Thursday, April 07, 2011

Mae West: Joel Ashley

MAE WEST took her role as Empress Catherine II [1729 — 1796] very seriously. "Catherine," the Broadway star reminded her audience in a first-night curtain speech, "had 300 lovers. I did the best I could in two hours."
• • One of the Russian ruler's heart-throbs was Grigory Potemkin [1739 — 1791], who had first won Catherine's favor for assisting in her 1762 coup, and then distinguishing himself as a military commander in the Russo-Turkish War [1768 — 1774]. Ten years her junior and in possession of the finer traits that Grigory Orloff lacked, Grigory Potemkin soon became Catherine's lover, a favorite, and possibly her consort. After their first-run passion cooled a bit, he remained her lifelong friend and trusted statesman. Catherine gave him the title Prince of the Holy Roman Empire among many others. Within two years after their intimate partnership had taken root, she had given him nine million rubles. Afterwards he accepted almost limitless estates in Poland and in every province of Greater Russia. The mansion he built in St. Petersburg, known as the Taurian Palace, was the site of the most unrestrained entertaining.
• • Remembering Joel Ashley on April 7th • •
• • Actor Joel Ashley must have caught Mae's eye during auditions because the 25-year-old was cast for two roles in "Catherine Was Great" — — Corporal Joe and Prince Potemkin.
• • Born in Atlanta, Georgia in the month of April — — on 7 April 1919 — — Joel Ashley married an actress in June 1942. His bride Margalo Francis Wilson had followed in her father's footsteps; Francis Wilson was the founding president of Actor’s Equity. His family recalled that he was known to quote Shakespeare at the drop of a hat. On Broadway, he starred as Abe Lincoln in both "Prologue to Glory" and "War President," a dead-end flop that closed after one single performance [April 24 —25, 1944]. Recovering nicely from that loser, he soon started rehearsals for "Catherine Was Great," which opened on The Great White Way
at the Shubert Theatre on 2 August 1944 and did excellent box office until the final performances in January 1945.
• • Joel Ashley enjoyed a long versatile career onstage, onscreen, on radio, and on TV. On television, he appeared live on Hallmark, Studio One, and other productions. Radio listeners heard him as the announcer for Lucky Strike and he was a leading character in The Shadow, Capt. Video, and many New York soap operas of the 1940s and 1950s.
• • In 1954, he was cast in "Ten Commandments" and moved to Hollywood. In Los Angeles, he had a lengthy tenure as Chair of the Theatre Committee at the Masquer’s Club.
• • Joel Ashley died in Los Angeles in the month of April — — on 7 April 2000.
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • Rocker Alice Cooper was in the cast of "Sextette" starring Mae West. Kevin Blair notes this comment by Cooper: While Lady Gaga is a huge fan of Alice Cooper, the macabre rocker also finds himself a fan of hers. Cooper said, "She's a cross between Madonna, Mae West and Liberace... She's a spectacle." ...
• • Source: Article: "Lady Gaga Meets Her Idol Alice Cooper" written by Kevin Blair for; posted on 29 March 2011
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 1892nd blog post. Unlike many blogs, which draw upon reprinted content from a newspaper or a magazine and/ or summaries, links, or photos, the mainstay of this blog is its fresh material focused on the life and
career of Mae West, herself an American original.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • as the Empress of Russia, 1944 • •
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  1. don kruger10:27 AM

    Hi there, My dad's cousin, Michael Spreder, performed in 'Catherine Was Great' Is there any chance that you can identify any members of the cast based on the image of the cast that you use on the top of this page???

    It is my belief right now that 1. one of the main actors did not show up for the photo.(Gene Barry) 2. Michael Spreder replaced him for this shot, and my dad (at the time a Private in the Army and not an actor)is the tall guard to the Mae West's left - My dad replaced Michael Spreder for this shot.

    Call or write.
    Don Kruger

  2. Actor Michael Spreder was cast as Chamberlain in this production, however, I am unable to identify all the cast members in this photo.

    Maybe one of your family members can help you with this.

    1. I am looking for a pic of Bern Hoffman in this production. Can anyone help me?