Thursday, February 09, 2012

Mae West: OK, KET

The TV series Hollywood Biography did a segment on MAE WEST. "Mae West and the Men Who Knew Her" [episode #507] will be broadcast three times on Kentucky Educational TV. The KET air-dates have been announced:
• • KET: Thursday, 9 February 2012 at 10:00 pm EST
• • KET: Sunday, 12 February 2012 at 4:00 am EST
• • KET2: Monday, 13 February 2012 at 9:00 pm EST
• • Kentucky Educational Television: KET provides educational, informational, and arts and cultural services for the home, the school, and the workplace via Kentucky’s statewide public television network, multichannel digital broadcast, original video productions, print, community outreach, and the World Wide Web.
• • William LeBaron [16 February 1883 — 9 February 1958] • •
• • "A La Broadway" was written by William LeBaron. Neither the 28-year-old LeBaron nor the 18-year-old ingenue Mae West could suspect how important they would become to each other's careers, but they were meant to click. Why? Because William LeBaron appreciated a laughmeister who could improve on a role. And Mae West loved to polish a line 'til it glowed.
• • Born in Elgin, Illinois on 16 February 1883, William LeBaron left New York University with the desire to be a playright. This dream came to fruition, after which LeBaron signed on as managing editor of the very popular Collier's Magazine. His instinctive sense of how to recognize a good story enabled LeBaron to take charge of the East Coast branch of Famous Players/ Lasky Studios in 1924 when he was 41.
• • According to various film historians, William LeBaron was intrigued by the low comedians he had seen in vaudeville, especially W.C. Fields — — whom LeBaron insisted upon starring in silent films even though Fields was hardly big box office in those years. In 1928, LeBaron moved to FBO Studios, which evolved into RKO Radio, the company where LeBaron served as vice president in charge of production from 1929 —1932. A disagreement with the RKO brass immediately led LeBaron back to Famous Players, which was now formally known as Paramount Pictures. In 1932, he was an associate producer there.
• • Once more, LeBaron pushed W.C. Fields on the public, this time with more success. With a few hits under his belt, LeBaron was also in a position to nurture the screen career of Mae West.
• • In 1932, two years after "Diamond Lil" played in Los Angeles, Mae West was back in Hollywood to make her first movie: "Night After Night," George Raft's first starring picture. It was William LeBaron, the producer, who gave her his blessing to rewrite her own role. Mae made sure her brief scenes dazzled movie-goers.
• • By December 1932, Mae was in front of the cameras again. This time she was starring in "She Done Him Wrong." Lowell Sherman was Mae's director and LeBaron was the producer. When he produced "I'm No Angel," LeBaron also assigned Cary Grant to play Jack Clayton, Tira's major love interest.
• • When he was a producer at RKO, LeBaron won an Oscar for Best Picture 1930 — 1931: "Cimarron."
• • When he was at Paramount, LeBaron was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture 1932 — 1933: "She Done Him Wrong."
• • With the departure of Ernst Lubitsch, LeBaron became Paramount's chief of production in 1936, a post he held until 1941. Five years later, he set up an independent unit at 20th Century-Fox. William LeBaron's final production, released through United Artists, was the motion picture "Carnegie Hall" [1947].
• • A heart attack in Santa Monica finished off LeBaron in the month of February — — on 9 February 1958. He was 74.
• • Mae West & Money • •
• • Financially speaking, Mae West outpaced her male and female movieland peers. Publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst received half-a-million in 1935. Mae West was right behind her nemesis with salary checks totaling $339,166.65 during the same period.
• • Dozens of salaries were memorialized in a lengthy year-end report published in a newspaper in December 1935. Here are a few top earners during the Great Depression.
• • Bing Crosby, actor — — $104,449 — — in addition to $88,499 he earned as a crooner from Crosby Productions, Inc.
• • W.C. Fields, actor — — $155,083.
• • Marlene Dietrich, actress — — $145,000.
• • Charlie Chaplin, actor — — $143,000.
• • William LeBaron, producer — — $114,711.
• • Adolph Zukor, Paramount Pictures Distributing Co. — — $52,193.
• • On Wednesday, 9 February 1927 in Variety • •
• • On 9 February 1927, Variety mentioned that Beverly West had been arrested on a disorderly conduct charge in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
• • The drunken brawl at the Arcade Hotel in Edward Elsner's suite is dramatized in the stage play "Courting Mae West" in Act I, Scene 2. An audience favorite, the serious-minded comedy based on true events was featured last month in Australia's Midsumma Festival on 28 January 2012.
• • On Wednesday, 9 February 1927 in Manhattan • •
• • Headlines and headaches were in store for Mae West in 1927. On 9 February 1927, the first police raid of Mae West's play "Sex" led to an expensive trial, box office losses, and jail time for the actress and others.
