In 1933, Charles Gates Sheldon did a magnificent portrait in delicate pastels of MAE WEST, which appeared on the cover of the January 1934 issue of Screenland. Oftentimes a movie star would have about three sessions with this artist as he worked on the right pose and other preliminaries. Mae was painted wearing a blonde wig with marcelled finger waves and diamond door-knocker earrings. This 1933 original was offered (as Lot #900, with a reserve of $1,000) in MastroNet's May 2002 auction. The lucky buyer got it for $10,330.
• • Born in 1889 in Massachusetts, Charles Gates Sheldon studied under George Bridgeman at the prestigious Art Students League in New York City, and later in Paris under the maestro of Art Nouveau illustration, Alphonse Mucha. He decided he would specialize in "pretty woman" portraiture, which made him constantly in demand for lucrative advertising assignments. Prior to 1926, his work was seen on the front cover of Collier's and The Saturday Evening Post. Additionally, he often did fashion illustrations for Woman's Home Companion and Ladies' Home Journal. But his smartest career move was a transition into colorful movie star portraits.
• • During the 1920s and 1930, when color photography was still rare, the preferred way to publicize and showcase the Hollywood mystique was via the fan magazines of the age. When it came to the denizens of the silver screen, Sheldon became the da Vinci of his day. From 1924 onward, pastelist Charles Sheldon was commissioned by Photoplay Magazine to produce ethereal, graceful renderings of the stars of stage and screen, especially screen. He was ranked as one of the top commercial artists of his day.
• • Supposedly, Sheldon had Eastman Kodak build custom cameras for his use, and he would take the photo studies of the stars in his Carnegie Hall Studio in New York City; the apartments sat atop Carnegie Hall on West 57th Street, right opposite the Art Students League. Hundreds of portraits were executed over the next decade. His distinctive style can be spotted on the front covers of Radio Digest, Screenland, Photoplay, ScreenBook, Motion Picture, and Motion Picture Classics, and other fanzines.
• • Later in his career, in 1936, Charles Sheldon was hired by Breck Shampoo to sketch dreamy, fanciful images of a "Breck Girl" in his well-known sophisticated glamour-girl style. Over the next 25 years he produced over 100 different unsigned "Breck Girl" images for the company's use. During his retirement years in New England, he spent a lot of time gardening. The pastel artist passed away in 1961 at his home in Springfield, Massachusetts.
• • Texas Guinan [1884 — 1933] • •
• • Born in Waco, Texas during the month of January — — on 12 January 1884 — — Mary Louise Cecilia "Texas" Guinan played a gun-slinger and rode bareback in silent films, took New York by storm in 1906, and earned a salary of $700,000 as a speakeasy hostess. The versatile stage star led a noisy and joyful life at full speed until 5 November 1933. One month later, Prohibition was repealed.
• • A good friend to Mae West who invested in her Broadway shows, Texas also held seances with her. We fondly remember the one and only Queen of the Night Clubs on her birthday.
• • On Saturday, 12 January 1929 • •
• • "Diamond Lil" was staged at the Royale Theatre in New York City on 9 April 1928 and closed on Saturday night, 12 January 1929 after 323 performances.
• • Mae West & the Memory Quilt in 1937 • •
• • Positioned by Ethel Sampson's head is a section labeled "Mae West." Here's an explanation of this curious artifact.
• • From a news account: Washington, DC, August 1937 — Joseph's coat of many colors had nothing on this unique quilt which is now being completed by Mrs. Ethel Sampson of Evanston, Illinois, after six years of collecting. Parts of wearing apparel from President Roosevelt, Mrs. Roosevelt, members of the Cabinet, diplomats and notables from all over. From Hollywood Bing Crosby sent a tie while Mae West and Shirley Temple contributed parts of dresses. Former Emperor Haile Selassie's neckties and a linen of Windsor, are also included on the quilt. Diapers from the Dionne Quintuplets are also prominently displayed. ...
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "Ten men waiting for me at the door? Send one of them home, I’m tired."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • Ken Hughes [19 January 1922 — 28 April 2001], who once worked with Mae West, was born in January. Then 56 years old when he was at the helm of "Sextette" in 1978, the British director had many career highs and low-points. "Sextette" was the middle-aged director's first American film — — as well as Mae West's final screen appearance.
• • Hughes developed Alzheimer's disease and died on 28 April 2001 in Los Angeles.
• • In an article for The L.A. Times published in 1997, dementia-aflicted director Ken Hughes was (supposedly) recollecting his first experiences with Mae West. Or perhaps someone else scratched it out and attached his byline. Who knows?
• • Ken Hughes wrote: The next morning I was on a plane for Los Angeles, and soon I was having dinner with the producers — — two young kids in their 20s. The money was in place, they had booked two stages at (where else?) Paramount Studios, they had a great script by Herb Baker — — but they did not have a director. One small fact had, it seemed, been overlooked: Mae West had director approval.
• • Ken Hughes noted: Not that there was any shortage of volunteers; she had already turned down a string of Hollywood veterans. "These are old guys," was her explanation. "And not only that, they are just not couth." The honor fell to me, and to quote her own words: "The guy is a gentleman." Whether that was because of my British accent, or because I came through a door that said so, has never been made clear.
• • Ken Hughes recalled: I had a few secret suppers with Mae in exclusive Hollywood restaurants, and as far as I could see she wasn't in a wheelchair, she didn't walk with a stick, all her marbles seemed to be in place. Most important, we liked each other.
• • Ken Hughes continued his account: Filming commences about two weeks later in a Paramount sound stage designed to look like the magnificent bridal suite of London's most exclusive hotel. The double doors swing open, revealing Miss West in all her legendary glory and one of Edith Head's most sensational creations. Right on time the good lady does her slow-motion shuffle onto the set, trailing 50 yards of white chiffon behind her.
• • "I got here as soon as I could," Mae says. "I didn't want to find you'd started without me."
• • I take her gently by the arm: "Let's just walk through it, shall we?"
• • "You're the boss, sweetheart."
• • I lead her forward. The doors open. "This is the first time we see you in the show. . . . You make the big entrance. . . .
• • Source: Article: "Acting Had Nothing to Do With It. How was it to direct Mae West in her final film? Don't ask." attributed to Ken Hughes for The L.A. Times; published on 23 February 1997
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2175th 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/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • painted by Charles Sheldon • •
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