Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mae West: New Beaton Book

Who doesn't love MAE WEST?
• • Well, even though Cecil Beaton was madly pursuing Greta Garbo, who spurned his marriage proposal, he also dedicated himself to avidly photographing the aristocrats, the fashionable, singers, and movie icons such as the Brooklyn bombshell.
• • In a new photography book Cecil Beaton: The Art of the Scrapbook, there are many handsome black-and-white stills. The collection was edited by James Danziger and published by Assouline. New York Magazine celebrated this new title with a neat slide show on their website — — featuring pictures Beaton took of Mae West as well as other big names.
• • Featured photo montage of Mae West, courtesy of Assouline.
• • Thomas J. Gray • •
• • Mae was named for her paternal grandmother Mary Jane Copley, who was born in Ireland. And her familiarity with Irish dialects gave Mae a tremendous advantage in vaudeville, where she was often cast as an Irish maid and sang Irish novelties such as Tommy Gray's comical song "They Are Irish," to which Mae added a few more choruses, each in a different Irish accent.
• • The "Bard of Broadway" was born in New York City, Mae's hometown.
• • Talented and prolific, Thomas J. Gray [1888 — 1924] was an author and lyricist who had been educated at Holy Cross School and was a charter member of ASCAP (1914). He served overseas during World War I, and later wrote songs for Broadway and London revues, plus special material for Mae West, Bert Williams, Blossom Seeley, Frank Tinney, Savoy & Brennan, Trixie Friganza, and many others. He was also a columnist for Variety and the New York Dramatic Mirror. His chief musical collaborators included Fred Fisher and Ray Walker.
• • Bronchitis cut short his brilliant career. Tommy died in the month of November — — on 30 November 1924. He was 36 years old.
• • Though Mae often did not pay his bills, and was taken to court more than once by Tommy, she attended his funeral at St. Malachy's in midtown, a standing-room-only affair.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Monday, November 29, 2010

Mae West: Granted Cary

MAE WEST said: "You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough."
• • This statement could easily describe her handsome co-star Cary Grant, who died in the month of November
— on November 29th. Mae granted him access to a motion picture classic and paved his way for more leading man roles.
• • It’s a kick to see Cary, still a youthful Englishman in 1932 [18 January 1904 — 29 November 1986], opposite Mae West before his own movie star image had solidified. The promise may be there, but Grant is stiff in the role of Captain Cummings. He would not yet become the polished and adroit comic leading man that he turned himself into by the end of the nineteen-thirties. As the uniformed do-gooder, he is baby-faced and no real match for West’s dominating presence.
• • Cary Grant was not yet thirty the first time he starred opposite West, and his age adds another provocative element to West’s gleefully taboo-busting, sexually frank presence. “To be sexual with younger men has been, according to Hollywood, a female sin punishable by death or dishonor,” feminist film critic Kathi Maio writes in her book Popcorn and Sexual Politics. “There have only been rare exceptions. When Mae West encouraged Cary Grant, a much younger man, to come up and see her sometime, she wasn’t interested in baking him a batch of brownies. Mae was sexy, but her blatant bawdiness was never threatening because her come hither looks were played for comedy. And besides, Mae West got to break the rules governing female comportment because Mae West was a law unto herself.”
• • Kathi Maio is mostly right here — — West really does seem to be a law unto herself as she shimmies across the screen and swaps lascivious double entendres, but what Maio neglects to acknowledge is that there were a great number of people who did find West extremely threatening, and that her persona only emerged as the result of cleverness and persistence in the face of censorship.
• • As for Cary Grant's emerging persona, he confessed, "I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be and I finally became that person. Or he became me. Or we met at some point.” In other words, Cary came up sometime
— — to see his better self.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mae West: San Bernadino Upstart

