Monday, October 31, 2011

Mae West: Houdini & Hollywood

MAE WEST was interviewed by the reporter Douglas Gilbert, who often chronicled variety acts for the New York World-Telegram. It was at the end of October — — on 31 October 1933 — — when his article appeared. By then an established Hollywood highness, Mae offered these opinions about females. "Women prefer to be feminine, believe me," the Paramount Pictures star insisted. "Why, I couldn't spot a woman, three years ago. They got headed away from their natural lines, and I think what did it more than anything else was their addiction to sports and the silly idea that they looked well, by appearing mannish, in sports styles. Naturally, this leads to rough manners and a general carelessness in attitude."
• • Speaking while Prohibition was still in effect, the 40-year-old movie queen continued: "Good Lord, if there's anything more awkward than a woman draped over a bar! You see, the speakeasy influence. Sit at a table, dearie, I always say. And don't forget your frills and ruffles and anything else that feminizes you. It's the icing on the cake for a gal. See what I mean?"
• • In this gown from "I'm No Angel," Mae (in character as Tira) is quite the glamour girl.
• • In October, Let's Remember Houdini [1874 — 1926] • •
• • Mae West appeared on the same bill with Houdini in New York City a few times.
• • Born Erik Weisz on 24 March 1874, the Hungarian-American magician took the stage name of Harry Houdini.
• • Harry Houdini [24 March 1874 — 31 October 1926], the popular escape artist and stunt performer (as well as a debunker of sham spiritualists and an amateur aviator), has been the subject of numerous biographies. In 2007, one author's book raised the suspicion that the physically fit vaudevillian was murdered, perhaps by poison. His body, buried in November 1926 in a Jewish cemetery in Glendale, Queens, New York, was going to be exhumed based on that research.
• • Thanks to Oscar Hammerstein, Mae West and Houdini were on the same stage for seven days during August 1913. On 4 August 1913, Mae (almost 20 years old then) began a week-long engagement at Hammerstein's Victoria. She was hired to open for Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, whose act was promoted in a hand-painted sign with four-feet high letters: "Modern Ballroom Dancing performed by Evelyn Nesbit Thaw!"
• • Also featured on the same stagebill with Evelyn and Mae were: vaudevillian Aida Overton Walker, reprising her role as Salome; Harry Houdini; Edgar Berger; Fields and Carroll; Dan the talking dog; and the usual "nut" acts.
• • It was on 25 June 1926 that Mae West (32 years old then) appeared with Houdini, age 52, on the same stage for one last time. The star of "Sex" was performing with the magician and other entertainers (such as George M. Cohan, Fannie Brice, the Marx Brothers, Al Jolson, Ann Pennington, Hazel Dawn, Eddie Foy, etc.) at the Polo Grounds on West 155th Street in Manhattan's Washington Heights area. The fundraiser, organized for the benefit of the United Jewish Campaign, was staged by Mae's old dancing teacher Ned Wayburn.
• • Harry Houdini died of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix on 31 October 1926. He was only 52 years old.
• • On 31 October 1919 in Variety • •
• • In the write-up of Ned Wayburn's "Demi-Tasse Revue" at the Capitol Theatre (a movie house on Broadway with a wide stage for vaudeville acts), Variety mentioned Mae West on 31 October 1919, noting that she "also scored as a single with a burlesque 'shimmy' number."
• • On 31 October 1932 in The New York Times • •
• • It was on 31 October 1932 that a review of "Night After Night" was published in The New York Times.
• • Critic Mordaunt Hall wrote: The narrative takes up two old flames of Joe Anton's — — Iris Dawn, who is vengeful when she realizes that Joe has centered his attention on Miss Jerry Healy, and Maudie Triplett, impersonated by Mae West, who cares not whether the moon is out or the sun is shining or Joe has a new interest in life, so long as she is not short of alcoholic beverages. Maudie gives a lesson on drinking to Mrs. Jellyman, who, it might be noted at this point, is impersonated by Alison [sic] Skipworth. ...
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West wrote her own lines for "Night After Night" [1932]. Her character was Maudie Triplett, a former girlfriend of the speakeasy owner Joe (played by George Raft).
• • • Mrs. Jellyman: Chemistry's a wonderful thing.
• • • Maudie: I'll say it is — — but I know a couple of druggists that never made a dime 'til Prohibition.
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • An announcement about restless spirits on October 31st mentioned Mae West.
• • Michael Rechtshaffen writes: Hollywood — — Maybe it has something to do with a colorful (some might say sordid) past filled with larger-than-life antics, but it should come as no surprise that many old Hollywood haunts are indeed said to be haunted. ... One such location can be found on 1714 Ivar Avenue, not too far away from the iconic Capitol Records building. While the non-descript structure is now a seniors' home, back in the day it was the glamorous Knickerbocker Hotel, playing host to a who's who of Tinseltown luminaries from Mae West to Frank Sinatra to Lana Turner to Laurel and Hardy.
• • The Spanish Colonial Revival building was quite the Hollywood hotspot, with a happening bar frequented by Rudolf Valentino, Marilyn Monroe, and Joe DiMaggio. ...
• • And for 10 years following the death of her famous husband, Harry Houdini's widow would hold Halloween rooftop séances attempting to communicate with the great escape artist, who passed away on 31 October 1926.
• • Given all that, it's not surprising that folks claimed The Knickerbocker was haunted, and that even when it fell into major disrepair there were those who'd swear they saw Marilyn's ghost in the bar's ladies' room. ...
• • Source: Article: "Scary Hollywood ghost stories" written by Michael Rechtshaffen, QMI Agency for The Calgary Sun; posted on 30 October 2011
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2100st 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:
Add to Google
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1933 • •
• • Feed — —
Mae West.

No comments:

Post a Comment