Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Mae West: Emanuel Cohen

Emanuel Cohen believed in giving MAE WEST more artistic freedom. She, of course, agreed.
• • Born in Hartford, Connecticut during the month of August — — on 5 August 1892 — — Emanuel Cohen [1892 — 1977] finished high school in the Constitution State, then set out for Manhattan where he graduated from the College of the City of New York in 1912.
• • Ambitious and eager to make his way in the world, Cohen smoothly skated from journalism work to a prime editorial position with Pathe News, eventually winding up at the helm of Pathe’s popular newsreel division. In 1926 Cohen was lured away to Paramount Pictures, where he headed their very active short subjects department.
• • A few years later, Paramount — — deep in the red from a streak of money-losing flops — — promoted Cohen, putting him in charge of production for their motion pictures. Clever Cohen had the skill to turn the company around; by 1935, the studio was once more profitable. Ironically, Paramount then fired this rainmaker. Go figure.
• • Emanuel Cohen formed his own production company in partnership with the studio, and his unit turned out several Mae West films, as well as Bing Crosby musicals.
• • Personal Appearance • •
• • One project was "Goin' to Town" [released on 25 April 1935], Emanuel Cohen Productions operating as Major Pictures Corp.
• • Dissatisfied with Paramount, during February 1935 Mae West donned an odd black wig and inconspicuously boarded a train for Chicago. The movie star quietly attended a play with Cohen, "Personal Appearance," by then a Broadway road company show. They discussed creating a cinema version of this lampoon of the film industry. Ever since Hollywood had yearned to turn the hit comedy into a motion picture, Will Hays had stifled it, claiming that this tale of egotistical screen queen Mavis Arden would constitute "a libel on the industry and its employees." The idea of poking fun at Tinseltown, just when the moguls had been freezing Mae out of opportunities, must have seemed enormously appealing. Emanuel Cohen soon announced that Mae West was firing up a new sparkler for his fledgling company.
• • Another title they worked on together was "Every Day's a Holiday" [released on 18 December 1937], Emanuel Cohen Productions operating as Major Pictures Corp.
• • A full-scale replica of Rector's, one of Mae's favorite NYC dining halls, was used for "Every Day's a Holiday," which saw the Brooklyn blonde back in 1890s garb in turn-of-the-century New York.
• • Peaches O'Day fared no better than Mavis Arden with the ticket-holders, unfortunately.
• • With the release of "Every Day's A Holiday," Paramount Pictures and Mae West parted company. Time Magazine announced it this way: She was signed under contract to Producer Emanuel Cohen, whose production Paramount has sponsored. Last week Producer Cohen and Adolph Zukor, Paramount head, climaxed a four-year feud by calling off their deal. What bothered Paramount more than Mae West's loss was that on Producer Cohen's personal payroll is Crooner Bing Crosby. [Source: Time Magazine — — Monday, 24 January 1938]
• • By 1938, Cohen's production agreement was kaput. Needing a job during the Great Depression, he joined the Army and found himself stationed back in New York City.
• • Emanuel Cohen died in New York City on 9 September 1977, age 85.

• • An enthusiastic group will gather in the shadow of the old Rector's (and examine vintage photos of the once world-famous eatery) on 16 August 2009 for a walking tour — — "Gaudy Girls on The Gay White Way: Mae West & Texas Guinan in the Theatre District" — — and we hope to see you, too, at 4 o'clock that Sunday.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • with George Rector • •
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Mae West.

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