It was July 18th, the summer of 1922, and MAE WEST was a month away from celebrating her 29th birthday.
• • Hungry for stardom and with her best years in variety behind her, Mae was being forced into a role that scared her: the unemployed. Then suddenly there was a chance to star in a "sparking musical revue in two acts and 20 scenes" — — The Ginger Box — — and fast-talking Paul Dupont was promising he could make her a star.
• • According to biographer Emily Wortis Leider: The Ginger Box served up wall-to-wall Mae West. In addition to featuring her as Circe, turning her lovers into swine, it presented Mae West as a Broadway vamp (played to Harry Richman's victim), Mae West singing "I Want a Cave Man," Mae West clowning to Tommy Gray's "I'm a Night School Teacher," and torching a song whose regretful tone she would later rule out: "Sorry I Made You Cry."
• • The numbers were staged by Broadway director and choreographer Larry Ceballos [1887 — 1978]. At five-feet-four, the Chilean dance master was barely taller than Mae. But since Larry Ceballos had collaborated before with the Austrian composer Arthur H. Gutman [1891 — 1945], Dupont managed to drag both of these worthy gentlemen onboard for his ill-starred maiden voyage.
• • The libretto credit went to Paul Dupont, and the music credit went to Arthur H. Gutman. Promotional material printed by Jerome H. Remick & Co. indicated the first number was to be Mae's introductory song "Come Over" followed by "Canoodle-Ooodle-Oo," then "Eugene O'Neill, You've Put a Curse on Broadway" — — also meant for Mae. Four more songs were prepared for either a soloist or the ensemble; these were: "California Poppy," "Sister Teams," "Big Chief Hooch," and "Cottage for Two."
• • "Come Over" [Dupont and Gutman 1922] • •
• • To put it mildly, "Come Over" is an underwhelming curtain-raiser. Mae West has pretty predictable pap to put across with lyrics like these:
• • • • I'm looking for a daddy dear, to cuddle up and cuddle me,
• • • • If you will come on over here, how happy we will be.
• • • • I'll show you the way to love every day,
• • • • You'll learn a lot from me . . .
• • Despite an optimistic rehearsal period in the Village, major troubles were afoot, and soon revealed themselves during a two-performance try-out in Connecticut. Also, the flam-flam producer Paul Dupont [real name: Edward Perkins], who was perpetually short of funds, would vanish, leaving unpaid debts and I-owe-you notes to his cast.
• • "Ginger Revue Now a Pepless Stew as Promoter Disappears" announced the New York Daily News [13 August 1922]. Thirteen Equity actors sued Perkins to recover their salaries — — but not Mae, who was to have received a percentage of the box office.
• • Greenwich Village Theatre: 1917 — 1930 • •
• • The Greenwich Village Theatre was made famous by female impersonator Bert Savoy, who performed in the acclaimed "Greenwich Village Follies" there, an annual revue that was so popular that it moved to Broadway.
• • Located until 1930 on the western side of Seventh Avenue South where Christopher Street kisses West Fourth, it faced Sheridan Square and a green oasis of a local park.
• • During the 1920s, the outstanding success of this cultural outpost put Sheridan Square on the map as a mecca for avant-garde entertainment.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • Greenwich Village Theatre c. 1917 • •
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