Saturday, November 06, 2010

Mae West: Helpful Harvey

Harvey Francis Thew — — who died in the month of November — — massaged a famous screenplay with MAE WEST.
• • Born in Missouri on 4 July 1883, writer Harvey F. Thew collaborated with Mae West, and screenwriter John Bright, and Lowell Sherman in 1932 on the film version of the bombshell's best-known three act stage play "Diamond Lil." For Paramount Pictures, Mae turned her 3-hour Bowery melodrama into a trim 66-minute comedy with the aid of Harvey Thew.
• • The studio released "She Done Him Wrong" on 9 February 1933. A Hollywood Valentine for movie-goers!

• • A screenwriter since 1916, Harvey Thew actually spent most of his movie career at Warner Brothers Pictures. One of his in-laws was John Barrymore (which did not hurt his career at all).
• • According to TCM's film historian Frank Miller: Hays' demands actually improved the film. Screenwriter John Bright, who had scored a hit with The Public Enemy (1931), was assigned to collaborate on the screenplay — — but he didn't click with West, and her script didn't impress him either. Bright thought it was a creaky old melodrama filled with cheap jokes and tried to make it more of a straight crime film. West hated his ideas, but had a battle getting the studio to side with her. Then one of Hays' associates suggested that the film might be more palatable if played for comedy. That was the excuse she needed to cut Bright's additions and return many of her laugh lines (eventually she had him replaced by Harvey Thew). When Hays suggested toning down references to Lou's past affairs, West added a maid character (played by Louise Beavers) who knew of her past so the two could discuss it in a series of veiled references.

• • Those references — — and West's ability to make even the most innocent lines sound risque — — made the film a hit and made her one of the world's most quoted writers.
• • At the age of 63, hard-working Harvey F. Thew died in Los Angeles on 6 November 1946.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1932 publicity shot for "She Done Him Wrong" • •
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