Friday, December 12, 2008

Mae West: Chick Clark

MAE WEST gives Chick Clark the first words in the novel version of "Diamond Lil." In her 1928 Broadway smash, the inmate who returns to menace the gal who done him wrong was portrayed by stage veteran Herbert Duffy [who died on 23 November 1952].
• • For the Hollywood version of "She Done Him Wrong" [1933], Owen Moore played the thick-necked thug out for frontier justice.
• • Directed by Lowell Sherman, this 66-minute classic set on the Bowery during the Gay Nineties was a blockbuster. Produced for $200,000 half of which went to Mae West for writing and starring it returned $2 million domestically on its initial release and another $1 million in international markets. Despite Mae's claims to the contrary, the box office bonanza was NOT enough to pull Paramount Pictures out of the red. But the film did raise studio morale and their image enough to help them edge back toward profitability. The film made Mae West a household name and boosted the career of co-star Cary Grant, who was just starting in motion pictures. He would later claim that he inhaled his lessons about playing comedy from watching the Brooklyn bombshell.
• • "She Done Him Wrong" made the hourglass figure trendy again and encouraged a rush of films set in the 1890s. A backlash was not far behind.
• • Mae West's suggestive song "A Guy What Takes His Time" was so heavily cut by the censors that Paramount recalled all release prints to cut the middle stanzas. Other lines were cut by local censors, and the film was banned outright in Java, Latvia, Australia, and Vienna. It also resurrected renewed cries for national film censorship that led to the strengthening of the Production Code in 1934. That, in turn, would create even more battles between Mae West and the censors, though the blue-noses could do nothing to diminish the sexual independence of her characters.
• • Owen Moore as Chick Clark • •
• • An interesting side-trip down memory lane revisits Owen Moore [12 December 1886 9 June 1939], who muscled up enough menace as Chick Clark, Mae West's ex-boyfriend and "pen" pal in "She Done Him Wrong." The novel Diamond Lil opens with the frustrated lovebird turned jailbird on page 1, cursing Lil from behind bars, angry that she done him dirt.
• • An Irish silent film star, Owen Moore wed 19-year-old Mary Pickford [8 April 1892 29 May 1979] on 7 January 1911. The marriage was stormy due to Moore's alcoholism and they divorced in March 1920; she gave Owen Moore $100,000 to go along with their quickie Nevada divorce scheme. A few days later, Mary wed her dashing lover and colleague Douglas Fairbanks.
• • By 1936, Pickford had also divorced Fairbanks. Is this when she acquired her reputation as an arch-prude? Certainly, Tinseltown's critics turned "America's Sweetheart" into a joke by circulating the story of how she ended Mae West's career by complaining to William Randolph Hearst about the bawdy lyrics of West's songs. Was Mary jealous of Mae for giving her ex-husband the role he would always be remembered for?
• • Owen Moore has a star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame: 6743 Hollywood Boulevard.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:

• • Photo:
• • Mae West • • with Owen Moore
• •
Mae West.

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