Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mae West: Conversation-Provoker

MAE WEST got a round of applause from Variety only on a few occasions.
• • “Going to help redistribute a nice chunk of the nation's coin. Mae West is today the biggest conversation-provoker, free space grabber, and all-around box office bet in the country” — — announced Variety [referring to the newly released motion picture "I'm No Angel" in 1933].
• • Gone to his final rest with the other cinema angels is a plucky actor featured in "I'm No Angel" — — Gregory Ratoff, who started life in the month of April.
• • Ratoff was related to Mae thanks to his shifty cousin Vladimir Baikoff, who was the actress's brother-in-law and Beverly's second Russian husband.
• • Born in Samara, Russia in April — — on 20 April 1897 — — the 25-year-old actor first sailed to the USA in 1922. A year later Gregory Ratoff wed actress Eugenie Leontovich. He returned to New York in July 1925 on the SS Mauretania with his Russian-Jewish mother, deciding to settle in.
• • As an accent piece, he was harmless. Gregory Ratoff played Tira's New York City lawyer Benny Pinkowitz in "I'm No Angel" [1933]. And many fans remember the amusing scene in which Mae West and Ratoff are discussing the breach-of-promise suit.
• • In early 1943, when "Catherine Was Great" was being hammered out, Mae got a visit from Ratoff. He wanted her to star in a new film for Columbia Pictures to be called "The Heat's On," which he would direct. To arouse Mae's interest further, he hinted that he might also produce her newest extravaganza rushing to Broadway.
• • After many delays and disruptions, "The Heat's On" was released 9 February 1944 to jeers, sneers, and razzleberries.
• • For the record, "Catherine Was Great" had its live mainstage premiere on 2 August 1944. The show closed on the Gay White Way on 13 January 1945.
• • Gregory Ratoff's most famous screen role was his portrayal of the producer Max Fabian who feuds with star Margo Channing (Bette Davis) in "All About Eve" [1950].
• • Director, actor, and producer Gregory Ratoff contracted leukemia and died on 14 December 1960 in Switzerland.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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