Saturday, March 07, 2009

Mae West: Francine Larrimore

In March 1919 MAE WEST was on Broadway performing in "Sometime" — — exactly ninety years ago — — when she was 26 and more used to appearing in vaudeville than the legit. The "musical comedy of commerce," designed to showcase the talents of laughmeister Ed Wynn, had opened at the Shubert Theatre on Saturday 4 October 1918 (and would have a nice healthy run until June 1919 on West 44th Street).
• • It was Mae's character Mayme Dean who appeared first onstage. But the play's heroine, the actress who got to sing the title tune "Sometime," was 20-year-old Francine Larrimore, who died in the month of March — — on 7 March 1975. The New York Times drama critic enjoyed her rendition, adding that her presentation had "a touch of distinction."
• • Born on 22 August 1898 in France into one of the great acting families of the Yiddish Theater, the Adlers, Francine Larrimore emigrated to America in 1905.
• • By 1910, this beauty made her debut in "Where There’s a Will" at Webber’s Theater in New York. Frequently cast in temperamental "pouty girl" roles, Francine Larrimore worked quite regularly on the Great White Way in a number of musicals and farces. She had training and could put across a song as well as act, dance, and flounce around with elan.
• • Here's how The New York Times reviewer described her voice: "She has, in fact, a wistful, childlike quality, and a haunting vanishing sob in her voice that go straight to one's sympathies. It is she who sings 'Sometime,' and she is almost equally appealing in the second act with 'Baby Doll'."
• • Her Broadway fame lasted from 1917 — 1929, though she was seen onstage in a great many plays for almost 25 years. In 1926, when "Roxie Hart" bowed at the Music Box Theatre in New York City, Francine Larrimore originated the title role of the Cook County murderess who hires lawyer Billy Flynn.
• • After a handful of silent films and much acclaim in mainstage productions, Miss Larrimore was cast in the none too successful motion picture "John Meade’s Woman" [1937].
• • Herman Mishkin [1871 — 1948] held a position with Oscar Hammerstein's Manhattan Opera Company as a photographer-publicist. Since Hammerstein produced "Sometime," Mishkin took this portrait of Francine Larrimore around that time.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West's songstress co-star • • 1918 • •
Mae West.

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