Monday, December 05, 2011

Mae West: Racy, Red, and Repeal

It was Tuesday, 5 December 1933 and Beverly West, MAE WEST's only sister, was performing in Chicago, Illinois. She had bookings for her popular "Mae West Act" in the heartland during most of the winter of 1933.
• • Meanwhile, in sunny California on 5 December 1933, the date Prohibition was repealed, Mae was being photographed in a Hollywood speakeasy with Gary Cooper. What a huge glass of beer they are embracing.
• • Numerous pictures were snapped that night showing Mae, wearing a dark, long dress with a large glittering brooch and a server's cap, standing behind the bar pulling a draft; or standing next to "the Coop" holding a Bavarian pretzel, etc. I hope they had a chance to have a tall cold one themselves, after all that posing.
• • Mae's friend, speakeasy hostess Texas Guinan, had died the month before.
• • In December, Let's Remember Paul Harvey [1882 — 1955] • •
• • In 1935, Paul Harvey was in one motion picture with Mae West.
• • A versatile actor, Paul Harvey hailed from Sandwich, Illinois where he was born on 10 September 1882. The dapper six-foot-two leading man enjoyed success on Broadway, creating several memorable roles from 1916 — 1933.
• • When he went out to Hollywood, he was cast in nearly 180 motion pictures. Fans will remember him as Donovan in "Goin' to Town" [1935].
• • Paul Harvey died in Los Angeles due to a coronary thrombosis in December — — on 5 December 1955. He was 73.
• • On 5 December 1945 • •
• • The date was 5 December 1945 and five Grumman Avenger Torpedo bombers took off from the Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station on a routine patrol. The group of planes was designated Flight 19 and they were to fly a standard patrol pattern; 160 miles due east, then 40 miles north then 120 miles southwest on the home leg. There were fourteen crew members on board the five bombers, all with plenty of flight time under their belts, all wearing Mae West life jackets, and each plane was equipped with a self inflating life raft. ... [author unknown]
• • On 5 December 1965 • •
• • Joseph Breen died at age 75 during the month of December — — on 5 December 1965. It is doubtful that Mae West attended his funeral.
• • On 5 December 1999 in The N.Y. Times • •
• • Emily Wortis Leider's article ran in The New York Times on Sunday, 5 December 1999. The article was called "On Stage, Mae West Was Even Racier."
• • Emily Wortis Leider began her article like this: Impersonators and cartoonists have always gravitated to Mae West because in performance she usually seemed to be impersonating herself, exaggerating her femininity and commenting on her own outrageousness.
• • Emily Wortis Leider wrote: As she gained recognition in the 1920's and 30's, her highly stylized drawl and sashaying gait spawned imitation and invited caricature. Still later, before Miss Piggy stole her cleavage, long eyelashes and penchant for self-celebration, Disney used her as the model for the top-heavy Jenny Wren, and Edie Adams pitched cigars by borrowing her signature slogan (originally spoken with a slightly different word order to Cary Grant in the 1933 film "She Done Him Wrong"): "Why don't you come up and see me some time?" ...
• • On 5 December 2008 in Germany • •
• • Van Ham Fine Art Auctions held a Celebrity Photo Auction in Cologne, Germany on 5 December 2008. Two photographs by Diane Arbus were auctioned off. One gelatin silver print was "Mae West in a chair at home, Santa Monica, California."
• • On 5 December 2010 in Malibu • •
• • In 1982 in Pittsburgh, Mae West fan Red Grooms first unveiled his 1981 work entitled "Mae West Visits New England." He positioned his figure of Mae West in a glittering gown before a severe New England church.
• • It's fitting that in 2010 the work traveled to the West Coast for a show that ended on December 5th. This very funky modern art group show was held at Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University [24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90263-4462]. The exhibition was on view to the public from 28 August 2010 — 5 December 2010. One of the amusing works chosen for this colorful array was Red Grooms's 1981 work "Mae West Visits New England" [mixed media].
• • Fascinated by theater as a child, the artist experimented with designing scenarios for underground films in the 1960s. Like good drama, the art of Red Grooms [born 1937] will often satirize the tension between image and reality. For example, in "Tut's Fever," Red Grooms had featured Mae West stationed behind a concession stand in a moviehouse [1986 — 1988, mixed media], and surrounded by other Hollywood icons who were manning the ticket booth, etc.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "Some women know how to get what they want — — others don't. I always knew how."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • Excerpt from a review of "Becoming Mae West" by biographer Emily Wortis Leider
• • Book critic Maria Braden wrote: Leider shows just how hard West worked to maintain her image as a sex goddess. For example, as she moved from vaudeville to theater to movies, West refused roles that cast her as a woman with children, because she thought mothers couldn't be sex symbols.
• • Book critic Maria Braden noted: She also hid that she had been married twice because she wanted to be perceived as single and available. And although West was a businesswoman, she refused to portray such a character on the screen because it might compromise her "femininity."
• • Book critic Maria Braden continued: West's mother had encouraged her to press the bounds of propriety, and she grew up admiring those who could flout social convention and still be successful. She had a gift for comic dialogue, and wrote much of her own material. She was bold in her use of language and enjoyed playing with double meanings. She peopled her work with strong women and characters at the fringes of conventional society. ...
• • Source: Book Review: "A Hollywood Legend Who Wasn't Always What She Seemed" written by Maria Braden, Knight-Ridder Newspapers; published on 7 August 1997
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2136th 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 • • Tuesday, 5 December 1933 • •
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