During the 1920s, MAE WEST performed "Diamond Lil" onstage in San Bernadino in an imposing playhouse that seated 1200 — 1400 ticket-holders.
• • California reporter Nita Hiltner has researched the fascinating history of this building that was ahead of its time. According to Nita Hiltner: An elaborate red brick theatre, built in 1882 by mountain man and civic leader James W. Waters (who had traveled with Kit Carson and Herman Brinkmeyer), was furnished grandly with red velvet curtains, box seats, and an orchestra pit. The opera house at D and Court Streets was popular with the celebrities who performed there . . . .
• • Nita Hiltner writes: After James W. Waters died, Martha Kiplinger, his daughter, took over the management of the opera house in 1894 and began bringing in top entertainers such as Sarah Bernhardt, Al Jolson, Lillian Russell, Howard Kyle, Maude Adams, and George M. Cohan.
• • Nita Hiltner adds: From Broadway came magician Harry Houdini, Mae West, Will Rogers, and the Barrymores. ...
• • This is a must-read for theatre buffs and followers of California history, so check out the link while this is still online.
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: Southern California's first opera house — — SAN BERNARDINO: The facility was popular with the celebrities of the day who performed there.
• • By Nita Hiltner | Special to The Press-Enterprise
• • Published in: The Press-Enterprise — — www.pe.com/
• • Published on: 27 November 2010
• • Vaudevillians Fields and Carroll • •
• • Mae West performed at Hammerstein's Victoria during August 1912 and Fields and Carroll were on the same stagebill. Harry Carroll, a well-regarded American songwriter, pianist and composer, was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in the month of November — — on 28 November 1892. Harry Carroll died on 26 December 1962, in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. His brilliant career will be the topic of another post.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mae West: Thanks from San Diego

On Thanksgiving, some news people gave thanks for MAE WEST.
• • For instance, San Diego, California reporter Beth Accomando wrote: I give thanks to Paul Newman for the bluest blue eyes and for bucking the system with impertinence; to Errol Flynn for swashbuckling his way through adventures with a rogue's grin that could make me swoon; and to Robert Mitchum for lighting up a cigarette like no one else could. And to all the cinematic clowns who made me laugh till my sides ached starting with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd who needed no words; to Hong Kong's Stephen Chow who mixed physical and verbal comedy with equal ease; to Carole Lombard, Barbara Stanwyck, and Jean Arthur for their sophisticated screwball comediennes; and to Mae West who could turn any phrase into a suggestive come on.
• • MAN: I shall die to make you happy.
• • MAE WEST: But you're no good to me dead.
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: Rants and Raves: Films to be Thankful For — — This Thanksgiving What Films Are You Grateful For?
• • By Beth Accomando
• • Published via: www.kpbs.org/
• • Published on: 24 November 2010

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Eugene O'Neill, You've Put a Curse on Broadway • •
• • In 1922, Mae West spoofed Eugene O'Neill's play "The Hairy Ape" during one comical number for "The Ginger Box Review."
• • It was during November that the native New York dramatist died — — on 27 November 1953. Considering he won so many awards, why did O'Neill look so sour in every photo he posed for? If you have an explanation, let us know. Inquiring minds are wondering. . . .
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Friday, November 26, 2010

Mae West: Zolya Talma

The last revival of "Diamond Lil" — — written by and starring MAE WEST — — staged at the Broadway Theatre [1681 Broadway, NYC] closed during the month of November in 1951.
• • One of the performers who portrayed Russian Rita was Zolya Talma. Born in California on 14 February 1895, the actress appeared numerous times on The Great White Way as well as on TV in two Alfred Hitchcock episodes; she also appeared in "The Rose Tattoo" and other major motion pictures during the 1950s. Zolya Talma died during November — — on 26 November 1983 — — in Los Angeles, California at the age of 88. Today we pay tribute to this Broadway mainstay.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mae West: Ragtag Cinema

