Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mae West: Buffalo Boost

The first major motion picture starring (and written by) MAE WEST got a fresh look in a Buffalo, New York newspaper.
• • Before turning to that northern exposure, however, it's interesting to note that there are tyros at the typewriter who know little about some of Mae's one-liners. Example: Texas Guinan's snappy comeback "Goodness had nothing to do with it!" was borrowed by her friend Mae to end a scene in "Night After Night" [1932].
• • And when writing her play "The Drag" in 1926, Mae West gave the drag queen Winnie this line: "So glad to have you meet me. Come up sometime and I'll bake you a pan of biscuits." Naturally, that was Mae's intentional echo of the very well-known quip of the late great female impersonator Bert Savoy, who used to say, "Oh, Margie! You must come over!"
• • "The Drag" can be seen onstage this very weekend in Iowa City, Iowa, by the way.
• • Jennifer Garlen — — who may discover more about the Brooklyn bombshell eventually — — inclined her pen WEST-ward in "Classic films in focus: She Done Him Wrong (1933)" and this is how she viewed it.
• • Jennifer Garlen writes: Everyone knows who Mae West is, but it's hard to imagine that very many of those people have actually seen a Mae West film. Her famous hourglass figure and loaded one liners made her a household name, and it's fascinating to watch the lady put those assets into action. She Done Him Wrong is a good Mae West film for an introduction because it shows off some of West's finest lines (both literally and figuratively), gives us a look at a very young Cary Grant, and even garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Picture back in 1934.
• • This is not to say that the film doesn't show its age. The plot is thin and confusing, largely because of the swarm of conspiring criminal admirers who crowd around music hall diva Lady Lou (Mae West). Lady Lou is technically employed as a singer in the music hall, but that's just a euphemistic cover for her real occupation, which is good because West isn't much of a singer. Her best musical performance in the film is "Frankie and Johnny," the old songbook standard whose lines inspired the title of this film. West can be forgiven for her indifferent singing, though, since it is almost a tradition for music hall vamps in the movies, if one thinks of Marlene Dietrich as Frenchie in Destry Rides Again (1939) or the parody of Dietrich offered by Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles (1974). The ending of the film is rather less forgivable; it comes out of the blue without any effort at logic or expectation. It would be a deus ex machina if engagement rings were gods, which, in Mae West's case at least, they probably are.
• • Despite the dated quality of the narrative structure, the film offers real entertainment in the person of West, who also wrote the play from which the picture was developed. She is not beautiful by modern standards, not even conventionally pretty, but she radiates sexuality like the Venus of Willendorf, and every man around her falls helpless at her feet. She has a delightful, wolfish way of looking the men over, rolling her eyes and pursing her lips as she delivers endless zingers and innuendos. You just know she might eat every one of them up, and they would enjoy the experience. She Done Him Wrong is the source
[sic] of the famous West line, "Why don't you come up some time and see me?" The way that she emphasizes the word "see" suggests an awful lot about just how much of her might be on display. Best of all, the character to whom she delivers this quip is none other than Cary Grant.
• • I wouldn't call She Done Him Wrong a film that people absolutely must see, but it's a fun picture, and it offers a very good sense of why West was famous and what she brought to cinema. West constantly pushed the edge of what could be shown or said in Hollywood at that time; you can see why outraged prudes felt the need to form the National Legion of Decency in 1933, at least partly in reaction to West and this film. We can't thank goodness for Mae West; as she herself famously said, "Goodness had nothing to do with it," but we can be thankful that she was there to add a little spice back when Hollywood was young.
• • Note: Jennifer Garlen is an Examiner from Huntsville.
— — Source: — —
• • Column: "Classic films in focus: She Done Him Wrong (1933)"
• • Byline: Jennifer Garlen | Huntsville Classic Movies Examiner
• • Published in: The Examiner [Buffalo] — —
• • Published on: 26 June 2009
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• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • December 1932 • •
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