Friday, December 09, 2011

Mae West: Mike Mazurki

A former athlete got his first chance on the silver screen in "Belle of the Nineties" because MAE WEST ushered him onto the set.
• • Born on 25 December 1907 in Tarnopol, Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now Ternopil, Ukraine), Mike Mazurki loved to read and graduated from Manhattan College with a Bachelor of Arts degree. His height assisted him when he decided to become a professional athlete. Known primarily for wrestling, he also distinguished himself in basketball and football.
• • According to the reporter Burt A. Folkart: "Years ago Mike Mazurki told The Los Angeles Times that Mae West, whose father was a fighter, had been his benefactor. She found odd jobs at the studios for the boxers and wrestlers in pre-war Los Angeles."
• • They first met in Pasadena, where Mae and Timony used to enjoy attending the wrestling matches every Monday evening. At the end of 1933, when Mazurki won a trophy for being the most popular wrestler in California, it was Mae who presented it. Then after the infamous jewel heist, Mae was frightened and hired Mazurki as her bodyguard.
• • When she was in "Belle of the Nineties" [1934], she finagled a bit part for the six-foot-five Ukrainian as a New Orleans audience admirer and insisted he get screen credit.
• • Though that would be the first line on his Hollywood resume, his cinema career did not kick into gear until 1941 when Josef von Sternberg gave him a bit part in his film "The Shanghai Gesture." This led to a long film and television career, 156 appearances between 1934 — 1990. His intimidating face coupled with a harsh voice and towering presence typically scored him roles playing dull-witted tough guys, gangsters, thugs, convicts, or strong men.
• • Mike Mazurki was married twice and had children. He died in Glendale, California in the month of December — — on 9 December 1990. He was close to his 83rd birthday.
• • In December, Let's Remember Mabel Stark [1889 — 1968] • •
• • Mabel Stark, whose real name was Mary Haynie, was born in Kentucky in the month of December — — on 9 December 1889. In 1922, she joined the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus and performed in Madison Square Garden with snarling tigers and a black panther. By the end of that season, of the six wild animal acts featured with the circus, Mabel Stark's was the most popular and she was featured on a poster with her favorite big cat Rajah. At one point in her career, she would face eighteen snarling beasts in the ring.
• • Mabel Stark was the beautiful blonde wild animal tamer who doubled for Mae West during some of the big top scenes in "I'm No Angel" [1933].
• • In 1968, most unfortunately, her employer Jungleland was sold to a new owner who disliked Mabel Stark and fired her. Soon after she left, one of her tigers escaped and was shot. Stark was angry and hurt about the animal's destruction and felt that she could have safely secured the tiger if the owners had asked for her assistance. Three months later, she killed herself by an overdose of barbiturates.
• • At the age of 78, in her home in Thousand Oaks, California, Mabel Stark drew her last breath and left the world on 20 April 1968.
• • In December, Remember Margaret Hamilton [1902 — 1985] • •
• • Severe looking and sharp featured, Margaret Hamilton was born in Cleveland, Ohio in December — — on 9 December 1902. In "My Little Chickadee," Margaret Hamilton played the role of prudish Mrs. Gideon, who faints on the train when Flower Belle Lee, Mae's character, pulls out two guns.
• • Then there is a memorable scene where Cuthbert J. Twillie [W. C. Fields] is told that there is nothing good about Flower Belle Lee by the holier-than-thou Mrs. Gideon, the town gossip, and he responds: "I can see what's good. Tell me the rest!"
• • The American actress, best known for her terrifying portrayal of The Wicked Witch of the West in "The Wizard of Oz" [1939], died on 16 May 1985.
• • On 9 December 1936 • •
• • The Evening News printed an article about the legal proceedings between Mae West and her former husband Frank Wallace.
• • On 9 December 2011 enjoy some "Sex" • •
• • "Sex" written by Mae West in 1926 is being revived in Tulsa. Artistic Director John Cruncleton is the producer and, in this staging, the character Margy LaMont will do an exotic and unbearably sultry fan dance. Taking the leading female role is Sara Wilemon, who plays the tough-minded prostitute.
• • WHERE: Nightingale Theatre, 1416 E. Fourth Street [just East of Peoria on 4th St.]. Tulsa, OK.; T. (918) 633-8666. No credit cards, so please bring cash.
• • WHEN: 8pm premiere on Friday, 9 December 2011 [runs until December 17th]
• • EMAIL: info (at) nightingaletheater (dot) com
• • Tell them you heard about it on the Mae West Blog.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "Now you're down off your pedestal. You're down where you can see — — it's just a matter of circumstances. The only difference between us is that you could afford to give it away." [dialogue written for Margy LaMont in "Sex"]
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • An article on a Los Angeles golf course mentioned Mae West.
• • The sycamore that guards the 12th green at Riviera Country Club? That's where Humphrey Bogart used to sit with a trench coat and a thermos — — contents undetermined — — to watch players go by.
• • Some people still refer to the spot as "Bogart's tree," so with the PGA Tour at the Pacific Palisades course for the Nissan Open this week, the pros might hear the story.
• • But will they know that Errol Flynn once got arrested for trying to seduce a married woman at a party in the clubhouse? Will they know that Greta Garbo used to walk the course, sneaking out from her house on a ridge overlooking the 13th hole? ...
• • The 12th hole was known as "Mae West" because of two grassy mounds that obstructed the green (they were later removed). ...
• • Source: Article: "Celebrity hijinks on the links were a matter of course" written by David Wharton, Chicago Tribune Staff Writer; published on 19 February 2003

• •
By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2140th 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 • • as Ruby Carter in 1934 • •
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