• • Since her vaudeville performances were often panned by Variety
— — who would say things like "a bit too crude for this $2 audience" — — Mae had become accustomed to negative press coverage. But the idea of spending the night in jail was a new low point.
• • After the New York City police raided three plays, "The Virgin Man," "The Captive," and Mae West’s "Sex," numerous actors were in hot water. Equity protested the arrests of the actors, stating, “The actor is not responsible for the content of the play…” Later in the year, Governor Al Smith would sign the Wales Theatrical Padlock Bill, giving local authorities the power to close shows they deem obscene.
• • On Thursday, 9 February 1933 • •
• • According to a source that tracks box office figures for motion pictures, "She Done Him Wrong," a 66-minute hit starring Mae West, had brought in $2,000,000 worldwide by 9 February 1933. Compare those figures, during the height of the Depression, to more modern times on 1 January 1970 when "Myra Breckinridge," starring Mae West in the role of Leticia Van Allen, racked up $3,000,000 worldwide.
• • On Friday, 9 February 1934 • •
• • The Courier-Mail editors wrote this: The new star, Mae West, will be seen at the Tivoli [Brisbane, Australia] tomorrow on 9 February 1934 in "She Done Him Wrong." Curves, comedy, and song — — all Mae West's repertoire has been added to this gay story of a diamond-loving lady of the gay '90s.
• • On Friday, 9 February 1940 • •
• • The American premiere of "My Little Chickadee" was on 9 February 1940. The Western-style comedy went into general release on 15 March 1940 in the USA.
• • Mae West on the Bookshelf • •
• • "Three Plays by Mae West: ‘Sex,’ ‘The Drag’ and ‘The Pleasure Man'," edited by Lillian Schlissel is 246 pages in paperback. [NY: Routledge, 1997.]
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: “Considering what 'Sex' got me, a few days in the pen ‘n’ a $500 fine ain’t too bad a deal.”
• • Mae West said: "I had to have the spotlight more than anything else, shining full on me. I ached for the spotlight — — which was like the strongest man's arm around me, like an ermine coat."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • An article in American History Magazine discussed Mae West.
• • In “Mae West's Secret of Success” Peter Carlson started in February of 1927: She pulled out a pistol and pointed it at the pimp. Then she picked up the phone and called the cops. "Hello, police headquarters?" she said. "Will you kindly send someone here immediately to take a desperate character?" When she hung up, the pimp begged her not to hand him over to the cops. Give me a chance to run, he pleaded, and I'll never bother you again. "Alright, rat, I'll give you the chance," she said. "Why, if I didn't have a certain amount of refinement, I'd kick your teeth all over this floor. Now blow, bum, blow."
• • Peter Carlson wrote: The pimp turned and ran — — right off the stage of Daly's 63rd Street Theatre in Manhattan. After his exit, Mae West finished the final scene of her play, Sex. In the scene, her character, a hooker named Margy, rejects the rich guy who wants to marry her and takes off with one of her customers, a sailor with a heart of gold.
• • Peter Carlson wrote: The curtain fell, the audience applauded and West took her bows. Then she hurried to her dressing room and prepared to deal with the real policemen who were waiting to arrest her. They had arrived early in the play but agreed to let the actors finish the show and change into street clothes before busting them. West wanted to look her best in court, so she wiped off her greasepaint and put on her black cloche hat and her knee-length fur coat.
• • Peter Carlson wrote: Outside, a crowd gathered to gawk and cheer as West walked out of the theater and stepped into a taxi for the ride to court. The charge was "unlawfully preparing, advertising, giving, presenting, and participating in an obscene, immoral and impure drama, play, exhibition, show and entertainment" and it carried a penalty of a year in jail. She pled not guilty, and demanded a jury trail. Bail was set at $1,000. She posted it and walked free [sic].
• • Peter Carlson wrote: It was February 9, 1927, and Mae West was 33, which is getting old for a song-and-dance girl. But she figured her arrest and trial would generate enough publicity to make her a star.
• • Peter Carlson wrote: She was right. Like countless entertainers who came after her, Mae West instinctively understood that sex, controversy and a good juicy tabloid trial can be great for a career. Years later, long after she became the highest-paid woman in America, she summed up her rise to stardom: "Censorship made me."
• • "Mae West courted excitement," wrote her biographer, Emily Wortis Leider. "She loved big cities, form-fitting clothes, lipstick, jazz, sex in taxis, intrigue, gun-toting bootleggers, boxers lathered in sweat, and cops who read her the riot act." ...
• • Source: Article: “Mae West's Secret of Success” written by Peter Carlson for American History Magazine; published on 14 September 2011
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2204th 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 • February 1927 • •
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