Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mae West: Vanishing Sob

In the summer of 1919 MAE WEST was on Broadway performing in "Sometime" — — ninety years ago — — when she was 26 and more used to appearing in vaudeville than the legit. The "musical comedy of commerce," designed to showcase the talents of laughmeister Ed Wynn, had opened at the Shubert Theatre on Saturday 4 October 1918 (and went on to enjoy a nice healthy run until June 1919 on West 44th Street).
• • It was Mae's character Mayme Dean who appeared onstage first. But the play's heroine, the actress who got to sing the titled tune "Sometime," was 20-year-old Francine Larrimore, who was born in the month of August — — on 22 August 1898. The New York Times drama critic enjoyed her rendition, adding that her theatrical presentation had "a touch of distinction."
• • Born in France into one of the great acting families of the Yiddish Theater, the Adlers, Francine Larrimore emigrated to America in 1905.
• • By 1910, this beauty made her debut in "Where There’s a Will" at Webber’s Theater in New York. Frequently cast in temperamental "pouty girl" roles, Francine Larrimore worked quite regularly on the Great White Way in a number of musicals and farces. She had training and could put across a song as well as act, dance, and flounce around with elan.
• • A Haunting, Vanishing Sob • •
• • Here's how The New York Times reviewer described her voice: "She has, in fact, a wistful, childlike quality, and a haunting vanishing sob in her voice that go straight to one's sympathies. It is she [who was cast in the role of Enid Vaughn] who sings the theme song 'Sometime,' and she is almost equally appealing in the second act with 'Baby Doll'."
• • Her Broadway fame lasted from 1917 — 1929, though she was seen onstage in a great many plays for almost 25 years. In 1926, when "Roxie Hart" bowed at the Music Box Theatre in New York City, Francine Larrimore originated the title role of the Cook County murderess who hires lawyer Billy Flynn.
• • After a handful of silent films and much acclaim in mainstage productions, Miss Larrimore was cast in the none too successful motion picture "John Meade’s Woman" [1937].
The actress left her fans bereft when she passed away on 7 March 1975 with (or without) a haunting, vanishing sob.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West's co-star • • Francine Larrimore • •
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Mae West.

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