Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Mae West: Now I'm a Lady

When the tabloids penned an obituary for James A. Timony, they attributed MAE WEST's stardom to his devoted management and oversight. Perhaps he saw himself as Pygmalion, unmarried and unattached until he fell in love with his own creation.
• • In 1916, the hard-working Brooklyn-bred attorney introduced to Mae by her mother was an ambitious professional who placed newspaper ads pitching his services to actors as well as a flashy dresser — — if no oil painting. When they met, Mae was 23 and Jim was 30, a solidly built balding Irish American whose injured leg required assistance from an expensive cane imbedded with an elk's tooth.
• • Timony was 68 when he died in the month of April — — on 5 April 1954. Alas, The New York Times obituary reported his age incorrectly when they announced his demise from a heart attack at his Hollywood home. According to his obit, Timony had been in retirement for five years due to poor health. (At the time, Mae was 60 years old, vivacious, and performing with her hunky bodybuilders on the nightclub circuit. Despite coping with his ailments, Timony was then in discussion with developers for a Mae West theme park.)
• • Calling James A. Timony the manager of Mae West for 25 years, and the person who "guided her to success," The Times also noted that he "received major credit for her development from a relatively obscure singer and dancer into an internationally known prototype of the American siren."
• • Clearly, their long-term arrangement took various forms during the 38 years of their partnership from 1916 — 1954. Each derived benefits from this relationship and one example is this signed check.
• • Dated 8 February 1935, the $3,500 allowance to James Timony was his 10% commission on Mae's script for "Now I'm a Lady," sold to Paramount Pictures for $35,000. This was quite a sum in 1935 when most of the country was in the grip of the Great Depression.
• • "Now I'm a Lady" • •
• • Though it was released in May 1935 as "Goin' to Town," this film's working title was first "Now I'm a Lady" and then "How Am I Doin'?" as the production moved towards completion. The phrase "Now I'm a Lady" wound up as the final song performed by the screen queen playing the starring role of Cleo Borden. The music was written by Sammy Fain and the lyrics were a collaboration between by Irving Kahal and Sam Coslow.
• • Variety made mention of this orchestrated number in a head-shaking tsk-tsk summation. Columnist Abel wrote: It may insure action, for "Goin' to Town" goes all over the map to take in lots of geography. Starts in cattle-rustlin' rancho territory; thence to Buenos Aires for cosmopolitan swank; from there to ultra Southampton, L.I., for a sample of La West giving the 400 the acey-duecy, and the fadeout is an off-to-Lunnon with an earl, no less. This cues for the "Now I'm a Lady" song
— — also the tag first ascribed to this flicker. ... "He's a Wicked Man But He Loves So Good" and "Now I'm a Lady" are two numbers, done more or less incidentally, and distinguished principally by the brass work in the orchestrations. ... [Source: Variety, written by Abel, originally published on 15 May 1935.]
• • After the purity police fumed over numerous "dirty" word choices, the lyrics in the soundtrack had to be scrubbed in order to meet the requirements of the Hays Code. For instance, the spunky chorus to "Now I'm a Lady" originally read this way: "I used to have a lot of sweet sugar daddies/ As much as seven or nine/ But now I'm a lady, I see them one at a time./ I used to baby all those sweet sugar daddies/ To keep my cloud silver lined/ But now I'm a lady, I get my sugar refined."
• • Joseph Breen's spleen was greatly affected. He dashed off this report: "As we read it, it is the boasting of a woman of loose morals who has had any number of men in her time, and has climbed over them to the top of the ladder where she has finally married respectability." Breen told Paramount Pictures that if these offensive lyrics came out of Cleo Borden's mouth, then the PCA could not pass it.
• • Changes were made and made again. At last, the film was approved on 1 April 1935. Later on, Joseph Breen would write to Will H. Hays, head of the PCA, defending Paramount's cooperation with the Hays Code: "The studio [has] conscientiously avoided the more serious difficulties that have attended some of this star's [Mae West] previous pictures." ...
• • Mae West in Boynton, Florida This Week • •
• • Sondra Steinhauer will be discussing Mae West. "It's a women's conference for women, by women to women," said Steinhauer. "Mae West was an amazing dedicated woman and the blonde voluptuous sex symbol before Jean Harlow, Marilyn Monroe, and Madonna."
• • The Women's Conference: Three Days of Lecturers for Women, By Women, Lunch and Fun! will take place from April 6th — 8th, 2011 at Temple Torah, 8600 S. Jog Road in West Boynton, Florida. Men are welcome, too.
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • April is National Poetry Month. During the time she was in the Women's Workhouse, Mae West wrote poetry that was published. The lines rhymed and were amusingly phrased — — and sounded nothing like Gertrude Stein. But it's nice that Mae's wit comes to mind so often.
• • Canadian reporter George Elliott Clarke writes: A Gertrude Stein-like phrase, "the ins and outs of you and I," is matched later by another, "Life without you is like life for worse / or better. And right now / I like better better." You can almost hear Mae West speaking it. ...
• • Source: "Very fine verse of Heller, Holt" written by George Elliott Clarke for The Chronicle Herald of Canada; posted on 3 April 2011
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 1890th 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: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • with Jim Timony in 1942 • •
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