Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mae West: Mechanical Doll

It was Thursday evening, on 21 December 1933, and an audience was staring at MAE WEST. Though her latex complexion looked almost human, and the sculpting of the movie queen's features and famous figure was impressive, it was even more amazing that this was a mechanical figure on display in a theatre fetchingly attired in a peach-colored gown, feather boa, and a large hat. Tonight was its debut. Whose talented hands did such a thing?
• • For quite awhile, gathering more information was an elusive task. But thanks to Jeanne Newby, a wonderful Missouri-based historian, a few more details are available at last. Ms. Newby had written an enlightening article — — "Frank Dale's mechanical people helped sell many products, memories" — — that was published on 9 July 1992 in the Webb City Sentinel Newspaper. This blog post draws on Ms. Newby's research as well as other sources.
• • Prosperity, Missouri native Frank Dale relocated to NYC and was hired as a sales manager for the Quaker State Oil Company. At heart, however, he was a visionary, an ambitious inventor whose specialty was industrial art. After creating his first mechanical figure to promote his employer's product, Ms. Newby explains, "It created such a sensation that Frank Dale decided to experiment a little more. He eventually set up a workshop in the basement of his home in Pleasantville, N.Y. ... Many brand names were advertised with the help of Frank's mechanical dolls. There was a child in pajamas carrying a candle advertising that it was time to 'Re-Tire with Fisk tires'." Corporate clients came running and Frank Dale's innovations expanded to include a mechanical butler for Ballantine Ale; a high-stepping majorette for cigarettes made by Chesterfield; and the figure of a young girl for spark plug firm Auto-Lite.
• • Realizing that Mae West was a prominent movie star, Dale wrote to her in Hollywood. Ms. Newby tells what happened next: Frank Dale and Mae West "signed a contract for worldwide use of her 'face, figure, and costumes' for advertising. The cost of the first Mae West mechanical figure was $3,500. The doll looked just like Mae West and the latex skin was remarkably lifelike. Although plans were to create many of the Mae West dolls, only two were actually produced. One is in Gabe's Doll museum in Tombstone, Arizona and the other sold at an auction (circa 2002) in Scottsdale, Arizona."
• • The Mae West mechanical figure sold for $6,900 to one lucky collector.
• • Source: "Ancestors, Legends, and Time," a column in the weekly publication of the Webb City Sentinel Newspaper, written by Jeanne Newby. Learn more about Mr. Dale, and Gabe's Doll Museum in Arizona, which is home to many of Frank Dale's famous dolls, by seeking out her book published in 2003. Jeanne Newby also offered a special thanks to Bob Hunter for the fascinating details on Frank Dale and his many accomplishments.
• • In December, Remember Arthur Hammerstein [1872 — 1955] • •
• • While playing opposite the seasoned 32-year-old cut-up in Arthur Hammerstein's Broadway hit "Sometime" (with a music score by Rudolf Friml), Mae came to the realization that she was throwing away her lines. Studying the crafty comic timing of Ed Wynn, said Mae West, and watching how he made sure he caught the audience's attention before delivering a line, was the best lesson. Her character in this production was Mayme Dean, his was Loney Bright.
• • Born in The Big Apple in December — — on 21 December 1872 — — and educated in New York City, Arthur Hammerstein was raised by a show-biz-savvy family. His brother was the theatre mogul Willie Hammerstein.
• • After a long and successful career, Arthur Hammerstein died on 12 October 1955. He was 82 years old.
• • Mae West Movie Moolah • •
• • According to a source that tracks box office figures for motion pictures, "She Done Him Wrong" starring Mae West, had brought in $2,000,000 worldwide by 9 February 1933. Compare those figures, during the height of the Depression, to more modern times on 1 January 1970 when "Myra Breckinridge," starring Mae West in the role of Leticia Van Allen, racked up $3,000,000 worldwide.
• • On 21 December 1994 in London • •
• • Christie's held a "Film and Entertainment" auction in London on 21 December 1994.
• • Among the rare items were five photos of Mae West as part of "Lot Description: Film Stars."
• • The catalogue stated that this was comprised of an important collection of approximately twenty three thousand (23,000) vintage film stills, collected by Felix Barker, film critic for The London Evening News, 1960 — 1982, the majority circa 1930s — 1960s, subjects include Fred Astaire (31), Lauren Bacall (15), Ingrid Bergman (20), Humphrey Bogart (31), Marlon Brando (47), Richard Burton (27), . . . Orson Welles (27), Mae West (5), Anna May Wong (15), Jane Wyman, and Loretta Young (16); accompanied by a large corresponding collection of film star biographies, comprising backgrounds and press cuttings on the subject. Price realized was $22,301.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "Don't come crawlin' to a man for love — — he likes to get a run for his money."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • An article about Tokyo Rose's voice mentioned Mae West.
• • The Australian radio news team said: "Today on the Media Report we go back in time with a story about the amazing life of Charles Cousens, a popular Sydney radio personality at the outbreak of World War Two, who not only became a prisoner of the Japanese, but ended up broadcasting their propaganda. ... Cousens hired Tokyo Rose, whose Mae West voice had propagandised for Japan over the short-wave radio. ..."
• • Source: "The man behind Tokyo Rose" | ABC Broadcast in Australia; aired on Thursday 21 December 2006
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2152nd 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:
Source: to Google
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • in 1933 • •• • Feed — —
Mae West.

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