jailed) under the direction of Louis Lopardi at the Algonquin Theatre [123 East 24th Street, NYC 10010] July 19th 22nd, 2008.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Source:http://maewest.blogspot.com/atom.xml

• • Photo:
• • Mae West • • 1926 • •

Mae West.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mae West: Copper Door

MAE WEST stayed at the Hotel San Carlos in Phoenix, Arizona during the 1930s — and the owners never forgot the honor.
• • Currently, Shirley Peterson, a vivacious 80 year-old songstress is helping to reinvigorate the Hotel San Carlos by entertaining the guests.
• • There the porcelain-skinned blonde sits under a black and white portrait of Mae West [costumed for her role in "She Done Him Wrong"] and plays the grand piano in the Copper Door on Saturdays, commanding the attention of the cocktail crowd in the charmingly historic room.
• • Just before the hotel celebrated its 80th anniversary in March 2008, general manager Corrin Green contacted Shirley Peterson, asking her to play in the first-floor space that
even with such a long history felt oddly empty, soulless even.
• • "And as soon as we got Shirley in here, there was no question. She owned the room," said Green.
• • How could the Copper Door feel "empty" or "soulless" with the Brooklyn bombshell presiding over the salon? Well, no doubt, Peterson and Mae West are making beautiful music on Saturdays in Arizona. We can only hope that Shirley plays a mean version of "Frankie and Johnny."
• • Did you know that the Grand Canyon State has its very own copy of Hollywood's star-studded sidewalk? The sidewalk outside Phoenix's historic Hotel San Carlos which opened in 1928 as the first air-conditioned hotel in the state has its own walk of fame.
• • Celebrities such as MAE WEST, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Carole Lombard, and Marilyn Monroe stayed at the hotel when visiting the desert. To commemorate the hotel's 65th anniversary in 1993, the walk of stars was added outside, on both Central Avenue and Monroe Street.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo:
Mae West • • 1933 • •

Mae West.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mae West: Steady Supply of Sex