Come up and see MAE WEST this coming Tuesday.
• • Columbia, Missouri journalist Aarik Danielsen sets forth the history on the pre-Code Era: The transition from silent films to “talkies” included a period where filmmakers operated relatively free of censorship. With the libertine spirit of the 1920s still roaring inside and the technology to give their characters’ secret desires a voice, these creative conspirators tackled uncomfortable social topics in an often raw, risqué fashion before the brakes were applied through a binding Code of conduct. The best of these pre-Code films have been shown during “Forbidden Hollywood,” a series at Ragtag Cinema that continues Tuesday with Barbara Stanwyck in “Baby Face” and concludes with the Mae West — Cary Grant vehicle “She Done Him Wrong” on November 30th. Both screenings are at 6:00 pm.
• • Aarik Danielsen notes: Since moving to Columbia, Missouri six years ago, physician Lokke Heiss looked for an opportunity to program a series at Ragtag Cinema showcasing films made in the pre-Code period of 1930 to 1934, his favorite in Hollywood history. Though fleeting, those 48 months were, Heiss said, a “window of opportunity” yielding some of cinema’s paramount classics. ...
• • Aarik Danielsen adds: Fans of Mae West can see her at her bawdy best in “She Done Him Wrong,” which features her iconic turn of phrase, “Why don’t you come up some time and see me?” Adapted from a play, it stars West as a saloon entertainer embroiled in a world of criminal activity. Some scholars have suggested strong female leads and the treatment of issues relevant to women were better handled in pre-Code movies than for decades to follow, a battle still being waged today. The “vibrant” trajectory of black roles also was derailed once the Code was enforced, Heiss added. ...
• • According to Dr. Heiss: Mae West’s character essentially has two people killed … by what she does and, instead of her getting put to jail, she gets to marry Cary Grant,” Heiss said of “She Done Him Wrong.” “The bad woman doesn’t get punished — — she gets rewarded. Now, after 1934, that would have been the opposite. She would have to die or be put in jail so that the hero could marry the ‘good girl.’ ” . . .
• • WHEN: 6:00 PM on Tuesday, 30 November 2010
• • WHERE: Ragtag Cinema, 10 Hitt Street, Columbia, MO 65201-5014; T (573) 443-4359
— — Excerpt: — —
• • This article was published with the headline "CROSSING THE LINE — — Lokke Heiss explores a glorious time in pre-Code film history replete with strong women, bad men"
• • Byline: Aarik Danielsen| e-mail: ajdanielsen [at] columbiatribune.com
• • Published by: The Columbia Daily Tribune, 101 North 4th Street, Columbia, MO 65201
• • Published on: Sunday, 21 November 2010

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mae West: Raft Remembered

MAE WEST told a reporter that she almost married George Raft [26 September 1895 — 24 November 1980], a native New Yorker and an actor most closely identified with his portrayals of gangsters in crime dramas of the 1930s — 1940s.
• • Born George Ranft in Manhattan to Conrad Ranft (who was of German descent), he adopted a slick "tough guy" persona that he would later use in his films.
• • In 1910, little Georgie was living with his sister and parents on West 163rd Street, which was the Washington Heights section.
• • As with the case of Mae West's maternal side, George's mother was also born in Germany; she emigrated to the USA in 1878. Eva Glockner Ranft taught dancing to theatre people — — and gave her son lessons. His smooth tango and dance-floor style led to performances at some of Times Square's most fashionable nightspots. He became part of the stage act of "Texas Guinan and Her Gang."
• • In 1923 George Raft wed Grayce Mulrooney. Though it was soon apparent that this was a bad move, the devout Roman Catholic refused to give him a divorce. Grayce finally died in 1970, when her husband was 75.
• • A former boxer, George Raft also ran errands for Owney — — such as retrieving his box office cut every evening after "Sex" and "Diamond Lil." Raft handled more than cash inside Mae's dressing room, where the dapper New Yorker staged a steamy (private) performance of his own on Broadway.
• • In 1928 Mae West tried to recruit him for the role of Juarez in "Diamond Lil" but George said he "wasn't ready." In truth, his lack of schooling made him worry that he might not be able to remember all the lines and cues for a stage play. As a dancer, he didn't have to worry about memorizing a lot.
• • In 1929 Raft moved to Hollywood and took small roles. His success came in Scarface [1932], the role that was originally offered to Jack LaRue, an actor who played opposite Mae West in her 1928 Broadway hit "Diamond Lil." George Raft's convincing portrayal of the gangster led to speculation that he himself was a mobster
— — not far from the truth.
• • When the studio was casting Raft's new feature Night after Night, the role of Maudie Triplett, a former gal pal, was to be offered to a well regarded actress and night club personality: Texas Guinan. Raft suggested Mae West for this cameo, and Mae's three little scenes set the so-so film on fire. "Mae stole everything but the cameras," admitted George Raft.
• • One of his final film appearances was in "Sextette" (1978) with Mae West. He played himself in a brief cameo that went like this:
• • MAE WEST: "Why George Raft, I haven't seen you in 20 years. What have you been doing?"
• • GEORGE RAFT: "Oh, about 20 years!"
• • On 24 November 1980, George Raft died from leukemia at age 79 in Los Angeles, California. He was interred in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mae West: Constance Cummings

