Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mae West: Jesse Lasky

More than anything, vaudevillian MAE WEST wanted to be "in the legit" — — on The Gay White Way — — and Jesse Lasky gave her an opportunity.
• • In 1911, Jesse Lasky opened the "Folies-Bergere," a plush theatre restaurant on West 46th Street and he cast a pretty 18-year-old Mae to appear in the cabaret with a comedy duo, Cook and Lorenz. The extravaganza was produced by Ned Wayburn, Mae's dancing teacher and was called "A La Broadway." The venue was all wrong for this production, which lasted only eight nights. Nevertheless, the show won Mae some attention.
• • The New York Herald reported: "There were some shining lights in the cast — — notably Mae West." The New York Times critic wrote: "A girl named Mae West, hitherto unknown, pleased by her grotesquerie and a snappy way of singing and dancing."
• • Born in San Francisco, California on 13 September 1880, Jesse Lasky went on to be the founder of the Jesse Lasky Feature Play Company, which later merged with Adolph Zukor's Famous Players to form the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, one of the major studios of the silent era.
• • Quite versatile, Jesse Lasky started out as a reporter and then made failed plans to join the Alaska Gold Rush. Also a talented musician, Lasky then tried his hand at being a bandleader in Hawaii. Upon his return to the United States, he and his sister Blanche teamed up to play the coronet in vaudeville; this led to his becoming a vaudeville promoter.
• • In 1913 he and his brother-in-law Samuel Goldfish (who later became Sam Goldwyn) formed the first studio with Goldfish functioning as president and Lasky as the vice-president. In 1914, their first film, The Squaw Man, became a great hit and an industry milestone in that it was the first epic western; its success also helped make Hollywood a center for filmmaking. Eventually his Famous Players-Lasky company merged and merged again until it became Paramount, another major studio in American cinema history.
• • Perhaps thirteen was his lucky number. Born on the 13th of September, Jesse Lasky died on 13 January 1958 at age 77.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:

• • Photo:
• • Mae West • • Folies-Bergere
• • 1911 • •

Mae West.

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