Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mae West: The Plot Sickens

It was seventy-five years ago and a humid summer in Tinseltown was heating up even more for MAE WEST, who was dealing with a serious attack of Hays fever.
• • A newspaper article published on Wednesday 11 July 1934 in the Midwest indicated that worrisome tom-toms from the West Coast chiefs were getting louder.
• • According to the national news desk in 1934: A selection of title for Mae West’s latest film has assumed headache proportions. The film first was called “It Ain’t No Sin” — — but the studio dropped it at the suggestion of the New York censors.
• • In other words, Hollywood's Hitler, Will Hays (a former Postmaster General) was harnessing up a less elastic film code more constricting than Diamond Lil's corset.
• • Will Hays to Mae West: "Honey, the plot sickens . . . • •
• • New York City based Time Magazine [issue dated 1 July 1934] ran a feature called "Movies' Moral Crackdown" by Richard Corliss — — alongside a splashy photo of a costumed Mae West.
• • Richard Corliss summed it up like this: "Goodness, what beautiful diamonds!" a hatcheck girl says to Mae West, who purrs, "Goodness had nothin' to do with it, dearie." That line, from West's 1932 "Night After Night," embodied the saucy spirit of early talkies. Now that Hollywood could speak, it did so in the tart cadences of fast-talking men and faster women. This freedom created fresh stars (James Cagney, Barbara Stanwyck, Jean Harlow) and a sexual impudence that riled the burghers of propriety.
• • In 1934 the potent Roman Catholic lobby formed the Legion of Decency to rate films. Soon after, Will Hays, the industry's political and moral arbiter, called on Joseph Breen, a prominent Catholic, to enforce a rigorous production code. Studios rushed to sanitize some projects (West got married at the end of Belle of the Nineties) and dump others (MGM had to wait 12 years to film The Postman Always Rings Twice). Moviegoers that summer Sunday may have been shocked by the sudden absence of shocking dialogue and situations.
• • But filmmakers evolved a new "code," one that traded starkness for subtlety, noted Time Magazine. Audiences quickly learned this covert language in which a woman's knowing smile was its own double entendre, and a kiss was never just a kiss. ...
• • "Goodness had nothing to do with it!" was a well-worn comeback Texas Guinan often used in her speakeasy when teasing her high-rollers, whom she always called "Suckers!" Her friend Mae West, who often visited Texas's midtown nightspots, borrowed the quip for the 1932 hatcheck scene which took place in a speak.
• • Here's another example of Mae tossing off a famous Texas Guinan echo: In the 1933 motion picture "I'm No Angel," Tira [Mae West] does her hootchy-cootchy act, and two ruffians exclaim, "ELEGANT! Now that's elegant!" Tira teases her hungry-eyed on-lookers: "Am I making myself clear, boys?" But as she exits, Tira mutters: "Suckers!"
• • • • Mae West and Texas Guinan Tour in mid-August • • • •
• • 2009 TOUR: On Sunday afternoon 16 August 2009, the Annual Mae West Walk reunites the two film icons and Broadway roust-abouts. This August the entertaining, informative birthday celebration of the actress-writer, which will begin at Shubert Alley and proceed uptown to Mae's WESTside apartment, is called "Gaudy Girls on The Gay White Way: Mae West and Texas Guinan in the Theatre District." These tours are always accompanied by vintage illustrations, memorabilia, and rare photos that show how the buildings, vaudeville houses, billboards, Playbills, and blockfronts looked when Mae West was there. Surprises are in store.
• • • • Mae West Walking Tours You Might Have Enjoyed • • • •
• • 2006 TOUR: Our regular Mae-mavens will recall seeing the historical exhibition "Onstage Outlaws: Mae West and Texas Guinan in a Lawless Era,” which opened to the public after a Gala Roaring-20s theme Press Preview on Mae’s birthday 17 August 2006. And on Sunday afternoon 20 August 2006, more than two dozen beautiful people gathered on West Ninth Street to enjoy a special treat — — "Washington Square Women: Mae West and Texas Guinan in Greenwich Village" — — followed by a Jazz Era brunch served with champagne and the Cos-MAE-Politan cocktail, garnished with two strategically placed plump raspberries.
• • 2007 TOUR: On Friday evening 17 August 2007, a fascinating guided adventure — — "The Mae West Side Story" — — escorted numerous intrepid walk-abouts to three of Mae's former residences along with other sites linked to the Brooklyn bombshell.
• • 2008 TOUR: On Sunday afternoon 17 August 2008, the captivating Diamond Divas led a group of over two dozen Mae-mavens to several locations in Greenwich Village linked to her stage career, gay themes, courtroom woes, and the work of individuals she admired such as Lillian Russell, Tony Pastor, Texas Guinan, Eugene O'Neill, and Rae Bourbon. The 2008 walking tour — — "Mae West's Walk on the Wild Side" — — celebrated the 115th birthday of the Empress of Sex with an extravagant musical program, performed live by Met Opera soprano Marlena de la Mora and Sharon Weinman, which included these numbers: "Everything's Coming up Mae West"; "Mon Coeur S' Ouvre a Ta Voix"; "The Prisoner's Song"; "Frankie and Johnny"; "Come Down Ma Evening Star"; "I Could Have Danced All Night"; "Gentleman Jimmy"; and a grand finale taken from the score of "Diamond Lil."
• • Tour photos can be seen on the Mae West Blog.
• • For more details, do read this blog and/ or post your email. [Your info will not be posted nor available so that miscreants and rascals can access it.]

• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1934 • •
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