Monday, October 20, 2008

Mae West: Mr. Blackwell

In 1944, 22-year-old Brooklynite Richard Sylvan Seltzer landed a small part in MAE WEST's Broadway show, "Catherine Was Great."
• • Born on 29 August 1922, he was the younger of two sons of impoverished parents who were evicted from their apartment several times. More than once, Richard and his brother, Benson, lived in homes for troubled boys. Their father abandoned the family when Richard was a teenager.
• • Like many children who dream of something better, he got his start as a young actor with minor roles in several Broadway shows and was in the cast of "Dead End," which starred the Dead End Kids.
• • When the show closed in 1937, Blackwell moved to Los Angeles with his mother and brother and found work in movies, starting with "Little Tough Guy" (1938) — — a spinoff of the Broadway show he left behind. He got another small role that year in "Juvenile Court," starring Rita Hayworth.
• • Meeting Mae West in the mid 1940s was unforgettable. Shortly afterward, he met movie producer Howard Hughes, who changed his name to Richard Blackwell. Howard Hughes chose the name to sound "theatrical, polished, memorable," Blackwell wrote in his autobiography.
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Eventually, he became "Mr. Blackwell," whose annual "worst dressed" list dressed down movie stars, music icons, and European royalty with the predilection for making a fashion faux pas. This helped turn him into a household name.
• • Blackwell died on 19 October 2008. He was 86.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:

• • Photo:
• • Mae West • • none
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Mae West.

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