Eight years ago, Cintra Wilson wrote: "There has been a recent off-Broadway renaissance focused on Mae West."
• • With a new book on Mae West due to be released in April 2008 by Taschen, and a successful winter revival of "Sex" a sweet recent memory for the Aurora Theatre
[and actress Delia MacDougall] in Berkeley, and an a-Mae-zing new Mae West play about to be staged at the Algonquin Theatre this summer in New York, it seems time to revist Wilson's essay for Salon Magazine that originally appeared in February 2000.
• • Here is an excerpt fom the engaging feature written by Cintra Wilson.
• • Smart young women are starting to figure out that the outrageous self-possession of West's sexual persona is rather a cool and isolated thing in the world of celebrity. This was especially true back when she was doing it. It is especially true today, when the most pervasive attribute of "attractive" women competing for male sexual attention is the way they passive-aggressively (or aggressively) abuse themselves in one way or another with weight loss, surgical enhancements and other severe physical renovations, in supplication to physiologically unlikely and generally ass-out beauty standards, i.e., they dislike what they are and chain-whip themselves into fitting the currently reigning beauty template.
• • Mae West liked the other kind of self-abuse better. She was an unstopping font of self-approval, who could justify any passion for herself, any look, any sensation, any sin; she was, in her way, truly liberated. When the fashion of the time shifted away from her body type, she adopted a different decade; West got herself up as an 1890s good-time girl in order to make the most of her womanly mounds instead of trying to bind herself into the no-hipped, no-breasted flapper look of the '20s. When she didn't like her lines, she rewrote them. When acting roles stopped coming her way, she wrote her own. When the cops came, she laughed. . . .
• • When people think of Mae West, if they aren't very familiar with her work, they generally think of a big woman in a huge hat, a Dolly Parton wig, and a hazardously plunging neckline who growled innuendo at men in a sexually threatening fashion until she was so old it was downright scary.
• • One doesn't generally think of West as a playwright, but she was indeed the author of six plays produced on Broadway between 1926 and 1931, and ended up doing time for it. In 1927, West spent eight days at Welfare Island Women's Workhouse (now Roosevelt Island) after being convicted of producing a work "calculated to excite in the spectator impure imagination." West was tried on obscenity charges after police shut down her play "Sex" (ironically, after it had been in full production for nearly a year) in order to prevent the impending opening of her second play, "The Drag" (subtitled "A Homosexual Comedy") which featured transvestites. A man in a dress was always a good sight gag, but not, in the '20s, if he actually liked it.
• • West thrived on the bad publicity, however, tenaciously wiggling even harder into the public eye, after one 1926 review bore the headline "Monstrosity Plucked From Garbage Can. Destined to Sewer." West knew exactly how hypocritically full of shit all the flak she was getting was, and lustily reveled in getting her name in the papers for good or ill; she knew that ultimately the notoriety was the best thing possible for her career. "I expect it will be the making of me," she gushed to all the New York papers when she was hauled off to jail. She was right.
• • David Thompson wrote of Mae West: "The real conclusion of her work is that sex is an idea, an obsession for the human being, and one of the most reliable distractions from the equally potent idea that life is tragic."
• • "Sex" is the tale of a Montreal prostitute who decides to "go straight" after a stint following the naval fleet to Trinidad. It's fairly dumb, but funny -- there's a shiny, red double-entendre in virtually every couplet. The play exults in the eternal question: Is class the only difference between prostitutes and women who marry for money? I like that theme, and have always wondered why whores get arrested while Georgette Mosbacher is still free to roam the streets.
• • "Ever since I knew what sex was I knew that men were hunters," hisses Margy LaMont, West's demimonde heroine. "I blame men for the way I am." The story, sadly, winds up like just another Whore With a Heart of Gold tale: Margy has a moral breakthrough, opts for dismissing what might be her true happiness and selflessly moves to (here we go again) Australia, to live out her days in vigorous self-improvement and modesty. Boo. Once again, even in West's world, the scarlet woman has to be a thousand times more morally responsible than anyone else in order to balance and/or justify her experiences.
• • I wanted the hooker to marry the rich boy and make him very happy by loving him and giving him a red-hot good time for the rest of his life, forcing everyone to forgive and forget her checkered past with a little sophisticated wink, brazenly charting her own moral universe.
• • "When I'm good, I'm very, very good, but when I'm bad, I'm better," said West, often. Too bad she never went all the way with that idea, to become a true sexual antihero. She shocked and scandalized, but always in a way that could be deemed charming by the randier average Joes and good-time Charlies; she never really scared anyone but the super-puritanical squares.
• • West did chart her own moral universe, but more in her life than in her art. She also never really knew when to quit, ignoring all signs of wear and playing the come-hither screen coquette until well into her 70s and eventually becoming a frightening joke, a symbol of overripe sexuality. While we'd all like to be raucously humping into advanced old age, none of us really wants to visualize it too graphically; sex in old age, ideally, becomes more demure and spiritual. Mae West was always a brazen tramp, a great tongue-in-cheek sexual bully, down hard to the end, but there's a lot to be said for that, too. . . .
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: "Sex" and Synanon onstage
• • Byline: Cintra Wilson
• • Published in: Salon.com
• • Published on: 17 February 2000
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo:
• • Mae West • • 1927 • •

Mae West.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mae West Defies Cops

"MAE WEST Defies Cops" read the cover of the Evening Graphic on 2 October 1928. But the month of March brought even more trouble into her life than the police raid in autumn.
• • Thanks to Mae's arrest on 9 February 1927, the very next month — — March 1927 — — the New York State Legislature passed legislation [Section 1140-a of the Penal Code] banning all depictions of homosexuality on the stage.
• • Three years later, when Mae West's "Pleasure Man" trial before Judge Bertini began on 17 March 1930, the District Attorney charged that Mae violated Section 1140-a by writing another gay play and he also charged her with the crime of maintaining a public nuisance — — an insulting charge typically levied at speakeasies and skidrow saloons not playwrights.
• • Lillian Schlissel wrote a fine introduction to her 1997 edition of Mae West's "obscene" plays.
• • Book reviewer Rick Whitaker wrote this article for The New York Observer in 1997. This text is Whitaker's — — along with a few of his errors.