MAE WEST co-starred in the 1932 "speakeasy" film "Night After Night" with an actress who left us during late November.
• • Constance Cummings, who was 22 when she played a socialite Jerry Healy in the movie, was born in Seattle, Washington on 15 May 1910. At age 95, the actress died in Oxfordshire, England in November on 23 November 2005.
• • Constance's blueblood persona in "Night After Night" was based on the heiress Barbara Hutton (who inherited the Woolworth fortune), who had once lived in a rowhouse on West 56th Street before it was turned into a ginmill operated by gangster Larry Fay.
• • Critiquing the film's debut, Variety (for once) was full of praise for Mae West, who overshadowed her younger and trimmer castmates.
• • Reviewer Bige wrote: Bootlegger stuff and some gangster atmosphere climaxed by and off screen shooting finish are played down to run secondary to the feminine interest. Raft is mixed up in both. The women are: a past flame (West), recently discarded sweetheart (Gibson), present head woman and "nice" girl (Cummings) and a middle-aged school teacher employed to give the mugg English lessons. When the Misses Skipworth and West are on view, together or separately, the laughs come often, and in the brief period assigned them as a team the comedy pace is even speedier. They do a virtual cross-fire two-act when doubling. Miss West's dialog is always unmistakably her own. It is doubtful if anyone else could write it just that way.
• • The way the West — Skipworth moments stand out suggests the picture could have stood more of them, but the obvious intent is to nurse Miss West along. She's tossed into this one rather abruptly and without bearing on the plot, much in the manner that Jimmy Durante has been handled by Metro. That's okay if they don't do it too often. As long as this film proves the former legit name has something for pictures it wouldn't be taking a chance to shoot the works on her from now on.
• • Miss Skipworth's intelligent painting of a cultured lady having her first taste of hotcha is a gem. Misses Cummings and Gibson are more restricted than their elders, holding down ingenue-like roles that call for looks mostly. But they deliver in every way. No leading man has been more ably supported.
• • Story is merely that of a mugg who yearns to toss off the mugg staff after falling in love at a distance with a Lady. That he winds up with his goal attained doesn't matter much, although the happy ending changes the tone that runs through the story up to them. He's told midway by one of the girls he is more likable when he's himself. . . . [Source: Variety Magazine; columnist Bige; an excerpt from a lengthy review originally published on 1 November 1932.]

