Friday, March 19, 2010

Mae West: March Hairs

It was 19 March 1934 and MAE WEST was beginning production work on her fourth feature for Paramount Pictures: "Belle of the Nineties." After an ongoing battle with the censors that would soon get hairier and scarier, this "Naughty 90s-theme" motion picture was wrestled from the Paramount wringer on September 21st looking and sounding very different from its original model Mae's Broadway drama "The Constant Sinner" set in Harlem where 18-year-old Babe Gordon is a "prizefighter's tart" during the 1920s.
• • Mae West was beset with other concerns, too, during the unpredictable month of March. Quarrels with her manager Jim Timony resulted in his moving out of the Ravenswood and bedding down in a modest home behind the Hollytown Theatre, where he resumed his old involvement in stage plays.
• • Meanwhile, "Battling Jack" West left his Florida flat and showed up in Los Angeles. Unwilling to have her father interfere with her private life, Mae had him moved to her San Fernando Valley Ranch. Nevertheless, she had the studio put him on the payroll to lend his expertise to staging the Tiger Kid scenes. A Paramount press release alerted the media that their boxing consultant was a former prizefighter — a "stocky, well-built man, bearing none of the usual physiological mementos of the ring."
• • Adding to the tense atmosphere was Joe Breen's determination to make an honest woman out of Mae's character Ruby Carter.
• • Reflecting on this sudden upsurge of family values in 1934, The New York Times wrote: Back in the days when "Belle of the Nineties" — alias "Belle of New Orleans" and "It Ain't No Sin" — was locked in a death grip with the local censorship board, one of the major points of dissension was the shocking fade-out in which Miss West won her man without the assistance of a justice of the peace. In the new and approved version there is a wedding ceremony and Miss West is now safe for her large following to visit. ..."
• • Retracing Mae's stressful journey in 1934 will bring us to Arthur Mayer, that sprite inside Paramount's publicity office, and his idea about training several dozen African parrots to promote the film. Toucan, anyone?
• • Mae West perhaps kept another March 19th in mind as she began her motion picture work on the Paramount lot. It was on 19 March 1927 that her manager Jim Timony announced to the news that "Mae West is exhausted" and her Broadway show "Sex" would now close.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1934 • •
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