• • Mae West Wrote Plays; Pity We Can Only Read Them by Rick Whitaker
• • Mae West was thrown into jail in New York on Feb. 9, 1927, for having written and starred in a play called Sex, the content of which a grand jury deemed "wicked, lewd, scandalous, bawdy, obscene, indecent, infamous, immoral, and impure." By the time the case went to trial on May 28th [sic — incorrect date], Sex had been performed on Broadway 339 times and had been seen by about 325,000 people.
• • After spending the night in the Jefferson Market Women's Prison, Miss West provided the $14,000 bail it cost to have herself and her 22 colleagues
— — her cast and producer — — released. Three years later, she would spend $60,000 defending The Pleasure Man against similar charges at a time when ticket prices ranged from 50 cents to $1.50 and gross receipts of $5,000 per week were considered pretty terrific. It would still be five years before Miss West would make her film debut in Night After Night, shrewdly upstaging the far more beautiful Constance Cummings with her very first big line. (The coat-check girl says, "Goodness, what beautiful diamonds," to which Miss West replies in thickest Brooklynese, "Goodness had nothing to do with it, my dear.")
• • The jury for the Sex case found Miss West and her producer guilty of obscenity and endangering the morals of youth, and she was sentenced to 10 days in jail and a $500 fine. She arrived on Welfare Island in a limousine, carrying an armload of white roses and smiling for the photographers. Upon her release, she donated $1,000 — — what Liberty magazine had paid for an interview with her — — to found the Mae West Memorial Library in the women's prison. Her career was off to a roaring start, and she was quoted later to say, "Considering what Sex got me, a few days in the pen 'n' a $500 fine ain't too bad a deal." Her troubles with the law over her "works of art" (which her lawyer compared in court to A Tale of Two Cities, Hamlet, and the Bible) were perfectly congruent with her budding theatrical persona as one of the great icons of female hell-raising.
• • The prosecutors in all the cases against Miss West's plays, as is evident from the legal documents printed as an appendix to Three Plays by Mae West, were not concerned so much with the actual events or lewdness in the plays as with the depiction of "fairies" on a public stage. In "Notes for Prosecution Arguments in People v. Mae West et al," a prosecutor notes that "these men were not mere female impersonators, but degenerates, who, even offstage, when not performing, adopted the mannerisms of women." His only mistake was that, in all likelihood, these "degenerate" men were never not performing: They were, in life as in the theater, the great gay characters of 1920s New York — — and Mae West was devoted to them.
• • One of her main influences, as noted by the book's editor, Lillian Schlissel, in a fascinating short introduction, was Bert Savoy, a vaudeville actor who played "cheeky dames named Margie and Maude, gossipy secretaries and beauticians, party girls, and flirts." Offstage, Savoy was just as campy as in the theater. "Stopping in front of Saks Fifth Avenue," Ms. Schlissel writes, "he told friends, 'It's just too much. I don't care if he'" — — presumably meaning an imaginary sugar daddy — — "'is building it for me.… I'll never live in it!' Mae West on stage probably owed more to Bert Savoy than to any woman in the theater before 1920." She was as close as any woman has ever come to being one of the great American queens.
• • With the publication of these plays, we see some of the sources of her persona, notes for a memorable character. As Ms. Schlissel admits in the introduction, West was not an original writer; nor was she a great one. The plays themselves surely would be much better on stage than they are in print. The third act of The Drag, a vehicle for her openly gay entourage (who were wonderful performers, no doubt), opens with a party where the "girls" are tossing around lines such as "I'm the type that men prefer. I can at least go through the Navy yard without having the flags drop to half-mast." In a good production, these parties would be a lot of fun; unfortunately, in print they seem stiff and wooden.
• • The Drag (1927), subtitled A Homosexual Comedy in Three Acts, is a rather heavy-handed defense of social difference, which was West's main theme. Tragedy, for her, resulted from being pushed out, or kept out, of a class or club to which one feels entitled to belong. In The Drag, Rolly Kingsbury manages to alienate himself from every connection. The crazed man in love with him (West called him "an outcast" in her cast list) kills Rolly in the end; Rolly's father-in-law arranges for the act to be called a suicide.
• • The comedy in the subtitle is provided by the gay guys with their campy lines about cabdrivers and ball gowns, and by the situation of Rolly's loopy wife, who doesn't understand what's wrong with her marriage. ("What's he done?" she's asked. "Why, nothing. That's just it," she replies.)
• • The Pleasure Man is a revision of The Drag. The story is of a modern Don Juan, an actor who seduces one girl after another and who eventually gets punished for his sins: One girl's big brother cuts the actor's dick off. Again, there are homosexuals everywhere, but they are just the spice for what would otherwise be a bland play that "tells a moral story"
— — which is how West described it in court.
• • The best of the three plays is the earliest-written in 1926 — — and the only one in which West acted (in the title role), Sex. Mae West played Margy LaMont, an experienced and ambitious prostitute from Montreal ("I'm a jane that craves service"). In Act 1, Margy saves the life of Clara Stanton, a society dame on a naughty fling, who then accuses Margy of robbing her. Margy swears revenge. In Act 2, Margy has followed the fleet down to Trinidad.
• • (The playbill ad for Sex reads, "The story of a bad little girl who was good to the navy!")
• • Jimmy, a rich civilian, falls in love with her: "There was a certain look in your eyes," he says to Margy.
• • "What kind of a certain look?"
• • "I don't know, but I only hope you don't look at any other man that way."
• • "You silly boy," Margy says.
• • Margy goes back to the East Coast with her new boyfriend and discovers that the guy's mother is old Clara Stanton. A cat fight ensues, and this must have been really great theater. Margy says, "I'll bet without this beautiful home, without money, and without any restrictions, you'd be worse than I have ever been.… The only difference between us is that you could afford to give it away."
• • Sex is well written, it's funny — — and it gave West a superb opportunity to develop the type we have seen in her best movies.
• • Telling her about Trinidad, one character says, "Why, down there, you can get a room and a bath, a wife and a bottle of liquor for two dollars." Margy drawls in reply, "It must be bum liquor." The comedy is often a little dark: When Jimmy comes downstairs, in his parents' house, and finds Margy with a lieutenant of the navy she was so good to, he asks, "What is my little sweetheart doing? Entertaining?" And Margy replies, "Not tonight, dear."
• • Mae West was many things-sexual outlaw, wildcat feminist, actress, icon. The publication of these plays proves that she was more complex than her movies suggest. The only thing she did straightforwardly was to insist that her convictions were worth fighting for. And she fought for them.
• • FROM: Book Review: Three Plays by Mae West: 'Sex,' 'The Drag' and 'The Pleasure Man,' edited by Lillian Schlissel. Routledge, 246 pages.
— — Source: — —
• • Mae West Wrote Plays; Pity We Can Only Read Them
• • Book Review by Rick Whitaker | October 26, 1997
• • This article was published in the October 27, 1997, edition of The New York Observer.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo:
• • Mae West • • 1928 • •

