Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mae West: Queen of the Jaguars

An intimate showing of a MAE WEST classic is always a welcome event.
• • And this brings to mind the oddity that not much has been written about the women Mae West admired, for instance, trailblazers such as Amelia Earhart, Texas Guinan, Marie-Louise Morelli, and Mabel Stark.
• • Mabel Stark was the beautiful blonde wild animal tamer who doubled for Mae during some of the big top scenes in "I'm No Angel" [1933].
• • As a child visiting Dreamland with her Dad in 1904, Mae West was dazzled by the fearlessness of Madame Marie-Louise Morelli, who trained leopards, jaguars, and tigers. In advertisements that billed the petite Frenchwoman as "Queen of the Jaguars," the jungle prowlers were referred to as Morelli's "treacherous pets." Awed by Madame Morelli's smooth command in the cage, the curly-haired little Brooklynite (born in August under the sign of Leo) decided one day she, too, would come face to face with the King of Beasts.
• • Born in Kentucky, Mabel Stark [9 December 1889 — 20 April 1968] was America's premier tiger trainer during the 1920s.
• • During a photo shoot with Mabel Stark, Mae West was asked if she could see herself trading places with anyone and she said: "Yes, it would be this Mabel Stark, the Tiger Girl!"
• • See if your eyes are sharp enough to spot Mabel Stark next week in the vintage footage when the Canadian cinema historian Reg Hartt will be screening Mae West's circus film "I'm No Angel" (written by Mae and based on her fond memories of Bostock's lions in Coney Island). Film archivist and celluloid connoisseur Reg Hartt, who will be introducing this screen classic, had also offered Mae West's first starring film "She Done Him Wrong" (based on her stage play "Diamond Lil" with its Bowery setting) until 2 July 2009.
• • About "I'm No Angel," Reg Hartt had this to say: Mae West was a star of such enormous clout that she was able to dictate her desires. She changed forever not only the role of women in the movies but also the way women in real life saw themselves. “When I am caught between two evils,” she said, “I generally take the one I have not yet tried.” This feature film was made in 1933. It was written by her.
• • The Cineforum is the unique movie emporium that Mr. Hartt operates out of his Bathurst Street living room in Canada.
• • Though the Cineforum has existed for the past four decades, it was not until 1992 that it was moved to his parlor. British painter Peter Moore described the intimate, old-fashioned Cineforum as “the most perfect place in the world to watch a motion picture.”
• • WHERE: Cineforum — — 463 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario.
• • WHEN: 7:00 PM on 20 July 2009 [Note: Monday evening only]. Program personally introduced by Reg Hartt.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • with Mabel Stark in 1933 • •
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