Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Mae West: Sweetheart of Sigma Chi

It was 1 November 1946 and MAE WEST was in Ithaca, New York with diamonds and frills.
• • "Sigma Chi Makes 'THE' Mae West New Sweetheart" was the headline on page one of the Cornell Daily Sun [Volume 64, Issue 16, 1 November 1946]. And here is what the college boys arranged, according to a local news outlet near the university campus.
• • Mae West last night was formally made the latest "Sweetheart of Sigma Chi" in a ceremony held at that fraternity following her one night stand at the Strand Theater. Flustered by the honor, Mae West answered a Cornell Daily Sun reporter's query as to whether she had ever been in a fraternity house before with this reply: "before what?" When asked if she would be able to visit the campus before she departed Ithaca, the glamorous actress countered "what time does it open?" Melvin McLeod, Bob Yarnell, Jack Roscoski, and Phil O'Rourke started a vigil at 2:00 pm yesterday in the lobby of the Hotel Ithaca to render personally Sigma Chi's invitation to Miss West. At 6:30 pm, after numerous trips to various Ithaca pubs, the vigil was rewarded when Miss West's manager agreed to a personal appearance after the performance. Besides rendering several of her famous torch songs, including "Frankie and Johnny," the versatile Mae gave the original scene from "Diamond Lil" including her immortal invitation, "Come up and see me sometime! " — — R. K. and J. C.
• • Founded at Cornell University in October 1890, Sigma Chi, the second largest fraternity in the nation, is one of the most influential and highly respected at Cornell.
• • "Diamond Lil" had one performance at the Strand Theater (located then at 310-12 E. State Street, Ithaca, NY 14850 in Tompkins County, New York). The spacious Tudor Revival style playhouse first opened its doors in 1917 as the most modern auditorium for live performances. Though it was once listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the venue fell on hard times. Despite attempts by preservationists, the Strand was bulldozed during the late 1980s. Currently, the site is an open parking lot.
• • In November, Let's Remember Ralf Harolde [1899 — 1974] • •
• • Raise your eyebrows if you remember Mae West's screen companion for Tira —— Slick Wiley, for whom we nod in November.
• • Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 17 May 1899, Ralf H. Wigger wiggled his name to Ralf Harolde and headed for the Hollywood Hills. Often cast in bit parts, Ralf Harolde racked up nearly 100 motion picture credits between 1920 — 1963.
• • In "I'm No Angel," the slinky five-foot-eleven Easterner played Tira's jealous boyfriend, Slick, who tails her to the hotel where she is romancing a big spender from Dallas. When Slick knocks the Texan unconscious and robs him, he puts Tira in a compromising position.
• • Ralf Harolde's film career was seriously side-tracked when, in 1937, he was involved in an unfortunate traffic accident that resulted in the death of fellow actor Monroe Owsley. When Ralf re-emerged on screen in 1941, it was clear that the fatality had aged and chastened him.
• • On 1 November 1974, Ralf Harolde died of pneumonia in Santa Monica, California. He was 75 years old.
• • On 1 November 1932 in Variety • •
• • Critiquing the debut of the motion picture "Night After Night," Variety (for once) was full of praise for Mae West, who overshadowed her younger and trimmer castmates.
• • Reviewer Bige wrote: Bootlegger stuff and some gangster atmosphere climaxed by and off screen shooting finish are played down to run secondary to the feminine interest. Raft is mixed up in both. The women are: a past flame (West), recently discarded sweetheart (Gibson), present head woman and "nice" girl (Cummings) and a middle-aged school teacher employed to give the mugg English lessons. When the Misses Skipworth and West are on view, together or separately, the laughs come often, and in the brief period assigned them as a team the comedy pace is even speedier. They do a virtual cross-fire two-act when doubling. Miss West's dialog is always unmistakably her own. It is doubtful if anyone else could write it just that way.
• • The way the West — Skipworth moments stand out suggests the picture could have stood more of them, but the obvious intent is to nurse Miss West along. She's tossed into this one rather abruptly and without bearing on the plot, much in the manner that Jimmy Durante has been handled by Metro. That's okay if they don't do it too often. As long as this film proves the former legit name has something for pictures it wouldn't be taking a chance to shoot the works on her from now on. . . .
• • [Source: Variety Magazine; columnist Bige; an excerpt from a lengthy review originally published on 1 November 1932.]
• • On 1 November 1933 in Modern Screen Magazine • •
• • Subscribers to the fan magazine Modern Screen immediately noticed the eye-catching issue dated for 1 November 1933. Despite the brisk, chilly weather of late autumn, Oscar winner Janet Gaynor was pictured sitting down, her tanned legs lovely and ladylike in sparkling tennis whites and white sneakers. The top story on the front cover, however, promised to raise the temperature: "You Don't Know Mae West!"
• • On 1 November 1993 in the news • •
• • George Baxt's latest murder mystery "The Mae West Murder Case" was reviewed on 1 November 1993.
• • The Kirkus Review noted: George Baxt again at play in the Hollywood fleshpots — — circa 1936. Mae West is at the height of her career, and Inspector Herb Villon (The Marlene Dietrich Murder Case, p. 486, etc.) is trying to get a handle on the killer of four of her impersonators — — the first of whom was a talented young man calling himself "Neon Light.'' Mae agrees with the Inspector that she's meant to be the ultimate target and surrounds herself with handsome young bodyguards. ...
• • "The Mae West Murder Case" (208 pages) was published by St. Martin's on 7 December 1993.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West spoke to the journalist Ruth Biery: "I have really loved only once," Mae has told me, as she has told others. But never before have I heard her say, "They always found a way to break me up with a man before it became too serious. I was not allowed to love, really love. My mother and then Timony . . . . "
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • An announcement about dead celebrities and recipes on October 31st mentioned Mae West, whose instructions for making a fruit compote are in a new book.
• • Frank DeCaro's new book, The Dead Celebrity Cookbook, is a veritable who's who of Hollywood's Golden Age, featuring anecdotes and recipes from 145 stars of stage and screen, explains Sara Bonisteel of epicurious.com.
• • Epicurious: If you could throw a dinner party with some of these dead celebrities, who would you invite?
• • Frank DeCaro: Who would I want to come back magically to life? Mae West, Liberace, Lucille Ball, Paul Lynde (but we'd have to cut him off before he got too drunk). Roddy McDowell. And Bea Arthur. That would be a good dinner party
— — you don't want to invite too many people. And Dusty Springfield, because I worship her, she can appear that night. Maybe she can perform at our dinner party. ...
• • Source: Article: "A 'Dead Celebrity Cookbook' Seance" written by Sara Bonisteel for Epicurious; posted on 31 October 2011
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2101st 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 • • 1944 • •
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Mae West.

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