Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mae West: A Hot Surge

The summer air was feverish with a hot surge of adoration and applause during July 1928 when MAE WEST was riding a big box office wave at the Royale Theatre.
• • Though this Broadway showplace [located at 242 West 45th Street] had first hung out its shingle during January 1927, and has become known for long-running musicals, a non-musical was the theatre's first box office bonanza: Mae West’s "Diamond Lil," which wriggled five costume changes into the star's dressing room on 9 April 1928 and maintained its sunny side up for over 170 performances.
• • Time Magazine took its temperature [issue dated Monday, 23 April 1928].
• • Time's theatre critic, sparing no flair, admitted Lil had his heart at hello: "Diamond Lil" — — Propped up under the armpits by a dress that might have been designed by the stage carpenter, Mae West played the role that she had written about a bygone queen of Manhattan's underworld. Diamond Lil was a harlot whose heart was as big and golden as the enormous swan shaped bed that stood in her elaborate cubicle above Gus Jordan's saloon and brothel. None the less, she was hardboiled; when a Salvation Army captain came to save her soul, she planned to seduce him and when a lady threatened a double cross, Diamond Lil stabbed her in the tenderloin district. Despite her efforts, Gus Jordan, the Bowery boss, is caught eventually, for white slave trafficking. The Salvation Army captain, really a member of the police force, is his captor; Diamond Lil cuddles into his arms at the end saying, "Boy, I knew you could be had.''
• • Actress West plays her heroine with an eloquent and minatory calm, which contrasts well with the chryselephantine magnificence of her appearance. There are old-time tough songs, outmoded slang words ("moll," "dick," "corset"), and singing waiters, one of whom yodels, in the musty barroom, the same song with which he recently amused Manhattan cabaret patrons. "Diamond Lil" is an entertaining melodrama, concluded Time's man on the aisle.
• • You just don't hear critics uttering "minatory" these days, do you? Minatory — — means of a menacing or threatening nature.
• • And how about that $25 phrase "the chryselephantine magnificence"? Chryselephantine — — (adjective) means made of, or overlaid with, gold and ivory, as certain objects made in ancient Greece. In 1928, those drama critics knew how to show off a good vocabulary when the mood hit.
• • Mae West on the Newsstand Now • •
• • Films of the Golden Age Magazine, issue for Summer 2011. The big cover story is focused on the life and career of Steve ["Hercules"] Reeves, whose muscular physique was seen in ‘Sword and Sand’ flicks. Readers will enjoy a very nice profile of Mae West. There is a feature on one of Mae's costars Louis Calhern, too, as well as on director William Castle. Special section on the wonderful movie year of 1941.
• • Mae West in Verse • •
• • Edward Field's poem “Mae West” was published in The New Yorker, issue for 15 July 1974.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "Save a boyfriend for a rainy day — — and another, in case it doesn't rain."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • Speaking about education needs, George Bush quoted both Mae West and Gandhi.
• • James Gerstenzang writes: President George Bush told an education forum in a blue-collar north New Jersey suburb Thursday that — — in facing its education needs — — the United States must "rely less on the collective wallet, and more on our collective will." Quoting Mohandas K. Gandhi and Mae West and stopping his motorcade by arrangement to greet a sixth-grade, learning-disabled student who had written to him, Bush sought support for his newly unveiled education program in a community that has achieved a 1% school drop-out rate. ..."
• • Source: Article: "Bush Cites Gandhi, Mae West in Education Talk" written by James Gerstenzang, Staff Writer for The L.A. Times; published on 14 April 1989
• • 17 July 2004 17 July 2011 • •
• • In mid-July the Mae West Blog celebrates 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 1998th 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 • • 1928 • •
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