Sunday, June 05, 2011

Mae West: Come Up and Signify

MAE WEST worked with a large cast during the filming of "Klondike Annie" [1936].
• • Born in San Bernardino, California on 16 June 1893, Philo McCullough launched his cinema career in 1914 and was invariably hired as an extra for "Klondike Annie" and 254 other motion pictures. Philo McCullough did play himself in "Follow the Boys" [1944], a celebrity-studded vehicle starring George Raft and featuring Marlene Dietrich and many other notables. He also took part in 42 productions slated for TV.
• • Philo McCullough was last seen in the movie houses in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" [1969]. He died in Burbank, California at age 87 in the month of June — — on 5 June 1981.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Turning down the role of Myra, in "Myra Breckinridge," Mae West explained: I like my sexes stable.
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • Susan Salter Reynolds reviews the new book "Lives and Letters" by Robert Gottlieb [NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011, 426 pages], which discusses public figures and celebrities he encountered such as Mae West.
• • Susan Salter Reynolds writes: Robert Gottlieb [born 29 April 1931] has had front-row seats for decades to the great drama of American culture: as an editor at publishing houses Simon & Schuster and Alfred A. Knopf, and as the editor of the New Yorker after he replaced William Shawn in 1987, a time he refers to as "The Troubles." In these essays he has written about public figures, writers, performers, Hollywood stars and theater legends. Mae West, Tallulah Bankhead, Bruno Bettelheim, the Mitfords, Diana Vreeland, John Steinbeck, Judith Krantz, Rudyard Kipling and many others come under his ferocious, often protective scrutiny. . ...
• • Source: Book Review column: "Discoveries" written by Susan Salter Reynolds, The Los Angeles Times; posted on 5 June 2011
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • Clearly, Robert Gottlieb enjoyed Mae West and relished writing about her, too.
• • In 2001, Robert Gottlieb explained: Poor Mae West! First, struggling up the hard way-the not-quite-savory background, burlesque, vaudeville; notoriety (well, she enjoyed that); sneered at by the classy side of Broadway and later of Hollywood (Miriam Hopkins huffed of her own films and West's: "They don't belong in the same conversation or category"); slow artistic and box-office death at the hands of the Hays Office; desperate attempts to reassert her appeal; the ghastly Myra Breckinridge (when she thought they were offering her Myra, she turned it down: "I like my sexes stable") and the even-more-ghastly Sextette (she was 84; said The New York Times , "Granny should have her mouth washed out with soap, along with her teeth"); and, ultimately, retreat into fantasy in her all-white-and-gold, all-mirrored apartment
— — the preferred décor of America's infamous Diamond Lil.
• • Robert Gottlieb continued: But lucky Mae West, too — — the slow but sure progress until she had kootchy-kootched and shimmied her way up the showbiz ladder and was starring in her own plays on Broadway; overnight stardom in Hollywood in 1932, when she was 39; tremendous box office, huge salary, almost unparalleled control over her movies
— — writing her own dialogue, overseeing casting, slipping and sliding around the dread Production Code until even she couldn't get away with her innuendoes and provocations; enjoying as many comebacks as Judy Garland (though unlike Garland, she remained in strict control of her work, her image, and her money). She may have been a laughingstock to some, but to others she was a brilliant original — — a woman of large talents, if not education, who triumphantly asserted the right to her rampant sexuality and created a type as unique as Chaplin, Garbo, or the Marx Brothers. Colette put it with her customary acuity: "She alone, out of an enormous and dull catalogue of heroines, does not get married at the end of the film, does not die, does not take the road to exile, does not gaze sadly at her declining youth in a silver-framed mirror …. She alone has no parents, no children, no husband. This impudent woman is, in her style, as solitary as Chaplin used to be."
• • Robert Gottlieb noted: Celebrate Mae West or mock her, you can only feel sympathy for this game (and gamy) woman now that she's been discovered by academia. First, she was taken up by the genderists — — wasn't she "empowered"? Didn't she fight for her rights as Independent Woman and prevail? She battled the censors, she battled the moguls, she defied the police (she and the whole cast of her play SEX were thrown in jail, where she seems to have had a good time). Like Catherine the Great — — whom she impersonated on Broadway — — she chewed men up and spat them out. And most important of all, she never allowed anyone — — whether in a professional or personal relationship — — to compromise her great creation, "Mae West." As much as any woman of the 20th century, she took control of her life and kept it: an essential feminist heroine, and rightly so. ...
• • Source: Excerpt from a Book Review: "Come Up and Signify Me: Mae West Meets Academia" written by Robert Gottlieb, The New York Observer; posted on 4 November 2001
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 1952nd 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 • • 1936 • •
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