Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mae West: Kent Taylor

How many of MAE WEST's on-screen romancers were memorable?
• • Debonair Kent Taylor portrayed the well-heeled playboy Kirk Lawrence, who pursues Tira tirelessly in "I'm No Angel" [1933]. Can't picture him at all, can you?
• • Born on an Iowa farm on 11 May 1907 [birthname Louis William Weiss], Kent Taylor was tall [six feet], dark, and handsome enough for the movies — — but lacked the requisite magnetism and charisma for stardom. A modestly popular B-list player during the 1930s and 1940s, he evolved into a character actor who took part in over 100 films until the mid-1970s.
• • Though the character Jack Clayton does not appear until halfway though "I'm No Angel," Cary Grant [1904 — 1986] immediately gets a close-up and a solo, since we see Jack alone in his office on the phone, offering the viewer a certain va-va-voom vibe that is denied to Kirk Lawrence.
• • During the early 1950s, with both his rugged good looks and film offers on the decline, Kent Taylor turned more often to TV's temptations, becoming the medium's "Boston Blackie" (1951) for a couple of seasons, a role that had him following in the popular footsteps of film's Chester Morris as the urbane master thief-cum-detective.
• • Though 14-karat career kismet eluded Kirk Lawrence, he was rich in marital felicity. In 1930, the 23-year-old was still working for his father's awning company in Los Angeles when he hooked up with Augusta Kulek, who was probably overjoyed to shed a maiden name bookended by two Ks. They had three children and were happily hitched until his death at age 79 in April — — on 11 April 1987 — — following a series of heart operations.
• • Since it's April 11th, maybe you thought we were going to blog about Mae's marital mistep when she exchanged vows with Frank Wallace in 1911. But we're not.
• • One year later on 11 April 1912 the musical "Winsome Widow" opened on Broadway and Mae West was cast as La Petite Daffy. And there we leave you until April 12th.

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