Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mae West: Versatile Mollison

MAE WEST worked with a handsome Englishman born in London on Christmas Eve — — on 24 December 1893 — — sharing the same birth year with the Brooklyn bombshell.
• • Starting in his teens, James William Mollison was onstage in several plays by Shakespeare and others. In 1908, at the age of 15, he portrayed Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice." He also played Pistol in "Henry V."
• • His reputation grew on Broadway from 1926 — 1934. Using the name William Mollison, he staged, directed, and produced dramas, comedies, and musicals. "The Gold Diggers" with Tallulah Bankhead at the Lyric Theatre may have been his first triumph on The Great White Way. Avery Hopwood's musical comedy, featuring a daring high-kicking Charleston by Tallulah, opened on 14 December 1926 (in time for Xmas) and 33-year-old Mollison served as both the director and producer. Tallulah played a chorus girl trying to snare a rich man; this entertaining show ran for 180 performances. In 1931, he staged "Wonder Bar," a drama with music starring Al Jolson, at the Nora Bayes Theatre.
• • It seems that Mollison returned to England during the Depression and got involved with West End productions. He worked in Britain on some American successes, too, such as "Panama Hattie," a show that built an audience on Broadway and then transferred to London. The U.K. production of "Panama Hattie" opened at the Piccadilly Theatre on 4 November 1943 and ran for 308 performances. Directed by William Mollison, it starred Bebe Daniels as Hattie Maloney.
• • In January 1948 when Mae West launched her United Kingdom tour of "Diamond Lil" at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London town, Mollison was brought on board as the director.
• • Mae had taken the starring role of Carliss Dale in the stage play "Come On Up (Ring Twice)," which toured during 1946 in California and elsewhere. This comedy was written by Miles Mander, Fred Schiller, and Thomas Dunphy.
• • Clearly, Mae must have taken a shine to Tommy Dunphy because she attached her name as co-writer to another laugh-fest called "Ladies, Please." Centered around two frisky fellows who attend a party in drag, when this debuted in Great Britain at Brighton's Theatre Royal in May 1948, the Hollywood icon was in residence for the premiere. A ticket, stating "Mae West presents European Premiere prior to London Production," was preserved by Brighton's History Centre along with other Mae-memorabilia.
• • Comic actor Pat McGrath, born in Ireland in 1916, wore a platinum blonde wig with his female garb; London native Dick Emery, born in 1915, played the sexy redhead.
• • In May 1948, the production of "Ladies, Please" was directed by William Mollison, the same English director Mae had worked with when she performed her Gay Nineties on the Bowery drama in Great Britain.
• • William Mollison died in London, England on 19 October 1955. He was 61.
• • In December, Let's Remember Loyd Wright [1892 — 1974] • •
• • With ongoing legal troubles pursuing her through the decades, Mae West hired several lawyers.
• • Born in San Jacinto, California in the month of December — — on 24 December 1892 — — Loyd Wright was an American attorney (and lifetime Californian) who represented a number of movie stars; served as president of the State Bar of California, the American Bar Association, and the International Bar Association; and was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate from California.
• • Wright became known for his representation of movie actors. He represented Mary Pickford in her divorce suit against Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and Jane Wyman in her divorce from Ronald Reagan. He also represented Mae West, Charlie Chaplin, Jack Benny, and D.W. Griffith.
• • Loyd Wright died in Hemet, California on 22 October 1974.
• • On Friday, 24 December 1999 in The N.Y. Times • •
• • A theatre review of a New York City revival of the play "Sex" by Mae West ran in The New York Times on 24 December 1999 under this title: "Mae West's First Play (for the Stage, That Is)" and the drama critic seemed satisfied. An excerpt follows.
• • D. J. R. Bruckner wrote: If it helps a writer to know a lot about her subject, Mae West brought great authority to her first play, ''Sex,'' written and first produced in New York in 1926. The writing is not as accomplished as it is in some of her later film scripts, but there are enough characteristic West lines to let you know who the author was, and it was good enough to get her tossed into jail in 1927 as the creator and star of an indecent public performance. As a publicity stunt the trial was perfect; from then on she was a star whatever she did.
• • D. J. R. Bruckner explained: Oddly, the text of the play was lost for 70 years. So the show was never revived in the city. But now the Hourglass Group has resurrected it in a production at the Gershwin Hotel — — a setting that has the 20's written all over it — — under the direction of Elyse Singer. It is smart, funny and even a little irreverent to West's creaky plot and often corny dialogue. Ms. Singer is one of the three founders of Hourglass, and the other two, Nina Hellman and Carolyn Baeumler, play key roles. Hourglass itself is devoted to bringing attention to the work of women, but the production is by no means a captive of the playwright. ...
• • On Sunday, 24 December 2006 in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette • •
• • Pittsburgh reporter Maria Sciullo wrote a short article "Famous covers of 'Baby'" on Sunday, 24 December 2006 and this was how she began it: Try finding a version of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" online, and hundreds of possibilities pop up. Here are some of the recordings available, from the obscure to the silly to the sublime (in order of most recent release date):
• • Mae West and Rock Hudson (performed at the 1958 Oscars; available as download only). ...
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "Too much of a good thing is wonderful."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • An article on female comediennes mentioned Mae West.
• • British reporter David Quantick writes: Nowadays we are all sensible and, in a case of political correctness gone sane, understand not only that women have always been under-represented in all professions, but also that women have been funny since time immemorial. To say that women are not funny is to ignore music hall performers such as Marie Lloyd and Vesta Tilley, radio stars like Elsie and Doris Waters and Joyce Grenfell, the writers Caryl Brahms and Stella Gibbons, great TV comics such as Lucille Ball and Phyllis Diller, and countless other funny women. Women have always excelled at every aspect of comedy, from the one liner (Mae West and Dorothy Parker) to character comedy (Hilda Baker and Irene Handl), and are as much part of comedy’s deranged heritage as men. ...
• • Source: Article: "Female comics will have the last laugh" written by David Quantick for The Telegraph [UK]; posted on 22 December 2011
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2155th 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 • • in 1948 • •
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1 comment:

  1. I am curious as to the "author" of the Mae West blog?