Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Mae West: Jose Collins

On 6 December 1911 "Vera Violetta" was still on Broadway, however, MAE WEST had been dismissed for her attempts at up-staging the star. One of the women Mae had rehearsed with was the British beauty Jose Collins, age 24, who was cast in this musical as Mme. von Gruenberg.
• • Born in London on 23 May 1887, Jose Collins was born to a famous music hall star and got into the business quickly as a child performer. By her 17th birthday, the vivacious brunette had appeared in both pantomime and music hall as a singer and actress. In 1908, she made her West End debut in a principal role in The Antelope (1908). On Broadway, she appeared in Vera Violetta (1911), The Merry Countess (1912), and The Whirl of Society (1912), in which she performed a duet with Al Jolson, etc. Her revue appearances included the Ziegfeld Follies (1913), and The Passing Show (1914). Starring roles in London and on Broadway and in revivals came her way in 1916.
• • Though her movie career was brief, lasting from 1915 — 1933, after appearing in 13 features for the silver screen — — including her role as Bessie, the vengeful model, in "The Light That Failed" [1916] based on Rudyard Kipling's poem — — Jose Collins would spend the remainder of her career in revues, variety, and also non-musical roles.
• • Though Jose Collins was married three times, she had no children. She died in London in December — — on 6 December 1958. She was 71.
• • In December, Let's Remember John Lorenz [1886 — 1972] • •
• • More than anything, variety artist Mae West wanted to be "in the legit" — — on The Gay White Way — — and Jesse Lasky gave her an opportunity. The extravaganza, produced by Ned Wayburn, Mae's dancing teacher, was titled "A La Broadway."
• • In 1911, Jesse Lasky opened the Folies-Bergere, a plush dinner theatre restaurant on West 46th Street and he cast a pretty 18-year-old Mae to appear in the revue along with a comedy duo, Cook and Lorenz. Supposedly, these comedians could not master their props in time to accompany her, therefore, Mae was unable to perform her first song, a ballad called "They Are Irish," the way it had been staged originally.
• • But what if the real explanation had to do with racial bias instead? James Cook was a black man and maybe that's why the producers yanked the team away from sharing a spotlight with Mae.
• • John Lorenz was cast as Nick O'Teene in "A La Broadway." Born in Buffalo, NY in December — — on 6 December 1886 — — his Broadway career began in 1909 when he was attached to a musical comedy "The Motor Girl." After doing several shows, he took his final bows in "Ramshackle Inn," a farce, in 1944.
• • He seems to have teamed up with a mature performer James Cook by 1910 and they actively toured on the vaudeville circuit. Considered to be one of the "monarchs of minstrelsy," James Cook had done a blackface act in 1885 with Rankin's Minstrels. (Blacks were recognized as musicians of talent, due to the popularity of minstrel shows.) Additionally, James Cook was an early member of the White Rats. James Cook was cast as Jim Jamb in "A La Broadway" and he may have been cast in another production on the Gay White Way in 1932.
• • John Lorenz died in Paramus, New Jersey on 30 April 1972.
• • On 5 December 1939 • •
• • In the year 1939, December's first musical on Broadway was "DuBarry Was a Lady," which opened on 6 December 1939 at the 46th Street Theatre, where Mae had once shared the stage twenty years before with Sophie Tucker. The female lead was said to have been tailored at first for Mae West.
• • On 6 December 1994 in NYC • •
• • It was on Tuesday, 6 December 1994 that Christie's New York held an auction listed as "Film and Television Memorabilia." One light-hearted Mae West item was "A box of approximately 120 red, white, and blue poker chips; a deck of cards from the Roosevelt Hotel." This lot of goodies was sold for $345.00 and now the deck is stacked at someone's house.
• • On 6 December 2008 in Santa Monica • •
• • Michael Gregg Michaud devoted his exhibit to Mae West figurines and it opened on Saturday, 6 December 2008 in the Project Room of the Lora Schlesinger Gallery in Santa Monica, California.
• • At the opening, on December 6th, attendees were handed programs. This is the text the West Coast gallery on Michigan Avenue had composed: With one hand firmly on her hip and the other primping her blond curls, Mae West represented the promise of good times ahead. Beginning in the 1930s, her figure was reproduced as a “chalk doll,” which became a popular prize at carnival games. These so-called “Carnival Dolls” were made of plaster of paris using a mould, and individually hand-painted. Several companies located on the West Coast produced these “Carnival Dolls.” One of the largest manufacturers was located in Venice, California and called the Venice Doll Company. Seventy years later, Mae West Carnival Dolls not only invoke a sense of nostalgia, but still represent the promise of fun. Mae West said it best, “It’s better to be looked over, than overlooked.” Mr. Michaud's display was on view there until 17 January 2009.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "To me the most difficult part of placing a successful motion picture story is getting it cast correctly."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • An article on the initial Cannes Film Fest mentioned Mae West.
• • Kenneth Turan writes: The initial Cannes film festival was scheduled for the first three weeks of September 1939. Hollywood responded by sending over "The Wizard of Oz" and "Only Angels Have Wings" along with a "steamship of stars" including Mae West, Gary Cooper, Norma Shearer, and George Raft. The Germans, however, chose 1 September 1939 to invade Poland, and after the opening-night screening of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," the festival was cancelled and didn't start up again until 1946. .. .
• • Source: Article: "A festival of art and prostitution" written by USA critic Kenneth Turan for The Guardian [UK]; published on Thursday, 9 May 2002
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2137th 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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