Monday, October 13, 2008

Mae West: October 1918

It was ninety years ago this October when 25-year-old MAE WEST was cast in a show produced by Arthur Hammerstein: "Sometime."
• • This musical, which opened at the Shubert Theatre [225 West 44th Street, NYC] on 4 October 1918, closed in June 1919, after running for 283 performances.
• • One of the most repeated jokes in "Sometime" was Ed Wynn's line: What is a man to do in wartime when he can't make both ends meet? [Answer: Make one end vegetables.] But the somber echoes of the World War were growing less oppressive by the time autumn arrived. The Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918 amid national fanfare and rejoicing.
• • Earlier that year (on 24 May 1918), Variety Magazine announced that "Mae West, known in vaudeville for some seasons as a 'single,' is going into Arthur Hammerstein's forthcoming musical play 'Sometime,' which starts rehearsals in July." Variety added this peculiar [incorrect] note: "It will be her first appearance in the legitimate."
• • Mae played an enticing flapper Mayme Dean who could not land a man. One of her songs — written by Rida Johnson Young was "Vampire with No One to Vamp."
• • Born on 21 December 1872 and educated in New York City, Arthur Hammerstein was raised by a show-biz-savvy family; his brother was the theatre mogul Willie Hammerstein.
• • After the try-outs in Atlantic City, Ed Wynn replaced Herbert Corthell in the role of Loney Bright, upping the humor by lisping his lines, and effeminately reminiscing about the days when he used to double up in a production by performing female roles such as little Eva. Mae West told reporters that she had learned a lot about comic timing by observing Ed Wynn.
• • But in the end it was Ed Wynn who left Arthur Hammerstein in the lurch, leaving the successful Broadway crowd-pleaser when he no longer found their business relations to his liking.
• • After a long and successful career, Arthur Hammerstein died at age 82 during the month of October — on 12 October 1955.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:

• • Photo:
• • Mae West • • Shubert Theatre
• •

Mae West.

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