Friday, January 30, 2009

Mae West: Archie Mayo

Archie Mayo directed MAE WEST in 1932 — — and we are thinking of him in January because his birthday just passed.
• • Born in New York City, Archie Mayo [29 January 1891 — 4 December 1968] was a stage actor who relocated to the West Coast in 1915 and soon began working as a film director.
• • Mayo directed the speakeasy motion picture "Night After Night" [1932] — — a George Raft vehicle that did more for Mae's career than for the tough guy actor known best for "Scarface."
• • Critiquing the film's debut, Variety (for once) was full of praise for Mae West.
• • Reviewer Bige wrote: Bootlegger stuff and some gangster atmosphere climaxed by and off screen shooting finish are played down to run secondary to the feminine interest. Raft is mixed up in both. The women are: a past flame (West), recently discarded sweetheart (Gibson), present head woman and "nice" girl (Cummings) and a middle-aged school teacher employed to give the mugg English lessons. When the Misses Skipworth and West are on view, together or separately, the laughs come often, and in the brief period assigned them as a team the comedy pace is even speedier. They do a virtual cross-fire two-act when doubling. Miss West's dialog is always unmistakably her own. It is doubtful if anyone else could write it just that way.
• • The way the West—Skipworth moments stand out suggests the picture could have stood more of them, but the obvious intent is to nurse Miss West along. She's tossed into this one rather abruptly and without bearing on the plot, much in the manner that Jimmy Durante has been handled by Metro. That's okay if they don't do it too often. As long as this film proves the former legit name has something for pictures it wouldn't be taking a chance to shoot the works on her from now on.
• • Miss Skipworth's intelligent painting of a cultured lady having her first taste of hotcha is a gem. Misses Cummings and Gibson are more restricted than their elders, holding down ingenue-like roles that call for looks mostly. But they deliver in every way. No leading man has been more ably supported.
• • Story is merely that of a mugg who yearns to toss off the mugg staff after falling in love at a distance with a Lady. That he winds up with his goal attained doesn't matter much, although the happy ending changes the tone that runs through the story up to them. He's told midway by one of the girls he is more likable when he's himself. . . . [Source: Variety Magazine; columnist Bige; an excerpt from a lengthy review originally published on 1 November 1932.]
• • In addition to "Night After Night," Archie Mayo's directorial credits include Is Everybody Happy? (1929) with Ted Lewis, The Petrified Forest (1936) with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart, and The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938) with Gary Cooper.
• • Mayo retired in 1946 — — shortly after completing A Night in Casablanca with the Marx Brothers and Angel on My Shoulder with Paul Muni, Anne Baxter, and Claude Rains.
• • Mayo has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none • •
Mae West.

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