Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mae West: Herbert Baker

Herbert Baker received a screenplay credit for a motion picture starring MAE WEST.
• • Born in New York City, Mae's hometown, on 25 December 1920, Herbert Baker had parents who were in the entertainment business. His father was Maurice Abrahams [1883 — 1931], a composer who wrote special material for vaudeville performers such as Belle Baker. His mother was the vaudevillian and actress Belle Baker [1893 — 1957].
• • Encouraged by his family, young Herbert aspired to be an author and a composer-songwriter like his dad
— — who died when the boy was eleven years old. Herbert received his BA degree at Yale University. After graduation he forged a career penning special material for Danny Kaye, Lena Horne, Ethel Merman, Beatrice Lillie, and also his widowed Mom Belle Baker. He also wrote for film and TV, and produced a Broadway stage score or two.
• • With this fleet-footed background, Herbert Baker somehow attached himself to the script for "Sextette" [1978] as a co-writer, when he was 57 years old and perhaps in great need of extra income.
• • During the month of June — — on 30 June 1983 — — Herbert Baker, age 62, died in Encino, California.
• • Sophie Tucker, a vaudevillian like Mae West • •
• • It took three writers to assemble a one-woman show on Sophie Tucker, who led a lively and fascinating life but, alas, the collaborators got it all wrong and even made Sophie seem dull, according to the Massachusetts-based drama critic Jenna Scherer, who refers to the vocalist as a bona fide sex symbol. That's interesting, isn't it?
• • “Sophie Tucker: The Last Of The Red Hot Mamas
• •
Jenna Scherer writes: Sophie Tucker blazed her own trail. She rose through the ranks of burlesque and vaudeville to become one of the top entertainers in America. Producers initially deemed her too fat and ugly to be a star, forcing her to perform in blackface and baggy clothes. But she defied them all to become a bona fide sex symbol. Her frank treatment of the female libido and her die-hard self-promotion made her a legend. Without Tucker, there would be no Mae West, Bette Midler, or even Lady Gaga.
• •
Jenna Scherer notes: But you’d never know what an earth-shaker Tucker was from “Hot Mamas.” . . .
• • Presented by New Repertory Theatre, at Arsenal Center for the Arts, Watertown, Mass.
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Theatre Review: ‘Hot Mamas’ lacks sizzle
• • By Jenna Scherer / Theater Review: “Sophie Tucker: The Last Of The Red Hot Mamas”
• • Published in: Boston Herald
• • Published on: Monday, 28 June 2010

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