Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mae West: Surrendering to My Will

"I'm No Angel," a screen comedy written by and starring MAE WEST, will be shown at Film Forum in Manhattan on Sunday and Monday, that is, on July 17th — 18th, 2011 as part of their hand selected retrospective of the top fifty Pre-Code motion pictures. Paramount Pictures had a blockbuster success with Mae onscreen as Tira the Incomparable, once again partnered with newcomer Cary Grant. In this movie Mae West told Beulah to peel her a grape and she tamed (maybe shamed) a den of lions, an all-male jury, and the tall, dark, handsome socialite Cary Grant. This was the picture that "was denounced from pulpits throughout the land... while Paramount cleaned up at the box office," noted Film Forum's series curator.
• • Film Forum is at 209 West Houston Street in New York City and the Pre-Code schedule and several period trailers are online to get you in the mood. You'll enjoy two 1930s films for one entry fee.
• • Bruce Bennett wrote an article that illuminates the Pre-Code Era from backstage and the back rooms where deals were cut. His title is "The Storm Before the Calm — — A New Series Pulls the Pasties Off America's Early Era of Scandalous Cinema" written for The Wall Street Journal this week.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West discussed some of the details involved in the making of "I'm No Angel" [1933], a blockbuster hit for Paramount Pictures.
• • Mae West wrote this: I argued for a long time with Wesley Ruggles, and finally they gave in. After lunch I returned to the set and things began to move.
• • The lions were driven out of the cage and the wicked lion who had hurt the trainer earlier in the morning was separated from the others. The cage was thoroughly cleaned from top to bottom. At last things were ready. They drove the lions back into the cage. Cameras were set up to get the scene from different angles. This wasn't something you could take over and over again.
• • Unknown to me, the studio had ordered men with guns loaded with live bullets to stand at vantage points outside the cage. They were ordered to shoot to kill if any of the beasts made the slightest move to attack me. I was confident of my safety, but apparently no one else was. The assistant trainer was not allowed in the cage, of course, because his presence would have ruined the scene.
• • Over the loud-speakers the ringmaster announced the act, and I made my entrance into the cage. The iron door clanged behind me and I was alone, facing the semi-circle of lions. The crowd fell silent and tense as I began moving about, cracking the whip.
• • • • Ah, at last here were lions surrendering to my will. • • • •
• • Ah, at last here were lions surrendering to my will. They looked at me with great big beautiful but dangerous eyes. They were fascinating to me and seemingly fascinated by this stranger in dazzling white and gold. They snarled, they pawed at me. If one of those immense thrown paws had reached me I very probably would not be writing this now. ...
• • Source: Mae West telling a story in "THE PUBLIC IS NEVER WRONG: The Autobiography of Adolph Zukor" [NY: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1953]
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • “Arguably Mae West's best film, certainly one of her funniest.” — — Pauline Kael
• • 17 July 2004 17 July 2011 • •
• • In mid-July the Mae West Blog will celebrate its seventh anniversary. Thank you to all those Mae-mavens who come up and see Mae every day.
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 1993rd 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 • • 1933 • •
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