Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mae West: Hollywood Boudoir

MAE WEST was the focus of a flattering "up close and personal" piece in Hollywood Magazine's issue for January 1934.
• • Appearing under the byline of Mae's maid Libby Taylor, whose deferential manner of speaking is depicted idiomatically, the profile described the actress's plush boudoir. "Mae West designed every bit of furniture in her bedroom. A color scheme of gold, green, and a very delicate shade of pink is carried out in everything in the room, pillows, drapes, counterpane, upholstery — — even the picture frames and toilet articles," explained Hollywood Magazine.
• • Mae took her breakfast in bed, garbed in a gorgeous negligee, "with lacy pillows behind her back." On her tray would be coffee, toast, fruit, with either a small portion of creamed chicken or eggs.
• • You might wonder who was the Paramount Pictures publicist who scripted lines in dialect like these: "An' is she a pitcha foh ya eye? Yus, suh!"
• • Marjorie Gateson [1891 — 1977] • •
• • In "Goin' to Town" Mae West played Cleo Borden — — and Marjorie Gateson played Mrs. Crane Brittony.
• • Born in Brooklyn, New York (like Mae), Marjorie Gateson came into this world in the cold month of January — — on 17 January 1891.
• • Miss Gateson made her film debut in 1931 after a career on the stage of more than two decades, playing secondary character roles — — usually as females of wealth and breeding, who were often haughty and aloof. She is perhaps best known for her roles as the society matron who attempts to thwart Mae West's plans for social climbing in the 1935 film "Goin' To Town" and for a kinder, gentler socialite who learns to box through the efforts of Harold Lloyd in "The Milky Way" [1934].
• • Transitioning into TV gigs as an occasional guest star, Marjorie Gateson eventually found a reliable paycheck via the soaps. She had a continuing role on "One Man's Family" and found fresh fandom at age 63 playing the matriarch Grace Harris Tyrell on the popular daytime soap opera "The Secret Storm" [1954 — 1968].
• • In her later years, the character actress suffered bouts of poor health and died of pneumonia on 17 April 1977. She was 86.
• • On Wednesday, 17 January 1934 in The L.A. Times • •
• • Covering the trial, and Mae's testimony about the frightening jewel heist engineered by brazen Harry Voiler, The Los Angeles Times wrote this: Mae West swayed into court on high French heels and hitched up her hips as she made ready to climb into the witness box. A mink coat made Mae West look like any other well-dressed woman from the rear but it was the front view that wowed the crowded courtroom. It may not be done on purpose but Miss West has a trick way of carrying her hands when she walks . . . and there is no question that it went over big. She wore her coat unbuttoned and placed the backs of her hands on her body just below the hips, well to the rear."
• • On Monday, 17 January 1944 • •
• • An article about the motion picture "The Heat's On" starring Mae West was published in Hollywood Citizen-News in Monday's issue on 17 January 1944.
• • On Monday, 17 January 1949 in The N.Y. Times • •
• • Mae West was 55 years old in January 1949. Always feisty and hard-working, the actress pushed herself and, alas, various health problems caught up with her during January 1949. Portraying the insouciant Diamond Lil in a three-hour play was bound to be more difficult while ailing and touring, even for this indefatigable trouper.
• • No doubt these headlines in The New York Times added more stress to both the star and her producers when reporter Sam Zolotow's article was printed in Monday's newspaper on 17 January 1949: "Mae West Revival Drops Toronto Run; Star's Illness in Baltimore to Halt Buffalo, Syracuse Visits — — Play Due Here February 3rd."
• • Sam Zolotow wrote: A gallant attempt by Mae West to minimize her illness has not been successful. The star of "Diamond Lil," scheduled to arrive February 3 at the Coronet in the revival of her play, had appeared in Baltimore last week through Friday night [on 14 January 1949], when she was taken ill. . . .
• • Ironically, this distressing announcement appeared in the paper on page 15 in their section called "Amusements" [N.Y. Times, 17 Jan 1949]. Well, we know who was not amused!
• • Perhaps the difficulty of continuing to perform in a lengthy stage play even when she was not feeling up to par — — in order not to disappoint ticket-holders and her fans — — contributed to Mae's accident in February 1949, when she fell and broke her ankle in her midtown Manhattan hotel.
• • In January 1950 in Newsweek • •
• • On 16 February 1950 Mae was heard coast-to-coast with the Italian-American barber turned crooner on his "Chesterfield Supper Club." The broadcast had been taped in advance.
• • Newsweek [issue dated 16 January 1950, article "The Return of Mae West"] and other publications gave the details of Mae's splendid diamond lavaliere and tourniquet-tight white spangled evening gown.
• • Last week, noted Newsweek, Mae West "sidled onto the stage of NBC's studio 8-H in Radio City . . . this time, in a script with all possible blue bleached out."
• • In a playful spin on Shakespeare, Perry played "Comeo" and Mae was "Juliet."
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "Some of the papers called my earlier plays garbage but that sort of garbage was what my patrons wanted and I gave it to them. And besides, Ibsen's 'Ghosts' and 'Sappho' were called garbage and worse than that when they were produced, and look at them now. 'Ghosts' is a classic, and maybe ten years from now they'll want to see 'Sex' again and call it a classic."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • A section from a biography mentioned January 17th and Mae West.
• • Jill Watts wrote: [in December 1929] Mae learned that her mother's condition had worsened. Prevented from returning home by the [West Coast] tour, she dispatched New York's best doctors to Tillie's bedside and sent Timony to search for the Sri. ...
• • Jill Watts continued: Mae arrived on January 17, finding her mother clinging to life. Timony's search for the Sri had failed, so she summoned more doctors. ... On Sunday, January 26 [1930] ... with her devoted daughter nearby, Tillie West, the force that had nurtured an American folk icon, passed away. ...
• • Source: Jill Watts, "Mae West: An Icon in Black and White" by Jill Watts [NY: Oxford University Press, 2001]
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2180th 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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• • Photo: • • Mae West • with Libby Taylor in 1934 • •
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Mae West.

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