Mae West.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Mae West: Sandbagged

Vincent Canby looks back on the career of MAE WEST in an article published in The New York Times [13 February 2000] and focuses on her sexpot image in a film released in the USA on 15 March 1940.
• • Did you see "My Little Chickadee"?
• • Vincent Canby writes: When Mae went to Hollywood, her good humor and bold assumption of sexual authority, coupled with her raunchy aphorisms of Wildean balance, transformed her into one of the world's biggest box-office attractions. She was also the reason Hollywood overhauled the Production Code, the apparatus by which the industry censored its own material, in this way to combat the new licentiousness represented by little Mae.
• • Her first three movies, ''Night After Night'' (1932), ''She Done Him Wrong'' (1933), and ''I'm No Angel'' (1933), are stuffed with the grand doubles-entendres that she never tired of recycling for the rest of her life. It's in ''I'm No Angel'' that she plays a lion tamer who sticks her head into the big cat's mouth, prompting an admirer to say significantly, ''She's safer in that cage than she is in bed.'' This is the same movie in which she enunciated as her dictum about men: ''Find 'em, fool 'em, 'n forget 'em.'' Which, in 1933, was her variation on what men, especially the sort whom Mae admired most, were supposed to say about women.
• • Yet by the end of the 1930's, Mae West's movies were no longer sure-fire box-office hits. It wasn't only because the Production Code was sanitizing her material. Her range was limited and she was repeating herself. She might have gone on forever as the supporting character actress she was in ''Night After Night,'' but she couldn't resist playing the star. When she hogs the screen a certain monotony creeps into her work; it soon seems as if she is imitating herself.
• • A further problem was her age. Mae started late in Hollywood; she had her 40th birthday while shooting ''I'm No Angel.'' Her ample figure was less easily disguised in contemporary clothes than in the sort of gowns worn by Lillian Russell, but she couldn't confine her films to tales set in the Gay Nineties.
• • Mae West isn't forgotten today, but she is probably best remembered in oblique ways, in association with other things, like the busty life jackets that World War II servicemen nicknamed for her. She is still recalled by occasional impersonators, some of whom are more bizarre than others. Following the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, there was a news photograph of the child wearing the sort of feather boa and cartwheel hat that Mae sported in ''She Done Him Wrong.''
• • Mae's films still can be found in video rental shops, of course. Yet I suspect that the one rented most frequently is ''My Little Chickadee.'' This 1940 comedy-western about a hooker and a card shark is not, strictly speaking, a true Mae West movie, having been stolen by the nimble, white-gloved digits of W. C. Fields, her larcenous co-star.
• • Mae made three films after ''My Little Chickadee,'' but she might as well have retired then and there. W.C. Fields — — no gallant gentleman he (as Mae well knew) — — damaged her reputation in subtle ways that, for lethal effect, equaled the destruction wreaked on her pictures by the Production Code.
• • Fields didn't try to clean up her act; he did something far worse: he made Mae, the laid-back, self-mocking good-time girl of ''She Done Him Wrong'' and ''I'm No Angel,'' look not only humorless but mean and spiteful. Though Mae, playing Flower Belle, sets up the elaborate gag that transforms ''My Little Chickadee'' into one of the funniest movies ever made, the way the gag works out demolishes Mae's public persona.
• • To escape Cuthbert J. Twillie (Fields), who believes he has conjugal rights, Flower Belle puts a goat in the bed of their bridal suite, blows out the lamps and leaves the room in darkness. Twillie enters from the bathroom and climbs into bed, noting, after a decent pause, that Flower Belle seems to be sleeping in her caracul coat. ''Better take it off, dear,'' says Twillie with concern, ''you won't feel the good of it when you go out. . . .'' When the goat lets out a long ''m-a-a-a-a!,'' Twillie is sent into paroxysms of bliss. ''The sweet little dear,'' he says, ''is calling for her mama. Such blind innocence. . . .''
• • The sequence is priceless, but it also has the effect of making Mae West appear to be frosty and completely out of touch with her co-star, which she was. Mae was not a team player. But then she knew enough to realize that the character she always played, Superhooker, couldn't stand too much realism. When actual joy, passion or even humiliation are evident, the Superhooker appears ridiculous, like Miss Piggy in an otherwise conventional adaptation of ''Little Women.'' Mae took top billing in ''My Little Chickadee'' but she wound up sandbagged by Fields.
• • Chicago native Vincent Canby [27 July 1924 — 15 September 2000] was a longtime film critic.
— — excerpt — —
• • Article by Vincent Canby
• • Published in The New York Times
• • Published on: 13 February 2000
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• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo:
Mae West • • 1940 • •