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Mae West: Annual Remembrance

At age 87, MAE WEST suffered a series of strokes which finally resulted in her death on 22 November 1980 in Hollywood, California.
• • The actress took her final breaths quietly in her Hollywood apartment (Ravenswood). Private services [conducted by Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie and attended by about 100 close friends and family] were held in the Old North Church at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills.
• • Her eulogy, written by Kevin Thomas and delivered by producer Ross Hunter, concluded: “Mae West always said that no one was ever to feel sorry for her, and she would not want anyone to start now. Mae West figured that in one way or another she would live forever. And she probably will.”
• • Entombment was in the West family mausoleum at Cypress Hills Abbey in Brooklyn, New York.
• • Cause of death: Complications from stroke
• • Burial: Cypress Hills Cemetery
• • Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, USA
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mae West: Never Only One Game

A Texas exhibition currently open to the public features MAE WEST.
• • Publicity materials announced that the title of this show "There is Never Only One Game in Town" is (supposedly) a Mae West quote and this statement is also on one of the drawings in the project starring the Brooklyn bombshell.
• • Artist Mary Beth Edelson is offering a look at work created from 1981 — 1997. Most of the 46 framed mixed-media wall pieces are being exhibited for the first time and feature collages inspired by feminine power. The artist's imagination was fed by Hollywood nostalgia, which can be seen in her renderings of marquee names such as Mae West, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich in a military uniform, Helen Reddy, and also TV's Wonder Woman Lynda Carter. There was rather too much self-important nose-blowing set adrift in the publicity materials and paraphrasing it here might actually turn off museum-goers, so just check out the artwork for yourself in The Lone Star State.
• • The exhibit will continue till 11 December 2010 at McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney Avenue, Dallas, TX 75204; tel. 214.953.1212.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mae West: November 1911

MAE WEST was cast in "Vera Violetta," a musical that opened in November on 20 November 1911 at the Winter Garden Theatre.
• • Most of the music was prepared by composer Edmund Eysler who was born in Vienna [on 12 March 1874]. The lyricist for "Vera" a show set in Paris, France was Harold Atteridge.
• • Mae West was assigned the second number in Act I. Backed by the chorus, Mae [as Mademoiselle Angelique] was to sing "Angelique of the Opera Comique," a song whose lyrics were written by Melville Gideon to music composed by Louis A. Hirsch.
• • During the out-of-town previews, Mae had the brilliant idea of performing this second number . . . a few minutes into the show . . . wearing an elaborate headpiece. Intentionally, the Brooklyn teenager was mistaken for Gaby Deslys (who played Mme. Adelle de St. Cloche) and the audience applauded wildly. Thus when Gaby Deslys finally did appear onstage for the sixth song, the audience did not realize that "Madame de St. Cloche" was the French-born star.
• • Gaby Deslys got Mae West fired before opening night in Manhattan.

• • Looking back with regret, Mae said, "I should have waited until the Winter Garden premiere before I tried that maneuver."
• • Despite introducing the Gaby Glide, a new dance choreographed for her by Ned Wayburn, Gaby Deslys was not as successful in this show as crowd-pleaser Al Jolson.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Mae West: West 133rd

MAE WEST enjoyed club-hopping in Harlem during the Prohibition Era. Set on and above 125th Street, her novel The Constant Sinner offers several scenes in nightspots. For instance, fictional clubs were modeled after The Clam House, Connie's Inn, and The Nest.
• • The Immerman brothers, who operated Connie's Inn on West 133rd Street mainly for white tourists and Park Avenue types, put Louis Armstrong at the head of Luis Russell's band in 1928.
• • Thirteen.org took a time machine trip to 133rd Street in Harlem during the lawless decade for their City Concealed series, focusing on the early jazz music there. Especially interesting to Mae-mavens would be their visit to The Nest, which was housed in the basement of 169 West 133rd Street, where another successful hang-out had been.
• • According to Thirteen.org: The Nest, which lies padlocked behind the doors of an abandoned building on a quiet residential block, is arguably one of New York City’s greatest unsung cultural landmarks. The development of jazz as an artistic movement in the city is linked to this spot, which opened on October 18, 1923, in the basement of what was then a barbecue club. In its heyday, during the height of Prohibition, the Nest hosted some of the most popular names in Harlem. It also attracted super star patrons like Mae West. Eventually more speakeasies opened in basements along the same block as the Nest, fostering a culture of clandestine drinking and improvised performance for a mixed audience of black and white club goers alike. ...
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mae West: Yamhill, Young Man

