On 10 July 1927, The New York Times announced that MAE WEST had written a new play, "The Wicked Age."
• • During her imprisonment in the Women's Workhouse, Mae had claimed she was thinking about corruption — — and how a system of institutionalized corruption affected women. She felt she could set forth her ideas effectively in a play about the dirty politics of beauty pageants.
• • During the entire summer of 1927, Mae was revising and reworking the manuscript, which was set in Bridgetown [Cumberland County], New Jersey.
• • Mae's character was the beautiful and willful Evelyn "Babe" Carson. To keep the production on a tight budget, Mae hired a lot of no-name talent, former vaudevillians looking for work, and her aging mentor Hal Clarendon to play her uncle/ guardian Robert Carson.
• • During the 1920s, a common real estate ploy to increase land values and publicize the area was the community sponsored beauty contest. In "The Wicked Age," the shady, money-grubbing politicians who run Bridgetown decide to stage a leg show despite negative public opinion about such an enterprise. One landowner insists: "The basis of any industry . . . for success today is based on the exploitation of the female form." The influential rascal Alec Ferguson shouts down objections: "Which plays get over and make money for their producers? Those that try to uplift the public and teach it better ways of living — — don't make me laugh — — those plays go over that exhibit the women's body in some way or another."
• • Robert Carson is one of many who will protest that the competition to be the first "Miss Bridgetown" will degrade females, since it forces half-undressed young ladies to be paraded "on exhibition like prize cattle."
• • The usual suspects financed Mae's play — — Jim Timony, Owney Madden, et al. For over two months, Mae burned up the investors' funding with on-going revisions and frantically long rehearsing.
• • The incomplete and somewhat inaccurate Internet Broadway Database [IBD] notes that the Carson clan was played by these actors:
• • Mae West — — Evelyn "Babe" Carson
• • Hal Clarendon — — Robert Carson
• • Augusta Perry — — Mrs. Martha Carson
• • Doris Haslett — — Ruth Carson
• • Ruth Hunter — — Gloria Carson
• • However, in the play, Gloria is neither a Carson nor a relative; she is actually Babe's best friend who is murdered.
• • Yet other sources indicate that vaudevillian Marjorie Main, born on 24 February 1890 in Indiana, was really the actress who played the role of Martha Carson, Mae's mother — — despite Marjorie's being only three years older. Perhaps silent film actress Augusta Perry had taken the Martha Carson role on opening night or she was credited for a performance from which the IDB records were compiled. Marjorie Main's name could have been mentioned in the publicity leading up to the premiere; maybe she was rehearsing until her ungovernable fear of germs got the better of her.
• • In the autumn, "The Wicked Age" opened at Daly's 63rd Street Theatre [debut: 4 November 1927]. Critics sneezed at the enterprise.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • Augusta Perry played Babe Carson's mother in 1927 • •
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