MAE WEST had to fight with Paramount Pictures to get the musician Duke Ellington 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.
• • Backed by Duke Ellington and his orchestra, Mae West performed "My Old Flame" [written by Arthhur Johnston and Sam Coslow] — — as entertainer Ruby Carter. Covered by the screen queen in 1934, the song was brought back to popularity almost 30 years later by The Ray Charles Singers in 1961. Ella Fitzgerald covered it with Joe Pass in 1976; Linda Ronstadt revived it in 1984.
• • 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.
• • Born in Washington, D.C. on 29 April 1899, Duke Ellington died in May — — 24 May 1974.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1934 • •