Monday, February 27, 2012

Mae West: Robert Usher

He was responsible for the look, the lovingly detailed sets and interiors of two motion pictures starring MAE WEST.
• • "She Done Him Wrong" [produced during 1932] was the first motion picture assigned to Robert Usher who handled the Art Direction capably for Paramount Pictures. He was the Art Director for "Goin' to Town" [1935] as well.
• • It is the Art Director's job is to study each scene's storyboard and take each scene visually to another level. With his keen eye for atmosphere, Usher's design positioned objects in the background and along the edges of the scene that are not noticed perhaps upon first viewing, though they leave an impression and influence the emotional impact of a scene.
• • Born in Missouri on Wednesday, 27 February 1901, Robert Beneke Usher's silver screen career began with a solid-gold hit for Mae West in 1932, an auspicious launch indeed. Altogether he worked as Art Director for 47 motion pictures between 1932 — 1950 and was nominated for three Academy Awards in the category Best Art Direction. His final screen credit was "Vendetta" [1950].
• • Robert Usher died in Tehama County, California on Monday, 23 July 1990. He was 89.
• • Happy Birthday, Mark! • •
• • Happy Birthday to Mae-maven and Canadian researcher R. Mark Desjardins. He was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on Tuesday, 27 February 1951. Readers have noticed the fascinating excerpts we have posted from time to time, with his kind permission, from his manuscript "In Search of Mae West," a carefully detailed magnum opus that will be released as soon as it's completed.
• • Mark covered the last Mae West Birthday Bash held at the home of Ramfis Diaz in Los Angeles on 17 August 2010. Here he is, handsomely posed in Hollywood surrounded by carefully preserved Mae memorabilia.
• • Enjoy your special day, Mark!
• • J. Merrill Holmes [21 July 1889 — 27 February 1950] • •
• • Every Bowery queen must have her consort — — and Mae West's costar was J. Merrill Holmes who portrayed Gus Jordan, the saloon keeper and ward heeler who keeps Lil in diamonds for the 1928 Broadway production of "Diamond Lil" at the Royale Theatre.
• • Born in Pennsylvania on 21 July 1889, John Merrill Holmes was featured in a few mainstage productions during the 1920s, most especially the well-regarded "What Price Glory" [1924 — 1925]; he took the role of Lieutenant Cunningham.
• • From 1930 — 1948, he was a character actor who appeared in more than two dozen motion pictures in Hollywood under the name Jack Holmes or Jack Merrill Holmes, usually in authority roles.
• • During the month of February he died — — on 27 February 1950 — — in his adopted city of Los Angeles, California. He was 60.
• • On Saturday, 27 February 1932 • •
• • The headline on Saturday, 27 February 1932: "Puppets to Act in Shows Today."
• • The Cornell Daily Sun announced the Mae West marionette show on the front page: Tatterman Marionettes will present plays in Willard Straight Theater. "Stringing Broadway" is adult entertainment. The puppets . . . poke good-humored fun at the contemporary world of politics, the theatre, and letters. A burlesque grand opera . . . A.A. Milne, Mae West, and Eugene O'Neill are on the program. . . .
• • "Stringing Broadway," with its chorus of "Glorified Girls," takes the professional revue for a ride, noted the Cornell Daily Sun.
• • Source: Cornell Daily Sun, page 1 story, Volume 52, Issue 106, published on Saturday, 27 February 1932.
• • On Thursday, 27 February 1936 • •
• • Joseph Breen wrote to Will Hays about Mae West and "KIondike Annie." His letter is dated for Thursday, 27 February 1936.
• • Newspapers were aware of the bickering and the chaos. The Los Angeles Herald printed a news story on page 4 about the censorship issues on 27 February 1936. It was never easy being Mae West.
• • On Sunday, 27 February 1938 • •
• • From Perth Australia, the newspapers echoed the after-shocks of "The Chase & Sanborn Hour" in December 1937: Mae West's un-Scriptural portrayal of Eve in a national broadcast has aroused the wrath of hundreds of American women and infuriated the clergy. They are shocked because, instead of the serpent tempting Eve, as the Book of Genesis records, Mae West tempted the serpent. The company that broadcast Mae as Eve has been besieged by angry resolutions from women's clubs.
• • "Applesauce! Horrible Blasphemy!" says Rev. Walsh • •
• • Rev. Maurice Walsh, of Battle Creek, Michigan, described Mae's Eve as "a travesty of Holy Scriptures." Walsh strongly objects to her referring to Eden's "Forbidden Fruit" as applesauce, the tempting item which women had fed men through the ages. ...
• • America's big Catholic League of Decency is also planning to reprimand her. . . .
• • Source: From Our Own Correspondent by Air in New York, Sunday Times (Perth, Australia) published on Sunday, 27 February 1938.
• • On Tuesday, 27 February 1979 • •
• • A piece of Mae memorabilia being sold is this $125 check Mae West signed on Tuesday, 27 February 1979. Made payable to her live-in lover Charles Krauser for "service" and drawn on West's account at the Hollywood office of the United California Bank in Hollywood, California, check number 11283 was written one year before the icon died.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "Don't diet! Curves may be dangerous on the highways, but they never hurt a woman."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • An article about generosity gave insight into the character of Mae West.
• • The Mail (in Adelaide, Australia) wrote: Mae West discovered a little eating place out towards San Fernando Valley. She found it much to her liking, and went there often. Now it comes out that recently the woman who operates the place was told to vacate, because of non-payment of a mortgage. Mae West found it out, paid off what was left, and handed the deeds to the woman.
• • "Why shouldn't I?" replied Mae. "I wanted to keep on eating there, didn't I?"
• • Source: Article: "Mae West's Generosity" printed in The Mail on page 2; published in Australia on Saturday, 24 July 1937
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2222nd 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 • filming in Hollywood in 1932 • •
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