Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Mae West: Colette, Caron, Cukor

MAE WEST, Colette noted in a 1938 publication, had the confidence to create an unapologetic majority-of-one presence on the silver screen — — as self-sufficient and durable as a diamond solitaire. "She alone, out of an enormous and dull catalogue of heroines, does not get married at the end of the film, does not die, does not take the road to exile, does not gaze sadly at her declining youth in a silver-framed mirror …. She alone has no parents, no children, no husband," wrote Colette. "This impudent woman is, in her style, as solitary as Chaplin used to be."
• • Can you imagine the buxom Brooklynite translated into the character of one of the 1890s Parisian prostitutes who people "Gigi," an arch novella written in 1944 by Colette [28 January 1873 — 3 August 1954]? Ooooh-la-la!
• • Defanged by the American musical comedy team of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, who laundered and starched all the sex and naughtiness out of the original, "Gigi" became a romantic tale of mismatched parts and was chastely adapted for the screen in 1958, starring a very ladylike French native Leslie Caron [born 1 July 1931] as the ingenue tutored by the scarlet women in her family. The motion picture version premiered at the Royale Theatre — — the Broadway house where "Diamond Lil" debuted in 1928 — — in Manhattan on 15 May 1958.
• • Still active and sought after, the 78-year-old Academy-Award-nominee will soon portray Madame Armfeldt in a Paris revival of Stephen Sondheim’s "A Little Night Music," a musical about shady ladies that leaves the sex and sass intact. Moreover, Leslie Caron's memoir "Thank Heaven" will be published by Viking around Christmas.
• • Mae West and Leslie Caron • •
• • In The Examiner, Alan Petrucelli has put together a most intriguing profile that includes this morsel about Leslie Caron and Mae West.
• • Pittsburgh Stage and Screen Examiner Alan Petrucelli writes: And this story, which we’ll call The Women, Part Deux, is a hoot! One day director George Cukor “begged” Caron to make up a lunch quartet with — — are you ready? — — Mae West, Greta Garbo, and Barbra Streisand. Caron coos: “An absolutely historical luncheon, I know, but I would have felt very uncomfortable in front of these great dames. You know what happened? Streisand says, ‘Gee, Miss West, I do so admire your work,’ and West replies, ‘Sure honey, I can tell by the way you been stealin’ it…’” [from "Leslie Caron? Oui! Make no reservations about it, just thank heaven for this little/ big girl" printed on 7 September 2009; by Pittsburgh Stage and Screen Examiner Alan Petrucelli; published in: The Examiner — —].
• • Hmmmm. Though that nostalgic nugget goes together like misfitted pipes amid nougat, and the imagined comeback by Mae West to Brooklyn's Barbra twangs like a nail mis-struck, it is nice to see the Empress of Sex fondly recalled by an awestruck foreign thespian who did not have lunch with her after all (and who did not do her own singing on screen either). We do hope her memoir is a real page-turner quite unlike the clutch of mud most of these celeb tell-alls have been.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:17 PM

    There are no direct descendants of Mae West today.