Christina Aguilera’s remake of “A Guy What Takes His Time” is every bit as steamy as the original made popular by 1930s screen siren MAE WEST, according to Ty Walker, who reviewed the soundtrack for the Yamhill Valley News Register on 18 November 2010. The Yamhill Valley residents (out in Oregon's fertile wine region in the Pacific Northwest) also learned from Ty Walker that "Muted horn sections playing to the beat with a marching snare drumbeat give it an authentic sound." Muted percussion probably goes very well with Pinot Noir.
• • It was a busy time for the screen queen when "Go West Young Man" was released on 18 November 1936.
• • Actor James B. Carson [1884 — 1958] worked with Mae West in "Vera Violetta," which opened on 20 November 1911 at the Winter Garden Theatre. The Broadway veteran was cast as Professor Otto von Gruenberg. It was in the month of November
— — on 18 November 1958 — — that Carson died in Los Angeles, California.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mae West: Rock Me

Under the golden gaze of Oscar, MAE WEST made beautiful music with this actor who was born in mid-November.
• • Hailing from Winnetka, Illinois, handsome Rock Hudson [17 November 1925 — 2 October 1985] was a film and television actor who was a popular leading man during the 1960s and 1970s, most notably in several romantic screen romps with his most famous co-star Doris Day.
• • Rock Hudson was voted "Star of the Year," "Favorite Leading Man," and similar titles by numerous movie magazines, and was one of the most popular and well-known movie stars of the time. He completed nearly 70 motion pictures and starred in several television productions during a career that spanned over four decades. Hudson was also one of the first major Hollywood celebrities to die from an AIDS related illness.
• • In 1958, the tall, dark, and handsome heart-throb sang a memorable duet with Mae West — — "Baby, It's Cold Outside" — — during an Academy Awards Show. This was a rare invitation extended to Mae to perform during the annual Hollywood awards ceremony. As they concluded the number, Rock offered Mae a cigarette, noting that it was "king-sized" — — and Mae replied, "Mmmm, it's not the men in your life, it's the life in your men!" They ended with a long, slow, passionate kiss.
• • It would never be cold inside — — if Mae West was there.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mae West: News Items

MAE WEST, often in the news during her lifetime, continues to be part of the public discourse.
• • "Diabetics who changed the course of history" (a feature published by Catholic Online) offered this intriguing though awkwardly phrased sentence: "In the world of show business, comedian Jack Benny, actress Halle Berry, actor and diabetic spokesman Wilford Brimley, actress Delta Burke, movie tough guy James Cagney, comedian Drew Carey, actress Nell Carter, Broadway regular Carol Channing, perennial teenager Dick Clark of "American Bandstand," movie icon Mae West all had or live with diabetes.
• • This took place on 12 November 2010 in California — — The City Commons Club of Berkeley offered a program on Mae West at their Friday Luncheon on November 12th. Jennifer King spoke about "Mae West, America's Actress, Dancer, and Entertainer Extraordinaire" in the Venetian Room of the lovely Julia Morgan City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue.
• • This took place on 12 November 2010 in Illinois — — "Hollywood Revisited," a show including movieland's icons such as Mae West and Marilyn Monroe, was brought to the Masonic Temple stage by Greg Schreiner, an Orangeville native, now living in Los Angeles. The glitz and glamour of Hollywood was presented at 7:30pm in Freeport, Illinois on November 12th.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Mae West: Troubled Remake