Mae West.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Mae West: Timothy Dalton

MAE WEST co-starred with some extraordinarily handsome leading men such as Timothy Dalton, who is celebrating his 64th birthday today.
• • Timothy Dalton was born in Colwyn Bay, Wales on 21 March 1944. Though Welsh-born, he is of British, Italian, and Irish ancestry. His mother is from the New York City borough the Bronx. Timothy grew up in Manchester, England with a background in show-biz, since both of his grandfathers were vaudevillians. After leaving school, he joined the National Youth Theatre for 3 summers, and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for 2 years. He joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1966, where he played many leading roles.
• • When he was 33 years old, Timothy Dalton first flew to Hollywood in 1977, to become the leading man of the iconic screen queen Mae West [1893—1980] in her last film. In Sextette (1978), with a cast that included Tony Curtis, Ringo Starr, George Hamilton, Walter Pidgeon, and George Raft, Timothy even ended up marrying the cinema legend whose sexual suggestiveness was as amorously artful as it was essentially innocent. In an interview, Timothy Dalton said he would never ever forget the experience.
• • "I'll never forget meeting her for the first time. We went in to see Mae West in a room where everything was white with gold trim on it. It was quite small, I thought, for somebody as fabulously rich as she was. It was only later that I realized that she owned the entire apartment block — — though I doubt that she ever spent a penny on herself in her life; everybody was too busy buying her presents and asking her out.
• • "Then Mae West came in. She was wearing a white suit and a large bouffant hairstyle and these long nails ... there was a great lady. I was very curious, very fascinated by her. Not to put too fine a point on it, we were all wondering, knowing how old she was, if we were going to be able to work with her.
• • "As it happened, she was delightful. I think the most extraordinary thing about knowing Mae West was the realization that she was a brilliant lady. When somebody is that famous, you're never quite sure whether her fame stems largely from the publicity hokum, but she could always come up with a line that was funnier than anybody else's. . . ."
• • "Of course," adds Timothy with a smile that conceals more than reveals, "she was a bit of a flirt. But she tried it only once with me! She had a nice twinkle in her eye, a nice sparkle. Oh, it was definitely an experience I wouldn't have missed for the world."
• • Get ready to come up and see Mae onstage in mid-July 2008.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo:
Mae West • • Timothy Dalton
• • "Sextette" 1978 • •

