Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mae West: CBS-TV Censorship

Exactly fifty years ago MAE WEST was once again front page news on 16 October 1959.
• • On 6 October 1959, newscaster Charles Collingwood had taped an interview in the screen queen's apartment. Questioned about the title of her new memoir Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It, Mae West replied, "It's about my private transgressions — — that's a long word for sin." The suits viewed the footage and were afraid to air it.
• • Refusing to side with the purity police at CBS-TV, The Los Angeles Times viewed the situation with an open mind. Cecil Smith, Times Entertainment Editor, put it in context for Californians: "Television's censoring scissors neatly snipped Mae West out of the first segment of the new Person to Person series scheduled to be shown on TV tonight" [16 October 1959].
• • Belittling TV's top dogs' fear that Mae's witty comebacks would outrage the audience and launch a Niagara of complaint mail, Cecil Smith offered a few playful examples from the "offending tape" and "found little in it that might offend anyone — — even a confirmed bluenose."
• • Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often — — Mae West
• • According to East Coast reportage over this tut-tut-tut censorship: CBS-TV brass sat down and privately took in a video-taped Person to Person interview with the aging Sex Goddess Mae West — — and promptly canceled the earthy program because parts of it "might be misconstrued." Had Author West (Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It) said or done anything naughty before the cameras? "Certain minds always misconstrue everything," said the past mistress of double-meaning ribaldry. "I have a very big public that understands what I say." Exactly what happened when CBS Interviewer Charles Collingwood came up and saw Mae in her Hollywood apartment?
• • One of the droller exchanges came when the newsman commented on all the mirrors in Mae's plushy bedroom. "They're for personal observation," said Mae, deadpan. "I always like to know how I'm doing."
• • Sensing that the going was getting a bit hot, Collingwood suggested that they switch the subject to foreign affairs. Said Mae: "I've always had a weakness for foreign affairs."
• • Born in Michigan, Charles Collingwood [4 June 1917 — 3 October 1985] was a pioneering CBS television newscaster. Collingwood was a protege of Edward R. Murrow during the Second World War and became known as an eloquent on-air journalist. He was part of a group of distinguished early television journalists that included Walter Cronkite, Eric Sevareid, and Murrow himself.
• • Despite a constant battle with the bottle and a feverish addiction to gambling, Collingwood went on to become chief correspondent of CBS and host of its "Eyewitness to History" series. He led in CBS's expansion to include international coverage. He reported from the Normandy invasion (at Omaha Beach), Vietnam, the White House, and other sites known for causing death and destruction.
• • Collingwood retired in 1982. The chronic alcoholic died on 3 October 1985 at age 68.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • October 1959 • •
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Mae West.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:28 PM

    I just discovered your blogspot; it's awesome! Do you know if the footage from Person to Person still exists?