A song recorded by MAE WEST on 7 May 1934 has been neglected by singers — — until this year. "Troubled Waters" by New York City lyricist Sam Coslow and composer Arthur Johnson was created expressly for the motion picture "Belle of the Nineties." Backed by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, Mae archived her performance in the recording studio.
• • Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow have provided four crimson chansons — — "My Old Flame," "Troubled Waters," "My American Beauty," and "When a St. Louis Woman Comes Down to New Orleans" — — which are quite perfect, and Miss West delivers them in her inimitable adenoidal contralto, noted The New York Times review printed on 22 September 1934.
• • Vocalist Catherine Russell, a native New Yorker, inherited her love for jazz from her father, Luis Russell, the longtime musical director for Louis Armstrong. Instead of focusing on the usual standards, Russell has decided to revive forgotten numbers from the 1930s and 1940s performed by giants such as Mae West and Fats Waller.
• • Writing for NPR.org on Friday, 5 November 2010, Grant Jackson noted: On this "Piano Jazz" with guest host Jon Weber, Catherine Russell is accompanied by the Tin Pan Alley keyboard talents of Mark Shane for a set of tunes from Waller, Harold Arlen, and more.
• • Grant Jackson offered these program notes: Russell starts the set with "Troubled Waters," a tune that appeared in the 1934 Mae West film Belle of the Nineties. "I was digging through some tunes performed by Duke Ellington, and the chord changes and lyrics just grabbed me," Russell says. "When you listen, it can mean many different things." Mae West had enough clout to sing "Troubled Waters" with Ellington's band — — a breakthrough performance for a white singer and a black band in 1934. ...
• • You might have missed Catherine Russell on "Piano Jazz" earlier this month, however, NPR.org does archive certain programs — — so check out her rendition of this Mae West favorite.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mae West: Maids in Motion

MAE WEST may have preferred to forget her last fading silver screen beams in "Sextette," which opened in 1978.
• • True-hearted Mae-mavens know that, in her earliest years of being cast in productions, Mae often played an Irish maid. Surrounded in childhood by Irish relatives, Mae became an expert mimic and enjoyed being applauded for her ability to imitate several different shadings of Irish accents. However, to pole vault herself over the wall of that low comedienne ghetto, Mae knew she had to write her own scripts. Not every actress can convince a Hollywood studio boss, however, that she was not made to be a maid forever.
• • Born as Marie Alice Pradel in Paris in the month of November — — on 14 November 1902 — — the French voice actress Alyce Ardell lent her sexy accents to several intriguing cartoons as well as shorts and many motion pictures in which she was often cast, mais oui, as a French maid from 1925 — 1939.
• • When she worked with Mae West in "Go West, Young Man" [1936] she portrayed Jeanette, a French maid. She retired early from the cinema, perhaps out of frustration.
• • Alyce Ardell died at age 95 in Laguna Hills, California on 3 March 1996.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mae West: Auction in Beverly Hills

A signed letter from MAE WEST will change hands at Julien's Auctions' Icons & Idols sale — — scheduled to take place next month on December 3rd — 4th in Beverly Hills.
• • Rare items from the worlds of film, music, and pop culture along with an extensive selection of Beatles memorabilia will go on the auction block within the next two weeks in California.
• • Fans of Michael Jackson will be able to bid on a red leather "Beat It" jacket signed by the late King of Pop. Also up for grabs are storied female garments: a D&G coat from Madonna's Girlie Show tour, Vivien Leigh's blouse from Gone With the Wind, and Barbra Streisand's Funny Lady dress. Signed correspondence from Mae West and Bette Davis will certainly attract attention.
• • For details, contact Julien's Auctions at 310-836-1818.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Friday, November 12, 2010