Mae West.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mae West: Forbidden DVD

MAE WEST sashays through a recent article on Pre-code cinema which calls her "the standard bearer for excesses that led to code enforcement in 1934."
• • Come back, little she-wit. Mae, we need you more than ever in this celluloid era of stunted growth comedy. Though each weekend brings new releases to the local multi-plex, there are so few that appeal to any movie-goer older than 12 years old. New York City film reviewers are rating most comedies with one star or lower — — indicating that there is little reason to maintain a contrarian's faith in Hollywood's silver screen stewardship.
• • In contrast, a visit to the Greenbriar Picture Show site is always bracing. That's where this article appeared: "What's Your Pre-Code Threshold? — — Part One."
• • A nosegay of colorful vintage posters dots the screen. In between the slightly faded blossoms of Hollywood's golden age there are merely three sentences that point to the Empress of Sex flashing through the DVD
Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin, and Censorship In Pre-Code Hollywood. Here they are:
• • TCM has a new documentary that came with their latest Forbidden Hollywood DVD collection. Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin, and Censorship In Pre-Code Hollywood was written and produced by Steven Smith and is the best summary of that era we’ve gotten so far. It has all the pace and energy of the pre-code films it covers and runs to about the same length as a typical Warner’s programmer. Made up primarily of highlights and footage from features owned by Warners, the only outside footage I noted was a brief glimpse of Mae West in I’m No Angel, surely a necessity as she remains the standard bearer for excesses that led to code enforcement in 1934. ...
• • Source: Greenbriar Picture Show
• • Read more — — http://greenbriarpictureshows.blogspot.com/
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• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo:
Mae West • • 1933 • •

Mae West.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mae West: "M" as in . . .

The past is another country — — and MAE WEST was most comfortable there.
• • However, in her Broadway blockbuster "Diamond Lil" [1928] Mae's aim was not to resurrect the naughty nineties — — but to present that bygone decade's sins in shifty soft focus. The world of Diamond Lil, restrained by Victorian morality despite a certain cheeky daring, was a backwards glance to a time of innocence, picturesque entertainment, well-behaved wildness, corset-clad temptresses, The Police Gazette's seductions, and 5-cent beer.
• • Drama critic Stark Young [1881—1963] analyzed Mae's clever maneuvers in his article for The New Republic:
• • "Diamond Lil" is as daring in the end [as 1926's "Sex"], the same sexy morsels, embraces, 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 from The New Republic — 27 June 1928].
• • Louis Lopardi, who will direct "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship and Secrets" in July at the Algonquin Theatre, also feels enriched by the past. His own production — — The Purgatory Project, Part 2 — — reimagined the lives led by four famous historical figures: Sigmund Freud, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Lee Harvey Oswald.
• • A history buff as well as a thespian, Lopardi especially enjoys plays with a classical echo, texts rooted to a mythic past. For instance, he found "Metamorphoses," a play based on the Greek poem Metamorphoses by Ovid, fascinating and he relished the modernized adaptation written by Mary Zimmerman a few years ago. Ovid works onstage because those depictions of yearning and confused desires are timeless, feels Lopardi.
• • Since he has frequently decanted Ovid's ancient songs, he noticed right away the mythic skin underneath "Courting Mae West" — — the Brooklyn bombshell's story reimagined as the metamorphosis of King Midas. How you get the golden touch is one of the subtle sub-plots here. As Mae's career goals recalibrate her box office appeal, she will earn her hard cold slice of success — — but at a cost.
• • "I like a multi-layered comedy," admits Lopardi. "The best shows make you laugh for an hour and a half — — and then, untethered from your Playbill, you mull it over at home."
• • Bringing "Courting Mae West" to an audience requires funding. To support A Company Of Players, a non-profit theatre group established in 1979 to present meaningful theatre, please click on this link — — http://www.companyofplayers.com/support.htm
• • A Company Of Players is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)3 type organization, and donations to the group are considered a charitable, tax-deductible contribution.
• • Contribute through "Pay Pal" or you can mail a check to: A Company Of Players, 545 Eighth Avenue, #401, New York NY 10018-4307.
• • "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets" will be onstage at the Algonquin Theatre [123 East 24th Street, New York, NY 10010] soon after the Independence Day holidays.
• • Get ready to come up and see Mae onstage in mid-July 2008.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo:
Mae West • •
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Mae West.