When MAE WEST pulled Cary Grant into her motion picture comedy "She Done Him Wrong" , she put wings on his feet. And Happy Birthday to one of Hollywood's hottest leading men, born eleven years after Mae — — on 18 January 1904.
• • But years before Paramount would offer her a contract, the struggling comedienne was featured at the Central Theatre [Broadway & West 47th Street] on 25 December 1920. The pretty brunette had no idea that the goddess of career networking found a sweet gentleman Jim willing to help her ascend the vaudeville ladder.
• • Irish-American comedian Jimmy Hussey [1891 — 1930] was the star attraction that Christmas Day. Also performing were Phil Baker and Aileen Stanley — — but Mae West must have pulled focus and attracted Hussey's attention.
• • Born in Chicago on 18 January 1891, James J. Hussey made his stage debut (accidentally) when he attended a performance in The Windy City and started singing choruses from the balcony. Instead of getting thrown out, he won a contract and started appearing on the Shubert vaudeville circuit.
• • Clearly, Mae left the right impression on Christmas Day 1920. Several months later, Hussey finished writing the book and the lyrics for the revue that would be renamed "The Mimic World 1921." He made sure his new material was custom-tailored to Mae's unique talents. She was cast in many prominent skits in this production — — including the con artist "Shifty Liz."
• • Clearly with Mae's approval and cooperation, Hussey penned the skit "The Trial of Shimmy Mae." Hussey himself played the judge as Mae demonstrated the shimmy in his topsy-turvy courtroom.
• • For the skit "The Bridal Suite," Jimmy Hussey took the role of a busy newly-wed who has to leave his honeymoon for a business meeting. In his absence, the pretty bride entertains her lovers, making her own appointments. "The Bridal Suite" was scrapped from the revue when it had a Boston try-out. The censors also cut the lights when Shimmy Mae started to dance.
• • "The Mimic World 1921" opened on 17 August 1921 and Hussey's close friend, Jack Dempsey (another Irish-American) attended the premiere, and visited Mae backstage after the show.
• • Jimmy Hussey, who was a brilliant success onstage (oddly enough) as a Jewish dialect comedian, died at age 39 of pneumonia on 20 November 1930. Mae West attended his memorial service, which was held at St. Malachy's on West 49th Street, a ceremony that also commemorated the recent deaths of two other Roman Catholic colleagues of hers, Tommy Gray and Tony Pastor.
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none • •
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