Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mae West: Twitting O'Neill

MAE WEST sang "I'm in the Mood for Love" — — and it was featured on the LP Fabulous Mae West [released in September 1955]. The song had been published twenty years earlier in 1935.
• • Born in Boston in the month of July — — on 10 July 1894 — — James Francis McHugh was a prolific songwriter who was doing his best work from the 1920s through the 1950s. McHugh composed over 270 songs and his hits were recorded by Mae West as well as Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, Dinah Washington, June Christy, Peggy Lee, Deanna Durbin, and Ella Fitzgerald.
• • Composer Jimmy McHugh collaborated with lyricist Dorothy Fields on "I'm in the Mood for Love," which enjoyed great popularity and is still being sung today.
• • Jimmy McHugh died on 23 May 1969 in Beverly Hills, California at age 74.
• • In July 1922 • •
• • During July 1922, Mae was preparing for her spotlight as she rehearsed the "Ginger Box Review" with a wonderful cast that included Jimmy Hussey and Harry Richman. After a two performance try-out in Hartford, Connecticut, this musical was supposed to be opening at the Greenwich Village Theatre in Sheridan Square. If only . . . .
• • "Ginger Revue Now a Pepless Stew as Promoter Disappears" announced the New York Daily News [13 August 1922]. Thirteen Equity actors sued Perkins to recover their salaries — — but not Mae, who was to have received a percentage of the box office.
• • Well, this situation was forcing the ambitious Brooklynite into the one role she feared the most: unemployed actress. On 23 August 1922, however, the New York Clipper noted: Mae West, who was with 'The Ginger Box,' which opened and closed rather suddenly, has returned to vaudeville, and opened at Proctor's Fifth Avenue on Monday. . . .
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West: During her number "Eugene O'Neill, You've Put a Curse on Broadway," Mae's character was bellowing, Yank-style, "She don me doit! Lemme up! I'll show her who's an ape!"
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • "Mae West was better suited to writing gritty realism than Eugene O'Neill," explains Frank Cullen in the book "Vaudeville, Old and New" [2007].
• • Mae West spoofed Eugene O'Neill in 1922 and others followed with a parody.
• • Felicia Hardison Londré writes: During the 1920s Eugene O’Neill’s plays elicited an exceptionally large number of playful rewrites. . . . Why did Eugene O’Neill’s plays of the 1920s become such a magnet for la critique créatrice as well as source material for burlesque? First, he met the basic criterion of a subject for parody: universal recognition by the target audience. . . . The Hairy Ape opened on 9 March 1922 and moved uptown in April for a 127-performance run. It quickly spawned travesties, beginning in June with a three-scene burlesque titled “The Shaving of the Hairy Ape” in Raymond Hitchcock’s Pinwheel Revel. Although Frank Fay played “Bull Burke, the Ape Man,” the piece attracted little critical attention apart from a general call for scissors to be taken to the whole show (NYT 16 June 1922). O’Neill’s strong language was targeted in the next two stage lampoons of The Hairy Ape. First came The Ginger Box on July 28-29 in Stamford, Connecticut. The program in the Billy Rose Theatre Collection proclaims “prior to opening at the Greenwich Village Theatre, New York,” but an unscrupulous producer left the show in the lurch and it never got to New York (Watts 61). In the second slot of Act 2, Mae West impersonated Yank Smith and, backed up by the twelve Stoker Girls, sang “Eugene O’Neill, You’ve Put a Curse on Broadway.”
• • Two months later, The Passing Show of 1922 at the Winter Garden featured a similar number performed by the popular blonde singing comedienne Ethel Shutta. According to an undated clipping in the file on that show in the Billy Rose Theatre Collection, the song “condemned O’Neill for teaching Broadway to curse,” while “a supporting chorus yelled ‘Go to hell!’ with an aptitude which might have shamed the ‘Hairy Ape’.” ...
• • Source: Article: "Twitting O’Neill: His Plays of the 1920s Subjected to La Critique Créatrice" written by Felicia Hardison Londré for The Eugene O'Neill Review; posted in Volume 26 — — 2004
• • 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 1987th 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 • • Greenwich Village Theatre, 1922 • •
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