Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Mae West: George Givot

MAE WEST's first choice for Babe Gordon's lover, the Harlem pimp Money Johnson, was handsome Lorenzo Tucker. The producers insisted on George Givot instead.
• • The Great Depression increased the number of jobless adults and, by 1931, the unemployment rate had reached nearly 16 percent. Obviously, the bleak economic downturn took a bite out of the box office, lowering everyone's ticket sales — — not only Mae West's productions. But the storyline of "The Constant Sinner" — — Babe Carson's love for Money Johnson, a dark-skinned Harlem hoodlum with a bootlegging empire, kept many theatre-goers away. Miscegenation was a touchy subject in 1931, as Mae West knew. The Harlem Breakfast Club scenes also featured inter-racial couples. Racial attitudes being what they were during the 1930s, several critics who reviewed the play said that these scenes "turn the stomach."
• • Mae West was not allowed to cast the dashing, debonair actor she really wanted — — Lorenzo Tucker, billed as "The Black Valentino" — — for the role of "Money Johnson."
• • The Shuberts and Jim Timony refused to let Mae West cast a black man as her lover, afraid this would trigger police raids and worse. Forced to give in, Mae agreed to hire vaudevillian George Givot to play the Harlem hotshot during the play's Broadway run. George Givot played the role in blackface. The Shuberts wrote it into his contract that, at the end of each performance, Givot would have to remove his wig to assure the audience that it was a Caucasian who was embracing the curvy blonde "Babe Carson" [Mae West] onstage.
• • Born in Omaha, Nebraska on 18 February 1903, George Givot gained fame in vaudeville as a dialect comedian. Often appearing onstage as an English-language-mangling Greek immigrant, Givot's familiar tag was this: "How'd ya like that?" He sailed onto The Great White Way in "Earl Carroll's Sketch Book," a musical revue that debuted on 1 July 1929 and lasted for a year until it closed in the month of June — — on 7 June 1930.
• • George Givot co-starred opposite Mae West in the Broadway production of "The Constant Sinner" in 1931. Though he continued to work on Broadway until 1962, he was almost always cast in dialect roles as a Latino or a Greek.
• • Broadening his base in 1933, George Givot went to Tinseltown. He appeared in a number of motion pictures including the starring vehicle for blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield, "The Girl Can't Help It" [1956], in which he had a minor role as Lucas. Dividing his talents, he was attached either to a live show in the legit, a film, a radio show, or a TV project. According to Hal Erickson: By 1940, however, Givot was accepting more "straight" roles, speaking without a trace of accent and frequently opting for dramatics rather than laughs.
• • His last dialect projects were rather memorable. In 1956, he was the voiceover for Italian Tony, who runs the trattoria where Tramp takes Lady to share a plate of spaghetti in "Lady and the Tramp" [1956]. And in 1959 he appeared as the Hispanic character Pablo on "Mike Hammer," a popular TV detective series. George Givot died at age 81 in Palm Springs, California in the month of June — — on 7 June 1984.
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • Wasn't it Mae West who quipped, "Is that a Tweet or are you just happy to see me?" ...
• • Source: Column: "Avast, Tweet like a twit day" written by The Herald Net, HeraldNet.com; posted on 6 June 2011

• • By the Numbers • •

• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 1954th 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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