Mae West: Bert Was the Best

Stage star Lionel Perry [born in Key West, Florida in 1902] seems to have modeled his act on MAE WEST's favorite: the great black minstrel and vaudevillian Bert Williams [12 November 1874 4 March 1922].
• • In an interview with Charlotte Chandler, Mae described meeting the great Bert Williams when she was a child. Little Mae was so enchanted by him that she had learnt his theme song "Nobody"
along with a stylish imitation of the superb timing and gestures that Bert Williams used to dramatize the sad words. This number was unusual for Mae, who never liked anything downbeat.
• • Knowing how much his daughter idolized the star, Mae's father made his acquaintance and invited him home in 1903. Unfortunately, Mae did not recognize the mocha-skinned West Indian entertainer without his blackface make-up and ran into her room crying, "It's not him!" To convince her, Bert Williams started to sing, whereupon Mae emerged from her bedroom and happily sat down to supper with Bert Williams and her family.
• • Bert Williams went on to star on Broadway in the Ziegfeld Follies and In Dahomey. Mae West remained a lifelong admirer of his comedic talents.
• • [Source: Charlotte Chandler, The Ultimate Seduction, Doubleday, 1984.]
• • Nobody: Since she sang the song for years in vaudeville as an amateur, Mae West would have known that Alex Rogers and Bert Williams co-wrote the song "Nobody" [New York: Attucks Publishing Co., 1905]. Though the cover of the song sheet shows Williams in blackface, it avoids the grotesque caricatures common in sheet music at the time. The song was published by the Attucks Publishing Co. (later Gotham-Attucks), the only notable black-owned music publishing company in New York before the 1920s. The firm was named for Crispus Attucks [c. 1723 5 March 1770], the martyred black sailor of the American Revolution. "Nobody" was the firm's biggest success.
• • On this day, the November 12th birthdate of the great Bert Williams is remembered.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mae West: Jerome Kern

MAE WEST was cast in "A Winsome Widow," a Broadway success in 1912.
• • Produced by Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., "A Winsome Widow" had several numbers created by a diverse group of songwriters and composers, for instance, Jerome Kern, then 27 years old.
• • A native New Yorker like Mae West, Jerome Kern [27 January 1885 — 11 November 1945] was an American composer of musical theatre and popular music who was raised in Manhattan. One of the most important American theatre composers of the early 20th century, he wrote more than 700 songs, used in over 100 stage works, including such classics as "Ol' Man River," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," "A Fine Romance," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "All the Things You Are," "The Way You Look Tonight," "Long Ago (and Far Away)," "Who?" — — and songs intended to be performed in "Winsome Widow" by Mae West. During his long career, Kern collaborated with many of the leading librettists and lyricists of his era, including George Grossmith Jr., Guy Bolton, P. G. Wodehouse, Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II, Dorothy Fields, Johnny Mercer, Ira Gershwin and E. Y. Harburg.
• • In the fall of 1945, Kern returned to New York City to oversee auditions for a new revival of Show Boat, and began to work on the score for what would become the musical Annie Get Your Gun, to be produced by Rodgers and Hammerstein. On 5 November 1945, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while walking at the south west corner of Park Avenue and 57th street, apparently in search of a drugstore for the pills he depended on, but had forgotten to bring with him. Today we mark the passing of this astonishingly talented composer.
• • On this November date, Veterans Day, we also salute those who have served this country.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mae West: Marilyn Bergman

Even MAE WEST's charm and charisma could not save "Myra Breckinridge" [released on 24 June 1970] — — but two numbers she performed onscreen were pressed on a promotional disk and the record has become quite a keepsake. It took the efforts of three adults worshipping at the grotto of improbable thoughts to come up with an astonishing sweetcake fat with brag like "You Gotta Taste All the Fruit," copyrighted in 1964 and only used in this particular motion picture. Maybe it became tainted fruit, especially for morose types who prefer songs about ummm . . . suffering heroically. Tsk! So many can't take a joke.
• • Born in Brooklyn, New York during the month of November — — on 10 November 1929 — — Marilyn Bergman is a composer, songwriter and author. She and her husband Alan Bergman, whom she married in 1958, were born in the same hospital and raised in the same Brooklyn neighborhood, but did not meet until each had relocated to Los Angeles. Together they have written the music and lyrics for numerous television shows, films, and stage musicals. And the couple teamed up with Sammy Fain to create "You Gotta Taste All the Fruit." Fain wrote the music and the Bergmans collaborated on the lyrics.
• • Marilyn Bergman was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1980, and in 1995 she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Berklee College of Music. Join us in wishing this talented woman a very happy birthday.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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